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Double-Cleansing for More Clear + Calm Skin

If your skin is sensitive, cleansing your skin twice may seem like it could only lead to more irritation, dryness, burning, stinging and redness.

It turns out the opposite is true — when cleansed thoroughly and carefully, with an eye for avoiding certain ingredients, sensitive skin becomes less reactive and more resistant to the environment.

In a survey of 1,633 rosacea patients 78% claimed that a facial cleansing routine helped control their rosacea.

Double-cleansing is a way to reduce some of the symptoms of rosacea by ensuring the regular removal of skin-stifling impurities and irritants.

What Exactly is Double-Cleansing?

Double-cleansing doesn't mean just cleansing your skin twice on the one occasion.

It refers to the use of two cleansers optimized for different types of impurities.

Impurities deposited in the skin (from the environment, medications, skin care products and the skin's own metabolism) fall into two broad categories: oil-soluble and water-soluble.

Most facial cleansers are water-based and remove water-soluble impurities with ease, however they do not remove oily impurities nearly as well.

Because like dissolves like and oil and water repel one another, an oil-type cleanser works optimally to remove oily impurities in-depth, rather than just on the skin's surface.

This is the principle behind oil-based cleansers such as Ponds Cold Cream which were once the most popular way to remove make-up.

When double-cleansing you apply first an oil-based cleanser and then a water-based or aqueous cleanser to ensure your skin is entirely clean.

This method appears to have originated in Japan in the 1960s and has become a highly popular and a fundamental basis of several Asian skin care brands.

Who Benefits From Double-Cleansing?

If you wear make-up which contains oil, use sunscreens which have water-resistance (particularly if they contain zinc or titanium) or have oily skin or visibly open pores you can achieve clearer and calmer skin by double-cleansing.

If you use skin care products which contain any of the following, you will be pleasantly surprised by the effect of double-cleansing:

  • Butyl stearate
  • Cetearyl alcohol
  • Ceteareth 20
  • Cetyl acentate
  • Cocoa butter
  • Coconut butter
  • Cottonseed oil
  • Decyl oleate
  • Dioctyl succinate
  • Disodium monooleamido PEG 2-sulfosuccinate
  • Ethylhexyl palmitate
  • Glyceryl stearate SE
  • Glyceryl-3-diisostearate
  • Hexadecyl alcohol
  • Hydrogenated vegetable oil
  • Isocetyl alcohol, stearate, oleate, isostearate, linolate, palmitate, isostearate, neopentanoate
  • Laureth 23 and laureth 4
  • Lauric acid
  • Octyl palmitate and stearate
  • Oleth-3
  • Oleyl alcohol
  • PEG 200 dilaurate
  • PEG 8 stearate
  • PG monostearate
  • Polyglyceryl-3-diisostearate
  • Solulan 16
  • Sorbitan oleate
  • Steareth 10
  • Stearic acid TEA
  • Stearyl heptanoate
  • Various essential and botanical oils

These ingredients are not entirely removed by routine cleansing due to their incorporation with skin's natural oils and resistance to water.

They can cause irritation and acne-like breakouts when they build up or in prolonged contact with the skin.

An oil-based cleanser can emulsify these ingredients and flush them from the skin.

If you have dry skin and don't use oily products or makeup the benefit of double-cleansing on a daily basis is less than with normal or oilier skin types, however you can still benefit from performing a double-cleanse 3-4 times a week.

Two Cleansers Working Together

The oil-based cleanser is applied first because it causes more impurities to rise to the skin's surface than an aqueous cleanser.

The aqueous cleanser is applied second and removes all residues from the skin's surface.

Double-Cleansing Video — YouTube

Can You Use Any Oil?

Effective cleansing oils are very light liquids composed of multiple ingredients designed to emulsify with water-based cleansers.

A regular plain oil, such as olive or jojoba oil, will resist removal by a cleanser and not facilitate a deeper cleanse.

Double-Cleansing Products

Apply Rosacea Pre-Cleansing Emulsifier first to dry skin and gently massage into the skin until it has thoroughly combined with impurities and oilier regions of the face such as the nose and forehead.

Rinse lightly with water and follow with any other aqueous cleanser, such as Rosacea Anti-Inflammatory Foaming Cleanser, Oil-Free Purifying Gel Cleanser or Hydrating De-Sensitizing Emulsion.

For extra thoroughness, you can apply the Pre-Cleansing Emulsifier to dry skin, massage, add a small amount of water, massage again, then rinse and follow with the aqueous cleanser.

Water Temperature Is Important

Hot water is drying and irritating and cold water constricts the skin and pores, inhibiting the release of impurities.

Aim to rinse with tepid to warm water.

Always use a water temperature which isn't hot enough to lead to flushing.

Final Steps

Rather than rubbing with a towel, pat skin dry by pressing a tissue or soft towel flat against its surface.

You can then follow with your usual skin care.

If your skin is extremely sensitive, waiting for a few minutes (up to 15 minutes) after cleansing before applying further products (including medications) can reduce stinging and burning.

Concerns About Dryness

If you have dry skin you may be concerned that double-cleansing will dry your skin, however oil-based cleansers are inherently hydrating.

The same applies to well-formulated aqueous cleansers.

Further Information

Solubility — UW Madison Department of Chemistry.

New Pre-Cleansing Emulsifier for Rosacea — April 2013.

Double Cleansing Our Troubles Away — Fiore Beauty.

Japanese Skin Care Routine: Double Cleansing — Japanese Cosmetics Guide.

Author: Peter Wilson.

Reviewed: Monday, 13 October 2014.

Further Information: What Is The Best Way To Cleanse? : New Pre-Cleansing Emulsifier for Rosacea : Rosacea Cleanser Samples Set (Travel Size) : Rosacea Anti-Inflammatory Foaming Cleanser : Rosacea Oil-Free Purifying Gel Cleanser — All Skin Types : Rosacea Hydrating De-Sensitizing Cleansing Emulsion — All Skin Types : Rosacea Protective Micro Exfoliating Cream : Double-Cleansing for More Clear + Calm Skin : Rosacea Cleansers — Further Information :


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