Image is a photo of two cleansers in squeeze tubes. The one on the right has the label: First Cleanse. Missha creamy chocolate latte cleansing foam. It is a white tube with gold lettering. The tube on the right is a white tube with apricot graphic on the bottom. This one is labelled: second cleanse. It is rite aid renewal apricot scrub.
Just some of the cleansers I’ve used for double cleansing: They don’t have to be from Asia!
First cleanse: Missha Creamy Chocolate Latte Cleansing Foam
Second cleanse: Rite Aid (drugstore) Renewal Apricot Scrub (with salicylic acid)


I spend a good amount of time in the Reddit Asian beauty community (I started the group back in January) chatting with folks, and I see the question from time to time asking about double-cleansing. Cleaning your face twice sounds stupid because you’d be stripping your face, right? You’d dry out and turn into a mummy? Nope. Especially if you choose the right products.

Asian beauty is in some ways vastly different from western. Most skincare routines are a minimum of 5 steps, some as many as 7 (with optional steps increasing to 10). Further, the additional steps completely change the game!

A Comparison:

Western skincare has exactly 1 step (be honest, maybe two), but here are some of them:

  • Wash skin
  • Use drying toner, wiping off skin with a cotton ball/pad to remove garbage from your face.
  • Maybe slap on a moisturizer/sunscreen

Asian skincare has 5-10000 steps

  • First cleanse: Makeup slaying
  • Second cleanse: Actual cleaning of the skin itself
  • Toner: not even close to western toners: these are softening and often moisturizing but non-drying and typically stay on the skin.
  • Massage step/Mask step: Either a massage cream to move your lymph and improve circulation, or apply a mask product of some kind (there are MANY KINDS).
  • Treatment step #1: “Essence”, “Moisturizer”, “Lotion”; all of these mean something does something to your skin. It’s good news! Usually you want the important ones first (retinol, vit c, etc).
  • Treatment step #2: Same as before. Some regimens call #1 Emulsion/Essence and #2 Serum but really the use order varies based on the effectiveness of products. Light moisturizing for both steps.
  • Eye Cream
  • Sunscreen: OMG vital. 80-90% of wrinkles are supposed to be due to sun damage. Not only do you GOTTA USE THAT but you must reapply throughout the day (every few hours).


In the USA, I hear a lot of folks say “Oh, Asians have the best skin, must be genetic” but this sounds to me like a lazy thing western people say to excuse themselves from having bad skin for being lazy. When I talk about multi-step skincare I’m not describing a fringe of Asian women; these are not weird strange ladies with obsessiveness. The above (or variations on it) is very standard, and has been for decades. It’s no wonder people who put more work in get better results!

If you guys are interested I’ll do a full post on the Asian skincare routine with a lot more detail but I just wanted to illustrate the big picture before I explain double cleansing.

Assuming you cleanse in the morning and at night, you wash your skin differently (probably). Chances are you wear makeup, so at night, you’re going to want to remove it. But makeup remover is drying, and in some cases irritating! What to do?

Wash your face with a cleansing foam, cleansing milk, cleansing gel, cleansing lotion, or oil cleansers. Some people really like to take a good 1-2 minutes here. A good idea is to try lymphatic massage a bit (you can still do a massage step but if you don’t effing have time this is a good alternative). Then rinse that crap off. Your skin should be pretty clean, but instead of using a drying, potentially irritating witch hazel or alcohol-based toner (like 99% of western wipe-off toners) skip that crap and use your second wash. I like to use a salicylic acid cleanser, or a scrub, but you guys: I have pretty thick skin that builds up if I don’t ward it off with constant exfoliation, so maybe it’s too harsh for most people (ie causes bleeding). You might consider an acne wash (salicylic acid), a glycolic wash, moisturizing wash, or something that smells good or pleases you generally. Sensitive skin folk, believe it or not, you might have an easier time with double cleanse because instead of ONE POWERFUL wash (that may include stuff irritating to your delicate skin like sulfates) you can use two wussy washes and still end up with clean skin (Rather than one wussy wash that won’t cleanse you). Now you’re done washing up, tone immediately to keep your skin from becoming dry.

