What Is The Korean Double Cleansing Method And How Does It Work?

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Korean Beauty Lover And Korean Beauty JournalistAuthor information
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Veruska Anconitano
Veruska Anconitano is a Korean beauty expert, combining her expertise as a seasoned journalist with a deeply personal passion for K-beauty.
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The allure of Korean skincare, recognized globally for its thorough and transformative routines, can be largely attributed to practices like the Korean double cleansing method – a cornerstone in the foundation of achieving a radiant, healthy complexion. This method, deeply ingrained in the ethos of Korean beauty culture, isn’t merely a trend but a testament to a longstanding belief in meticulous skincare.

I was initially skeptical about the double cleansing method, especially using oil on my face, but having practiced it for years now, I’ve seen remarkable benefits for my skin, especially when it comes to softness and lack of impurities. It’s become such an integral part of my routine that I feel off-balance when I skip it.

Originating from the historical practices of Korean royalty, the double cleansing method has evolved over centuries, becoming a mainstream staple in modern skincare regimens. Historically, Korean women used natural oils to remove thick layers of traditional makeup, followed by a water-based cleanser to ensure a thorough cleanse. This technique was not only about maintaining the skin’s purity but also about adhering to the high standards of beauty and cleanliness prevalent in royal courts.

In fact, in Korean beauty rituals, cleansing is viewed as a form of self-care and respect rather than a chore. It’s intertwined with the philosophy that skincare is an investment in oneself, reflecting a culture that values diligence, patience, and the gradual nurturing of beauty.

Deep cleansing, the heart of this method, extends beyond mere surface cleaning. It’s about removing every trace of daily impurities – from environmental pollutants to makeup. This meticulous cleaning is crucial not just for aesthetic reasons but for maintaining the health and integrity of the skin.

In this ultimate guide to the Korean double cleansing method, I will uncover the secrets of this method, the steps, and the profound impact it can have on your skincare routine and overall skin health.

Korean Double Cleansing

Korean Double Cleansing Method: The Two-Step Process

At the heart of the double cleansing method lies a beautifully simple yet profoundly effective two-step process. This dual-phase approach meticulously targets and removes different types of impurities, ensuring a level of cleanliness and skin health that a single cleanse can seldom achieve.

In the following section, I’ll explore the roles and benefits of each step – beginning with oil-based cleansing to dissolve makeup, sunscreen, and sebum, followed by water-based cleansing to address dirt, sweat, and residual impurities. This systematic, two-tiered method not only paves the way for a more effective skincare regimen but also embodies the philosophy of thorough, mindful skincare that is central to Korean beauty traditions.

Step 1: Oil-Based Cleansing

The first step in the Korean double cleansing method is oil-based cleansing. This step is revolutionary in how it breaks down and removes oil-based impurities, which include makeup, SPF, and excess sebum. The principle behind this is based on the chemistry axiom “like dissolves like,” indicating that oil cleansers are adept at dissolving similar substances on the skin.

Oil cleansing is more than just a means to clean; it’s a gentle yet effective process to maintain the skin’s natural balance. The use of oil-based products for cleansing helps in:

  • Effortlessly dissolving stubborn, oil-based products like waterproof makeup and sunscreen.
  • Unclogging pores by removing sebum reduces the likelihood of acne and blackheads.
  • Maintaining the skin’s natural moisture barrier ensures that the cleansing process doesn’t strip the skin of its essential oils.

To effectively use an oil cleanser, follow these steps:

  1. Start with Dry Hands and Face: Apply the cleanser directly to a dry face using dry hands. This prevents the oil cleanser from emulsifying prematurely.
  2. Gently Massage: Massage the oil into your skin in a gentle, circular motion. This action helps the oil penetrate the pores and lift away impurities.
  3. Emulsify: After massaging, slightly wet your hands and continue massaging the face to emulsify the cleanser. You’ll notice it turning into a milky consistency.
  4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse off with lukewarm water. It’s crucial to ensure no residue is left, as it might lead to clogged pores or dullness.

To get the most out of this first step, you need to choose the right oil cleanser based on your skin type:

  • Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: Look for lighter oils like grapeseed or jojoba oil, which can help regulate sebum production without clogging pores.
  • Dry Skin: Heavier oils like olive or avocado oil are beneficial, providing a more nourishing and moisturizing cleanse.
  • Sensitive Skin: Opt for mineral oil-based cleansers or those with soothing ingredients like chamomile or Centella asiatica, known for their gentle cleansing properties.
  • Combination Skin: Balancing oils such as sweet almond or squalane can offer a middle-ground, effectively removing impurities while maintaining skin’s hydration.

By tailoring the choice of oil cleanser to your specific skin needs and following the correct method, the oil-based cleansing step can is as a powerful foundation for your entire skincare regime, setting the stage for a healthier and brighter complexion.

Step 2: Water-Based Cleansing

Following the oil cleanse, the second phase of the Korean double cleansing method is the water-based cleanse. This step is designed to address any remaining impurities, focusing primarily on dirt, sweat, and any residual particles that the oil cleanse might have left behind.

