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The 9 Best Makeup Removers That Actually Work

A woman using a foam makeup remover

Applying your makeup at the beginning of the day can be a fun and soothing ritual. Removing it? Not so much. Finding the right makeup remover can make a huge difference, and couldn’t be more important when it comes to keeping your skin healthy and clean. Here are a few of the best ones out there that really do work, even on the most stubborn mascaras.

Before You Buy

Not all makeup removers are created equally. Some just aren’t going to work for you, your skin type, and the amount of makeup you wear regularly. If the one you currently use isn’t working that well, you’re probably not using the best option for your lifestyle. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before picking out the best makeup remover for you:

  • How much makeup do you wear daily? If you tend to wear a lot of makeup, then you’re going to need a heavy-duty remover that’s up to the task. If you only apply a few go-to products, you can likely get away with something more simple and low-key.
  • Do you wear a lot of waterproof eye makeup? A makeup remover that efficiently cleanses your face of concealer may not do much of anything for waterproof mascara that lasts for hours on end. If you wear a lot of stay-all-day eye makeup, you need to pick a makeup remover that specifically removes eye makeup. Because that kind of remover is often more oily, you may also want to get something else for your face.
  • Do you have sensitive skin? Anyone with super sensitive skin knows that certain products that others swear by just don’t work for them. If your skin gets irritated often, then you’ll want to make sure you opt for a makeup remover that’s gentle and soothing.

Best Overall: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Cleanser and Waterproof Makeup Remover

garnier skinactive micellar water

Micellar water has been around forever but has recently re-emerged as a trend in the beauty world. It’s a water made with micelles, tiny oil cleansing molecules that whisk away makeup and cleanse your skin at the same time. This Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water is arguably the best one out there because it’s gentle, effective, and affordable.

A good micellar water removes makeup easily while also cleansing so that you don’t actually need to rinse or wash your face afterward—but not all of them have the power also to remove stronger eye makeup. This one does: a few swipes takes off even waterproof mascara. It doesn’t leave behind any residue and also doesn’t leave your skin feeling stripped. Instead, after using it, your skin feels clean and hydrated. This is an all-in-one option that can also be found at your drugstore, so it’s basically a makeup remover miracle.

Best Overall

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water, For Waterproof Makeup, 13.5 fl. oz.

This affordable micellar water quickly and easily removes all traces of makeup, even waterproof mascara, and is still gentle enough for sensitive skin.

Best Drugstore Pick: Neutrogena Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover

neutrogena oil free eye makeup remover

Eye makeup removers have a bad reputation for being extremely oily—swiping it over your eyes can often leave your lids and lashes feeling heavy and uncomfortable. That’s not the case with Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover, and yet it still manages to remove any eyeliner or mascara you’re wearing.

The most effective way to use this is to pour it onto a cotton pad or cloth and press it over your eye for a few seconds before carefully wiping away. It works quickly, which means it doesn’t require a lot of tugging and wiping your sensitive eye area.

Best High-End Pick: Lancome Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover

lancome bi-facil double action eye makeup remover

The great thing about oily eye makeup removers is that they work quickly and easily. The not so great thing is that they leave behind a thick residue that does not feel pleasant on your eye area. Lancome’s cult-favorite Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover is an option with the benefits of oil, but none of the residue that usually comes with it.

The bi-phase means that there’s a lipid phase that removes the eye makeup, followed by a water phase with emollients that leave skin feeling clean, not overly oily. The key is to shake it up before using it to activate these benefits. Only a small drop gets the job done, so this bottle will last for a while.

Best High-End Pick

Lancôme Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover - Effortlessly Removes Waterproof Makeup - Bi-Phase Formula - 6.7 Fl Oz

Lancome's eye makeup remover offers the benefits of an oil remover without the annoying residue that often comes with it. You only need a small amount to remove everything.

Best Micellar Water: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Water

bioderma sensibio h2o

This is a cult classic for a reason: it’s gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin, it works very well, and it’s an affordable option. It never leaves skin feeling stripped or oily, and can absolutely be used without a cleanser following it up.

Bioderma’s Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Water is strong enough to remove every trace of makeup, even eye makeup, in just a few moments. Still, it’s also a popular option among those with skin that gets irritated easily. It also leaves your skin feeling super soft and smooth after each use. It’s a must-have for anyone, no matter how much makeup you wear.

Best Micellar Water

Blue Diamond Almonds , Dark Chocolate 25 Ounce

Gentle yet effective, Bioderma's cult-favorite micellar water removes all of your makeup and will leave skin feeling extra soft.

Best Makeup Remover Towel: Makeup Eraser

makeup eraser
Makeup Eraser

If you’re looking for a more sustainable and effective way to get rid of your makeup, then opt for the Makeup Eraser. It might seem like it’s just a small pink towel, but it’s made of millions of tiny hair-like fibers that pull makeup off your skin without ever feeling too rough—and all you need to add is a few drops of water.

It’s also great for those who are looking to go greener. It can be used in place of cotton pads that get thrown away each day and is supposed to last up to 1,000 washes. It also feels more soothing and comfortable than a cotton pad or any other kind of towel, which is a big plus.

