Why Your Skin Needs The Korean Double Cleansing Method

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Today I want to talk about the Korean double cleansing method and why it should be a part of your skincare routine if you want glowing and healthy looking skin. It can be overwhelming when first starting a Korean skincare routine, so I’m going to try to provide everything you need to know about double cleansing here in this post. I’m even going to let you know what the best products are so you can get started right away!

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Read on to find out why double cleansing is so important and how it can improve your skin.

What is Korean Double Cleansing?

The double cleanse. Korean double cleansing. The Korean double cleansing method. These all refer to the cleansing method that has recently taken the world by storm because of how great it makes your skin look and feel.

As the name suggests, double cleansing essentially involves washing your face in two steps: first, by using an oil-based cleanser, followed by a water-based cleanser.

I only started looking after my skin recently, after having our first baby. Before that, I used to buy the cheapest cleanser from the grocery store and I never included a toner, moisturiser or sunscreen in my skincare routine (eeeek!).

When I first stumbled upon the world of K-beauty and Korean skincare, the double cleanse was the first thing I implemented into my skincare routine. But in the beginning, I had no idea what double cleansing even was and why it was so important when it comes to improving my skin.

Over time, I’ve found that the method of double cleansing has probably been the most beneficial change I’ve made to my busy mum skincare routine! So, I’ve put together a little Double Cleanse 101 for you, so that you too can incorporate this method into your skincare routine just like I have. I’m sure that you’ll see huge improvements in your skin just by adding this one step. 

How Do You Double Cleanse?

Proper cleansing is arguably the most important step in an effective skincare routine, especially so if you wear makeup, sunscreen or have been outdoors. If you want to reduce acne breakouts, keep your skin healthy and preserve youthfulness, then keep reading to find out how to double cleanse.

As explained above, the double cleanse simply involves cleansing your face twice – first with an oil based cleanser and second, with a water-based cleanser.

Double cleansing is so simple! And as the name suggests, just involves washing your face in two steps (each step removes different impurities).

The First Step: Oil-Based Cleanser

Oil-based cleansers come in either liquid oils, creams or balms and should be placed onto dry skin. Depending on the cleanser, they can be washed off or wiped off.

An oil-based cleanser is used to remove oil-based impurities including sebum, sunscreen, pollutants and makeup.

Now, if you have oily or combination skin, you might think that the idea of smothering more oil on already oily skin is madness, but, the truth is that oil-based cleansers are very effective at removing bad oils from your skin, and won’t make you breakout or cause more sebum.

Well-formulated oil-based cleansers will not leave any greasy residue behind and they actually work to pull oil-based gunk from your pores. As you know, water and oil do not mix, so simply using a water-based cleanser will not remove everything completely. I like to use the analogy of trying to clean a dirty frying pan without detergent!

If I’ve convinced you so far, then check out my recommendations for oil-based cleansers below. I often update this page as new and excellent products become available.

What Are The Best Korean Cleansing Oils?

There are so many cleansing oils out there that it can be confusing to know which one is best for you. I found myself in this situation when I decided to start looking after my skin. Oil cleansers all differ in consistency (some more liquid and others more solid), textures (some can be more grainy), fragrance, and of course, price.

The newly formulated range of Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balms.

My personal favourite oil cleanser is the Purifying Cleansing Balm by Banila Co. The Banila Co range of Clean It Zero cleansing balms (Original, Nourishing, Revitalizing and Purifying) are a cult favorite – and for good reason!

These balms remove stubborn makeup (including eye makeup) and sunscreen without stripping your skin of its natural oils and cater to all skin types.

I choose to use the purifying version of this cleansing balm because it’s excellent for people with sensitive or acne-prone skin. It contains no nasty ingredients and is instead infused with 7 natural ingredients such as centella asiatica extract and licorice root extract.

All four varieties of this cleansing balm are free of any artificial coloring, alcohol, parabens and mineral oil. It’s also quite affordable and lasts me a really long time (a little goes a long way).