Water-based cleansers typically come in the form of gels, creams, or foaming agents. The benefits of this cleansing step include:

  • Thorough Cleaning: It ensures that any water-soluble impurities, such as sweat and environmental pollutants, are effectively removed.
  • Refreshing the Skin: This step helps in refreshing and revitalizing the skin, making it feel clean but not stripped of moisture.
  • Preparing the Skin for Further Skincare: Removing the last traces of dirt and impurities optimizes the skin’s ability to absorb and benefit from subsequent skincare products, like toners and serums.

To use a water-based cleanser and correctly maximize its benefits, follow these steps:

  1. Apply to Wet Skin: Unlike the oil cleanser, apply the water-based cleanser on wet skin. This helps create a lather and allows the cleanser to be distributed evenly.
  2. Gentle Massage: Gently massage the cleanser into your skin in a circular motion, covering all areas of the face. Avoid harsh rubbing, which can irritate the skin.
  3. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse with lukewarm water. Make sure all the cleanser is washed off, as any residue can lead to irritation or breakouts.

Selecting a water-based cleanser should also be tailored according to your skin type:

  • Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: Look for foaming cleansers or gels that can help regulate oil production and contain ingredients like salicylic acid to help unclog pores.
  • Dry Skin: Cream-based cleansers that are more hydrating and less stripping are ideal. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin can add an extra boost of moisture.
  • Sensitive Skin: Gentle, fragrance-free formulations that are pH-balanced and free from harsh detergents will help avoid irritation.
  • Combination Skin: A balancing cleanser (not too harsh but still effective at oil control) can be the right choice. A gentle foaming cleanser can work well for this skin type.

The water-based cleanse rounds off the double cleansing process, leaving the skin deeply cleansed, soft, and more receptive to the products that follow. By integrating both oil-based and water-based cleanses into your skincare routine, you’re not just cleaning your face but also nourishing and preparing it for the day or night ahead.

Korean Double Cleansing

The Science Behind Double Cleansing And Its Benefits

Double cleansing has garnered attention for its cultural significance and scientific basis. Dermatologists and skincare experts have increasingly advocated for this two-step method due to its effectiveness and deep-cleansing properties, especially for oily and acne-prone skin.

From a dermatological standpoint, the rationale behind double cleansing lies in its ability to address different types of impurities that accumulate on the skin:

  • Oil-Based Cleansing: This first step dissolves sebum, makeup, and sunscreen, which are primarily oil-soluble. These components, if not thoroughly removed, can contribute to acne, enlarged pores, and a dull complexion.
  • Water-Based Cleansing: The second step targets more traditional dirt, sweat, and environmental pollutants.

Dermatologists note that this methodical cleansing not only ensures a cleaner skin surface but also aids in the better absorption and efficacy of skincare products applied subsequently.

One of the key advantages of double cleansing, when done correctly, is its potential to maintain and even improve the health of the skin’s natural barrier. This two-step process is gentle yet thorough, ensuring that the skin isn’t stripped of its natural oils, which are crucial for maintaining moisture, elasticity, and protection against external irritants.

Proper cleansing ensures that skin is not prone to issues like dehydration or overproduction of oil, which can occur if the skin’s natural balance is disrupted by harsh cleansing. By keeping the skin’s microbiome balanced and its protective barrier intact, double cleansing can contribute to a healthier, more resilient complexion.

The Differences Between Single and Double Cleansing Method

Traditional single-step cleansing may fall short in several ways compared to double cleansing:

  • Inadequate Removal of Different Impurities: Single cleansers typically cannot simultaneously dissolve both oil-soluble and water-soluble debris effectively.
  • Potential for Skin Barrier Disruption: Single-step cleansing with a harsh cleanser can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation, or an increase in oil production as a compensatory mechanism.
  • Reduced Efficacy of Skincare Products: Without proper cleansing, the penetration of skincare products can be hindered, reducing their effectiveness.

In contrast, double cleansing ensures a more comprehensive removal of impurities and preservation of skin health, catering to the complex nature of the skin’s needs. It’s a tailored approach that acknowledges the different types of dirt and debris our skin encounters daily, thus fostering a more nuanced and effective skincare routine.

Common Myths and Mistakes about Korean Double Cleansing

The growing popularity of the Korean Double Cleansing method has been accompanied by several misconceptions and errors in practice. Addressing these myths and understanding the common mistakes can help optimize this cleansing routine for better skin health and efficacy.

Addressing Misconceptions about Oil Cleansing

  • Myth: “Oil is bad for oily skin.”
  • Reality: Contrary to this belief, using an oil cleanser can benefit oily skin. It can effectively dissolve excess sebum and oil-based impurities, helping to unclog pores and regulate oil production. Lightweight oils like jojoba or tea tree oil can provide cleansing benefits without exacerbating oiliness.
  • Myth: “Oil cleansing will cause acne.”
  • Reality: When performed correctly, oil cleansing does not cause acne. It can help prevent it by removing the buildup of sebum and dead skin cells that can lead to breakouts. It’s essential, however, to choose non-comedogenic oils and thoroughly emulsify and rinse off the oil cleanser.

