If you’ve read about beauty, skincare, or makeup, you’ve probably seen the term “Korean double cleansing” pop up somewhere. You might have also seen terms like “oil cleanser,” “foaming cleanser,” “second cleanser,” and “cleansing balm,” and they probably all seem a little confusing.
Unless you’re the kind of person to spend a lot of time falling down internet rabbit holes on random topics (guilty!), I wouldn’t expect you to know what double cleansing is all about! It originated in the Korean beauty scene but is a more mainstream concept now.
I know it seems gimmicky or like a way to sell extra products, but trust me. This is one of the biggest skincare game-changers I’ve ever encountered. The Korean double cleansing method should be a part of your skincare routine if you want glowing and healthy-looking skin. The Korean double cleansing method is the best way to remove the day’s dirt, grime, and makeup.
The Benefits of the Korean Double Cleansing, at a Glance:
- What Is the Korean Double Cleansing?
- Does the Korean Double Cleansing Mean Washing Your Face Twice?
- How Do You Do the Korean Double Cleanse?
- The First Step: Oil-Based Cleanser
- The Best Cleansing Oils for Korean Double Cleansing
- How to Use an Oil-Based Cleanser?
- The Second Step: Water-Based Cleanser
- The Best Water-Based Cleansers for Korean Double Cleansing
- How to Use a Water-Based Cleanser?
- What Are the Benefits of Korean Double Cleansing?
- When Should I Double Cleanse?
- How Often Should You Double Cleanse?
- Is the Korean Double Cleansing for Everybody?
- Korean Double Cleansing Tips
- Final Thoughts
What Is the 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 it makes your skin look and feel great.
As the name suggests, double cleansing involves washing your face in two steps: first, using an oil-based cleanser, followed by a water-based cleanser.
Before I started looking after my skin, I used to buy the cheapest cleanser from the grocery store, and I never included a toner, moisturizer, or sunscreen in my skincare routine (I know).
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 initially, I had no idea what double cleansing was and why it was so important to improve my skin.
Over time, I’ve found that the double cleansing method has probably been the most beneficial change I’ve made to my busy mum’s skincare routine! So, I’ve put together a little Double Cleanse 101 for you to incorporate this method into your skincare routine just like I have. I’m sure you’ll see huge improvements in your skin just by adding this one step.
Does the Korean Double Cleansing Mean Washing Your Face Twice?
Nobody could blame you for thinking double cleansing is about extra face washing. The truth is that it’s a two-step process that utilizes two different types of cleansers: one that’s oil-based and one that’s water-based.
Before I explain why you need two types of face wash and two rounds of cleansing, I must confess something: I hate washing my face. I always have. I do it, but this skincare step annoys me the most. I don’t know why I dislike it so much, but ugh.
Still, I religiously double-cleanse. If I wear sunscreen or makeup, you better believe I’m double cleansing at the end of the day.
Does that give you an idea of how big of a deal double cleansing is? I hope so!
How Do You Do the Korean Double Cleanse?
Proper cleansing is arguably the most crucial step in an effective skincare routine, especially if you wear makeup and 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 involves cleansing your face twice – first with an oil-based cleanser and second with a water-based cleanser, each removing different impurities.
The First Step: Oil-Based Cleanser
“First cleansers” are oil-type products meant to do the heavy lifting when breaking up any accumulated grime from your day. This includes makeup, sunscreen, leftover skincare, sweat, sebum, pollutants, dust, dirt … whatever. Oil cleansing is beneficial if you wear waterproof makeup, full-face makeup, or sweat-resistant sunscreen since these are all meant to last long.
Oil cleansers come in liquid or balm form and should be placed on dry skin. Depending on the cleanser, they can be washed off or wiped off. You can experiment with different types to find one that works for your skin. Some people also use micellar water as a first cleanser, but this only works if you wear little or no makeup and non-waterproof sunscreen. I like using it in the mornings to refresh my face and remove PM routine residue without drying my skin.
Using an oil cleanser is different than using plain oils, which you might have seen some people talk about as a way to have cleaner, clearer skin. I don’t particularly appreciate fussing with plain oil because it’s tough to wash off. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with oil cleansers. They’re specially formulated to emulsify and rinse off quickly when you add water.
Well-formulated oil-based cleansers will not leave any greasy residue behind; they work to pull oil-based gunk from your pores. Water and oil do not mix, so using a water-based cleanser will not remove everything. I like to use the analogy of trying to clean a dirty frying pan without detergent!
