Choreography: The Double-Cleansing Method


Why the hell would you cleanse your face twice? What’s the point of a cleanser if you have to cleanse before you cleanse? The idea was absolutely idiotic to me before becoming an esthiology student. Which is dumb…because I’d actually been pre-cleansing for quite some time.

A pre-cleanse consists of washing your face with either an oil or an oil-based cleanser, before cleansing with your regular…well…cleanser. (We are all going to be sick to death of the word “cleanser” by the time we’re done here.) The purpose of it is to break down any makeup and other oil-soluble substances before you cleanse. A regular cleanser probably won’t be able to thoroughly remove your makeup, so you’ll have a nice layer of old makeup just sitting on your skin. Yummy. A pre-cleanse can also add to the hydration factor.

Your actual cleanse will wash away what the oil broke down, remove any oily reside, and do all the other things your cleanser does. This double-cleanse method is best known because of the celebrated Korean skincare routine, but I first heard of it in school. We’re encouraged to double-cleanse our clients as a means of removing makeup, deep-cleansing, and stimulating the skin through massage.

For the last three years, I’ve been washing my face with coconut oil. It’s the only thing that fully removes my caked-on makeup without drying out my already VERY dry skin. And whenever I’d have a cleanser that I enjoyed/was testing out, I’d use it after cleansing with coconut oil. I didn’t know that I was actually practicing something recommended and beneficial; I just knew that it made sense to me. I needed to wash my face with the oil because it cleaned better and didn’t leave me feeling dry, and I needed the “real” cleanser to wash away everything the oil dredged up.

As I mentioned before, you can use an oil, or an oil-based cleanser. The important thing to remember when working with oils is that some are fantastic, and some are comedogenic, or pore-clogging. You’ll want to avoid those.



(A word about coconut oil: as you can see, it’s in the middle of the comedogenic rating scale. It’s considered to be fairly pore-clogging. Obviously it is NOT the best choice for everyone, especially if you’re already prone to clogged, congested skin. Just because I’ve been satisfied with the results doesn’t mean you will be. Use your best discretion with this one, and if you notice your skin looking clogged, stop using it. It’s not a cure-all like we’d all like to believe it is!)

Oil-Based Cleansers

I personally have never used an oil-based cleanser, only straight oil. I’d love to try some, but as it stands, the majority of oil-based cleansers haven’t quite made their way to the states yet. However, Charlotte Cho, esthetician and founder of Soko Glam, gives some suggestions in her book, The Little Book of Skin Care:

  • Banila Co. Clean It Zero Classic
  • Tony Moly Floria Brightening Cleansing Oil (I actually might splurge and purchase this one from the Soko Glam store)
  • Skinfood Brown Rice Oil Cleansing Tissue

“Real” (water-based) Cleansers

Here’s the thing about cleansers. They’re vital to your routine and the health of your skin…but you’re just going to rinse it off. It’s literally going down the drain seconds after it’s been rubbed onto your face. So, my personal philosophy on cleanser is this: make sure it contains beneficial ingredients, and is free of the harmful shit like drying alcohols, but keep it inexpensive. I cannot pay as much for a cleanser, that’s going to be washed right off my face, as I would for something that’s going to stay on my skin throughout the day.

This might not be the best philosophy for you, though. Maybe a higher-end cleanser is exactly what you need to get you going, or to let you know it’s working. Purchase something you’re actually going to use! The main thing here is using something that’s gentle.

STAY THE F**K AWAY FROM BAR CLEANSERS! I absolutely cannot stress this one enough. I don’t care if your face is dripping oil, keep that bar shit away from it. ALL bar soaps have a pH that’s much too high for the facial skin; they all contain ingredients, which hold the shape of the bar, that are not good for the skin on your face. No matter what good products they may contain, they also HAVE to contain those shitty ones. So…stay away.

No matter your skin type and concerns, if a cleanser makes your skin feel unclean, switch to something stronger; if a cleanser makes your skin feel tight, dry, etc, find something more emollient and gentle.

I’ve only tried three cleansers in my 25-year lifetime that I’ve actually found helpful:

  1. Aveda All Sensitive Cleanser (I can recommend this one for all skin types)
  2. REN Clean Skincare Micropolishing Cleanser
  3. Image Skincare Vitamin C Cleanser

But here’s the thing. I could suggest a dozen different cleansers, and you might hate them all. Skincare is SO personal; it’s the one time you can justifiably be a Special Snowflake. Also, a cleanser that feels great on my Sahara skin might feel absolutely horrid on anyone with normal to oily skin. So, from here on out, take what you will from my personal recommendations., but don’t purchase it just because I said so (like I have that kind of power of anyone anyway).

Extra Resources and Recommendations

I plan on doing a book review series, but until then, let me keep pushing The Little Book of Skin Care on you. It really is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn more about skincare in a very friendly way. Even if you’re not wanting to adopt the Korean skincare routine, you should read through this book. This esthetician recommends this esthetician-authored book!

Paula Begoun’s book, The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here, has some great information in it-IF you can get past her own personal biases against things like plant oils. I don’t enjoy her or her writing style, but I do enjoy the information she presents. Chapter 5, How to Put Together the Perfect Skincare Routine, is really helpful and insightful.


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