12 Best Makeup Removers Beauty Experts Can’t Live Without
Balms, wipes, water, and more! These foolproof formulas get rave reviews from legions of loyal fans.
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The only thing better than finding a stay-put mascara or a lipstick that lasts and lasts? Finding the best makeup removers to whisk away all traces of those holy grail products without scrubbing, tugging, or leaving behind a cloying residue. After all, removing your makeup at night is more than just a save-your-pillowcase maneuver. According to celebrity makeup artist Nikki La Rose, “Leaving makeup on your skin while you sleep at night can not only clog pores and cause breakouts—it can actually age you.” The reason? If you don’t thoroughly cleanse skin before applying nighttime serums or creams, those anti-aging products can’t get inside to do the hard work. “They need to adequately penetrate in order to be effective,” explains La Rose.
The following contenders hit every wash-your-face category—from sensitive skin to waterproof makeup—with rave reviews from both beauty experts and online shoppers. Many are incredibly budget-friendly, too. Trust us: You won’t know how you ever lived without these makeup removers that are about to become an essential part of your everyday skin-care routine. Once you’ve chosen the right products for you, take a look at these makeup brush cleaners that can also save your skin.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
Most convenient makeup remover: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes
You simply can’t go wrong with the sheer convenience of these grab-and-toss Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Face Wipes boasting more than 45,000 five-star reviews on Amazon. The alcohol-free, pre-moistened towelettes dissolve all traces of dirt and oil—and are still gentle enough for sensitive contact-lens wearers. “They’re amazing, because they even remove waterproof products,” explains Salt Lake City–based makeup artist Marisa Rose, who loves to tear or snip them into smaller pieces to clean up smudgy eye makeup when working with her clients.
Best makeup remover for waterproof makeup: Lancôme Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover
“I’m super picky and can’t stand having to scrub my eye makeup off or having oily residue all over my eyes. This is truly the best of the best,” says one of the (thousands of!) Sephora fan reviews of Lancôme’s Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover. “It easily removes even the toughest eye makeup and leaves my lids feeling smooth and refreshed.” The reason? This “bi-phase” formula—you activate it by shaking the bottle—includes a lipid to lift away stubborn, sweat-proof eye makeup, as well as a water-based emollient to cleanse and leave skin super refreshed and residue-free.
Best makeup remover for fans of natural beauty: Farmacy Green Clean
Natural beauty products are just as effective as their conventional counterparts. Just ask celebrity makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes. “Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm can get off more makeup than most people wear in a lifetime—think Broadway makeup—but it does it with incredible ease and leaves your skin soft and supple,” she says. Sunflower and ginger root oils easily lift away makeup, papaya extract gently exfoliates, and its blend of lime, bergamot, and orange essential oils wakes up your skin and your senses. Plus, this cruelty-free formula is made without parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, or mineral oil.
Best makeup remover if you wear contact lenses or lash extensions: Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
It’s bad when an eye makeup remover leaves behind that cloudy, I-can’t-see-clearly-now fog. It’s worse when you’re a contact-lens wearer and you get that oily deposit on your fingers or on the lens itself. And it’s a downright disaster when that greasy product starts to loosen your investment eyelash extensions. None of this is a problem with Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, an ophthalmologist-tested option with nearly 14,000 positive online Amazon reviews that instantly removes waterproof mascara yet leaves skin refreshed and clean with soothing aloe and cucumber extract.
Says one Amazon fan: “I wear a ton of eye makeup on a daily basis and needed a more sustainable replacement for makeup wipes and other abrasive surfaces being dragged across my eyes. This is the perfect solution! It’s sooooo gentle and does NOT sting when it gets in your eyes (unlike the temporary blinding effect that coconut oil can have).”
This oil-free makeup remover has another off-label use you should know about: It can also help you remove makeup stains from your clothes!
Best heavy-duty makeup remover: Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser
“Cleansing balms are my favorite way to thoroughly remove makeup—a bit on the messy side, but worth it,” says La Rose, who recommends you follow them with a gentle cleanser to ensure you get every bit of residue off before applying any skin-care treatment products. “Balms easily break down even waterproof mascara without causing irritation to the eyes.”
Drunk Elephant’s balm-type cleanser transforms from an oil to a milk, a unique combo that cleanses and moisturizes, then leaves behind a dewy glow. Designed for all skin types—from dry to oily and everything in between—this Slaai butter contains fragrance-free fruit extracts, nourishing oils, and bamboo and charcoal powder, all of which exfoliate dead, dry skin. The result? You get a one-of-a-kind smoothing treatment while you remove makeup and daily grime.
