I'm reading (well, actually listening to) a terrific new book on women's health by a double-board-certified doctor in internal medicine and immunology. In a chapter about inflammation, the author advises avoiding endocrine disruptors to whatever extent possible and suggests cleaning your face with a natural bar soap. Of course, avoiding endocrine disruptors is absolutely a good idea. However, even though soap is not known to be an endocrine disruptor, it's generally not the best facial cleanser for healthy skincare. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's good for you or even safe. Soaps are excellent for cleaning some things, but your face isn't one of them.
Fun fact: an old trick in the skincare industry is to compare facial cleansers to the soap that has been a hygiene staple for over a century and was, for decades, promoted as 99 44/100% pure. But pure soap combines fatty acids and alkalis that disrupt the skin's acid mantle and related moisture barrier function, so it's drying. If you want to make your product look less irritating and drying than a "market leader," simply compare it to pure soap!
Newsflash: You can’t scrub away your skin concerns.
Through the years, I've worked with some of the world's most highly recognized dermatologists and have been surprised by how much opinions about daily skincare practices vary. Such is the case when it comes to the regular use of physical exfoliators such as scrubbing grains and motorized brushes, and even washcloths for facial cleansing. When it comes to cleansing, I firmly stand in the "first do no harm" camp. Many years ago, one of my favorite (and cheekier) derm advisors said, "scrubbing is for pots and pans, not for your skin." I've taken that to heart in my personal practice because the science supports it.
For those who subscribe to the no pain, no gain aspect of skincare, proceed with caution; you may want to rethink your approach for the simple reason that scrubbing can be pro-inflammatory and inflammation is at the epicenter of the very issues you're attempting to prevent or correct. For instance, scrubbing your face can lead to a follicular response and further clogging if you're struggling with breakouts and trying to unclog pores. Suppose you're dealing with dulling pigment changes associated with sun damage and trying to scrub your way to enhanced cell turnover. In that case, the resultant low-grade inflammation can actually lead to further dulling over time. Suppose you're trying to age as youthfully as possible (and who isn't?). In that case, the tradeoff for the short-term benefits of physical exfoliation may be accelerated signs of aging in the long run. And if you have sensitive skin, well, you already know better.
Does double cleansing work?
The practice of immediately following the use of a facial cleanser with a second facial cleanser has been popular for some time in Japan and Korea. Beauty cognoscenti are now adopting it in Europe and America. To wash your face the right way, the idea is that you use a first cleanser, typically a cleansing oil, to cut through makeup, sunscreen, and other impurities and then use a second cleanser to clean your skin. While for some people with super oily skin, this double facial cleansing helps to mop up excess oil, including any oily residue left from the cleansing oil, for most people, a single step should be sufficient to remove the remains of the day and leave skin sufficiently clean without over-stripping essential fatty acids from the skin.
However, one thing that is rarely addressed by the dermatology world or the beauty industry is why we have different moisturizers and serums for daytime and nighttime use but generally use the same cleanser morning and night. After all, what could be more different than the cleansing needs of the skin at the end of the day compared to the needs at the start of a new day?
The mindful double cleanse: a relevant new approach for all skin types.
At the end of the day (literally), all skin types can benefit from a rich cleansing butter that emulsifies makeup and other impurities and cleanly rinses away without disrupting skin’s natural barrier function. This helps create an optimal microenvironment for application of moisturizers for face or skin firming treatment serums to support skin’s recovery and resilience during restorative sleeping hours.
At the start of the day, all skin types can benefit from a clay-based cleansing mask to absorb remaining residue from nighttime products and to gently lift away dead skin cells for a refined finish that reflects light beautifully. Natural kaolin clay swings both ways, absorbing excess oil from oily skin while being mild enough for dry, sensitive skin. Unlike other forms of cleansers, a natural face cleanser mask allows for a couple minutes of contact time so that infused ingredients like pre-biotic and post-biotic nutrients, antioxidants and other adaptogens can provide additional benefits. The result is incredibly smooth, soft and fresh-feeling skin.
How To Double Cleanse (Mindfully) Step-by-Step
If you’re looking for a way to get more benefits from the simple practice of washing your face, try this method that features cleansers developed for best results morning and night.
Step 1: Coming Clean
Help your skin build resilience while you sleep. Start with an oil-based cleanser, preferably a solid, buttery oil with anti-oxidants and adaptogens, to remove makeup, sunscreen, and impurities. Apply it to your face and massage it in circular motions for about 30 seconds.
Step 2: Rinse
Rinse with lukewarm water to remove the oil cleanser. Gently pat dry with a clean towel.
Step 3: Brighten and Refine
As you awaken to clean, dewy skin, a clay-based cleansing mask is ideal for enhancing skin radiance and for creating a more perfect canvas for makeup application. Apply the clay mask cleanser and allow to dry for two minutes. If you’re planning to step into the shower, apply the cleaners before you step under the steamy water.
Step 4: Rinse
Rinse your face with lukewarm water in the shower or at your vanity sink to remove the clay mask.
Pat your face dry with a clean towel.
Benefits of double-cleansing your skin
One of the benefits of breaking your double cleansing practice into a night and day routine is that it takes very little extra time on your part and you can enjoy all the benefits this skincare routine has to offer, including
The nighttime cleanse with an oil-based cleanser removes makeup, sunscreen, and other oil-based impurities, while the morning cleanse with a natural clay cleanser absorbs residue from your overnight skincare and refines the surface of your skin without over drying.
Double cleansing helps to unclog pores and prevent breakouts by removing all the impurities that can build up throughout the day.
Improves skin texture
Double cleansing can also improve skin texture and make it look brighter and smoother by removing dead skin cells and other impurities.
Won’t disrupt your delicate skin barrier
By not over-cleansing and avoiding foaming surfactant cleanser, your skin’s ability to retain moisture and provide protection from environmental impurities and toxins is supported. When the skin’s moisture barrier is intact, skincare products can perform more effectively.
Choosing the right facial cleanser for your skin
Facial cleansing should aim to create an optimized microenvironment to support the skin's overall health and resilience. What you choose as your cleanser affects the impact of everything else your skin encounters, including the benefits and tolerance of other skincare products.
At night, use an oil-based cleansing balm. In the morning, use a clay-based cleanser. To help control exposure to unhealthy bacteria, wash your hands before washing your face. Try it for a couple of weeks and see how beautifully your skin responds. It really can be just that simple.