Any makeup junkie must have some makeup remover in her arsenal, because there are few things that are as bad for the skin as going to bed with makeup on! Makeup remover is a liquid that breaks down makeup when applied with a cotton pad. Makeup removers are the quickest and easiest way to remove makeup, and they come in all kinds of shapes and forms.
Some makeup removers are meant for the whole face, while others are strictly formulated to remove eye makeup. These days, when waterproof makeup and long-lasting lipsticks are an essential part of our beauty routine, only the best makeup removers will suffice!
I’ve curated a list of all of the best makeup removers on the market, so you can get your face squeaky clean. I also explain the difference between makeup removers and other products like cleansers and toners.
I’ll give advice on how to best get all of that makeup gone, as well as some tips and tricks for other ways you can use your makeup remover! There is even my bonus advice on how to make your own makeup remover at home!
Best Makeup Removers for a Clean Face: Contents
First things first, what are the best makeup removers that work for most skin types? Here you have 17 options to consider trying!
1. Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover
This bad boy has been considered one of the best makeup removers for a few good decades now. It’s a moisturizing yet oil-free formula that removes all traces of makeup without leaving a greasy film behind. You can purchase it from Sephora.
2. Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips
This makeup remover is powerful, perfectly dissolving even the most waterproof mascara. It does leave behind a bit of a residue, but it’s still the favorite of many beauty junkies. Pick it up from Sephora!
3. Aveda Pure Comfort Eye Makeup Remover
This gentle product is one of the best makeup removers for those with sensitive skin. It’s a super light product, so it doesn’t leave the skin or eye area feeling oily. It is sold at Nordstrom.
4. Philosophy Just Release Me Dual-Phase Oil-Free Makeup Remover
This skin-soothing formula goes beyond just removing makeup. It contains oat kernel extract, chamomile, and cucumber to keep the skin feeling soothed and to eliminate redness. It’s a great choice for those with sensitive skin. You can find it for sale at Sephora.
5. Urban Decay Meltdown Makeup Remover Dissolving Spray
By keeping their formula simple Urban Decay made one of the best makeup removers for easily irritated skin. It removes even the heaviest layers of foundation without any issues. It comes in a spray bottle for a quick and easy application. Buy it directly from Sephora!
6. Paula’s Choice Gentle Touch Makeup Remover
You can always trust Paula’s Choice to make products that baby and care for the skin while also doing their job perfectly. This makeup remover gets rid of all kinds of makeup, while nourishing the skin with glycerin and green tea extract. You can find it at Nordstrom.
7. Bobbi Brown Instant Long-Wear Makeup Remover
This elegant makeup remover works for all skin types, to break down waterproof makeup and get the face clean without leaving behind a heavy residue. The formula is fragrance-free, so it’s great for those with allergies and sensitivities. Purchase it online through Sephora!
8. MAC Cosmetics Gently Off Eye & Lip Makeup Remover
This bi-phase formula from MAC makes the makeup removal process a pleasure, with the cheerful fragrance of rose and the refreshing effect of cucumber extract. All traces of makeup disappear, and the skin feels great no matter the skin type. It is sold through Nordstrom.
9. Erno Laszlo ‘Multi-Phase’ Makeup Remover
This is another great option for bi-phase makeup removers. This formula includes powerfully skin-soothing extracts like witch hazel, hops, and cucumber, so it is excellent for sensitive skin. It is safe around the eyes, and breaks down even hard-to-remove mascara. Buy it online from Dermstore!
10. One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover
This is a two-in-one oil cleanser and makeup remover that gives the skin a nourishing treat. It is made with non-comedogenic sunflower oil that breaks down makeup but also fortifies the skin with soothing and anti-aging vitamin E. While it will leave the skin a little oily if used with just a cotton pad, it can be rinsed off with water! This is a must for natural product enthusiasts of all skin types. You can buy it online from Dermstore.
11. Strivectin R&R Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover
This is one of the best makeup removers for those also wanting an anti-aging treatment. It includes myristyl nicotinate and evening primrose oil, to prevent free radical damage and to improve the skin’s tone and texture. It whisks away all traces of makeup and is a great choice for dry, normal, and combination skin. Pick it up from Nordstrom!
12. NARS Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
This is a hydrating option for makeup removers that infuse the skin with glycerin and soothing chamomile. It has a light texture that never feels greasy, so it’s great even for those with oily skin. You can buy it from Sephora.
13. Chanel Démaquillant Yeux Intense Gentle Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover
Yet another excellent makeup remover for rose lovers out there! It keeps the skin supple with a touch of cornflower, as well. This makeup remover can suit all skin types, and it’ll remove every last speck. It is sold through Nordstrom.
14. Benefit Cosmetics Remove It Makeup Remover
You can always trust Benefit to keep their packaging fun! If you’re looking for something that’ll look gorgeous sitting on your vanity, get this makeup remover that comes in a lovely glass bottle. It has a light texture, and is best for those with oily skin. It is available for sale at Ulta.
15. Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover
This super gentle eye makeup remover soothes the eye area and tightens the skin while removing every last bit of eyeshadow or mascara. It is another great choice for those with sensitive, easily irritated eyes. It can be purchased at Sephora.
16. NYX Professional Makeup Eye & Lip Makeup Remover
No matter your skin type, you are sure to love one of the best makeup removers that don’t break the bank. It has a fruity fragrance that is super refreshing, and it cleanses very thoroughly. You can buy it from Ulta.
17. Dior Hydra Life Oil To Milk Makeup Removing Cleanser
This is another two-in-one oil cleanser and makeup remover. It can be rinsed off with water or used with a cotton pad. It contains skin-nourishing almond oil, and is perfect on its own for dry skin or as a double cleanser for all skin types. Find it at Sephora!
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.
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 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.
