Washing your face before bed is seen as the start of any good nighttime skincare routine, but it’s likely you need to add a step before that cleanse to really ensure your face is clean and ready to absorb the rest of your skincare products. The missing link? Taking off your makeup. Many makeup-wearers don’t realize that removing makeup and cleansing the face are actually two separate steps, as most cleansers are not equipped to fully break down color cosmetics — especially stubborn products like full-coverage foundation, cream eyeshadow, and waterproof mascara.
Below, we’re exploring the best makeup removers — and those you should avoid — to ensure your complexion is prepped and ready for the rest of your evening skincare regimen.
What Makes a Good Makeup Remover?
Most of the makeup removers on the market are either formulated as an oil, balm, or gel, so your preference is what will matter most. Oils and oil-based balms are generally used on a dry face with dry hands (since oil and water don’t mix, you want to make sure your face and hands are dry in order for the product to work properly), while gels can be used wet.
As for ingredients, Terri Bryant, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Guide Beauty, recommends looking for what she calls “good oils” (think: olive, argan, safflower, grapeseed, and sunflower) because they can dissolve away the “bad oils.” Bryant says those ‘bad’ oils include the sebum naturally produced by the skin and those that come from our makeup, sunscreen, and other products. “The beauty of oil cleansers is that they wash away makeup and impurities thoroughly yet gently without stripping our skin’s natural balance,” she explains.
Can I Use Micellar Water?
We usually warn that things that seem to be too good to be true are, in fact, too good to be true. But, in the case of micellar water, the multitasking liquid that has long been a staple of French pharmacies is actually one of the simplest and quickest ways to take off your makeup. “The molecular structure of micelles act like tiny makeup magnets,” Bryant shares. “As you wipe a cotton pad soaked with micellar water along the surface of the skin, those ‘magnets’ attract dirt, oil, makeup, and residue.” The best part? There is absolutely no rinsing necessary. Once you’re done swiping, you are free to move on to the rest of your skincare routine.
How About Makeup Remover Wipes?
Makeup removing wipes, on the other hand, are generally considered too good to be true. In addition to their negative environmental impact, wipes should either be used as a last resort or in conjunction with another removal product, as they don’t effectively cleanse the skin. Personally, the only times I use makeup wipes are when I travel (because jet lag plus TSA restrictions often mean they’re the best on-the-go option) and when I’m removing stubborn eye makeup — but only after I’ve already used another cleanser.
What’s the Deal With Double Cleansing?
Double cleansing refers to first using a makeup remover (like a cleansing oil) to take off your makeup, and then following it up with a traditional cleanser. Some experts recommend this method to deeply cleanse the skin, while others, including Bryant, say it’s unnecessary because many makeup removers on the market today combine the benefits of a double cleanse. “I was given the best skincare advice from KKT Consultants founder [and AEDIT contributor!], Krupa Koestline, to stop using soaps on my skin,” Bryant explains. “I saw my skin changing and no longer responding to the products I was using, so she had me remove the multiple steps from my cleansing routine and replace them all with One Love’s Cleansing Oil.”
Personal preference will reign supreme here. Those who wear a lot of makeup or have oily skin may feel like a double cleanse is needed to fully remove residue, dirt, and debris, while people with dry or sensitive skin may find it to be too irritating. I prefer a double cleanse, but feel free to stick with just your makeup remover, if that works better for you.