So if you don’t have time to read on, then I highly recommend that you try this cleansing oil before anything else. 

But, there are of course many other amazing oil cleansers out there, including:

  • Beauty Of Joseon – Radiance Cleansing Balm: A smooth, cleansing balm with a sherbet-like texture. Powered by natural hanbang ingredients (traditional Korean medicine) such as nutrient-rich rice water and fermented grains for skin brightening, and chrysanthemum extract (which contains vitamins A and B). Available at SokoGlam and Yesstyle.
  • Hanskin – Cleansing Oil & Blackhead (PHA): A beautiful liquid oil cleanser, especially great for acne-prone skin. Specially formulated with PHA (a gentle exfoliating acid) to help keep blackheads and dead skin cells at bay. Also contains tea tree leaf oil to help fight breakouts, as well as jojoba oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil and aloe vera extract for extra skin hydration. Available at SokoGlam, Yesstyle and Amazon.
  • Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil: I’m all about the balms. I love them, and this centella-enriched balm is so moisturizing! You’ll be amazed at how well this balm removes makeup and sunscreen, while leaving your skin feeling silky smooth afterwards. Available at SokoGlam and Amazon.

How to Use an Oil-Based Cleanser

The lovely texture of a cleansing balm that I can’t get enough of.

So you’ve found an oil cleanser that you would like to add into your skincare routine. Great! Now, how do you actually use it?

Easy! Just pump or scoop your chosen oil cleanser onto your hand and massage it onto your dry face using gentle upward circular motions. Next, with the cleanser still on your face, add a little water and massage again. This action emulsifies the product. You can tell this is happening if the product turns milky. Lastly, rinse the product off with lukewarm water. Done!

The Second Step: Water-Based Cleanser

While the first cleanse removes makeup, sunscreen  and excess sebum, the second cleanse removes water-based substances such as bacteria, sweat and dead skin cells.

Water based cleansers can be either foaming or non-foaming. It’s important to note that water-based cleansers can greatly affect the pH of your skin. The pH of healthy skin is actually a little acidic (4 to about 5.6). This is because skin with a low pH stops the growth of bad bacteria (bacteria thrive on a pH of 6 or above on skin).

It’s therefore important to choose a water-based cleanser with a low pH (a pH of 5.5 or below) – this is especially so if you have acne-prone skin. Sadly, the more foamy a cleanser is – the higher the pH – which is bad news for your skin.

What Are The Best Korean Water-Based Cleansers?

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My go-to water-based cleanser!

Just like with oil-based cleansers, there are so many water-based cleansers on the market. It can be difficult to navigate all the choices and know which one might be best for you.

My number one tip is to choose a cleanser with a pH below 5.5 – no matter what your skin type, as this ensures that your skin’s protective moisture barrier stays healthy. Cleansers with a pH above 5.5 will start to strip your skin of moisture, which not only dehydrates your skin but can lead to acne and wrinkles.

Here’s what I think the best Korean water-based cleansers are:

  • COSRX – Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser: You’ll probably see this cleanser being recommended everywhere. Well, that’s because it really is the best cleanser! I have used it since starting my Korean skincare routine and I haven’t even thought about changing to a different cleanser.
    It is gentle, has a low pH and contains tea tree oil and natural BHA (which helps to refine skin texture and helps keep acne at bay). This is a gel cleanser, which I actually prefer over foam cleansers since they don’t strip the skin as much of natural oils. I saw an improvement in my acne and skin tone almost immediately when I first started using it in my skincare routine. Available at SokoGlam, Yesstyle and Amazon.
  • Innisfree – Blueberry Rebalancing 5.5 Cleanser: As the name suggests, this cleanser from Innisfree has a pH of 5.5, making it perfect for your skin’s moisture barrier. It also contains blueberry extract, which acts as an antioxidant and soothes the skin. Another great cleanser for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin. Available at Yesstyle and Amazon.
  • Tosowoong – Enzyme Powder Wash: A super-gentle powder-form cleanser that won’t irritate your skin. It’s pH of 5.5 also makes it moisture barrier-friendly. Contains vitamin E to help moisturize your skin. A little goes a long way with this cleanser (especially with a foaming net) – and it’s travel-friendly! Available at Yesstyle and Amazon.

