07/23/2024

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Remember a decade ago when double cleansing first appeared and we were all hesitant about the idea? Wash my face? Twice??? With oil??? It was an exciting time for skincare – the rise of Korean skincare in the U.S. could easily be tied to the spark of the double-cleansing craze – and I may be biased, but I did prove that double-cleansing was good for my soft skin. (That, and genetics and too many moisturizers since I was in sixth grade.)

For those of you who don’t know much about /r/skincareaddiction, let me explain what a double cleanse is: a double cleanse is a technique where you wash twice – er – first with a makeup remover and then with a regular cleanser. The oil-based cleanser easily breaks down makeup and debris without damaging the skin’s natural oils, while the regular cleanser removes any impurities left on the skin. In an ideal world, you would double cleanse at night because the oils and surfactants break down the sunscreen, so it’s a great way to really start fresh. But with the rise of skincare hair and body care products like Dove’s Body Love Pre-Cleanser line, it got me wondering.

Why don’t we double cleanse the skin on our bodies and scalps like we double cleanse our faces?

Hell, we’ve asked a variation of this question before, but about double-cleansing our hair. Maybe I’ve been looking for some way to boost my skincare routine, and with ingredients like salicylic acid being used everywhere as TikTokers for the scalp, I really thought I had unlocked something with this concept. So of course, I contacted the experts to see if I was doing something or if this was an unnecessary (and possibly wasteful) concept.

Do our bodies need double cleansing?
“Double cleansing your body and scalp may be a good way to remove any buildup that accumulates throughout the day, but it’s not a necessary step,” explains Dr. Dendy Engleman, a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic in New York. Basically, between SPF, makeup, sweat, pollutants and natural oils, our faces tend to accumulate more impurities than other parts of our bodies, which are protected by clothing and hair. “On most days, regular cleansing of the body and scalp with a good body wash and shampoo should be sufficient. The exception is if you wear sunscreen, body makeup or anything else that’s harder to clean – then you may need to double cleanse to really make sure you’ve removed everything from your skin,” she says.

However, double-cleansing the scalp may have even more benefits. Honestly, the scalp is exposed to many diseases you’ve never seen before, says Shab Reslan, a New York City-based trichologist and hair expert. “Today, the scalp is affected by the buildup of environmental debris, contaminants in shower water, increased use of dry shampoos and inadequate cleansing from less cleansing shampoos.”

Reslan explains that you won’t be able to effectively cleanse your scalp without double cleansing: you need the first shampoo to break down all the buildup and the second shampoo to actually wash it away. Thoroughly cleansing the scalp without harsh cleansers helps maintain a healthy scalp microbiome and avoid irritation, inflammation, flaking and itching, all of which can lead to thinning or falling hair.

But who is the body double cleanse really for? According to aesthetician Bryce Anthony and dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, it could be a good thing for those with more active lifestyles. “Double cleansing is a great option for the body, especially if you’re done working out and you have oily or dirty skin,” says Dr. Hartman. But, of course, you should be careful if you also have skin problems. “For example, if someone has eczema, you want to be careful not to exacerbate the condition by over-cleaning or over-irritating the skin. Everything is subjective,” says Anthony.

Benefits of double cleansing
If you want to double cleanse anywhere, what do you get out of it? Double cleansing the body helps remove excess dirt, debris and oil that can cause acne or skin irritation if left on the skin; double cleansing the scalp can help remove product buildup and leave hair clean enough to receive hair care products used to repair or style hair. Double cleansing the scalp is especially effective for people with skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis or excessive dandruff – try using an oil-based shampoo to help remove the oil from the skin of the scalp. Not to mention, there is a wealth of research on the benefits of scalp massage, both overall and physically. Oiling the scalp is an important part of Eastern beauty culture. Not only will you be removing impurities and dry skin cells, but you will also be helping hair growth. “Working with your fingertips in a circular motion feels great, but it also really benefits the scalp and helps prepare it for a deeper cleanse with shampoo,” explains holistic esthetician Tammy Fender. “The crown is very sensitive and bringing this treatment to the nervous system will only relax the entire body. Removing impurities from the scalp at the same time can promote fresh, healthy hair growth.”

The downside of double cleansing
It sounds like you’re better off not cleansing your body twice a day. Instead, save it for when you feel greasy or sticky or covered in sunscreen. Over-peeling your skin can have long-term effects, drying it out and causing irritation. In general, the skin on your body produces less oil than your face, and double cleansing may remove the natural oils from your skin, which can lead to inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.

However, if you are looking into double cleansing for your scalp, then it’s time to do some research. “Double cleansing with harsh shampoos containing SLS or SLES may disrupt the pH balance of the scalp and produce more sebum at the roots, or cause extreme redness and flaking due to scalp dryness,” Reslan told me.

Honestly, according to Dr. Engleman, there’s only one real downside – and that’s the effect on your time and wallet. “Unless you’re using harsh cleansers – and never should be! – There really isn’t any downside to double cleansing your body and scalp, but in most cases there is no need to do so. You’re probably just wasting product and time.”

Who benefits from double cleansing?

Dr. Hartman shares that if you have oily or combination skin, double cleansing is ideal for both the face and body. People with fine hair tend to stick with natural oils and will also benefit from double cleansing. However, people with curly hair who need natural oils to keep their hair moisturized may not find as much use from a regular scalp double cleanse. If you’re really looking for a body treatment that isn’t necessarily a double cleanse, Fender recommends dry brushing before showering. “The regimen promotes circulation and lymphatic drainage, removing any dull surface skin and promoting a refreshed look.”

People with body acne or acne-prone skin types may also benefit from a double cleanse. “We know that acne cysts are caused by a collection of dead skin cells that combine with bacteria and oil to eventually lead to clogged pores,” explains board-certified dermatologist Lian A. Mack, MD. “Double cleansing the body for acne may help remove excess oil and sebum, help with cell renewal, and allow the skin to absorb active anti-acne ingredients.”

How often should I double cleanse?
Unfortunately, this is not an easy or simple question to answer, and is 1000% subjective and depends on the user’s individual skin type. “If you have sensitive, dry skin, I recommend double cleansing infrequently, like once a week. If your hair gets very oily and flaky, consider cleansing twice a week,” says Dr. Mike, who recommends starting with an oil-based cleanser and then using a gentle cleanser on the body.

Anthony agrees and suggests easing up on the double cleansing routine. “Like anything new, I also recommend starting slowly, maybe 1-2 times a week to begin with, and then gradually increasing as you gauge your skin’s tolerance.” On the other hand, Reslan believes that you should double cleanse your scalp every time you wash your hair, especially if you use a lot of styling products. Not enough time? She has a solution: “For those of you who would rather skip the second shampoo to save time in the shower, I highly recommend adding a weekly/daily scalp exfoliator, similar to a facial exfoliator, to help maintain a buildup-free and healthy scalp,” such as The Inkey List’s Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Scalp Scrub which contains a physical exfoliant and 7% AHA.

Now that we know what’s necessary and what’s not, I’ll take the next poll: Do we need hate and shout in this ballroom? (Mary J. Blige says no.)

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