You use it every night (or at least you try to!), but there comes a point where you have to ask yourself: How much do you really know about your makeup remover? Do you know its ingredients? Does it do double-duty by also cleansing your face? And, most importantly, is it even the right makeup remover for your skin type?
A lot of questions and sadly no answers — until now. We interviewed our experts to find out exactly what kind of makeup remover you should be using for your skin. So scroll on to find out your type, once and for all.
If you have skin that’s dry all year-round, most makeup removers aren’t going to cut it. Just like you lather creamy lotion on your body, the same approach should be taken when it comes to removing your makeup.
For this, a milky, cream-based remover is the way to go, says Elizabeth M. Donat, B.A., L.E, a New York and internationally licensed esthetician, spa industry expert and founder of EMD Skin Solutions. “They are calming and hydrating and don't strip the skin of its natural barrier which is crucial for skin that is dry.”
Her recommendations? She loves Yonka's Lait Nettoyant or PCA's Creamy Cleanser, since you don’t need water to apply them — only to remove them. “Just massage them in with your clean hands or apply some to a cotton round or soft washcloth.” Simply follow this up with your regular cleanser.
Another ideal makeup remover for dry skin is lipid-free cleansing lotions, says Joshua Zeichner MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai hospital in NYC. Dr. Zeichner explains that this kind of product works overtime by leaving behind a much-needed hydrating film on the skin after it’s removed. Also, for a cost-effective route, Dr. Zeichner endorses Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser.
With how often micellar water is talked about in the beauty world, you’d think it removes all of the problems in your life (in addition to makeup, of course). While it, unfortunately, can’t do that (not yet, anyways!), it is considered one of the most gentle makeup removers on the market, according to Dr. Zeichner (he recommends La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra Reactive Skin). In fact, thanks to its technology, certain ones even eliminate the need to cleanse your face afterward since it does that at the same time that it removes makeup.
“The idea is that micelles are attracted to dirt and oil, so they are able to draw out impurities without drying out the skin,” explains Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC. “Micellar water can, therefore, be used as a facial wash, makeup remover and moisturizer all in one.” And since it leaves behind a hydrating finish, she says that it can be used for both dry and sensitive skin.
All that said, if you don’t go the micellar water route, be sure to scrutinize your labels when picking another option. Since sensitive skin is just that (read: sensitive), you’ll have to look out for major red flag ingredients in your remover.
According to Adina Mahalli, a hair and skincare expert for Maple Holistics, her go-to makeup remover for sensitive skin is high-quality jojoba oil. “It's naturally fragrance-free, non-reactive, yet really effective at breaking down even thick foundation and eye makeup.” She says to use just about a teaspoon of it on dry or damp skin and gently massage it into the makeup. From there, rinse and then follow with your regular facial cleanser.
Oily skin may sound like a difficult skin type to deal with (and a reason to keep a lot of blotting papers in your purse at all times), but Donat says that as long as your skin is not prone to breakouts, you can handle just about any makeup removal product.
For makeup removers specifically, Dr. Zeichner recommends using ones that contains alpha hydroxy acids. In addition to removing dirt, oil and makeup, they’ll “help pull oil from the skin and even exfoliate dead cells from the skin’s surface.” His picks? Ghost Democracy Transparent Daily Exfoliating Facial Cleanser since it “combines glycolic and mandelic acid in a formula gentle enough to use every day.”
Another option is to give clay a try, says Dr. King. “Clay is a popular ingredient because it absorbs sebum and has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.” She recommends AcneFree's Kaolin Clay Detox Face Mask.
“It can be used as a makeup-removing cleanser and is a great option for oily and acne-prone skin because the clay and charcoal absorb oils and vitamin E and zinc soothe and moisturize the skin so that the mask is not too drying.”
This skin type may be one of the easiest to deal with, but it still deserves some consideration. In this case, Dr. Zeichner likes foaming cleansers since they remove oil in places that need it most — like the t-zone — without drying out the rest of the face.
If you want something more natural, Mahalli recommends 100% pure coconut oil: “Coconut oil has powerful hydrating and antibacterial properties that cleanse and deeply nourish the skin, leaving it fresh, clean and balanced.”
Unlike other skin types, you can also get away with using wipes. But whether you rely solely on wipes and don’t cleanse your skin afterward will depend on how much makeup you’re using, explains Dr. King. For example, “for those who wear light to medium makeup, face wipes alone can be enough to cleanse the skin. If you wear a heavier foundation, wipes alone may not be enough to get the job done.”
For acne-prone skin, both Dr. King and Dr. Zeichner recommend salicylic acid, which can be found in cleansers, wipes and toners. This is also a great ingredient to use if you have oily skin and clogged pores with comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads), says Dr. Hadley. She recommends AcneFree's Blackhead Removing Scrub with Charcoal.
“Charcoal absorbs excess sebum, so it's a great choice if you have oily skin and because it also contains salicylic acid to penetrate into pores and dissolve sebum, so the combination is great to prevent and treat clogged pores. The gritty texture is also nice for gentle physical exfoliation, and it contains jojoba oil to soothe and moisturize,” Dr. Hadley says.
Kenny Screven, a makeup artist and beauty influencer, also recommends a gel-based makeup remover for oily skin. “Gel-based makeup remover breaks apart heavy-duty makeup so that it’s easier to wipe off your face.” The best way to use it, he says, is to add a slight amount of water to your face so it’s damp since the remover works best when the skin is damp. “Ultimately, the gel-based makeup remover is very hydrating and relaxing on the face.” He likes Dermalogica Special Cleansing Gel since “it works amazing and really does get rid of all the makeup on your face.” You won’t even need to cleanse after this, he adds.
For all of these makeup removers for different skin types, Dr. King recommends what is called double-cleansing.
“For those who wear light to medium makeup, washing the face can be enough to cleanse the skin,” she says. “If you wear a heavier foundation and waterproof eye makeup, then it will be helpful to start with makeup remover or cleansing wipes and then cleanse your face with your preferred cleanser.”