Now, suppose you have oily or combination skin. You might think smothering more oil on already oily skin is madness. But the truth is that all skin types can benefit from an oil cleanse.
Oil-based cleansers are very effective at removing harmful oils from your skin and won’t make you break out or cause more sebum. Those with oily skin significantly benefit from oil cleansing because it can break up excess oils that clog our pores!
If I’ve convinced you, check out my oil-based cleanser recommendations below. I often update this page as new and excellent products become available.
The Best Cleansing Oils for Korean Double Cleansing
There are so many cleansing oils out there that it can be confusing to know which 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 are more liquid, and others are more solid. Some have grainy texture, fragrance, and price.
1. Beauty Of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil
My favorite oil cleanser is the Beauty Of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil.
So, if you don’t have time to read on, I highly recommend trying this cleansing oil before anything else.
It comprises a blend of soybean, olive, sunflower seed oil, Ginseng seed oil, and Bixa Orellana seed oil that work in unison to provide the skin with extra hydration and moisture and help to balance the skin. These oils control sebum production and soothe the skin.
Beauty Of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil also contains many antioxidants and vitamins to nourish your skin. BOJ Cleansing Oil is perfect for those with sensitive skin as it’s incredibly gentle. Please read Mia’s in-depth review of the Beauty Of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil.
Beauty of Joseon Ginseng Cleansing Oil Ingredients List (last checked 2023)
Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Olea Europaea(Olive) Fruit Oil, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Panax Ginseng Seed Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Eclipta Prostrata Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Amber Powder, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Solanummelongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum sanctum Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Bixa Orellana Seed Oil, Panax Ginseng Berry Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Butylene Glycol, Water, 1,2-Hexanediol.
Ingredients referred from the Beauty of Joseon official website.
Emollient Moisturizer/Humectant Herbs Brightening
But there are, of course, many other excellent oil-based cleansers out there, including:
2. Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm
The Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm is a smooth, cleansing balm with a sherbet-like texture. It is powered by natural hanbang ingredients from traditional Korean medicine, such as nutrient-rich rice water, fermented grains for skin brightening, and chrysanthemum extract (which contains vitamins A and B).
Sea buckthorn (Hippophae Rhamnoides in the ingredients list) improves skin hydration, trans-epidermal water loss, and long-term skin barrier function. Sea buckthorn is also known to comprise vitamins C and E and many other beneficial compounds.
Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm Ingredients List (last checked 2023)
Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Synthetic Wax, PEG-10 Isostearate, Lactobacillus/Soybean Ferment Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Seed Water, Avena Sativa (Oat) Meal Extract, Coix Lacryma-Jobi Ma-yuen Seed Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Water, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Glycerin, Propanediol, Butylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
Ingredients referred from the Beauty of Joseon Official Website.
Surfactant Herb Humectant/Moisturizing Ferments
3. HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Moisture Deep Cleansing Oil
HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Moisture Deep Cleansing Oil is a beautiful liquid oil cleanser, especially for acne-prone skin. It is specially formulated with only nine ingredients, five of which are oils. HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Moisture Deep Cleansing Oil helps keep blackheads and dead skin cells at bay.
Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Ethylhexylglycerin.
Ingredients referred from the HaruHaru Wonder official website.
Emollient Moisturizer/Humectant Herbs Active
How to Use an Oil-Based Cleanser?
So, you’ve found an oil cleanser you want to add to your skincare routine. Great! Now, how do you use it?
Easy! Pump or scoop your chosen oil cleanser onto your hand and massage it onto your dry face using gently 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!
Remember not to use hot or cold water; settle on a middle ground and use tepid water. Excessively hot water, while it may feel good on your skin in cold weather, will strip natural healthy oils from your skin.
After you’ve massaged the oil cleanser into your skin and rinsed off most of the gunk on your face, it’s time for the following cleansing step.
The Second Step: Water-Based Cleanser
Now that you have broken down all the heavy-duty impurities off your skin, there may still be some residual nasties, such as bacteria, sweat, and dead skin cells. So, this is where the water-based cleanser, or second-step cleanser, comes into effect. This will guarantee that you have taken off every last trace of unwanted substances from your skin.
Most water-based cleansers have humectants that add hydration and moisture to your skin while also cleansing. This is particularly beneficial for achieving “glass-like” skin.