The main difference here is your first wash. You gotta pick something effective against makeup. Asian skincare brands have a HORDE of makeup removing oil cleansers and other products suited for double cleansing, but as long as it takes off makeup it’s a winner. Use that first, get the crap off your face, and then just follow up with a good skincare choice with your second cleanse. Don’t forget to use a moisturizing/softening toner to keep skin fresh and balanced.

If you choose products that are good for your skin you may see fewer breakouts, less irritation, and brighter skin. For me, using double cleansing alone is a big help, and if you try it out you can always add more steps later. The products you use don’t have to come from Asia! Western first cleansers should be makeup removers or mild cleansers: avoid SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and ALS (Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate), but don’t confuse those with less irritating SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) and ALES (Ammonium Laureth Sulfate). “Sulfates” are not universally irritating (read about that here) nor are they more irritating than non-sulfates, despite what might be passed around the internet.

I hope you guys enjoy trying out double-cleansing. Tell me about your experience!

Have you tried double-cleansing before?

What products do you use?

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17 Responses to “Asian Beauty: How does the Double-cleanse work??”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I use Cetaphil cleanser and follow up with a scrub. Right now I’m using the True Blue apricot scrub from BBW. I really love it. I follow that up with moisturizer. I was one of those people that was scared of over drying my skin by trying a double-cleanse, but I LOVE it. I have a mask I use weekly for exfoliation, I really want to experiment with some other masks though.


    Tiffany Martin Reply:


    I used to be scared that my skin would overdry too, but it helps a lot to make your first cleanse something gentle!

    What mask do you use weekly?

    I totally love experimenting, I’ve learned a lot of ways to make my skin better through doing so, and I think it’s fun ^_^


  2. Kerry Says:

    I need to buy that Latte Chocolate cleanser immediately!


    Tiffany Martin Reply:

    Hey Kerry,

    The Missha Latte cleanser also comes in Strawberry (: I have it too but I haven’t tried it yet, gotta finish off some others first ^_^


  3. Eva Says:

    I actually forgot how good is to double wash your face and I didn’t include in my skincare blog post lol. That’s me and my head being a mess! I actually started double washing my face like a week ago, I use the etude foam witch hazel and then the AC clinic cleanser. The happy foam is running out tho but I’ve ordered Elisha coy pore cleanser I hope it will turn out good ^^) The one thing I’m sure tho because of this and that I don’t have the budget to try lots of serums and emulsions yet. Also I’ve left some nice skincare products in Greece that I thought they broke me out! Turns out it was the Doritos!! Can you believe that?


    Tiffany Martin Reply:

    I think double washing makes such a difference! I used to have skin that was never all the way clean and I’d use western-style toners to wipe the last of the gunk away. Now I don’t have to use those (which is good because those tend to be drying), and I also get fewer breakouts, and my skin is brighter.

    I think your post was still good and you can always still post in the future about double washing ^_^

    OH man, Doritos!! How sad, those taste so good >: As for me, because of Lyme Disease if I eat the wrong foods my skin freaks out and I can even get acne cysts. I have a restrictive diet and one thing I must avoid is anything with sugar/carbs (even good carbs like oatmeal or fruit) and I find when I have something REALLY bad (a slice of cake) my face is the worst. I see it as punishment for defying my doctor, lol.

    It’s so strange what breaks people out, isn’t it?


  4. Eva Says:

    *I want to add that I used to double wash my face with random peelings but always used the Vitamin E cleanser from body shop. So this is not the first time I double wash my face but I just woke up and forgot about it one day ^^;


    Tiffany Martin Reply:


    I like the Vit E toner, it works like Asian toners (: I haven’t tried the wash though, and now I want to because you use it ^_^

    Thanks for updating!


