A good makeup remover product is hard to find. Striking the balance between effective but not skin-meltingly harsh is sometimes tougher than you’d think. And then, just as you find a favorite, the manufacturer discontinues it or changes the formula and you’re back to square one. Sometimes, you wonder if using a separate product is even worth it.
13 Gentle Makeup Removers That Melt Away Stress, Not Your Face
We’ve all been there. The 8-hour workday turned into a 12-hour workday from you-know-where. Dinner either bubbled over and burned on the bottom of the oven or was an inedible microwave disaster. All you want to do is fall into bed for a little respite from the weary world. But the world has written its story on your face, and you know you should at the very least remove your makeup before bed even if you can’t manage an aspirational 10-step routine.
Don’t reach for the wipes! Not only are they a nightmare for the planet, but they can also do a number on your delicate skin barrier.
It is super important to remove your makeup before cleansing. Especially if you wear an SPF. (Which you should. Every. Single. Day.) Without proper makeup removal, the skincare you’ve invested in can’t do its job. And going to sleep with makeup on is a teenage mistake with teenage-sizes consequences the next morning.
Even if all you can manage at the end of the day is effective makeup removal, a top makeup remover will have nourishing properties built-in. So while it’s not the ideal routine, it’s a great start.
We’ve taken a look at fan-favorites and MUA picks for the best makeup remover on the market. From balm to oil, milky wash to micellar water, and new, bouncy gel formulations, you’ll find the best makeup remover for your skin and situation.
1. Neutrogena Cleansing Balm
From a drugstore favorite brand, this cleansing balm harkens back to your grandmother’s favorite makeup removal method but with a 21st-century twist, it’s fragrance-free. Apply the balm, enjoy a luxurious facial massage as it turns to oil, mix in a little water for a milky texture, and then wipe away with a clean, damp cloth. This formula is enriched with vitamin E and users report it doesn’t make your eyes sting or leave a film behind.
2. Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
Leave it to the French to come up with a magic cleansing oil. Beyond its skincare benefits, the formula is vegan and comes in recyclable, sustainable packaging. The slim bottle is made from 100% recycled plastic, can be recycled in most municipalities, and the pump is recyclable through the Terracycle program. Gentle on the skin, but tough enough to remove waterproof mascara, this is one of the best makeup remover oils on the market. Don’t be afraid of the “oil” — it’s suitable for all skin types.
3. Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
Another French pharmacy favorite, the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water is the gold standard. (They created the technology!) Perfect for removing makeup and traces of pollution from the skin, it is even gentle enough for sensitive skin. According to the brand, the micellar water removes 99% of fine particles, 78% of heavy metals, and removes 99% of makeup when used as directed.
4. Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser & Makeup Remover
The price point of this micellar is lower than the Bioderma. $5 for 3.3 oz means you save a few dollars over the price of the product. They claim 1 is sold every 4 minutes in the US. Fans of the brand say this is a good makeup remover product but you should follow it up with your cleansing routine.
5. The INKEY List Oat Cleansing Balm
The new kid on the block The INKEY List’s cleansing balm won a 2020 Allure Best of Beauty Award. Clean ingredients like oatmeal and oat kernel oil soothe red skin. Reviewers love that the product seems to last forever and doesn’t leave skin feeling tight or stripped. It’s a good makeup remover product for those who like a balmy texture — and it’s also recommended for use as a nourishing mask. Budget-friendly and multi-tasking!
6. LANEIGE Cream Skin Milk Oil Cleanser
We’re all obsessed with the LANEIGE sleeping mask for lips, so it’s no surprise this formula makes it on the top makeup remover list. Fragrance-free and formulated without phthalates and parabens — and SLS — it works to loosen and melt away makeup and impurities without stripping the skin’s fragile moisture barrier. With a low-pH of 5.5, it’s great for sensitive skins, too. Start by massaging it onto a dry face, then rinse with warm water to remove makeup and soften skin.
7. Bobbi Brown Soothing Face Cleanser Oil
Pricey, but worth it. Bobbi Brown’s Face Cleanser Oil has been a favorite of beauty insiders for years. While everybody else was still using stripping suds, this product was nourishing skin. It’s habitually named the best makeup remover. The brand notes this has just been reformulated to remove long-wearing eye makeup, which is a big plus in our book. Mild, non-drying, and doesn’t have mineral oil on its ingredient list, this is a must-try.
8. Glow Recipe – Blueberry Bounce Cleanser
A fun bouncy texture, this cleanser is packed full of antioxidants and skin-loving ingredients. Great for acneaic-skin types, too, this product suds up to remove traces of makeup and also refine the pores with AHA. (Because of this, we recommend using a separate eye makeup remover.) While it doesn’t include no-no ingredients, it isn’t fragrance-free. Fans rave that it makes skin bright and glowy — and couldn’t we all use that?
9. Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
With a cult following that claims it’s better than prestige brands, this drugstore fave from Neutrogena is dermatologist recommended and safe to use around sensitive eyes. Oil-free, it’s non-greasy is ophthalmologist-tested so contact lens wearers don’t have to worry. No burning! Aloe and cucumber extracts make it feel like you just went to a spa. This will always have a spot as the best makeup remover.
10. CLINIQUE Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
This is the brand’s number 1 bestselling makeup remover in a balm. Formulated for all skin types, users say it’s “magical” and made them finally “ditch make-up wipes” for good. Tough on eye makeup but gentle on skin, a hallmark of a top makeup remover. A little goes a long way, so this big pot of 3.85 ounces will last and last.
11. Kiehl’s Since 1851 Calendula Deep Clean Foaming Face Wash
Foaming isn’t a no-no when it’s from Kiehl’s. Gentle and efficacious, this is a good makeup remover product for oily and combination skin. With glycerin, a humectant, and Mediterranean calendula, it’s hydrating and helps your skin retain moisture — it won’t strip skin of moisture as some foaming cleansers can. Calendla is known to be soothing and calming, so this is a great option for a double cleanse.
12. Origins Original Skin Cleansing Makeup Removing Jelly with Willowherb
We super love the tube packaging of this product, but we really love the texture and performance. It’s a gentle jelly that transforms into a milky emulsion to melt away every last bit of makeup and excess oil. Safe for eyes, too, it rinses easily and leaves skin soft and glowing. Use as a makeup remover (apply to dry skin, massage, then cotton off or rinse) or as your regular cleanser. Two-for-one works for us…especially since WFH means not as many full-face days.
13. Dermalogica PreCleanse
Melt away makeup, sunscreen, and daily pollution build-up with a vegan product that’s lightweight and also purifies pores. Formulated with all skin types in mind, it can be used around the eye area and removes waterproof mascara. The brand recommends you follow this with your cleanser so the rest of your skincare regimen is effective.
13 Ways to Take The Day Away — Our Best Makeup Remover Recommendations
We love to have a few of the best makeup remover formulas on hand. Depending on the season and the situation of your skin — and how much makeup you’re wearing — you won’t want to reach for the same product every day. (Although we all have our ride-or-die.)
Micellar waters are a great option for when you’re too tired to go for your full routine. And the balm formulas can be a wonderful start to an elaborate skincare regime that includes facial massage and layers of nourishing products.
No matter which formula you decide to try, go easy around the delicate skin of your eyes.
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