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How to Remove Your Makeup

young woman removing make up in front of mirror

Sleeping in makeup can result in inflamed skin, irritated eyes, acne, and worse. It’s critical to remove your makeup when you’re done for the day—but if you don’t have the right tools and knowledge, this can seem like a daunting task.

While it’s always important to remove your makeup, not all removal methods are created equal. Proper makeup removal won’t harm your eyes or skin or pull out your eyelashes.

Wondering how to take off your makeup the safe and easy way? We have the answers—stop scrubbing at your waterproof mascara and read this first!

Which Makeup Remover Should You Use?

Visit any drugstore or beauty retailer, and you’ll find a wealth of makeup-removing products on display. There are wipes, cleansers, oils, creams, and more. But which should you choose?

First: you don’t need to buy them all, so don’t let a brand convince you otherwise. All you need is one product that will break down your makeup effectively. If that product doesn’t also clean the skin, you’ll need a separate cleanser, too.

Let’s take a look at the makeup removing products you’ll typically run into, and what each one is best for.


Makeup removing wipes promise to get rid of your makeup in just a few swipes—a lazy person’s dream. However, they aren’t a perfect solution.

While these wipes do a good job of taking off some kinds of makeup, they often lose the battle against waterproof or long-wear formulas. You might find yourself scrubbing roughly at your eyes or skin to get the makeup off.

Makeup removing wipes also don’t thoroughly clean your skin. Although you might feel clean, you’re likely to get irritation or breakouts from the residue left behind.

So should you avoid wipes altogether? Not necessarily, but you’ll need to supplement them with a cleanser, and a more powerful remover if you wear waterproof cosmetics.

Liquid Makeup Remover

The “traditional” makeup remover option is the liquid formula that comes in a bottle. These products are designed to break down makeup, so it slides right off.

You can buy oil-free and oil-based formulas. For waterproof makeup removal, make sure to choose an oil-based remover. Since these products don’t clean your skin, you’ll also need to follow with a cleanser.

Micellar Water

If you want to save some time, you can find a product that both cleanses and removes makeup.

Micellar water cleans your skin and takes off makeup without stripping away essential moisture. It contains little orbs of cleansing oil (which breaks down makeup) suspended in water. You can use it for waterproof makeup, too.

If you have oily skin, you might not like the ultra-moisturized feeling that micellar water leaves behind. But if you have dry skin, you’ll probably love the results.

Cleansing Oil

Cleansing oils that remove makeup use the same basic principle as micellar water, minus the water suspension.

These oil cleansers can take off waterproof makeup, and offer a gentle cleansing with lots of hydration. Washing your face with oil may sound strange, but it’s good for the skin since it doesn’t strip away natural oils. You may not even need to rinse your skin after using oil or micellar water (check the instructions on your product to be sure).


Other cleansers promise to do what micellar water and cleansing oils do, but with different formulas.

Not all facial cleansers also remove makeup, so you’ll need to look for something that’s specifically made to do both. You can find makeup removing cleansers in a variety of formulas, like creams and gels.

DIY Makeup Remover

Beauty companies may not want you to know this, but it’s easy to make your own makeup remover.

Oils work well for taking off stubborn makeup. However, you don’t need to buy a brand-name oil cleanser to get this result. You can take off your makeup using everyday, inexpensive products like coconut, olive, or jojoba oil.

You can also use witch hazel, a natural astringent, to remove makeup: try it on its own or mixed with oil.

People with dry skin can benefit from using plain oil to wash their face before bed. However, if you have oily skin, you might want to use a cleanser after you’ve removed your makeup with a DIY solution.

Your Guide to Proper Makeup Removal

woman Removing makeup with cotton
Marko Marcello/Shutterstock

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on your makeup removing products, but keep these tips in mind to get the best results.

  • Never Scrub: Scrubbing your skin, especially around the eyes, can lead to irritation and damage, and make your lashes fall out. Instead, place the product on your eyes and face using your fingers or a cotton pad, and let it sit for a few minutes to break down the makeup. Then gently wipe away the makeup using strokes that go in one direction, rather than rubbing back and forth.
  • Use Steam to Your Advantage: If you have the time, a hot steamy shower will loosen everything that’s clogging your pores, so you can get a deeper clean when you remove your makeup. Or, if you don’t feel like getting in the shower, just put a cloth in hot water and then place it over your face for a few minutes. You can also hold your face over a steaming bowl of hot water for the same results.
  • Get Your Whole Face: If you wear foundation or other makeup on your skin, make sure not to neglect the edges of your face. Pull your hair back so you can remove makeup at your hairline, jawline, and neck. Otherwise, you might start to break out in those places.
  • Use Cotton Pads: Cotton balls have a rough texture and can leave fibers behind that will get into your eyes. Instead, use cotton pads, or even just your fingers.
  • Clean Off Residue: If you use a single product for makeup removal and cleansing, make sure you clean thoroughly enough so that no makeup residue is left behind. You can use a cotton pad or a white washcloth to check if there’s any makeup left: wipe it across your face and make sure it comes off clean.
  • Don’t Forget to Moisturize: If you clean your skin with oil or micellar water, you can probably skip the moisturizer. But if you use other cleaning products, make sure to moisturize, since you’ve just stripped some of the natural oil from your skin.  
Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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