Do you really need to double cleanse?

Posted by Natasha Dauncey on

(This post has been updated in February 2024 to reflect my ongoing experience with single cleansing - the original post was written in 2017!)

WHAT?? I hear you say! Let me start by saying that I had a long history of double cleansing when I was much younger, prompted by my use of Dermalogica pre cleanse many years ago! Up until a few months ago (2017!) double cleansing was a core part of my skincare routine and I saw no reason to veer away from it. However, over in the summer of 2017 I was on holiday in Spain for around 10 days and by chance, took only one cleanser with me (my rebalancing oil cleanser). It was at that point that I started single cleansing every night. This would seem counterintuitive given it was really hot there and I was reapplying sunscreen more frequently than I do at home in the UK. But I was really surprised with the impact. My skin felt softer and more balanced than usual, and no new breakouts appeared. I continued to single cleanse when I got home and have been doing so ever since. I originally wrote this blog post nearly 6 years ago in 2017, and my skin still shows no signs of adverse reactions to single cleansing even now. Admittedly, I am very diligent with that single cleanse: I massage my (emulsifying) cleansing oil around my face for around a minute before rinsing off with water, sometimes (but not often) using a soft washcloth if I want a bit of gentle exfoliation. I also regularly switch between my cleansers depending on my mood and the state of my skin (rebalancing / comforting cleansing oil, golden nectar jelly balm, velveteen cloud cleanser and gentle cleansing gel) but I usually single cleanse regardless of which of these I'm using. My skin is prone to dehydration and I suspect that exposing it to less water through single cleansing has really helped. It's also important to note that formulation is key - with all my cleansers, I've been very intentional with the blend of ingredients I've chosen to strike a balance between breaking down make up, sunscreen and grime, whilst also offering hydrating and replenishing ingredients to help re-balance the skin to leave the skin feeling properly cleansed but not tight or dry. 

I also think the amount of time you spend cleansing is key to ensuring your skin is properly clean, as is using the right cleanser for your skin. I have tried other cleansers with a single cleanse and have found that they don't remove make up / sunscreen as effectively (and this is independent of price), so I do believe choice of cleanser is very important - especially if you're relying on a single cleanse only. This is why I'm always bemused by people that say cleansers aren't important, as they "end up down the drain". I totally disagree - cleansing is such a fundamental step in your skincare routine that if you don't cleanse effectively, you're risking congested skin / breakouts, as well as not providing a blank canvas for your subsequent skincare steps. At the other end of the scale, if you use a cleanser that is too harsh / drying, you're opening your skin up to barrier disruption (and remember, cleansing is necessary but it's also one of the most disruptive things we do to our skin!). So, effective cleansing is a fine balance, and it must be done right for your skin's needs - whether you're someone with extremely dry, sensitive or dehydrated skin, someone who wears a lot of long-wear make up and / or tenacious sunscreen, or someone with oily, acne-prone to skin - all these situations call for different requirements from cleansing.

I recently saw a post by a cosmetic dermatologist and it confirmed my experience – double cleansing isn’t a necessity. I’m not saying single cleansing is for everyone either, I just hate blanket rules being imposed on people's skincare habits! I’m sharing my experience of both and concluding that single cleansing seems to work better for my skin, at least for now. As with most things in skincare, you need to find what works best for your skin - and that will be different for different people. The only common rule is that everyone needs to cleanse their skin daily! If your skin isn't feeling balanced, and particularly if it's dry or sensitive, and you are double cleansing currently, it may be worth revisiting how you cleanse your skin and the cleansing products you're using. Equally, single cleansing with a non-emulsifying oil cleanser for example might not be the right solution for you if you have skin that is very oily or congested. I don't rule out double cleansing altogether. I double cleanse after a day in London, as my face feels so grimy after a day there, or if I wear heavy make up (very rare for me these days), I would double cleanse. But for most days where I'm barely wearing make up and use a sunscreen which doesn't leave a thick layer of product on my face, a decent single cleanse (with the right cleanser!) does the job for me!  

So how wedded to double cleansing are you? 

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