Could This Japanese Skin-Care Mainstay Save Your Skin?

Photographed by Nicolas Bloise.
By Amy Marturana

Like a lot of great skin-care ideas, the concept of double-cleansing originated in Asia. For ages, Japanese women have been using cleansing oils or cleansing water to dissolve makeup and oil, followed by a regular foaming face wash to finish off the job and feel refreshed. It wasn't until recently, though, that we started catching on to the benefits in the U.S.

Cleansing oils have been touted as one-stop shops for all your makeup-removal and cleansing needs. But, sometimes, no matter how fancy or high-tech the product you're using is, it might not be able to do everything. "For those with oily skin or those who wear heavier makeup, one cleanse is sometimes not quite enough, and it’s important to properly cleanse the skin to avoid breakouts," dermatologist Ellen Marmur, MD, founder of Marmur Medical and author of Simple Skin Beauty, told us.

Dr. Marmur noted that her patients with oily skin have been doing this for years. "But now, I notice even my patients with dry skin are trying it." Almost all skin types can benefit from this cleansing process — those with sensitive skin who flush and blush easily just need to be more careful, since they may need to hold onto all the natural oils they can if they don't produce much to begin with.

Related: Dry Vs. Dehydrated Skin: Find The Root Cause Of Your Flakiness

Anyone who lives in a polluted, exhaust-filled city could also benefit from a double-cleanse. "Some urban patients who live in or commute to cities double-cleanse because they want to wash off the dirt and grime first, and then cleanse the skin using their regular cleanser," Dr. Marmur says. "It’s also great for women who work out regularly, to thoroughly remove the sweat and oil after exercise." This way, you can get that squeaky-clean feeling without being tempted to over-exfoliate and potentially irritate your skin. So, what types of products should you use? Here's how to choose.

First cleanse: a cleansing oil or cleansing milk to break up and wash away oil, makeup, and dirt on the surface

"Look for an oil-based cleanser containing botanical oils such as olive, sunflower, or jojoba, which do a good job at dissolving surface impurities and makeup residue without leaving skin feeling dry and tight," Dr. Marmur suggests. A couple we like: Tatcha Pure Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($48) and Decleor Aroma Cleanse Micellar Oil ($33).  

Cleansing milks (as long as they've got oils in them) work really well, too. We love Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean 4-in-1 Wash-Off Deep Cleansing Milk ($16.80), which melts away even waterproof makeup, and purifies and moisturizes skin.

Second cleanse: a regular cleanser, with ingredients specific to your skin-care needs

"Most everyone has a favorite cleanser they like to use," Dr. Marmur says. So, choose the one that works best for you. A few of our favorites right now: for sensitive skin, Skin Laundry Gentle Foaming Wash ($25); for acne, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser ($20); for oily skin, Soap & Glory Face Soap and Clarity 3-in-1 Daily Detox Vitamin C Facial Wash ($15); and for anti-aging, Peter Thomas Roth Camu Camu Power Brightening Cleansing Powder ($45).

Next: Sensitive Skin, Decoded