While the Makeup Eraser works great with just water, it works even better when you add micellar water or even an eye makeup remover. You’ll find just a few easy swipes leaves you makeup-free in moments.

Best Makeup Remover Towel

Makeup Eraser The Original Erase All Makeup With Just Water, Including Waterproof Mascara, Eyeliner, Foundation, Lipstick and More, Original Pink

This is a more sustainable option than using cloth pads. The tiny hair-like fibers grab at makeup and can clean your face using only water.

Best Cleansing Balm: Sunday Riley Blue Moon Clean Rinse Cleansing Balm

sunday riley blue moon
Sunday Riley

When you want something more hydrating and heavy-duty than a micellar water, reach for a cleansing balm. Unlike your average cleanser, a cleansing balm feels rich and creamy. These balms can effectively remove dirt and impurities without throwing off your skin’s moisture balance. In other words, they remove every trace of makeup and grime, yet never leave skin feeling stripped or dry.

As weird as it sounds, the natural oils will not leave you feeling more oily; instead, they remove excess sebum on the skin and help prevent future breakouts. The only downside to a cleansing balm is that they add an extra step to your routine: you have to massage them into dry skin, then use a cleanser afterward, so it’s essentially double-cleansing.

Still, this Sunday Riley Blue Moon Clean Rinse Cleansing Balm is worth the time. It’s a sugar-based balm-to-milk formula, so aside from being incredibly hydrating, it also feels like a gentle exfoliant, which is very soothing at the end of the day. It gets rid of any makeup you’re wearing, leaves skin feeling impossibly soft, and for those who don’t mind a fragrance, smells lovely and relaxing.

Best Cleansing Balm

Sunday Riley Blue Moon Cleansing Balm, 3.5 Fl Oz

Made with a sugar-base, this rich balm slightly exfoliates while deeply cleansing skin and removing makeup and grime. It leaves skin feeling incredibly soft.

Best Oil Cleanser: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

dhc cleansing oil

Oil cleansers are similar to cleansing balms, except they’re more of a liquid than a balm. Still, they have the same idea behind them: they use natural oils to get rid of excess oil on your skin, and they remove dirt and makeup, all without ever stripping away any moisture. Again, it’s an extra step in your routine: you massage them into dry skin, then follow up with a cleanser of your choice.

Possibly the best oil cleanser out there is DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. Just a few drops are enough to remove any makeup, and it massages easily into your skin, leaving it feeling incredibly soft. It doesn’t leave behind the heavy residue that is the mark of many oil cleansers—instead, it feels super light. It’s also fragrance-free, and one bottle lasts a very long time.

Best Oil Cleanser

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, Facial Cleansing Oil, Makeup Remover, Cleanses without Clogging Pores, Residue-Free, Fragrance and Colorant Free, All Skin Types, 6.7 fl. oz.

This soothing oil cleanser removes all traces of makeup and cleanses at the same time, leaving skin feeling hydrated and smooth.

Best Makeup Remover Wipes: Neutrogena Makeup Removing Cleansing Towelettes

neutrogena makeup remover cleansing towlettes

It’s true that single-use wipes are certainly not the most sustainable way to remove your makeup. But sometimes, whether you’re traveling or just in a rush, they’re the best option for you. In that case, make sure you’re using Neutrogena’s cult-classic cleansing towelettes. These have been around for a long time and remain an industry favorite.

One wipe is more than enough to remove face and eye makeup easily, they stay moist and feel refreshing, they don’t leave behind an overly-oily residue (although you should still use a cleanser after using one), and they’re gentle enough to make them an ideal choice for sensitive skin. As a bonus, they’re also affordable and found in basically any local drugstore.

Best Makeup Removing Wipes

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Facial Cleansing Towelettes, Daily Face Wipes Remove Dirt, Oil, Sweat, Makeup & Waterproof Mascara, Gentle, Soap- & Alcohol-Free, 100% Plant-Based Fibers, 25 ct

A classic, these Neutrogena wipes are soft and large enough to remove a face full of makeup without leaving behind a sticky feeling.

Best For Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

cetaphil gentle makeup remover

This oil-free, fragrance-free drugstore option is inexpensive and a dermatologist favorite since it removes all makeup without bothering skin, no matter how sensitive or acne-prone it may be. The aloe vera keeps skin feeling moisturized, while the ginseng and green tea are very soothing and feel refreshing on irritated skin.

Plus, this Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover is another one that doesn’t leave behind an icky-feeling residue, so it’s similar to micellar water.

Best For Sensitive Skin

Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover, Oil-Free Formula Suitable for Sensitive Skin, 6.0 Fluid Ounce

This super gentle, fragrance-free option is affordable, easy to find, and works really well.

Jessica Booth Jessica Booth
Jessica Booth is a freelance writer for Review Geek. She has been working in the editorial world as a freelance writer for over two years and previously worked as an editor for over eight years.  Jessica writes about travel, beauty, wellness, health, food, home decor, and parenting, and has reviewed and tested out products for all of those verticals over the course of her career. Read Full Bio »