Skincare » Differences Between Makeup Remover vs. Cleanser vs. Toner

Differences Between Makeup Remover vs. Cleanser vs. Toner

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Makeup removers and facial cleansers are both meant to clean the face, so they’re basically interchangeable, right? Wrong! The job makeup remover has is extremely specific, and as such, it behaves a little differently from a cleanser. Below, we explain the difference between makeup removers and other products, like cleansers and toners.

Makeup Remover

Makeup removers are supposed to break down makeup in order to remove it, but they really don’t have to do anything else. This means that they do an incredible job of removing makeup, including the really hard-to-remove products like waterproof mascara and eyeliner.

Makeup removers are usually made of oil, or, in the case of oil-free formulas, they’re made of silicone. These ingredients break down the makeup and force it to come off the skin with ease. Since many people gravitate towards oil-free products, most makeup removers are made with cyclopentasiloxane, an organosilicone that is fluid at room temperature and behaves quite similarly to oil.

Makeup removers normally cannot be rinsed off the face – instead they must be wiped off. For thorough removal, the face should be cleansed with a proper facial cleanser.

Micellar Water

Micellar water is a type of makeup remover, and we’ve already written a full article about it and about the best micellar water products. Unlike traditional makeup removers, micellar water is made with gentle surfactants that bind to the oils in makeup products in order to remove them.

Micellar water tends to feel much lighter on the skin than traditional makeup remover, and it doesn’t leave a residue that can be felt, but it is often less effective at breaking down heavy eye makeup when compared to makeup removers made with silicone or oil.

Other Facial Cleansers

On the other hand there are facial cleansers, which come in many different forms including gels, foams, oils, lotions, balms, milks, powders and creams. Facial cleansers are meant to remove all kinds of debris from the skin, beyond makeup. They should remove sweat, sebum, oil, dirt, sweat, and more.

While some face cleansers (especially oil and cream cleansers) happen to do a great job of removing makeup, many are not so great at it. Many face cleansers, especially gel and foam ones, are also too harsh to use around the delicate eye area.

Using them to remove eye makeup is not appropriate because they would require too much rubbing and tugging, and their ingredients could dry out the delicate skin.


Sometimes toners can be mistakes for makeup removers, but while the two items might look similar standing next to one another on the shelf, they have absolutely no similarities.

Toners are water-based products meant to tighten the pores with the help of astringent ingredients, balance the skin’s pH, or load the skin up with moisture so it can better absorb serums and moisturizers that are applied afterwards. Toners are meant to stay on the skin, and they are used after a cleanser.

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