If you’d like to see some more water-based cleanser suggestions, then check out this article I wrote. The article is aimed at people with oily and acne-prone skin, however I think these cleansers would benefit any skin type.

How to Use a Water-Based Cleanser:

It’s so simple! Once you’ve rinsed off your oil cleanser, massage your water-based cleanser onto your damp face using the same gentle upwards motions. Then rinse off with lukewarm water, pat dry, and you’re done! Your skin should feel soft, clean but not tight and dry. 

Since low pH cleansers tend not to be foaming, you can use cleansing tools such as a foaming net or konjac sponge, which help to form a nice thick lather before you place the product on your face – reducing irritation to the skin.

Why is Double Cleansing so Important? What are the Benefits?

During the day, our skin is bombarded with sebum, sweat, dirt, makeup, dead skin cells, bacteria and pollutants, which can settle in our pores, making them congested – leading to…you guessed it – acne, blackheads, whiteheads and inflamed, discoloured and dull skin.

Water and oil simply does not mix, and so one regular cleanse will not clear your pores of both oil-based and water-based debri.

That is why double-cleansing is so important – as it ensures that absolutely everything that is harmful to your skin is removed. It also ensures that your skin is a clean canvas for the remainder of your skincare routine and makeup.

The other benefit of using an oil-based cleanser first is that they are awesome at removing waterproof mascara and eyeliner. No need for rubbing your eyes, only to feel like you still look like a panda the next day.

Even people who have oily skin benefit so much from double cleansing, because contrary to popular belief, the oil-based cleanser removes bad oils from your skin without stripping it of its moisture – which actually can lead to the build up of more oil, and in turn, more skin problems!

How Often Should I Double Cleanse?

This really depends on your skin type and how dehydrated your skin is. Since cleansing does tend to strip your skin of moisture (and alter your skin’s pH), it’s best to double cleanse only in the evenings.

In the mornings, it’s okay to leave the oil cleanser out of your routine and use only a gentle water-based cleanser. You may even find that only washing with water in the morning (and skipping both cleansers) works best for your skin.

I’m currently still experimenting what works best for me. At the moment, I’m only double cleansing in the evenings. In the mornings, I leave out the oil cleanser and only wash my face with my COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – and then follow on with the rest of my morning routine.

Korean Double Cleansing Tips!

Double cleanse like a pro!

Before I finish, here’s some extra double cleansing tips to make you feel like a pro!

  1. Pat your face dry gently with your hands. Rubbing with a towel leads to wrinkles and can spread bacteria back onto your face.
  2. Apply your toner if you can while your face is still slightly wet (just after rinsing your water-based cleanser).
  3. Don’t forget to gently massage the cleansers into the corners of your skin (such as the sides of your nose) where dirt and makeup easily build up.
  4. Remember that, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The same goes for double cleansing. It is still possible to strip your skin of important moisture if you over do it.
  5. Your eyes are very delicate, so use a q-tip with a tiny bit of oil-cleanser to remove eyeliner and mascara.
  6. Choose gentle cleansers for both steps and avoid any form of physical exfoliation.
  7. If you’re out of time or really feel like you don’t need to double cleanse (say you haven’t been outdoors much and haven’t been wearing makeup), then choose a gentle, low pH, water-based cleanser. These rinse completely off (oil-based cleansers mostly do not rinse completely away).
  8. Don’t stress if you notice some remnants of makeup on your face after the first cleanse. The key is to be gentle and not over do it.
  9. If you feel that you have a lot of makeup, sebum and sunscreen to remove (more than usual), then I highly recommend using a balm, such as the Banila Co Clean It Zero line of cleansing balms instead of a liquid oil.