The most fundamental (and first!) step in any skincare routine is cleansing. It provides a clean slate (literally) for all subsequent product applications by removing impurities, makeup, build up and anything else that's just sitting on our skin and not adding value.
I'm usually rotating between 2-3 cleansers at any given time because I like using different cleansers for different reasons. In the morning, I like a mild, milky cleanser that is gentle and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and supported. In the evening, I usually double cleanse (more on this later) to ensure that I am truly washing the day's grim away.
Depending on your skin, you may be able to replace the morning cleanse entirely with a simple washcloth rinse. My skin is prone to oiliness and breakouts, so I would not be able to skip my morning cleanse. The evening cleanse is a must and non-negotiable for everyone.
Different Type of Cleansers & What Skin Conditions They Treat
Makeup removers aren't technically cleansers but they do exactly what their name suggests - effectively removes makeup, especially if you wear heavy or waterproof makeup. Makeup removers are a perfect first step in a double cleansing routine.
Waterless (micellar water) cleansers use micelles (tiny oil particles) suspended in purified water to attract and trap dirt, oil and makeup so that they can be simply wiped away. This type of cleanser is perfect for the quick cleanse after a workout or if you're travelling and have limited access to running water. Micellar water cleansers are a great first step in a double cleansing routine.
I would argue that oil cleansers are universally beneficial for all skin types and conditions. Oil dissolves oil. So if you're prone to oiliness, introducing oil into your cleansing routine will breakdown the oil without stripping your skin (leaving that feeling of tightness). If your skin doesn't feel like it's lacking oil (because you've stripped it and now have that "squeaky clean feeling"), it is less likely to overproduce oil. As someone who is prone to oiliness, it took me a LONG time to accept this explanation but I wholeheartedly endorse it now!
And if you're dry, an oil-based cleanser is going to help you achieve a thorough cleanse without dehydrating your skin. Oil cleansers are also a fantastic first step in a double cleansing routine.
Milky & creamy cleansers are the go-to for anyone with dry, dehydrated or sensitive skin. They usually contain mild surfactants that help to gently breakdown and clean, but also contain ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin. They're great as a second step in a double cleansing routine.
Gel cleansers really work well on oily or combination skin and are great for men too. They usually foam up in the cleansing process (I used to equate foam with effectiveness in a cleanser) and easily rinses off, leaving that "squeaky clean" feeling on the surface of the skin. Effective gel cleansers should achieve this without disrupting the skin's natural barrier.
Exfoliating cleansers allow for multi-tasking in your cleansing routine by cleansing and exfoliating during each use. Use these types of cleansers in moderation and consider how they fit in with the other steps in your skincare routine. Depending on their formulation, daily use may be too much.
All the Details on Double Cleansing
What is Double Cleansing?
Double cleansing is simply the method of cleansing your face twice, usually with two different cleansers.
Why & How to Double Cleanse?
Sometimes it's hard to muster the energy to cleanse your face once, so cleansing twice might seem outrageous, right? If you're someone who religiously applies sunscreen, wears moderate-to-heavy or waterproof makeup or lives in a more polluted environment, then double cleansing could be super beneficial.
The first cleanser dissolves stubborn, pore-clogging and acne-causing impurities that can remain even after you've cleansed once. The second cleanser can work deeper, removing any residue that the first cleanser may have left behind. The result is a truly clean slate - skin that can more easily accept the serums, treatment creams and moisturizers that follow in your skincare routine.
Reserve your double cleansing routine for the evening only. Double cleansing everyday may not be necessary (ie you didn't leave the house, you didn't apply sunscreen or makeup). If you have ultra sensitive skin and are dealing with acute inflammation, skip the double cleanse. Also skip it if you have cystic acne as double cleansing can over-stimulate the oil glands and further aggravate the condition.
Download the handout for my favorite double cleansing routine - click here.
How do you know if your cleanser is effective or not?
An effective cleanser does a thorough job of cleansing the skin without being too harsh. If your skin feels tight and dry after you've cleansed, you should probably reevaluate your cleanser. If you're having to cleanse multiple times because once just doesn't get the job done, then you may want to also reevaluate. Keep in mind that heavy makeup and sunscreens may require more than one cleanse.