The Best Makeup Removers

Cotton pads with makeup on them.

Buying Guide for Makeup Removers

Removing makeup - closeup portrait of a pretty young woman using cotton on closed eyes.

Why buy makeup remover?

While makeup is pretty to look at, left on your skin indefinitely, it can wreak havoc. Sleeping in your makeup can encourage breakouts, clogged pores, and dirty pillowcases. Meanwhile, simply splashing your face with water isn’t always enough to remove makeup. This is especially true if you prefer smudge-proof or waterproof cosmetics or setting sprays.

What should you look for in a makeup remover?

  • Purpose: Not all makeup removers are created equal. While skin type is one way to filter through removers, you also need to consider what type of makeup you’re trying to remove and pick accordingly. Some makeup is more difficult to remove, such as waterproof makeup. So, you’ll need a makeup remover that’s specifically designed to break down more heavy-duty cosmetics. But, if you wear a full makeup look or rely on full coverage foundations, you’ll want to prioritize oil-based makeup removers, as these tend to be the most effective at penetrating and removing heavier makeup.
  • Skin Type: While not always as important as the purpose, matching your makeup remover with your skin type can ensure that you’re not using a product that might encourage skin issues. For example, if you have oily skin, you might want to avoid a heavier cleansing balm if you don’t wear a full face of heavy makeup. Or, someone with dry or sensitive skin may want to avoid a product with strong additives which might dry or irritate their skin. However, most makeup removers are non-comedogenic and are usually intended for all skin types.
  • Cleansing Style: These days, you can use more than a cold cream to remove makeup. The choices are wide and can range from micellar waters and wipes to cleansing balms, gentle liquid cleansers, and reusable cloths.
  • Quantity: Depending on how frequently you wear makeup, the amount of product you get in a container will matter. If you wear makeup often, you’ll want to look for makeup removers that offer a good quantity to cost ratio, so you’re not frequently replacing the remover if you wear makeup often.
  • Scent: Not everyone likes to use scented products on their face. If you’re sensitive to scents, you may find that looking for an unscented product is a better bet.

Is a makeup remover better than simply using a reusable makeup-removing cloth?

There’s often a debate within the makeup community over whether reusable makeup-remover cloths are better than using a traditional makeup remover product. There’s no dispute that makeup-removing cloths are convenient. But the general consensus is that reusable and disposable cloths tend to be less effective than using a traditional cleanser, oil, or balm. This is because cloths only remove visible makeup on your skin’s surface. This means that any makeup that’s in your pores may remain. While occasionally using these products for those late-night bedtime routines won’t cause long-term damage, you should avoid making this a go-to practice.

Meanwhile, balms, oils, and cleansers—all products that must be rinsed off—tend to do a significantly better job at removing makeup above and below your skin’s surface. If you like makeup-removing cloths, consider pairing a reusable cloth with a good traditional cleanser or using a disposable cloth as the first step in a multi-cleansing routine.

Our Picks for the Best Makeup Removers

Pros: Cetaphil is a fan favorite for all skin types, thanks to its gentle yet effective ingredients. Their Gentle Oil-Free Makeup Remover is a liquid remover that effectively breaks down long-wear and waterproof makeup without irritating your skin. And it’s made with aloe vera, green tea, and ginseng to soothe your skin as it removes makeup.

Cons: While it’s not a true oil, be aware that this is a bi-phase product, meaning it has a slippery texture. This can be off-putting for people who aren’t used to using oils or balms to remove makeup. Because of this, you’ll need to follow up by washing your face after using it.

Bottom Line: This gentle makeup remover is safe for use with all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin. And it works to remove even the most stubborn makeup. But if you’re not used to a dual cleanse makeup-removing routine, you might be surprised by the slippery texture it leaves on your face.


Pros: It happens to all of us—you get tired and just want to sleep, but you need to take your makeup off. The Neutrogena Cleansing Towelettes have become a fan favorite amongst the one-and-done set who love a simple and easy way to remove makeup that requires minimal time in the bathroom. These towelettes are designed to break down even waterproof makeup. Better still, they’re compostable, so you don’t have to feel guilty while using them.

Cons: While we can’t dispute convenience, don’t be surprised if you don’t get a true deep cleaning experience with a wipes-only approach to makeup removal. It’s proven that wipes don’t work as holistically at cleansing your pores as more traditional cleanser-based approaches.

Bottom Line: If you’re an occasional makeup wearer or want a backup option for makeup removal when it’s late at night and you have zero energy, Neutrogena’s wipes are a solid option that can even get that waterproof mascara off. But frequent makeup wearers should look for a good backup cleansing option to ensure that their pores get truly clean.


Pros: A balm is a great option when you’re ready for a deep clean. As compared to micellar waters and even traditional foaming cleansers, balms offer the perfect amount of slip needed to break down even the toughest makeup products. The Banila New Clean It Zero cleansing balm is the perfect first step in a double cleanse routine. It’s ideal for all skin types and is free from harsh ingredients, including alcohol and artificial coloring.

Cons: Budget-conscious makeup fans may be a bit dismayed to find that this is one of the pricier picks. Even though a little goes a long way, meaning that this jar of cleansing balm will last for a while, the initial investment may be a bit much for some.

Bottom Line: If you like the convenience of a balm that melts off makeup and deep cleans your pores, The Clean It Zero balm from Banila Co is a good investment. However, it’s definitely a pricier option which might not be realistic for all budgets.


Pros: When it comes to removing complexion makeup, you want something that’s up to the task. DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil is specifically formulated to cut through foundation, concealer, and even contour makeup. This gentle formula is water-soluble and infused with vitamins and antioxidants. Meanwhile, olive oil works to nourish the skin.

Cons: This is a product that should be part of a double cleanse routine; otherwise, you might be left with an oily texture on your skin. So, for anyone hoping for a quick makeup-removing routine, this might not meet that need.

Bottom Line: Oils and balms are considered some of the top options for removing makeup because they’re so effective at breaking down even long-wear formulas. But if you don’t like the idea of following up with a traditional cleanser to remove residue that this oil leaves behind, this product might not be for you.


Pros: While most makeup removers are designed to tackle most makeup, you know that sometimes, you need something specialized to do the job right. Almay’s Eye Makeup Remover Pads is exactly for this task. The wipe design makes it easy to get into crevices on your lids but is gentle enough to prevent irritation, thanks to the addition of aloe, green tea, and cucumber.

Cons:  While effective, the wipe format means that you might not be getting your pores as clean as possible. Also note that these pads are not formulated to tackle waterproof makeup.

Bottom Line: If you struggle to get eye makeup off at the end of the day, these specialized pads are going to be perfect for you. However, they’re not designed for waterproof makeup, which might be a problem for those who often wear waterproof mascara or liner.

Final Thoughts

You know that sleeping in your makeup is forbidden, but finding the right product to cleanse your face can feel like trial and error. Remember that you can match your makeup remover to your beauty habits. Occasional makeup wearers can easily opt for wipes or micellar water, while those who rock full faces will do better with more intensive balms and oils.

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