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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