The Best Makeup Removers for Every Skin Type
Whether you’re looking for an oil, balm, gel, or micellar water, makeup removers come in an array of formats and are increasingly packed with nourishing ingredients to treat the skin while washing away dirt and debris. Here are a few expert- and editor-approved picks:
For Beauty Lovers: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Loved by skincare aficionados, beauty editors, and me, this cleansing oil is widely considered the gold standard of makeup removers. The olive-oil based cleanser completely removes a full face of makeup with astonishing ease and without that uncomfortable tight feeling. Pro tip: Use on a dry face with dry hands (very important!) and make sure to close your eyes — getting oil into your peepers isn’t pleasant. $28, ulta.com
For Sensitive Skin: Bioderma Sensibio H2O
Looking to add an all-in-one cleansing and toning wonder to your face wash routine? This fan-favorite micellar water works for all skin types, but the non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic formula is especially useful for those with sensitive skin, rosacea, and/or redness. from $5, dermstore.com
For Brightening: Tarte Deep Diving Cleansing Gel
This gel is thicker than an average cleanser, and it works to really remove makeup, oil, and any other impurities on the face. The formula includes ingredients like allantoin, vitamin B5, and gooseberry to hydrate, brighten, and promote cell regeneration as you wash. $25, tarte.com
For Frequent Fliers: Instytutum Transforming Melting Cleanser
This cleanser is my choice for travel, as the tube is luggage friendly, with less of a risk of leakage. The gel formula has an extremely mild scent and, upon contact with water, the balm transforms into a silky emulsion that removes even the most stubborn long-wear makeup without stripping the surface of the skin. It also features skincare faves like retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to improve texture, elasticity, and barrier function. $54, instytutum.com
For a More Sustainable Routine: Take My Face Off Makeup Mitty
Not only are cotton balls and wipes ineffective when it comes to removing makeup, but the single-use products are also harmful to the environment. These reusable mits are here to remedy that. Add water and your favorite cleanser to remove makeup, and, when you’re done, simply rinse it in the sink, hang it to dry, and it’s ready to go for the next day. $14, takemyfaceoff.com
For Exfoliation: For Dermalogica PreCleanse Balm
Prefer solids to liquids? This balm-to-oil version of the brand's cult-favorite PreCleanse offers all the same makeup-removing and purifying benefits in a more travel-friendly format. It comes with a silicone exfoliating mitt to further detoxify the skin. $45, ulta.com
For Multitaskers: One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover
Bryant likes this antioxidant-rich formula because it’s a multipurpose makeup remover and facial cleanser that nourishes the skin and can be used in a variety of ways. You can apply the oil to a dry face, add water, and rinse off, or you can use it with a washcloth as a makeup remover — no rinsing required. If you want a deeper, exfoliating cleanse, apply the oil and then press a warm washcloth on your skin until it cools. $42, dermstore.com
For The Eyes: Almay Longwear & Waterproof Liquid Eye Makeup Remover
It can be tricky to work oils and balms around the eyes to remove mascara, lash glue, and eye makeup, but this gentle dual-phase formula is designed specifically for the delicate peepers. It’s opthamologist tested, hypoallergenic, fragrance free, and can tackle even the most stubborn waterproof makeup. $5, walmart.com
For a Quick Fix: La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water Ultra and Makeup Remover
This micellar water removes makeup, impurities, and pollution particles from the skin with no rough rubbing or rinsing necessary. Simply apply the liquid to a cotton pad and gently wipe your face, eyes, and lips until the pad looks clean. $16, ulta.com
For Nourishment: Naturium Fermented Camellia Creamy Cleansing Oil
This innovative tube eliminates the mess typically associated with cleansing oils. The unique oil-in-gel formula features fermented camellia oil, camellia extract, and a blend of linoleic-rich oils to melt away makeup, sebum, sunscreen, and other impurities. Allow the gel to warm in your hands for about 10 seconds before massaging the creamy oil into dry skin. $20, naturium.com
For Face & Brushes: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
This non-greasy and non-drying makeup remover transforms from a solid blam to a silky oil to dissolve makeup and sunscreen. While it's not explicitly intended for this use, some fans anecdotally mention that it can also serve as a makeup brush cleaner. We call that a win-win. $31, sephora.com
For Minimal Makeup: Re:erth Clarifying Cleanser
Formulated for all skin types, this oil-free pick is best for removing light makeup (i.e. those with heavier makeup applications should plan to pair it with another cleanser). Plant-based surfactants (CocoBetaine and AG8) help to maintain your skin’s natural pH level while lifting away dirt and debris for a clearer complexion. $55, reerthus.com
For a Dose of Calm: Mario Badescu Cleansing Oil
Made of replenishing rice bran, evening primrose, and jojoba oils, this lightweight formula can be used as a cleanser or makeup remover. Apply one to two pumps to a cotton pad to spot-treat certain areas or massage all over dry skin before adding warm water to emulsify. Its subtle lavender scent makes for a spa-like experience. $16, macys.com
All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.
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