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Love double cleansing? A skincare fanatic tried triple cleansing and this is what happened

If double cleansing is the gold standard for squeaky clean skin, what additional benefits can triple cleansing possibly deliver? I decided to find out and this is how I got on…

Before I launch into the ‘why’ and ‘how’, I must point out that over-cleansing can strip the skin of essential oils and upset the delicate ecosystem that forms its microbiome. The secret of achieving additional results is to avoid harsh products and approach each stage of the process with gentleness at the forefront of your mind.


Graphic to illustrate the triple cleansing method

Why triple cleansing may be beneficial

There are two main reasons for trying triple cleansing as part of an evening routine. One is about going the extra mile to ensure the skin is fully prepped to absorb serums and moisturiser. The other is to fully remove stubborn makeup,

Makeup is a powerhouse of creativity. It is transformative in equal measure, accentuating our best features and camouflaging the not so good ones. Empowering and confidence boosting, it helps us to make the best of what we’ve got. But, at the end of the day, it is often not as easy to remove as it is to plaster on.

If you are a fan of heavy makeup, like me, you will recognise the limitations of popular cleansing routines. How many times have you faithfully followed the oil then gel regimen only to find your toner picks up plenty of product left behind? I am not referring to budge-proof mascara and eyeliner that, very often, require a soaked pad of micellar water. I’m talking about foundation and blush.

While residue can be down to the quality of the cleansing products in your bathroom, it can also be the result of poor attention to certain areas of the face or rushing the rinsing process. It is so disheartening to find all that mucky grime still sitting on your skin after a two-step clean.

woman wearing heavy makeup
Triple cleansing may be an option if you wear heavy makeup and can't achieve scrupulously clean skin with your current cleansing routine

Having confidence in the cleansing process is crucial, if you invest in skincare treatments designed to tackle specific concerns. I was preparing to start a serum layering regimen when I noticed makeup on my toner pad a few weeks ago. Having faithfully followed a double cleansing regimen for years, I was shocked at just how much product all that cleansing hadn’t removed. I’d even finished off the process with a damp skin polishing cloth. I hesitated before continuing with my evening routine: should I wash my face AGAIN?

It was late, I was tired and my alarm clock was set for 5am. But that sinking feeling was still there when Alexa delivered my crack of dawn wake up call. What if I’d ‘wasted’ serum on clogged skin? What if congested areas on my nose and chin ended up filling all those pores I’ve worked tirelessly to clean out and shrink for years? That thought stuck in my mind. So, when I was applying makeup that morning, I made myself a promise - to try triple cleansing.

It didn’t escape my mind that I am an ardent user of makeup setting spray. It works, and I am not going to stop using it. But, what if setting products make it harder to remove cosmetics? I am not one hundred percent sure that is the case, but it must be a possibility. Afterall, most provide a degree of environmental protection. My makeup stays put even if I get caught in rain!

Before I move on… Not everyone should adopt an additional cleansing stage. If you have sensitive skin, suffer from any kind of dermatological condition or never wear make up, this routine won’t be for you. Stick to what you know works for your skin and only try an alternative approach after seeking expert medical advice. 

anime character trying to remove makeup
Makeup can be especially difficult to remove if you have used baking or setting products to hold it in place. Some primers are also very effective at getting products like foundation to stick to the skin

Step-by-step triple cleansing

My approach to triple cleansing focuses on using small amounts of product but lots of tepid water in the rinsing process.

Step 1 - I use a light Vitamin C-enriched oil cleanser. One teaspoon of product very lightly massaged into the skin for around one minute. Then at least a minute of rinsing with warm, not hot or cold, water.

Step 2 - Without drying the skin, I apply a pea-sized amount of either an avocado or oat cleansing balm and gently massage into the skin for, again, around a minute. I repeat the rinsing process, allowing the balm to lather before completely washing it away.

Step 3 - Again, without drying the skin, I use a pump of mild cleansing gel, infused with hydrating properties. Lather and rinse for one minute.

I then carefully pat the skin dry with a clean towel, making sure I avoid rough, dragging motions.

Twice a week, instead of using an exfoliator, I use a sonic cleansing tool with Step 3.

The most crucial part of each step in triple cleansing is the rinse. However, water applied directly to the skin can by very drying - so it is important to ensure hydration levels are maintained through both skincare products and drinking plenty of water.

After Step 3, I'm good to move onto the toning stage of my evening routine. 

With more steps and more water but with less product amounts, I have achieved the level of ‘clean’ that my skincare routine demands. I couldn’t reach the same results with double cleansing - even when I adapted the length of time I spent massaging a product into the skin and/or rinsing. 

I use serums to target fine lines and uneven skin tone. I seal the active ingredients in the serums into my skin by finishing with a cream serum or moisturiser. 

graphic of woman washing her face
Triple cleansing relies on rinsing to remove cleansing products and every trace of makeup


For me, the benefits of triple cleansing are totally clean, fresh-looking skin. It is fully prepped for skincare products, meaning they are far more likely to penetrate the surface layers of my face.

The skin is plumper and more hydrated, not to mention smoother and clearer.

Not all cleansing products are made equal. You may find a single product that does a fantastic job of removing every trace of your makeup. For most people, a double cleansing routine works best, especially for those invested in anti-ageing skincare regimens. 

A triple cleansing approach is an option for heavy makeup users, who may find standard cleansers don’t fully remove oil-based or highly pigmented cosmetics. 

If you want to try triple cleansing but are concerned it could upset the balance of your skin’s microbiome, you could use a probiotic cleanser for Stage 3. 

Stick to light cleansers with kind ingredients and let water do most of the work. Just remember to keep your skin hydrated to counteract the drying effect of water on the skin.

Maintaining healthy skin requires a delicate balancing act. But, if you wear makeup, effective cleansing really is the key to a radiant and flawless complexion.

A graphic for a spring skincare routine


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