Introducing the “Double Cleanse”

Cleansing and cleansing thoroughly are two very different things. Splashing water on your face and rubbing it with a towel is not cleansing at all.

I know that sounds like something only an OCD person would say, but trust me, my friends (and husband) would vouch that I’m one of the least anal people they know. It’s just that I’ve learned to treat cleansing, and my entire skin-care routine, as a way to unwind after a stressful day. If I fail to wash up (like that time I forgot to bring a cleanser on vacation), I fall asleep with a nagging feeling that I left something unfinished. I can feel my makeup partying it up in my pores like a kid whose parents went out of town.

So hear me out! If a double cleanse sounds like one too many, think about it this way: If you’re going to spend time and attention putting your face on in the morning, doesn’t it deserve the same care to remove it at night? If you truly want to get all that gunk off your face (and I’m sure you do), a double cleanse is the way to do it. Here’s how:

Remove Your Eye and Lip Makeup

If you don’t wear eye makeup, you’ll skip this step, but eye and lip makeup are the most stubborn to remove (and also the stuff most likely to smear on your pillow), so they’re the top priority. If I’m wearing more eye makeup than usual, or especially if I’m wearing waterproof mascara, I’ll soak a cotton round with makeup remover, then place it on one closed eye and let it sit there for a good ten to fifteen seconds. If you use cotton swabs, hold the soaked swab in place for a few seconds at a time as you work your way around your eyes. You should look for an oil-based makeup remover, and if you’re using one that stings or otherwise irritates your eyes, chuck it now! Stinging is never a sign that something is “working”; it’s a sign that your body doesn’t get along with it. Also, if you’re a contact lens wearer, take them out first.

The First Cleanse: The Oil Cleanser

Oil cleansers aren’t bad, they’re just misunderstood! In Western skin care, we’re often taught to shy away from anything with the word “oil” in it for fear of clogged pores and acne. The reality is, though, that oil cleansers can actually be a godsend for oily, sensitive, and acne-prone skin.

Basic science rules apply here: Oil laughs in the face of water. Think of a parking lot on a rainy day: You can see oil pool on top of puddles, but it doesn’t dissolve. But oil likes oil, so an oil cleanser can help break down and remove excess sebum and oil-based impurities like makeup, silicones, and sunscreen.

I was first introduced to oil cleansers when a generous friend in Korea gave me one as a gift. I remember clumsily slathering the oil on my face, and at first I didn’t like it at all. I felt like I was adding oil to my face, rather than removing it. But the instant I rinsed it off, I was hooked. My face was far from an oil slick. It felt cleaner and softer and even looked brighter. Over the next few months, I carefully rationed the contents of that bottle, convinced this was so good that it had to be a secret. When I finally discovered that every beauty line in Korea makes its own oil cleanser, my hoarding was replaced with total promiscuity. I wanted to try them all.
Now, not a morning or night goes by when I don’t use an oil-based cleanser (I take oil cleansing cloths with me when I travel). In the morning, you’re not using an oil cleanser to remove makeup, but you still want to get rid of all the sebum and sweat that built up overnight, as well as any leftover nighttime skin-care products. For one thing, it’s kind of fun, because you dispense it in your palms and then slide it over your face, which feels great. When doing so, spread it evenly over your entire face using your fingertips and gentle, circular motions.
After I’ve thoroughly massaged the oil cleanser all over my face, I add a splash of lukewarm water to emulsify it. Though they sound very simple, a lot of technologies go into making oil cleansers so effective, and they usually are not 100 percent oil. When mixed with warm water, most are designed to turn milky and wash off very easily (cold water won’t really do the job).

Multitask with a Face Massage

While you’re cleansing and your fingers are able to slip and slide with ease, you can add in a minute or two of facial self-massage and take the benefits of washing your face even deeper. Massaging your face promotes blood circulation and can contribute to a healthier glow, not to mention that it just feels good.

When you massage your face, you want to work with the direction of the muscles, not against it. Starting just underneath your cheekbones, use the knuckles of your first two fingers (with your hands in fists) and work out and slightly up from there. Press as firmly as what feels good to you, since the oil will keep the pressure from pulling your skin.

Then, still using your knuckles, trace them up the sides of your nose to the top of your forehead, then down along the perimeter of your face. Finally, use the pads of your fingers to lightly massage under your eyes, as this can help drain puffiness. Start at the bridge of your nose and move out to your temples.

When you’re done, wash the oil off with warm water, then pat your face dry. Let me repeat: pat pat pat instead of an up-and-down scrubbing motion that pulls your skin every which way. You don’t want to vigorously move your face up and down, as this could lead to wrinkles.

The Second Cleanse: The Water-Based Cleanser

This step is probably familiar to you. After you’ve washed with your oil cleanser, follow with a water-based one to banish any sweat, dirt, or water-based debris that’s still hanging around.

For this step, you can use a gel or foam cleanser—whatever you prefer and feels best on your skin. When you’re using a water-based cleanser, it doesn’t matter what temperature the water is, and here’s a secret: A cleanser that foams isn’t necessarily any better than one that doesn’t. Foaming doesn’t increase a cleanser’s effectiveness or provide any extra benefits. Beauty companies just make cleansers foam to give people what they want: bubbles, lots and lots of bubbles.


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