Japanese women have been double cleansing for years. One theory is that cleansing twice was necessary to remove the white paint-like make-up once considered a sign of beauty in Japan.
Whatever the origins of the practice, from the 1960s onwards it became the basis of the skincare regimes of Japanese brands such as Kanebo.
To the sceptical woman in the West it may seem like a ploy to get us to buy twice as many products, and not worth the investment of money, time or effort. But actually it is advocated and practised by beauty professionals.
Two reasons to double cleanse
“Make-up and sunscreen are designed to stay on the skin,” explains skincare therapist Andy Millward. “If you cleanse once you’re only removing the surface layer and not cleansing the skin.
“But not getting rid of the build-up of toxins, sweat and grime causes a free radical reaction and accelerates the ageing process.”
It also means you’ll be wasting your money on expensive treatment creams: “Any make-up or dirt that is left in the pore will prevent any topical serums or moisturisers from penetrating the skin effectively,” says Andy.
Also read: What happens to your skin at menopause
So the benefit to older skin is twofold: ‘First, you’re removing dirt and make-up from within the pore instead of just superficially, allowing the skin to function better.
Second, you’re increasing the absorption of active ingredients and getting a better result from your serums and topical treatments.”
Cleansing balm and oil-based cleanser
Double cleansing starts with an oil-based cleanser to remove make-up and sunscreen, wiped off with a warm, damp cloth.
The second step uses the same oil-based cleanser applied again, a cleansing balm or milk, or a face wash, for those who don’t feel clean unless they rinse with water.
Catherine Lewis makes balms from organic plant oils for cleansing and soothing the skin, and her brand, Balmology, has been recommended in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Her Neroli and Sweet Basil Cleansing Balm contains a number of natural oils including castor oil, which draws dirt out of the skin, and jojoba, which gently unclogs pores.
But what if you have oily skin? “It’s a myth that oil-based products will block your pores and make it worse,” Catherine says. “Natural plant oils have a similar chemical structure to the sebum our skin produces, and have the ability to balance the skin’s natural oil production.”
How the beauty pros double cleanse
Aveda therapist Janet Korff, who blogs on style, simplicity and beauty at The Gardener’s Cottage, uses pure jojoba oil for the first cleanse.
If you’re wondering how to cleanse like a professional, this is the procedure Korff uses on her clients: “I remove clients’ eye make-up with jojoba oil on cotton pads, then dampen their face and apply the oil in small circular movements to break down their make-up. I remove the make-up with a warm, wet towel.
“Then I pump a cleanser to suit the client’s skin type into my palm and gently rub to emulsify it.
“I apply the cleanser starting from the neck, making long upwards movements to the chin and then over the face. Then I cleanse at the back at the neck, with small circular movements and spend extra time around the nose and hairline. I remove the cleanser with a warm, wet towel.”
The practice of double cleansing provokes many questions, so in response to client requests, Andy made this video for his YouTube channel.
He starts by showing the inadequacy of micellar water for a thorough clean (don’t even mention cleansing wipes to this man!) then demonstrates and talks through each stage, including how to massage the face while cleansing.
By the way, you don’t need to double cleanse in the morning as you have no make-up or sunscreen on. If you like to start the day by washing your face, bear in mind that many gel and foaming facial washes contain sodium laureth sulfate, the detergent or surfactant that provides the foaming properties but can be very drying.
Double cleansing for older skin
Can double cleansing actually make a noticeable difference to older complexions? Yes, it most definitely can, according to Andy. “The skin can renew itself more effectively, so if you move from a poor cleansing routine you will notice a difference in tone and texture, and your skin will be less dry, in two to four weeks.”
Many of us dislike the term anti-ageing: we’re happy with the age we’ve reached and the way experience shows in our faces. We don’t want to turn the clock back. But spending a few more minutes in the evening to achieve healthy, glowing skin, with fewer breakouts and dry patches, sounds like a good investment.