Korean Skin Care: The Double Cleanse

You may have heard of the Ten Step Skin Care routine that’s been wildly popular lately. Well, that’s what I do, although mine is more like six steps on a normal day, and eight steps once a week when I do a full facial. Which two steps do I skip? I don’t generally wear makeup, so there’s no need to use makeup remover, and I don’t use any serums right now, as those are for specific issues and you use them only for a short time. Since my skin is so insanely oily, I use an oil-based cleanser AND a water-based cleanser, so that I really pull all that oil and sweat off my face before I moisturize. Once I’m done double-cleansing, my face feels chalky, it’s so clean. That’s why a non-alcohol-based toner is important, to re-balance your skin’s pH after all that stripping.
Why would you wash your face twice? Well, if you’re super oily like me, you’re probably thinking that seems pretty legit. But from everything I’ve read, a Korean-style double cleanse as part of your face routine is good for dry-skinned ladies too.

First off, if you do wear makeup, use some makeup remover to get a decent bit of your makeup off before you cleanse. It’ll give you a deeper clean than if you just started with the cleanser.

The oil-based cleanser is a good idea because a lot of the stuff on your face is oily itself, and if you’re a fan of vinaigrette dressing, you’ll know that oily stuff and watery stuff don’t mix with each other. So an oil-based cleanser will mix with the oil on your face, from pollutants or sunscreen or liquid foundation, and draw all that oil out of your pores and off your skin. This is also a good time to gently massage your face, to increase blood flow and make you look all radiant and stuff. A lot of oil-based cleansers also have soothing botanicals and various ingredients to improve your skin’s health. Shop around and find one that does what you need it to do.

The water-based cleanser, on the other hand, does mix with the non-oily stuff on your skin, like dirt and sweat and powder, to take that off. The cleansers I’ve used are not grainy or abrasive – the goal is to remove impurities and polish skin very, very gently, so that your skin stays soft and happy and doesn’t get all scratched up. Remember that apricot scrub we all used for our acne in the nineties? This is the opposite of that. Gentle is the way to go.

Of course, exfoliation is important, and I do it weekly, right after the double-cleanse and before the toner. Depending on your skin, activities, and the season, you may need to exfoliate more or less often – dry winter skin might need it less, and sweaty summer skin might need it more. A gentle exfoliating scrub should get into your pores and lift up dead skin cells and oil that’s gotten embedded in there so that you can wash it off, and it should polish your skin to a nice shine. It should NOT make your skin red, itchy, or irritated. If any face product does that, stop using it. This exfoliating scrub is what I use, and man, if you’re a picker and a popper when it comes to skin (solidarity, comrades), this stuff is soooooo satisfying. I use it in the shower, and I rub it into my face for a solid minute – scrubbing gently for longer is better than scrubbing hard for a short time – focusing on my nose and chin, where I have big pores and breakouts, respectively. You can actually feel the dead skin rolling up under your hands. When you rinse it off, it’s a whole new feeling of clean. Follow that up with your toner, and you’re ready to moisturize!

Let’s recap, Fledglings. This seems like a lot to take in, but I promise it’s not. Here’s the order of operations for the Cleansing half of your Korean skin routine.

  1. Makeup Remover (if needed). Take it all off.
  2. Oil-based Cleanser. Dry face, dry hands, rub it in good and rinse it off.
  3. Water-based Cleanser. Wet face, wet hands, rub it in good and rinse it off.
  4. Exfoliate (optional/weekly). Wet face, wet hands, rub your face for a good minute, rinse it off.
  5. Toner. Completely dry face, completely dry hands, shake toner into your hands and pat onto your face, OR shake onto a cotton ball and swipe across your face.

Do these things, and your face will be squeaky clean, pH-balanced, and ready to receive all that good moisturizer you’re about to use. The Moisturizing half of the routine is the topic of next week’s blog, so come back next weekend and we’ll talk about how to finish strong.


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