Everything you need to know about choosing the right makeup remover
From micellar waters to cleansing balms
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If you wear makeup, you know that it takes more than a splash of water to remove foundation, eyeshadow, eyeliner, waterproof mascara, and so on. And by the time you’re ready to take off your makeup, it’s late and you’re tired after a long day, so you need effective products that’ll get the job done fast—and without scrubbing or irritation. Not sure where to start? We’re here to explain the different types of makeup removers and offer up the top-rated products in those categories.
Micellar waters that dissolve makeup without adding oil
Micellar waters gently pull makeup, dirt, and debris from the skin using micelles, or clusters of molecules that are often used in detergents to reduce the surface tension between liquids. These are great for all skin types, but people with oily skin will love that they don’t introduce any oil to the skin. To use, soak a cotton pad in the liquid and gently wipe your face. You may also hold the pad over your eye makeup to let the cleanser break down hard-to-remove cosmetics before wiping away.
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water lifts away dirt, oil, and makeup without any harsh rubbing. One Amazon reviewer changed her habits with this cleanser: “For most of my adult life, I have gone to bed with my makeup on. By the end of the day, I am just too tired to wash it off. I started using micellar water a few months ago because it sounded like it would be quick and easy to use. I was amazed at how well it takes my makeup off!”
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water respects your skin's protective 'barrier' as it gets rid of your makeup. “Sensibio is great, and deserves all the fame and praise everyone heaps on it,” one Amazon reviewer raves. “It removes makeup very quickly and thoroughly, leaves zero residue, doesn't irritate or dry the skin, never burns your eyes, and the price is amazing. It's the perfect makeup remover.”
Simple’s Micellar Cleansing Water, like the first two, claims to remove makeup and cleanse the skin without leaving it feeling parched. It’s a must-have for one Target reviewer: “This is my go to micellar water. It's really gentle on my skin and it's made with really good ingredients. My skin is super sensitive and I find that this is one of the two that really works for me. It removes all of my makeup without drying or breaking me out. Definitely recommend!”
Makeup removing towelettes for convenience on-the-go
If you regularly wear makeup, odds are high that you’ve tried a makeup wipe to remove it. The convenience factor of having a towelette pre-soaked in a micellar-like solution is too easy to pass up and makes for a great travel option.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes comes with 25 pre-moistened towelettes that dissolve dirt, oil, and makeup while being gentle on the sensitive eye area. One Amazon reviewer gushes: “I typically am hesitant to use any facial wipes, and even have to be careful with face wash due to my dry, sensitive skin. Cheap makeup wipes burn my eyes and make my skin feel dry and taut, but these actually make my skin feel moisturized and amazing. I actually look forward to using them before bed because of how quick they are and how smooth they make my skin feel.”
Simple Unscented Skin Cleansing Facial Wipes use vitamins B5 and E to moisturize the skin as they remove long-lasting and waterproof makeup. One Target reviewer is sold: “I’ve tried a few different facial wipes and these are the only ones that don’t leave a burning feeling on my face/around my eyes. They’re so soft and aren’t dried out at all like other ones I’ve tried. They feel amazing on my skin and I’m so happy I tried these!”
Aveeno Ultra-Calming Cleansing Makeup Removing Wipes soothe the skin and claim to improve the appearance of redness or irritated skin using extract from the feverfew plant. One Amazon reviewer is hooked: “I love the convenience of face wipes and have tried a number of different brands in the past; was usually pleased, but no fireworks. This product, though, is truly magical! One little wipe does more than a team of cosmetologists ever could. My skin is glowing! I use these wipes every night now, even when I'm not wearing any makeup, just because my skin feels and looks so wonderful after: fresh, clean, soft, smooth, and did I mention glowing?”
Cleansing oils for stripping off makeup, not skin’s moisture
If you have dry skin, a cleansing oil may be appealing to you. In this remover, the oil works as a solvent, breaking down makeup, surface debris, and, ironically, excess oil on the skin. While cleansing oils can work well for any skin type, they do give an extra boost of moisturization that someone with normal or dry skin may need. To use these, you’ll massage a small amount onto your dry or wet skin, depending on the directions, and the makeup disintegrates.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is olive oil-based and dissolves makeup without leaving any residue behind. In addition to olive fruit oil, it uses rosemary leaf oil and vitamin E to moisturize and provide the skin with antioxidants that protect the skin barrier. One Amazon reviewer is a life-long fan: “Without doubt this is the best cleanser I've ever tried for my dry, post-menopausal, sensitive, rosacea-cursed skin. It cleans quickly, completely, and easily; doesn't strip or irritate my skin; and is the best dang cleanser I've used in 50+ years of buying cleansers.”
Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil uses a blend of rosehip, green tea, avocado, and olive fruit oil to “refine” the appearance of pores, protect the skin barrier from free radical damage, and moisturize the skin. The oil also claims that botanical amino acids help maintain the skin’s moisture and hydrangea leaf minimizes the appearance of pores. “What would I do without this cleansing oil? It's simply amazing,” one Sephora reviewer boasts. “After a long day, it makes it easy and pleasant to remove all makeup from my face. It effortlessly melts waterproof mascara and even theatre make up. The smell is like aromatherapy and it feels so nice to have a little self-face massage at night.”
Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil claims to remove even stubborn waterproof eye makeup without leaving a greasy residue. The cleanser uses mineral oil, which “acts like a magnet” to pull makeup off of the skin. One Amazon reviewer will definitely repurchase: “I use this as part of my double cleansing routine at night. One pump is all I need to dissolve all the makeup, primer, and SPF easily. I rub this in on my dry skin for about a minute, then rinse it off with warm water, then follow up with CeraVe Hydrating Wash. As a woman with acne prone, combo skin, the idea of oil washing made me very hesitant. But I am a convert!”
Cleansing balms that seem to melt makeup away
When you begin massaging a cleansing balm into your skin, it turns into an oil and dissolves your makeup similarly to how a cleansing oil does Some people report that cleansing balms last them longer and are more lightweight than cleansing oils, but the two types provide the same results. If you think it’ll be easier to start with a solid that turns to an oil rather than starting with an oil, you may like a cleansing balm.
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm transforms from semi-solid to an oil to a milk and dissolves “every trace of eye and face makeup and sunscreen” off of your face in the transition. This balm also moisturizes the skin with safflower seed oil. “I love this cleansing balm! It takes off every last bit of makeup with minimal effort and rubbing,” one happy Sephora reviewer writes. “It melts everything away and leaves your skin feeling soft and clean. I have dry sensitive skin and this doesn't irritate me at all. It earned a spot in my everyday routine.”
Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm says that sunflower and ginger root oils clear away makeup, tumeric and moringa extract get rid of any residue and “fight the effects of pollution,” and papaya enzymes exfoliate the pores. One Sephora reviewer is in love: “How did I make it through my first 52 years without this product? Farmacy's Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm does exactly what it says—it disintegrates makeup. It only takes a small amount and very light massaging to remove even waterproof eyeliner and mascara. It smells clean. It does not sting. It rinses away and leaves my skin feeling dewy and super clean. There are oodles of great products available to us, but I am in love with this cleansing balm.”
The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter removes makeup and leaves the skin feeling soft to the touch. The balm also uses chamomile oil to soothe sensitive skin. “This is one of the best cleansing balms I have ever used,” one Amazon reviewer writes. “I only have to use a small amount and it removes all of my makeup with ease, even waterproof mascara and eyeliner. It smells nice and doesn't irritate my skin at all.”
Eye makeup removers that gently target stubborn mascara
The eye area is the most sensitive on the face, so it’s best to only use products that you know won’t irritate the skin in that area, or your actual eyes. There are different kinds of eye makeup removers, essences and pads, and there are many makeup removers for the face that are gentle enough to use around the eyes without causing irritation. If you want something dedicated to the eye area, we have some popular products to recommend.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover promises to get rid of all eye makeup, including waterproof mascara. The solution contains aloe and cucumber extract to soothe the skin and is gentle on sensitive eyes and contact lenses. Shake the bottle to activate the ingredients and apply the liquid to a cotton pad. One Target reviewer is a “total fan:” "This is the best! One swipe and all the eye makeup is completely off, no residue left, no stinging and it leaves the area around the eye looking smooth and hydrated. I use a lot of eye makeup and up to now, haven't been able to really 'take it all off' without smudging.”
Almay Eye Makeup Remover Pads claim to remove waterproof and long-wearing eye makeup without any tugging or irritation. One satisfied Amazon reviewer writes: “I've always really loved this product, which I've been using exclusively for about least 10 years. I've always chosen Almay for eye makeup remover, but this particular one is my preferred. It's comfortable to use—I wear a lot of eye makeup (shadow, two eyeliners, mascara) and I line my brows, but I can use one pad for both eyes and brows.”
Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover lifts eye makeup with a “lipid phase” and removes the makeup residue with the “water phase.” Like the Neutrogena, activate this product by shaking it prior to use. “Every time I try to find a more affordable replacement, I learn my lesson,” one Sephora superfan writes. “This is truly my holy grail. It never irritates my eyes, always conditions the skin around them, and is even safe to take off makeup on my cheeks and forehead. Keep in mind I have extremely sensitive, acne prone, and finicky skin. My grandmother used this, my mother uses this, and I will forever use Bi-Facil by Lancome.”
Cloths and pads that remove makeup with less waste
Not everything you need to remove your makeup comes in a jar or bottle. If you want sustainable tools for your makeup removing step, we have those, too.
Makeup Eraser could be the one-and-done tool for removing your makeup. After soaking the polyester reusable cloth in water, wipe your face in circular motions and the short fibers on the cloth supposedly adhere to the makeup and “gently pull it up and out of the skin.” The best part is that the cloth can last up to five years, making it sustainable and cost efficient. One Sephora reviewer writes: “This product seriously does what it says—it erases makeup! I could not believe the way it removed my makeup the first time I used it! You use it for a week, toss it in the wash, and use it again. I was wondering how it would clean up in the laundry, and it looked brand new—no mascara was left after it went through the wash. I will be purchasing a second one, and hoping that they continue to make this product as it is—no changes. It is amazing and if you're considering purchasing it, do it!”
Reusable Bamboo Makeup Remover Pads are a reusable replacement for those cotton rounds that many makeup removers require. In conjunction with a makeup remover or oil, these feel soft to the touch and remove all makeup from the face. This pack comes with 16 pads and a laundry bag for washing. One Amazon reviewer was skeptical at first but not anymore: “I was a bit nervous to switch to reusable facial rounds, but I figured I would give these a go and see how I liked them. I was worried about the texture at first because they looked really velvety, but they end up feeling soft on the face with just enough friction to help grab onto make-up or oil. I ended up preferring them so much to the disposable ones that I bought another pack to make sure I don't run out between loads of laundry.”
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.