The Science Behind Double Cleansing For Acne

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Cleansing is arguably one of the most important steps in your skin care routine, and cleansing properly is even more important. We cleanse our skin to wash away makeup, dead skin cells, environmental accumulations (car exhaust, cigarette smoke), sweat, sebum, dirt, etc.

This allows our skin to breathe freely, prevents irritation from external factors, as well as keeps our skin clean to prevent breakouts! Not to mention, if we aren't cleansing properly (or at all, as many people don't), then anything else we put on our skin (anti-aging products, acne products, anything really) isn't going to be as effective, because it has a whole bunch of layers of filth and sebum and dead skin to get through.

Cleansing at night is the most important time to cleanse, as it aids in the natural, biologic, regenerative processes that happen while we sleep, which is what helps keep our skin healthy and glowing.

Clearly cleansing is important, and serves many purposes. I know that my skin goes downhill the moment I slack on cleansing. But is double-cleansing necessary?

What is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing is - you guessed it - the act of cleansing the skin twice. Double cleansing traditionally involves using an oil or oil-based cleanser as a first step. You would take an oil (coconut, mineral, olive), and saturate a cotton round with it, wiping your entire face. After this, you take a clean cotton round and go over the face again to break the surface tension of the oil. Then you wash off the oil with a different cleanser, usually a creamy cleanser.

Does It Work? The Science

Double cleansing for acne, as ridiculous and OCD as it may sound, is actually quite logical. Oils and oil-based cleansers are highly effective at getting rid of the macroscopic things you're trying to remove from the surface of the skin, such as sebum, and makeup. Indeed, some heavy products like sunscreen feel nearly impossible to remove without an oil, and water-based cleansers simply don't cut it. But using just oil could leave our skin feeling too oily, or could result in clogged pores. So, to follow that, you want something that will target the smaller things that get into the pores, like dirt, bacteria, and pollutants, which is where your secondary cleanser comes in, one that's usually foamy (but doesn't have to be), and that cleans well.

In short, double cleansing does make a lot of sense. That doesn't mean it's necessary, of course.

Can Double Cleansing Be Detrimental?

Anything can be detrimental if done improperly, or even if done properly with the wrong skin types and products. Double cleansing with too-drying of a cleanser for the second step can strip necessary lipids from the skin's barrier, making it harder for skin to hold on to water. This, as we know, is called transepidermal water loss, and is not good news for the skin. This is particularly concerning for people with already-dry skin. However, when done properly (using an oil first, followed by a gentle, non-foaming cleanser), double cleansing could be ideal for all skin types.

Do I Need to Double Cleanse?

No, of course not. Not everyone will benefit from double cleansing as much as others will. It depends entirely on you, your unique skin, and many other variables such as whether or not you wear sunscreen (uh... you better wear sunscreen always!) or makeup, spend a lot of time indoors, etc. If your skin is healthy, and you're happy with it, your cleanser is probably doing an adequate job, but if you're looking to try something new, or feel like your skin is never really "clean", double cleansing may be a viable option for you!

A good way to know if your cleanser is doing what it's supposed to is to wash your face as you normally would, but follow up with a cotton round and some oil to see if anything else comes off. If your cotton round comes out clean, your cleanser is doing a good job! If there's still some dirt (depending on how much), you either have an inadequate cleanser, or you may need to cleanse a little more thoroughly.

After cleansing (or double cleansing) your skin should feel normal, comfortable, and clean but hydrated. Your skin should not feel dry, red, irritated, itchy, flaky, sensitive, etc. Use this as a guide for cleansing and double cleansing alike.

Keep in mind that if your cleanser isn't doing an adequate job, changing cleansers may be sufficient. Just because a cleanser doesn't work, doesn't mean we need to use it twice, it just means we need to find a better cleanser for our skin.

Also important to keep in mind is the fact that you don't necessarily need to double cleanse every single day! On regular days you may choose not to, but maybe after a full-face makeup day and lots of time in a big city, you may opt for a double cleanse to really clean out those pores. 

Whether you double cleanse daily, or you save double cleansing for a day of pampering, it's totally up to you. Double cleansing has its potential benefits when done properly, and if you're looking to try a new skin care routine, why not give it a go?

Have you tried double cleansing for acne? What were your results, and thoughts? Leave your comments below!


About Vegan Acne Sufferers

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I first got acne in high school, and it came back in my early adulthood. I was able to struggle through those difficult times and come out of it a stronger, wiser, healthier person as a result. I'm here to help you do the same thing!

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