Arguably, the worst part of wearing makeup is removing it. You spend so much time perfecting your look before heading out for the day or night to come, only to have to wash it off at the end.
We should note, though, that the one cardinal rule of makeup is to remove it before bed. “Oil, dirt, pollutants and makeup when left on the skin can lead to breakouts, irritation, styes and even accelerated aging of the skin,” explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Charlotte Birnbaum. “The longer this debris sits on the skin, the more likely these undesirable effects can occur, which is why leaving your makeup on overnight is even more problematic. Overnight, this is compounded potentially by additional occlusion by a pillow.” Even worse is waking up to makeup stains all over your pillowcase.
Luckily, there are plenty of makeup removers in the market nowadays that are far more efficient than your everyday facial cleanser and water. According to Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles-based dermatologist and author of “Feed Your Face,” you should “choose a makeup remover depending on the type and amount of makeup you wear. It should easily remove makeup without rubbing or leaving skin red and irritated.” This means you may only need a swipe of micellar water if you’re into the simple dolphin skin look, or a serious double cleanse if you have a whole face of Halloween makeup to take off.
Whether you want a gentle makeup remover or something that can take off stubborn waterproof mascara, we spoke to various beauty experts about the best ways to remove makeup out there. Keep reading to discover their tips and picks.
Start with micellar water to remove eye and lip makeup
Micellar water is a great universal makeup remover that can tackle eye makeup, lipstick
and more, plus it’s gentle on sensitive skin. Use it on a cotton pad to sweep away makeup before you cleanse your face. “I recommend Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water for my patients with sensitive skin,” says Wu. “It gently cleanses and contains ingredients like mannitol to help hydrate sensitive skin, which tends to be dry.” Celebrity makeup artist Latrice Johnson
echoes this sentiment — this is her go-to makeup remover for sensitive skin because it’s “gentle yet effective.”
New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach
agrees that micellar water is a great way to remove most kinds of makeup. She says, “I like that you can control how much you saturate the cotton ball.” This option by Garnier is another top pick — so much so that it’s one of the expert-approved skin care products you can pick up on your next Target run
Alternatively, a dedicated eye makeup remover is formulated to get longwearing eyeliner and mascara off — and it often works on other makeup too. “I wear waterproof makeup and have tried many different ones over the years. I keep going back to the Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, which you can also use to remove waterproof lip color and sunscreen
,” says Wu of this remover, which is also a top pick from Johnson and Rabach.
As mentioned, you’ll need to saturate a cotton pad or ball with micellar water to slough away your makeup. If you’d prefer an eco-friendly
alternative to using a new pad each time, grab the Versed Down to Earth Reusable Cotton Pads. These even come in their own wash bag to make reusing them incredibly simple.
Just as gentle as micellar water, “makeup pad removers are great to remove heavy eye makeup because normal cotton balls may shred," says celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg
. She's “obsessed with The Face Halo [makeup remover pads] because all you need is water! It saves the planet and it works like magic.” These eco-friendly makeup remover pads took the beauty industry by storm, and can be washed up to 200 times to reuse again and again.
Oil-based cleansers will help break down waterproof makeup without drying out the skin, but you’ll want to follow up with a water-based cleanser to make sure you’re rinsing any residue off and truly starting with a clean face before you apply your skin care routine
. “For those with dry skin, a double cleanse using an oil cleanser or cleansing balm followed by a gentle water-based cleanser can effectively remove debris from the skin without stripping the skin,” says Birnbaum. The Dermalogica Precleanse has long been one of our favorite cleansing oils to remove makeup with ease.
Curél’s Makeup Cleansing Oil is another top-rated option to consider. “Cleansing oils have the added benefit of moisturizing the skin,” says Birnbaum. “Of note, it is important for cleansing oils to be applied to dry skin to properly bind to oils on the skin prior to being rinsed off with water.” Once you add water, this should transform into a dreamy milky texture.
Rabach recommends using a cleansing balm when removing really thick foundation makeup. The Farmacy Green Clean cleansing balm is an industry favorite because it literally melts your makeup right off your face as it transforms from a balm to a milky lather.
Once you try the Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm, it’s hard to part ways from it. This K-beauty balm is formulated with antioxidant and fatty acid-rich seaberry oil as well as persimmon extract to soften, nourish and brighten your skin.
“If I did [my] makeup to last a full day, I like to break the makeup down using the Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser all over the face and eyes — wiping [it] away with a soft tissue or towel,” says Johnson. Containing mineral oils and petrolatum, this top-rated oil-based cleanser melts into the skin while adding a layer of emollients. You don’t even have to rinse it off with water; you can simply wipe the makeup away with a tissue or washcloth.
The Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser is an OG cold cream and star at removing makeup — much like the cleansing balms of today. It’s super affordable, great for dry skin and available at your local drugstore
, but be sure to follow our expert advice and follow the cream with a gentle cream or gel cleanser to ensure you’re removing all the gunk off your face properly.
Using a cleansing balm can get a bit messy, though. After you rub the balm onto the skin, you need to rinse the product, makeup and dirt off of your face, right? Instead of using a washcloth or our hands, we love to use these compressed facial sponges to wipe our face clean. Just soak the compressed sponge in water — once it expands you can literally use it as a reusable, disposable facial cleaning sponge. They’re super soft and lather well with facial cleansers too.
Remember Birnbaum’s recommendation to follow your cleaning oil or balm with a water-based cleanser? We love the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Cleansing Gel to double cleanse with. It’s a lightweight gel formula featuring hyaluronic acid to lock in moisture and leave your skin feeling baby smooth.
Birnbaum recommends the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for those with sensitive skin because it “has few ingredients that can cause an allergic reaction or irritation.” She notes that this cleanser is gentle and fragrance-free.
Rabach thinks that the best water-based makeup remover for sensitive skin is this La Roche-Posay Toleraine Dermo Milky Cleanser. It’s a cleansing cream formula that works to gently wipe away makeup, dirt and oil without drying out the skin. Because it doesn’t contain fragrance, alcohol, parabens or sulfates, it shouldn’t irritate your skin.
Surely one of our favorite cleansers, the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser is a nourishing, creamy gel face wash that’s formulated to be gentle on skin. Glossier’s skin-first approach is apparent with this product that features five skin conditioners to moisturize your skin while cleansing.
This clarifying cleanser not only ensures that your skin is getting as clean as can be but also helps smooth the skin and keep pores clear with white willow bark extract. The gel formula easily lathers to get every last bit of makeup and dirt.
There’s much debate in the beauty industry if you should use makeup wipes to properly remove your makeup. However, Wu set the record straight when she told us that “wipes are a great option if you don’t have the time or energy to wash your face.” So keep these Neutrogena cleansing towelettes on hand for those lazy nights when you don’t have time to double cleanse.
The Honest Beauty Makeup Remover Facial Wipes are another convenient option to have on hand, as recommended by Greenberg. She says these are “gentle and work really well.”