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What Is Double Cleansing? And Do I Need It?

The single best thing you can do for your skin.

I'm now a double cleansing convert. 

Being a beauty writer, I spend most of my days speaking to dermatologists, makeup artists and aestheticians. No matter who I'm speaking to, whether it be a celebrity facialist or a freelance makeup artist, there's always one question I consistently ask: "what is the best thing you can do for you skin?". For a long time, that response has always been "wear SPF, every single day - even when it's cloudy, even when you're inside," and while wearing SPF will always be the best thing you can do for you skin, there's a new golden beauty rule being herald as the experts: double-cleansing. 

As the name would suggest, double cleansing is a method in which you clean your skin twice. Typically, you start by using an oil-based cleanser to dissolve all of the makeup, dirt and pollution on the surface of your skin. The second cleanse involves a water-based foam, gel or balm cleanser that removes any lingering dirt and deep cleans your pores. Basically, it’s a guarantee that you’ve removed a whole day’s worth of makeup, SPF, grime and dirt from your face.

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But being the cynic that I am, I've always been of the opinion that double cleansing was conveniently dreamed up by the beauty industry, to make us use more product - and therefore spend more money. However, Dublin-based skincare expert Ciara Darcy; Susan Fox, owner of Eden Beauty Group; Dr. Nicola Ralph, Institute of Dermatologists and Professor Caitriona Ryan, Institute of Dermatologists all disagree:

"Even if you're not wearing makeup and even if you cleansed last night, you need to cleanse your face in the morning, twice," says Fox. "To remove the dead skin cells and sebum that have built up through the night along with the makeup you likely missed the night before, double cleansing in the morning and at night is an essential first step in any skincare routine."

"The main causes of makeup related acne are not fully cleansing at night," says Professor Ryan. 

"Something as simple as choosing the right cleanser has a drastic effect on your skin. If you feel it's dehydrated, congested, dull, rough (the list goes on!) how you cleanse will help to change that," says Darcy.

"When it comes to treating acne, I recommend a double cleanse. Firstly with a micellar water which removes oil-based products such as sunscreen and makeup. Secondly, cleanse with a gentle cream-based cleanser which enables a deeper cleanse of the pores. This will also ensure if prescription products such as topical antibiotics/retinoids which are to be applied afterwards will penetrate the skin more readily," says Dr. Ralph.

Okay, so maybe there is more than marketing behind this latest skincare craze. But the only way to truly shake my scepticism was to try it out for myself.

Despite my initial intimidation, the process of double-cleansing was actually pretty simple. First I washed my hands, because despite lockdown restrictions being lifted - we're still in the midst of a global pandemic and you really shouldn't be touching your face with dirty hands. With my clean, dry hands (applying a cleansing oil with dry hands is important. If your hands are even slightly damp, you'll emulsify the oil too soon, and it won't be nearly as effective.), I squeezed two pumps of Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Cleansing Oil (€35) and just rubbed it into my face, no fancy massaging necessary. 

Once applied, the oil dissolved any makeup I had on my face, even KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner. I've never used an easier, more efficient makeup remover than this cleansing oil, and a little bit went a very long way. After I felt the oil was sufficiently rubbed in and my makeup was sufficiently annihilated, I splashed my face with water and rinsed off using a biodegradable cotton pad. Here's what came off my face: 

Once I felt I had successfully completed my first cleanse, I dried my face and moved onto step two. It's worth noting that after my first cleanse, I was convinced that I had removed every inch of makeup from my face. Oh, was I wrong. 

I started my second cleanse with a small scoop of the Nunaia Superfood Cleansing Balm (€59) in clean, dry, hands. I warmed the product between my fingers and gently massaged the balm in circular motions all over my face. I then wet a clean muslin cloth with hot water and wrung the cloth damp. I placed it over my face and waited a few moments for the steam to open my pores (this isn't a necessary step when double cleansing but it helps maketh experience feel like a mini-facial which I am desperately craving). After waiting a few seconds, I took the same muslin cloth and wiped my face expecting to seeing not an inch of makeup on the cloth. Here's what came off my face the second time: 

Gross, right?

Not happy that my face was in fact cleared of all the makeup, dirt and grime on my face, I decided to take it a step further and go in for a third cleanse following the method above. Here's what came off my face the third time:


So did a week of double-cleansing every night improve my skin? Yes. 

The acne that had been emerging on my chin disappeared, and my skin was much calmer. Double-cleansing also felt really good, especially on days when I was wearing more makeup than usual for virtual happy hour. My skin felt clean and refreshed every night before going to sleep, and I would wake up with skin more radiant and moisturised than I was ever used to.

I guess the experts were right. 

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Main image by @meganadelaide on Instagram

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