Typical Errors to Avoid During Double Cleansing

  • Over-Cleansing: Over-cleansing can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation, or a reactive overproduction of oil. Double cleansing is typically recommended only in the PM routine, especially if the day involves heavy makeup or high exposure to pollutants.
  • Wrong Product Choices: Selecting the wrong types of cleansers for one’s skin type or needs can lead to irritation or ineffectiveness. For example, using a cleanser that’s too harsh for dry skin or one that’s too mild for heavily oil-congested skin can be counterproductive.
  • Harsh Scrubbing: Gentle motions are key in both steps of double cleansing. Aggressive rubbing or scrubbing can irritate the skin and damage the skin barrier, leading to sensitivity and redness.
  • Improper Rinsing: Not rinsing thoroughly, especially during the oil cleansing step, can leave a residue that might lead to clogged pores or a dull complexion. Ensure that both the oil and water-based cleansers are thoroughly washed off.
  • Ignoring the Skin’s Response: Listening to your skin is vital. If skin feels overly tight, dry, or irritated after cleansing, it might indicate that the cleansers are too harsh or the method isn’t being practiced correctly.

Understanding and navigating these common myths and mistakes can lead to more informed choices and practices in double cleansing, allowing this method to truly shine in its ability to provide a deeper, more nurturing clean. This ensures not just clearer skin but a routine that feels luxurious and beneficial in the long term.

Korean Double Cleansing Washing Benefits

Korean Double Cleansing in a Regular Skincare Routine

Integrating the Korean Double Cleansing method into your daily skincare routine can be a game-changer, offering a profound clean that forms the foundation for subsequent skincare steps. Understanding how to adapt this method for morning and evening routines and what steps to follow can maximize its benefits and enhance overall skin health.

Integrating Double Cleansing into Daily Rituals

  • Evening Routine: Double cleansing shines in the evening. After a day of exposure to makeup, sunscreen, pollutants, and sebum, the two-step cleansing method thoroughly removes these layers, preparing the skin for nighttime recovery and treatment products.
  • Morning Routine: In the morning, a gentle cleanse might often suffice since the primary goal is removing the oils and products from the night before. Some might prefer to skip the oil cleanse in the morning, focusing on a light water-based cleanse.

Morning vs. Night Cleansing Routines

  • Morning: A gentle, hydrating cleanser can help refresh the skin and prepare it for the day ahead. Look for products that cleanse effectively without stripping the skin of its natural moisture, maintaining a balanced complexion.
  • Night: The evening is the ideal time for double cleansing. Start with an oil-based cleanser to dissolve makeup and sebum, followed by a water-based cleanser to deal with any residual dirt and impurities.

Following Steps after Double Cleansing

After double cleansing, especially at night, the skin is perfectly primed to absorb and benefit from further skincare steps:

  1. Toning: Apply a gentle toner to balance the skin’s pH levels, hydrate, and prepare the skin for subsequent products. Toners can also provide additional cleansing, removing any traces of cleanser left behind. Read our guide on the best Korean toners.
  2. Treatment Products: If you use serums or treatments (like retinol, hyaluronic acid, or vitamin C), apply them after toning. These products work best when applied to clean, bare skin.
  3. Moisturizing: Follow up with a moisturizer suited to your skin type to hydrate and lock in all the benefits of the previous steps. Moisturizers strengthen the skin’s barrier and ensure that the skin remains hydrated and nourished. Read our guide on the best Korean toners.
  4. Sun Protection (Morning): In the morning, finish off your skincare routine with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from UV damage. Read our guide on the best Korean toners.

Integrating double cleansing into your skincare routine doesn’t just clean your skin; it elevates the entire skincare ritual, ensuring each product you apply afterward performs at its best. This practice enhances the immediate appearance and feel of your skin and contributes to its long-term health and vitality.


The Korean double cleansing method offers a deep cleansing that goes beyond the surface, ensuring purity and clarity that traditional single-step methods might miss. By first using an oil-based cleanser to remove oil-based impurities and then a water-based cleanser to clear away residual dirt and water-soluble debris, this method provides a comprehensive clean that’s hard to rival.

Recap of Key Benefits

  • Thorough Impurity Removal: This method excels in removing all types of impurities — from makeup and sunscreen to sebum and pollutants.
  • Enhanced Skin Health: It preserves and respects the natural skin barrier, avoiding the dryness or irritation often caused by over-cleansing.
  • Better Product Absorption: By thoroughly cleansing the skin, subsequent skincare products can penetrate and work more effectively.
  • Versatility for All Skin Types: With the right choice of cleansers, it’s beneficial for every skin type, from oily to dry, and addresses a range of skin concerns.

I encourage you to try the Korean double cleansing method, not as a rigid rule but as a flexible framework that you can adapt according to your skin’s unique needs and responses.

Begin with understanding your skin type and concerns, then select your oil-based and water-based cleansers accordingly. Be mindful of how your skin feels after cleansing — it should feel clean, comfortable, and balanced, not tight or irritated.

Remember, the best skincare routine is one that you can consistently follow, and that brings joy and benefits to your skin. Whether you’re new to double cleansing or looking to perfect your technique, this method offers a nurturing and effective way to keep your skin clear, healthy, and radiant.

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