What in the world is pre-cleanse & do we need it?

Have you heard of pre-cleanse? Some of you might have come across that term from products you used or are using. So what in the world is that? Is it a product or is it a skin care routine? To me, pre-cleanse is really a skin care routine intended to dissolve make-up as well as impurities such as sebum and sweat that is sitting on your skin. It is one step to take prior to actually cleansing and ensuring your skin is clean. Yes, it is similar to the concept of double cleanse although strictly speaking, double cleanse would mean you use the same cleanser twice. If you’re using two different types of cleansers to wash your face, then in effect, you’re already practicing pre-cleansing.

Pre-cleanse with oil-based cleansers
You’ll find that various pre-cleanse products are oil-based; even a cream based one would contain oil as the key ingredient. And the reason for this is because oil is capable of penetrating into the skin and hence, remove whatever impurities that may have been lodged in your pores. Some of the oil cleansers can even perform the emulsification process to remove dirt accumulated and clean the pores more thoroughly. However, I have also discussed that some oil cleansers may be too drying for certain skin types, in particular if they contain potent oils that are know to drawn out toxins from the skin.

Cream cleansers are my favorite for pre-cleanse
My personal favorite is to use a cream cleanser prior to washing my face with a foaming cleanser. Actually, I’ve been practicing pre-cleanse since the days I started using makeup. Then, it was called a makeup remover and it was also a cream based product. However, back then, I would always use the makeup remover in conjunction with a cotton pad or tissue paper, something I no longer do. Now, I just let my fingers do the work.

Questions on pre-cleanse
So here are some Q&As with regards to the process of pre-cleanse:

Q1. Do I need to pre-cleanse?
A1. Yes! Like I said, it’s similar to the concept of double-cleansing, which we’ve established is important when it comes to thoroughly cleansing your face at the end of the day to remove impurities, sunscreen and makeup, if any.

Q2. Do I need to purchase a special pre-cleanse product?
A2. Like I’ve mentioned, an oil-based or cream-based cleanser can do the job but they’re not always clearly marked as being used for pre-cleanse.

Q3. Why can’t I use my foam cleanser as a pre-cleanse?
A2. You can if you are not using makeup as you’ll find most foam cleansers do not eliminate oil impurities from makeup that well. And depending on whether your cleanser is gentle enough, pre-cleansing with your foam cleanser and then using it again can be a tad drying. Always use an SLS/SLES & alcohol free foam cleanser.

Q4. How many times should I be pre-cleansing in a day?
A4. Well, just once, at the end of the day. You don’t need to pre-cleanse in the morning when your skin is relatively clean because doing so might cause your natural lipids to be stripped off.

Q5. Can I pre-cleanse first and then wash my face later?
A5. Usually it is done together but yes, you can always remove your makeup first but only wash your face and apply your skin care products before bedtime.

Q6. Can I pre-cleanse with a makeup remover wipe?
A6. Yes, but I don’t suppose it’s something you do frequently as makeup remover wipes are reserved for emergencies. But if your wipes can dissolve all your makeup and impurities, using them is not an issue.

Pre-cleanse during facials
If pre-cleansing is not a skin care routine you practice, I would strongly recommend it. If you go for facials, you’ll notice that pre-cleanse is something that is incorporated into the routine, whether or not you use makeup. Some beauty experts even recommend triple-cleansing but I personally find that too much. So instead of just washing your face, consider really giving it a thorough cleanse by incorporating one more step of pre-cleanse into your daily routine. You will definitely find your skin better able to absorb the active ingredients from your skin care products afterwards.


  1. Kay says:

    In that case, I’ve been practising pre-cleansing long ago. I find using foam cleanser twice is too drying, so I use cream or oil cleanser first time and foam cleanse cleanser second time.

  2. sesame says:

    Yeah that’s pre-cleansing! But sometimes we just call it double-cleanse…

  3. jyoan says:

    I have always thought that using makeup remover is called double-cleansing, simply meaning, we clean twice. I think pre-cleanse is just another English term to help sell makeup removers.

    In any case, I have always been practising so-called pre-cleanse since I started using makeup, because I was from drama, and I know that artists use some oil-based thing to remove the makeup.

    My beautician also taught me the ‘right’ way since the beginning.
    jyoan last post is: LOTD: Simple Saturday – Alternative Way to Wear M.A.C Call Me Bubbles

  4. sesame says:

    You’re right it’s just another term…not much different from double cleanse but I did find out that strictly speaking, double cleanse means using the same cleanser twice. But of course we’ve all been calling it double cleanse…haha. Dermalogica is famed for their pre-cleanse product and I’ll say it’s really just a fancy term although the concept is good.