Getting one of the best makeup removers doesn’t mean you already know how to use one. So here is how you should remove makeup from each part of your face correctly!
Removing Eye Makeup
The skin around the eyes is much more sensitive than the skin everywhere else on the face. It’s also where we tend to wear the makeup products that are hardest to remove: waterproof eyeliner and mascara.
Traditional cleansers tend to tug at the skin and cause irritation around the eyes, so eye makeup remover is especially important. I explain how to use eye makeup removers around the eyes in the gentlest, most effective way possible!
• Pour some of your eye makeup remover on to a cotton pad. You don’t have to completely saturate the cotton pad, but you do want to pour enough as to cover most of it.
• Press the cotton pad against your eye, and hold it there gently for at least a few seconds. This will allow the makeup remover to break down your mascara and eyeliner.
• Next, wipe the makeup remover downwards and outwards.
• Check to make sure all of the mascara and liner are gone. If there is still a bit left, press the cotton pad against your eye again, and wipe gently.
• Finish by cleaning up your upper eyelid and eyebrows by sweeping the cotton pad over the eye in outward motions, starting closer to the bridge of the nose and moving away from it.
• To clean the under eye area, fold your cotton pad in half, and press it against the lower lash line for a few seconds.
• Gently wipe the cotton pad towards the outer corner of the eye.
• If any makeup is left close to the lower lash line, either fold the cotton pad over your finger for spot cleaning, or dip a Q-tip in makeup remover and use that for more precise cleaning.
• Finish off by giving your eye area some much need moisture with the help of a serum or eye cream.
Removing Face Makeup
Some people find that a traditional face cleanser works just fine to remove their makeup, and in that case, more power to them. However, if you’re wearing layers of foundation, concealer, and powder, sometimes you need the help of a truly powerful solvent.
If you’ll be using makeup remover to clean your face, you’ll definitely want to follow these steps for the quickest, easiest, and most thorough way of doing it!
• Pour your favorite makeup remover unto a cotton pad. This time around you do want to fully saturate it!
• In wide, circular motions pass the saturated cotton pad over your whole face. This first swipe is just to work the makeup remover into the makeup – you’re not focusing on wiping things off yet! Make sure to get close to the ears and hairline as well, as makeup tends to hide there.
• Either with a new cotton pad that is more lightly saturated with makeup remover or with just the other side of your cotton pad if you were wearing lighter face makeup, wipe again, this time working your way from the inside of your face outwards, begin wiping off your makeup.
• Some people prefer to skip the cotton pad, and instead massage the makeup remover into their skin with their hands in order to break down the makeup. They might leave the makeup remover on their face for a few minutes to really let it work. This method is less wasteful, as all you have to do at the end is use one clean cotton pad or paper towel to wipe everything off.
• You may choose to do a final swipe with a damp cotton pad to make sure everything is truly gone, or you can do a second cleansing with a proper face cleanser. This is especially recommended if you have oily skin.
• Finish off with the rest of your skin care routine, including toner, serums, and moisturizers.
How to Remove Lip Makeup
While a traditional lipstick might have been very easy to wipe off, these days every company is making long-lasting lip stains made to hold for hours, through whole days of eating, talking, and drinking. These lip stains are great until the end of the night, when you don’t want to be scrubbing and irritating your lips just to get them clean. Makeup removers make the whole process super easy!
• Saturate your cotton pad with a healthy amount of makeup remover – about the same as you’d use for your eyes.
• Press the cotton pad against your lips and hold it there for a few seconds, to allow the lipstick to dissolve.
• Wipe off the lipstick gently with the cotton pad.
• Repeat the pressing and wiping if not all lipstick has been removed.
• Once your lips are clean, finish off by applying a moisturizing lip balm or lip treatment to your lips.
• Do take your time. Even if you’re tired and you want to get to bed already, it’s much better to slowly allow all of your makeup to dissolve, rather than wipe your face aggressively. Aggressive face wiping can damage the skin, especially around the eyes, and cause all kinds of irritation.
• Don’t use cotton balls to remove your makeup. Cotton balls are not packed as tightly as cotton pads, so they can break apart and leave fibers on the skin. They’re much messier and less fun to use when compared to cotton pads.
• Do use makeup remover to fix makeup mistakes like wonky eyeliner or a smudgy lip line! Dip a cotton bud in some of your makeup remover, and use it like an eraser to fix mistakes, smooth out lines, and get rid of stray smudges.
• Don’t use steam and hot water, no matter what other sources say! While the heat might dilate your pores, it can also damage your capillaries and your skin’s moisture barrier, leaving your skin dry, irritated, and more susceptible to all kinds of damage. Stick to lukewarm water when rinsing your face.
• Do remember to clean the often forgotten parts of the face, like very close to the hair line, the eyebrows, and below the jawline.
• Don’t use a back and forth rubbing motion when removing your makeup! Instead, only wipe in one direction for the eyes, and rub in gentle circular motions for the face.
• Do switch to a new cotton pad once the cotton pad you’ve been using is totally covered with makeup on both sides.
Making your own oil-based makeup removers is one of the easiest things you can do! Literally any oil can work as a makeup remover, and you don’t have to do much!
However, I have some suggestions for oils, as well as how to make the process overall nicer.
If you have dry skin, then choose a more moisturizing oil like olive oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil. If your skin is on the oilier side, you might want a non-comedogenic oil like grape seed oil or cold-pressed sunflower oil.
You will need:
• 1 opaque container (ideally of glass), with an orifice reducer top
• Botanical oil, based on your skin type
• (Optional) a few drops of a skin-safe essential oil
Pour your oil into your opaque container. Add in a few drops of essential oil. Give it a shake, and you’re ready to get cleaning!
Photos via @bymaleiah, @overglowedit, @passionista_mua