Second cleansers can be:
- Soapy, foaming cleansers
- Creamy, no-lather cleansers
- Milky cleansing lotions
- Lightweight gel cleansers
The type of cleanser you use for this step is up to you. They all perform the same task, so it’s a matter of personal preference and what feels good on your face.
A second cleanser’s job is to wash away any oil cleanser residue and clean your skin. When you’ve rinsed off your second cleanser, your skin should feel soft (but not tight!) and free of any film—no soap, oil, or shiny sebum traces.
Water-based cleansers can be either foaming or non-foaming.
The only universal requirement for a second cleanser is that it’s formulated at a low pH so as not to irritate or dry out your skin. The pH of healthy skin is a little acidic (4 to about 5.6). This is because skin with a low pH stops the growth of harmful bacteria (bacteria thrive on a pH of 6 or above on the skin).
Therefore, choosing a water-based cleanser with a low pH (5.5 or below) is essential, especially if you have acne-prone skin. Sadly, the more foamy a cleanser is – the higher the pH – which is bad news for your skin.
The Best Water-Based Cleansers for Korean Double Cleansing
Like 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, dehydrating your skin and leading to acne and wrinkles.
Here are the best water-based cleansers for the Korean double cleansing method:
1. CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
A mild cleanser with a solid reputation, especially suitable for sensitive acne-prone skin.
You’ve probably seen this cleanser being recommended everywhere. Well, that’s because it is the best cleanser! I have used it since starting my Korean skincare routine, and I love it.
It is gentle, has a low pH, and contains tea tree oil and natural BHA, which help refine skin texture and keep acne at bay. This is a gel cleanser, which I 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.
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser Ingredients List (last checked 2023)
Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Lauroyl Methyl Isethionate, Sodium Chloride, Polysorbate 20, Styrax Japonicus Branch/Fruit/Leaf Extract, Butylene Glycol, Saccharomyces Ferment, Cryptomeria Japonica Leaf Extract, Nelumbo Nucifera Leaf Extract, Pinus Palustris Leaf Extract, Ulmus Davidiana Root Extract, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Flower Extract, Pueraria Lobata Root Extract, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Allantoin, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Betaine Salicylate, Citric Acid, Ethyl Hexanediol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Sodium Benzoate, Disodium EDTA.
Ingredients referred from the COSRX’s official website.
Surfactant Active Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Ferments Essential Oils
2. Papa Recipe Blemish Enzyme Powder Cleanser
A super-gentle powder-form cleanser that won’t irritate your skin. Its pH of 5.5 also makes it moisture barrier-friendly. A little goes a long way with this cleanser (especially with a whip maker*) – and it’s travel-friendly!
Papa Recipe Blemish Enzyme Powder Cleanser Ingredients List (last checked 2023)
Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Sodium Lauroyl Glutamate, Sodium Palmitate, Diglycerin, Juglans Regia (Walnut) Shell Powder, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Powder, Citric Acid, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Scutellaria Baicalensis Root Extract, Tricholoma Matsutake Extract, Angelica Keiskei Leaf/Stem Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Arbutin, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Gluconolactone, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Extract, Lactobionic Acid, Allantoin, Maltodextrin, Papain, Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Fragrance.
Ingredients referred from the Papa Recipe official website.
Surfactant Active Herbs Humectant/Moisturizing Ferments Possible irritant
3. 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, an antioxidant that soothes the skin. Another excellent cleanser for all skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin.
Innisfree Blueberry Rebalancing 5.5 Cleanser Ingredients List (last check 2023)
Water, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Diglycerin, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Limonene, Potassium Benzoate, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Potassium Cocoyl Glycinate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Butylene Glycol, Allantoin, Citric Acid, Linalool, Potassium Cocoate, Disodium Edta, 1,2-Hexanediol, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Polyquaternium-67, Sodium Acetate, Sodium Chloride.
Ingredients referred from the Innisfree Official Website
Herbal Surfactant Humectant/Moisturizing Fragrance
If you’d like more water-based cleanser suggestions, check out my article on the Best Korean Water-Based Cleansers. 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?
Yes, finally, it’s time to use your second-step cleanser.
To use a water-based cleanser, generally, you must apply the product on wet skin. You would need about a 10-cent to a 20-cent sized amount, and again, work the product on your skin in circular motions for about 1-2 minutes and encourage blood flow. Once this is done, rinse the product off with lukewarm water. Pat dry, and you’re done!