  5. Carrie says:

    Nowadays if I have make-up on and not in a rush, I’d pre-cleanse with EVOO (very economical :P), wipe away with a cotton pad (never a towel) and then use my cream cleanser or occasionally a foam cleanser. And if I am rushing, I’d use my cream cleanser first and then use a toner with a less dense cotton pad to balance, tone and remove any impurities I did not wash off in my first cleansing.

    Now this brings a question… If I am about to exfoliate that evening, do I still need to double cleanse or would a normal cream cleanser suffice? Thanks!! (BTW, that bottle top looks like a Trilogy range…)

  6. sesame says:

    You’re using EVOO? That’s good. I tried it but I dislike the oily feel and then having to use more foaming cleanser. But your idea of wiping it with a cotton pad is probably a better idea…maybe I’ll give it a try soon.

    Good question about exfoliation because it was something I thought about. I still do the whole works of cleansing twice especially if I have makeup on but I may spend less time on the cleansing. And the reason I still cleanse twice is cos I can’t exfoliate my eye area.

    Hey, you’ve got sharp eyes! Yes, the image is from Trilogy…their cream cleanser. ?

  7. Iris says:

    I mixed 3~4 different kinds of oils (sweet almond oil, apricot seed oil, jojoba oil, and etc.) and have been using it for almost a month before I use a cleanser whenever I have to get rid of make ups.. I use steamed hot towel afterward (tapping not wiping off) the make ups and oils.. I love the way my skin feels.. Not drying out at all and smooth.. It also helped me out with blackheads on my nose!! I’ve noticed I get more blackheads if I wear make ups more often.. So, these days, I religiously use the oil mix whenever I have to get rid of the make ups…

  8. Pollya says:

    Yes, I’ve always wondered whether pre-cleanse and makeup removers are just different names for the same kind of product. But then I only know of Dermalogica that has a product called pre-cleanse; what other brands have? Maybe the subtle difference is that makeup removers are generally used on a cotton pad and u just swipe it across areas of your face that have makeup, while if you use pre-cleanse, you can use your finger-tips to ‘rub’ the product round and round all over your face before washing/wiping off ? Or are there makeup removers that you are also supposed to do that with too?

  9. Carrie says:

    Haha I knew it!! Coz I have used the Trilogy cream cleanser before so thought that bottle looks very familiar!! It was also a really lovely cream cleanser too ?

    Yes, I use EVOO and once it’s finished I may turn to grapeseed oil (even cheaper despite it is still cold-pressed too!). And yup, before I used a cotton pad I also disliked the thick oily residue, and plus I don’t want to stain my towel with possible remaining make-up, so I thought of using a cotton pad and it works wonders!!! My face feels instantly clean, smooth and supple, not overdrying nor oily for my skin type (oily/combination). You should definitely try it!! ?

    With exfoliation… yeah, you can’t really do that with the eye area aye?! I wonder if we could do a similar practice with toners + soft cotton pads. I know some people use this as a way of gentle exfoliation for their delicate sensitive skins!! (Man!! I am just throwing more quesitons to you ain’t I?! XD)

  10. sesame says:

    That sounds like the oil cleansing method.

  11. sesame says:

    The usage could be different but I guess they’re really designed for the same purpose. It’s possible to use with or without cotton pad for the makeup removers, except those for the eye area would work better with a cotton pad. I also suppose we can use a normal cream cleanser with a cotton pad to lift the makeup and impurities…maybe cleaner that way too.

    Besides Dermalogica’s product, Shu Uemera’s cleansing oil and other cleansing oils are designed for the same purpose but called differently.

  12. sesame says:

    I don’t know if Trilogy is still being carried here but I love some of the stuff I’ve tried just that it’s rather ex here. I’ll give oil another go soon…the cotton pad really sounds good. And yes, you can use it to exfoliate. I wrote about it here: https://www.vivawoman.net/2010/11/10/can-you-use-a-cotton-pad-to-exfoliate-your-skin/. It’s gentle and you can use daily. ?

  13. Issa says:

    nice to know that I have been practicing pre cleansing without even knowing it! ?

  14. Carrie says:

    Sweet as!! I use it with toner as well as on my lips ?

  15. sesame says:

    Great you’re doing it! ?

  16. Maikel says:

    Personally, I use a cleansing bar with a pH value of 5.5 to pre-cleance my face but the fact that it only contains a tiny bit of rice bran oil (it’s mentioned after perfume) leaves me thinking…

  17. sesame says:

    How does it make you feel? I find that cleansing bar makes my skin too clean and a tad drying.

  18. Maikel says:

    I decided to try out the washing lotion from the same brand which also has a pH value of 5.5. It doesn’t contain any oil but from what I’ve heard it cleanses very efficiently without being drying.

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