Best makeup remover for sensitive skin: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution
When clients come to the set covered in makeup, celebrity makeup artist JoAnn Solomon grabs a bottle of Bioderma Sensibio H2O. “This no-rinse formula is light, refreshing, and works fast to cleanse and remove makeup—including water-resistant stuff—from the face and eyes,” she says. “Plus, it doesn’t sting and is non-irritating, even on really sensitive skin.” So, what’s the science behind this formula? “Its fatty acid esters, the constituent elements of micelles, are similar to the phospholipids of the skin cell membranes and naturally help rebuild the skin’s hydrolipidic film.” Simply put: It washes away dirt, grime, and makeup without stripping skin of its natural oils.
RELATED: Best Anti-Aging Eye Creams
Best makeup remover for traveling: St. Ives Cleansing Stick
Taking its cue from the Korean stick-cleanser beauty trend, this St. Ives Cleansing Stick, in Apricot & Manuka Honey, is a solid, twist-up face cleanser that’s liquid-free—perfect for on-the-go grooming and TSA inspections. Its coconut oil, apricot, and honey will refresh dullness, and the formulation is spill-proof and convenient. Simply wet your face, rub the stick into a lather, then rinse. As one Amazon reviewer raves, “It really does brighten your face. I love the roll-on ball application, and it rinses well with no tightness afterwards.” Not a fan of apricot? It’s available in two other scents as well: Matcha Green Tea & Ginger, and Cactus Water & Hibiscus. If you can’t decide which you love best, buy all three since they’re just $7 a pop.
Best lipstick remover: Maybelline New York SuperStay Eraser
Anyone who’s ever applied a long-wear lipstick loves the convenience of indelible color…until it’s time to take the darn stuff off. Get ready to meet your new best friend: Maybelline New York SuperStay Eraser Lip Color Remover. One sweep of this oil-based balm over your reddest, most matte-ified lips and the color can be wiped off instantly with a tissue. Bonus: It’s small enough to throw in your beauty bag if you have any midday color regrets.
Best cleanser-free makeup remover: The Original Pink Makeup Eraser
If you think a swath of fabric can’t take away a day’s worth of makeup without an ounce of soap, cleanser, or oil, think again. The Original Makeup Eraser is a specially designed microfiber-like washcloth with soft, grabby fibers that seem to magically pull makeup right off your face using nothing more than the warm water of your faucet. Try the short-fiber side to get rid of residue and makeup, then pivot to the long-fiber side and rub in circular motions to exfoliate the skin and remove dry, dead flakes. When the cloth gets grimy, just toss it in your washing machine and dryer and it’s ready to roll again. “I think these are amazing,” says Rose, “especially for those with very sensitive skin who would like to avoid extra products.”
Best makeup remover for aging eyes: Retinol Anti-Aging Cleansing Towelettes
An anti-aging makeup remover is a multitasking gift from the gods. With Retinol Anti-Aging Cleansing Towelettes, what’s left behind is as important as what you wash off: Each disposable cloth is infused with anti-wrinkle retinol, a vitamin A derivative that helps speed up cell turnover and keep lines and laxity at bay. “Retinol should be part of most skin-care regimens,” says Jerome R. Potozkin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Danville, California. “It helps stimulate collagen production, increase cellular turnover, reduce the signs of sun damage and aging, and can even help minimize the appearance of fine lines and irregular pigmentation.”
Best makeup remover when you’ve messed up your eyeliner: e.l.f. Cosmetics Studio Makeup Remover Pen
Even the very best eye makeup removers still have trouble wiggling their way into the crevices where mascara and liner lurk…like the corners of your eye or right up near the water line. And if all you’ve done is screwed up the winged end of your cat eye, you definitely don’t want to start your eye makeup application from scratch. With e.l.f. Cosmetics Makeup Remover Pen, small smudges and mistakes can be instantly erased with a vitamin E–infused felt-tip applicator; the gizmo can even help you define those lines in the first place. According to one five-star Amazon review, “This pen allows you to take the detailed parts of your eye makeup off, leaving a sharp line. It’s great to take off those mascara spots and the errors you make with your eyeliner.”
Best cult-favorite makeup remover: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t seriously rave about Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water. Micellar water—which was developed in France to combat the parching sediments frequently found in tap water—consists of mini molecules suspended in purified water…you can think of them as micro magnets that pull away makeup, oil, and grime. “Love, love, love!” says Rose. “I use them to give my clients’ skin a quick cleanse before foundation. It refreshes the skin and makes it easier to blend makeup.” Garnier’s version of the wonder fluid, which is used in conjunction with a cotton pad, leaves skin feeling super clean and residue-free, is suitable for all skin types, and has racked up more than 18,000 stellar reviews on Amazon. Next, find out which other products with a cult following are totally worth it and which makeup sale to check out.
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