Your skin should feel soft and clean but not tight and dry.
Since low pH cleansers tend not to foam, 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.
What Are the Benefits of Korean Double Cleansing?
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 and leading to… you guessed it, acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed, discolored, and dull skin.
Water and oil do not mix, so one regular cleanse will not clear your pores of oil- and water-based debris.
That is why the Korean double cleansing is essential. It removes everything harmful from your skin. 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 is that they are fantastic at removing waterproof mascara and eyeliner. No need to rub your eyes, only to feel like you still look like a panda the next day.
Even people with oily skin benefit so much from double cleansing because, contrary to popular belief, the oil-based cleanser removes terrible oils from your skin without stripping it of its moisture – which can lead to the build-up of more oil and, in turn, more skin problems!
Moreover, using the Korean double cleansing method, moisturizers, toners, and serums are better absorbed by the skin because the skin is cleaner, making subsequent products more absorbable.
A study by Lancôme shows that products work twice as fast if the skin has been cleaned twice. In addition, Olay has found that 30% more product penetrates the skin when it has been thoroughly cleaned beforehand.
When Should I Double Cleanse?
There’s absolutely no wrong time to double cleanse. However, it is recommended to double cleanse at the end of the day. It is part of the 10-step skincare routine before applying toner and other products. Even if you don’t wear makeup frequently or haven’t left the house, giving your skin a good clean is still essential.
How Often Should You Double Cleanse?
This 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 with 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.
Read next: Unexpected results with NYK1 Lash Force Eyelash Growth Serum Review with before & after photos.
Is the Korean Double Cleansing for Everybody?
To put it simply, yes. The Korean double cleansing method works for most skin types. However, double cleansing for certain drier skin types, such as those with eczema, rosacea, and some sensitive skin, might risk over-drying their skin. It is imperative to always seek your dermatologist for the best course of action to know what your skin type is and what you can and cannot do.
Acne Prone? Here are The Best COSRX Products for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
Korean Double Cleansing Tips
Before I finish, here are some extra double-cleansing tips to make you feel like a pro!
Oil cleanse on dry skin. Because these cleansers are meant to be rinsed away with water, it’s hard to get the full benefit if your skin is already wet. Add another pump or two to your hands if the cleanser is dragging uncomfortably on your dry skin.
For a spa experience in the bathroom, I recommend massaging the product into the skin for up to five minutes. Focus on sweeping, circular motions. This cleans the skin more thoroughly and promotes blood circulation in the face. This will make your skin more radiant and vibrant!
Gently massage the cleansers into the corners of your skin where dirt and makeup quickly build up.
Be gentle with both steps! Scrubbing harder won’t get your face any cleaner, and you’ll irritate your skin. Remember that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The same goes for double cleansing. If you overdoing it, it is still possible to strip your skin of essential moisture.
Choose gentle cleansers for both steps and avoid any form of physical exfoliation.
Second-cleanse, while the skin is still damp. These types of cleansers work best on skin that isn’t dry.
Pat your face dry gently with your hands. Rubbing with a towel leads to wrinkles and can spread bacteria back onto your face.
Apply your toner after rinsing your water-based cleanser while your face is still slightly wet. Subsequent products absorb faster and better on damp skin!
Your eyes are very delicate, so use a Q-tip with an oil cleanser to remove eyeliner and mascara.
If you’re out of time or don’t need to double-cleanse, choose a gentle, low-pH, water-based cleanser.
Double cleansing in the morning can be pretty intense on your skin, and I would only recommend doing a double cleanse in the morning if you have very oily skin. I only do a gentle cleanse in the morning to ensure I don’t dry out my skin.
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 overdo it.
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 liquid oil.
If you want to reap full benefits from a skincare routine, I suggest following up with a hydrating toner, essence, and moisturizer. In the mornings, don’t forget sunscreen!
And there you have it! A quick rundown of double cleansing and why you should do it. Thank you for reading, and as always, you do you; be kind to your skin and yourself!
Starting and ending the day right is a good foundation for achieving perfect skin.
Show Me Proof
- Khan, Barkat Ali, and Naveed Akhtar. “Hippophae rhamnoides oil-in-water (O/W) emulsion improves barrier function in healthy human subjects.” Pakistan Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 27, no. 6 (2014): 1919-1922.