Those of us who cleanse fall into a few camps:
- Bar Cleansers
- Gel Cleansers
- Oil Cleansers
Those who like bar and gel cleansers tend to like the lather, the squeaky clean feel, and the straightforward nature of how to use them.
Those who like oil cleansers gravitate to the luxurious texture, the way they liquidate makeup and sunscreen, and how supple their skin feels afterwards.
Most of us think there are only these three ways to wash your face, but I am here to tell you...
I present to you: The Double Cleanse.
Let's talk about what is is, how it works, and why it matters.
A traditional double cleanse (let's call it a DC from here on in) begins with an oil cleanser to lift and remove makeup/sunscreen/gunk, and is then followed by a bar, gel, or other surfactant cleanser (I'll explain what a surfactant is later on) to remove the oil cleanser and whatever residual shmutz is left on the face.
Sound a bit extra? It's not. And here's why.
A lot of cosmetic products, sunscreens, and other lotions and creams are OIL BASED/WATER RESISTANT. This is so that they stay on our skin longer and don't dissolve into a watery mess at the first sign of sweat, humidity or other moisture.
Which is great! Except when it's time to take it all off.
A lot of these products are HYDROPHOBIC which basically means they repel water.
When you try and wash these hydrophobic products off your face using water and water based cleansers, you're going to get a lot of THIS going on
But you want to know what they DON'T repel? OTHER things that are oil based and hydrophobic.
Like (you guessed it) OIL CLEANSERS!
Because like attracts like, when you use an OIL cleanser to remove an OIL based product, the stuff on your face be like THIS with your oil cleanser:
So you apply this oil cleanser to your DRY skin (again, leaving water out of the equation for now)
You massage it all over your face, watching as your makeup liquefies and emulsifies with the cleanser and is lifting off your skin like a dream come true!
The cleanser and the products have now happily melded into one solution ready to be washed away from your skin, never to be seen again.
Now, it's time to rinse.
You splash warm water over your face, maybe even using a washcloth in slow circles to buff off the oil/makeup mixture.
And now you're done, right?
Not so fast.
Remember how we talked about the fact that oil repels water?
Since that's true, how effectively do you think you just got all that oil off your face using nothing but water?
Spoiler Alert: Not super effectively!
And although it may not be bad to have residual oil cleanser on your face, you don't want to leave behind any of that other stuff that got caught up in the oil cleanser (i.e. makeup, sunscreen etc.)
This is where a SURFACTANT cleanser comes in.
A surfactant is a substance that has both HYDROPHOBIC and HYDROPHILIC tendencies. So it likes oil AND it likes water.
It's the Switzerland of cleansers!
That means parts of the molecule (the "tails") are attracted to oil, and parts of the molecule (the "heads") are attracted to water.
So the surfactant molecules see an oil molecule, and the tails go "OOOH!!" and rush in to surround it, much like this:
Once the oil molecule is COMPLETELY surrounded by the surfactant molecules, this happy little sphere is called a MICELLE (a term you probably recognize from the Micellar Water craze)
Now, with the oil molecules (i.e. what's left of your oil cleanser mixture) happily encased by the oil-loving tails in your surfactant cleanser, all the water-loving heads are now exposed on the outside of the micelle on the lookout for WATER!
So now that you've given your face a good rub with your surfactant cleanser and all the leftover residue is caught up in micelles, when you begin to rinse with water, the now WATER loving micelles are ALL ABOUT IT and ready to attach to the water and be whisked away down the drain.
Your skin is now fresh, clean, and ready to be loved up by whatever products you choose to use next!
"But Lauren, if surfactant cleansers love oil and water, can't I just use those to remove my oil-based products?"
Yea, sure, you can.
And it will kind of work.
But in my experience, I've never had it work as well as a proper double cleanse.
I find the makeup removal power of the micelles not as strong as the straight oil, but that's just me.
That being said, some times it might not be necessary.
But if you're wearing makeup, sunscreen, used a particularly heavy cream/oil or have been in an environment that's made you feel particularly oily or greasy, I would recommend it.
There you have it folks!
Long live the DC!
DISCLAIMER: If you have a cleansing routine that makes your skin happy and doesn't involve a double cleanse or anything mentioned in this post, don't feel like you need to change it! Everyone's skin is different and will respond differently to different products and methodologies.
If your skin is happy, yay! Leave it be. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!