  5. Kerry Says:

    Ah, now that I’m on a computer and not a phone I can type up a longer response!

    So, I’ve double cleansed for a very long time – even before I discovered Asian skin care. A woman that worked at an Origins counter about 15 years ago told me that washing my face without taking off my makeup first was like jumping in the shower with my clothes on. I don’t know how I feel about that exact analogy, but it did manage to stick with me.

    In the past I would use Cold Cream or makeup wipes, but now that I’ve discovered oil cleansers I’ll never look back. At the moment, I’m using Missha’s Deep Cleansing Oil and I absolutely love it.

    Because of my skin type, using a scrub every day would be too harsh for me. I use either a foaming cleanser or a cream cleanser for my second step most days. Lately I’ve been incorporating either Missha’s Peeling Gel or TonyMoly’s Appletox Peeling cream a couple of times a week.

    The Missha Peeling Gel has AHA in it, as well as some gentle scrubbing properties. Have you tried it before? I think you’d like it!


    Tiffany Martin Reply:


    It’s interesting what you say about having double cleansed before you knew about the Asian skincare.

    From your photos you look like you have REALLY good skin, so it’s good to know what you do that works, I’d like to follow your methods and try to have good skin too.

    I need to get into oil cleansers, but I’ve been trying to save money recently, and I’m on a no buy (not to worry, I have a huge stockpile of a lot of stuff until I can buy again, lol). It’s #1 on my to try list because of their ability to take makeup off so well and NOT strip skin. Great first cleanse step!!

    If I recall, you use a daily retin-A, so I bet a scrub daily would be so harsh. As for me, I have VERY thick skin, if I don’t scrub it off it clogs all my pores. It’s a major cause of acne for me. How is the Missha Peeling Gel? (I apologize if you reviewed it and I missed it, I’m behind on my reading.) Peeling gels are very interesting to me!

    I love AHA so I think it’s a good recommendation for me ^_^ Thank you very much!


  6. Natasha Says:

    I’ve double-cleansed for a long time, but just didn’t label it as such.

    I remove my make-up with a cleansing wipe (some are better than others), then do an oil cleanse, then serum, then moisturizer at night.

    I don’t double-cleanse in the morning unless it’s a late morning and I have to wear serious sunscreen for my morning “walk”.

    I love Kerry’s analogy of cleansing before removing makeup as showering with your clothes on — that’s exactly how I see it!


    Tiffany Martin Reply:


    You have such pretty skin too, and you’re as much of a skincare aficionado as we are, I should not be surprised that you double cleansed for a long time too. You’re very savvy ^_^

    What cleansers are you using now? Do you have a cleansing wipe that you like a lot? (Again, my apologies if you’ve written about this already, I am behind in my reading).


  7. TiffanyB Says:

    I love this article. Do you mind if I link back to this from my blog?


    Tiffany Martin Reply:

    Tiffany B,

    Thank you! I don’t mind at all, I’m flattered actually.

    (PS We have the same first name, awesome!)


  8. richard Says:

    do you only double cleanse at night if you are wearin makeup? and when double cleansing how much time should each cleanse be when cleansing twice?


    Tiffany Martin Reply:


    I double cleanse morning and night, but I have titan skin, I think other people should choose cleansers that match their skin needs, and follow up with a good regimen, if a person overdoes it and hurts their skin they should also adjust.

    I know some kpop idols will spend 3 minutes each cleanse but I’m not sure that’s for everyone. It certainly isn’t a good suggestion if you use typical western cleansers with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate/SLS (not to be confused with SLES) or Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS). Use a gentle cleanser if you plan to wash for that long. As for me, if my skin is really gross or dull I will wash longer with the 1st or 2nd wash.

    I hope that helps~


  9. Ali Says:

    I was so keen to try Missha until I found out they test on animals. How disappointing.


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Posted by Cake-Pie
Dated: 6th March 2013
Filled Under: Beauty, Solutions