I want three things from my makeup remover. First, it has to thoroughly remove all my makeup; this goes without saying.
Second, I’ll only use those which leave my skin feeling good – not stripped, not tight, not red.
And lastly, it has to be fool-proof and easy, no matter what time I may float in.
There are so many different kinds of makeup remover that fit my criteria, so I’d suggest you pick whichever you think you’ll find easiest to use from my list of tried and tested does-the-job-every-time makeup removers.
Before I share a list of my go-to’s, however, there are some general makeup removal rules I always try to keep in mind:
1) Removing makeup isn’t the same as cleansing
This is a cardinal skin rule. Imagine a dirty plate after eating; using a makeup remover is like scraping the plate into the bin, cleansing like washing it with a sponge. Both are necessary for the plate to be clean, just as removing makeup and then cleansing is important to make sure your skin is clean.
2) Never tug at skin
Instead, press and slide gently to avoid aggravating skin or causing premature ageing. If you find that your cotton pad or flannel is dragging, add more makeup remover to give it slip.
3) Choose a planet-friendly option
If you’re a fan of using cotton pads with your makeup remover, try reusable cotton rounds, which are much more eco-friendly, can be easily washed so cost less over time, and will give you equally as comprehensive a clean as disposable options.
4) Opt for gentle formulas
Fancy an acid or love a retinol? Fine. But this is not the time for it. The removing makeup process should be about removing makeup and keeping skin calm; it’s not a big treatment step. Don’t waste your time, energy or money in trying to supercharge this bit of skincare, but rather seek out formulas which remove makeup with skin conditioning or hydrating ingredients instead of actives.
The 6 best makeup removers:
In need of a new formula? I rate these six.
Cerave Micellar Water, £10, Cult Beauty
Look no further if you want a seriously competent all-rounder. This can be used around eyes or on skin, and it really speedily whisks off makeup and grime.
I’d recommend using this as a first step even if you’re not wearing makeup; it takes the day off really well and doesn’t leave any residue or stickiness in its wake.
Cerave are justifiably proud of the formula; while it cleans and leaves skin calm, it also adds a little ceramide to reduce the likelihood of having tight, dry skin after use.
I take a pad and wipe this across my face, then turn it round and press it to my eyes to loosen and lift off mascara.
Aurelia Eye and Lash Cleanser, £32, FeelUnique
This targeted eye makeup remover is very gentle, very effective, and very soothing. If you’ve got sensitive eyes which react to products and are sometimes red after using skincare, I’d suggest going for this one.
I like to use it on a cotton pad, pressing it to my eyes for ten seconds before softly sliding it out to the corners to remove mascara and shadow. I usually manage to remove a fairly heavy load of mascara and liner in two passes, turning the cotton pad around to really get everything off.
It’s infused with cucumber and rose otto oil, so really refreshes and hydrates.
Code 8 Decode 3 in 1 Makeup Remover, £22, Code8
This is seriously clever, and a really good option if the skin around your eyes is very tight or in need of extra hydration.
Containing a cocktail of skin-loving goodness including squalane, aloe vera juice, seed oils, and coconut oil, you need to shake the bottle to make sure all three phases are mixed thoroughly, damp a cotton pad with the mix, and then press, release and swipe the cotton pad to whisk away eye makeup.
A little goes a long way with this one, so don’t waste it in saturating the entire cotton pad; I’ve found around five drops are sufficient for a single eye.
Clarins Instant Eye Make-up Remover, £22, Clarins
This is a firm favourite with those in the know, and you’ll find a bottle of it on many makeup artists’ tables because it is so good at removing even stubborn product, and doesn’t sting or leave any redness behind.
It’s bi-phase, so make sure you shake it properly to treat eyes to the rose and cornflower waters which will, over time, help to keep the skin around your eyes healthy and robust, and also condition and strengthen lashes.
I find this one works best on a cotton pad, and once I’ve removed my eye makeup with it, I swipe it over my brows to clean them, and my lips if I’m wearing lipstick, too.
Face Halo Original, £18, Sephora
Face Halo’s innovative little pad does a remarkable job of removing makeup as you run it across skin. To activate the HaloTech fibres, all you have to do is wet the pad, then slip it across your face.
It is made to last for up to 200 wash cycles, making it an incredibly eco and wallet-friendly way to remove makeup, plus they can be used on any skin type.
Just make sure you’re washing them often enough; I got through three a week, using each one twice after rinsing and wringing out thoroughly, then leaving it to dry overnight before using it the next evening.
The Body Shop Camomile Sumptuous Cleansing Butter, £12, The Body Shop
When it comes to an affordable makeup remover, nothing on the high street holds the acclaim of The Body Shop’s Cleansing Butter. This rich yet soothing formula blends camomile with sunflower seed oil and shea butter, making it an ideal cleanser for sensitive skin types or those prone to redness.
Don’t be fooled by its gentle approach though; this butter makes light work of removing even the most stubborn of makeup (waterproof mascara I’m looking at you); I can attest that even after a night out with very limited hand-eye coordination, my face was left moisturised, soft, and thoroughly cleansed after a quick cleanse with this.