We all know good skin starts with a thorough cleanse, but sometimes no matter how thoroughly you scrub and lather up, it seems like you just can’t get all your makeup off. We’ve been there. Despite our best efforts, we’re left wondering how to remove makeup completely. We talked to dermatologists and makeup artists to get their best tips for getting every last bit of makeup off our skin. Read on for seven pro tips to help you get a perfectly bare, makeup-free face.
Take your time.
When it comes to removing eye makeup in particular, the slower you go, the better. “Let the technology do the work,” says dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “Apply makeup remover and let it sit, and sit some more. Give it a couple minutes, say, while you brush and floss.” This will soften mascara, liner, and shadow so it slips off easily and thoroughly once you finally wipe. “If you do this, you won’t find smudges under your eyes in the morning anymore,” Hirsch says. Giving remover time to work its magic also prevents you from having to rub/scrub with your makeup-remover pad—always a mistake, since friction can damage the delicate skin around your eyes, causing irritation and contributing to wrinkles.
Soap and water works better than makeup wipes.
Deep down you already knew makeup wipes sounded too good to be true, right? Wipes can be an excellent initial step in removing makeup—in fact, they’re best used to remove makeup before cleansing. But a proper sink session should ideally follow. “Many of us make the mistake of just using wipes and going to bed, but the makeup really is not all off—you still have to wash your face, ladies,” says makeup artist Azra Red, telling us what we don’t want to hear. “Using water and face wash is what’s really going to remove residue and prep your skin for a good night regimen. If you use only wipes and then apply moisturizer, you might push dirt into your pores and wake up with pimples or blackheads.”
Use a cleanser made to remove makeup.
“Women tend to use face wash that isn’t made to remove makeup,” says esthetician Joanna Czech. If you suspect yours falls into this category (evidence: those subtle BB cream smudges on your face towel postcleanse), you could use a makeup remover like micellar water first—or consider switching to a cleansing oil or balm. These are among the most effective at coaxing off even the most stubborn makeup, like stay-put foundations, liquid lipsticks, and brow pigments (two great options to try: Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil and Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Cleansing Balm).
We know what some of you are thinking: No way applying an oil-based product will leave your face cleaner. But the new oil cleansers really can work miracles. “A lot of people don’t know that oil dissolves oil,” says Czech, whose favorites include Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil and La Mer The Cleansing Oil. She likes to remove them with a washcloth for added cleansing oomph. If you really can’t stand the feel of an oil cleanser, she suggests milky and gel textures as good alternatives. Here are a couple others we love.
Make sure to cleanse the edges of your eyelid.
If there’s one zone that’s frequently neglected during makeup removal, it’s the elusive edge of your eyelid, where liner and mascara can build up over time—and lead to eye irritation. Especially if you tight-line your eyes with waterproof liquid, you might need to get in there with a more targeted tool and make sure every last speck is gone. “For detail work, I love the DHC cotton swabs with olive oil,” says makeup artist Nick Barose. “They break everything down so you don’t have to scrub, which results in lashes breaking off and falling out.” Speaking of lashes falling out, you also should never tug stubborn mascara chunks off with your fingers. To coax clumps off without doing harm, make sure you give your remover enough time to penetrate (recall tip #1), and then press down gently with a flat cotton pad, moving slowly in the direction your lashes grow, to slide the mascara off.
Push your hair back and cleanse your hairline.
We totally get it: When it’s past midnight and your pillow beckons, even an easy step like throwing your hair into a pony can feel like too much effort. But not doing so means you’re likely stopping a couple inches short of your hairline when washing your face. “People often accumulate makeup residue around their hairline, which leads to clogged pores and breakouts,” confirms celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas. Noted. Take the two seconds to tie it back or you can slip on a terry headband to ensure you get off every trace of makeup.
Flat cotton pads are better than cotton balls.
“Cotton balls can leave behind residue or break down during usage and leave fibers on your lashes or skin,” says dermatologist Rebecca Kazin. That can lead to irritation at a time when you’re trying to detox and soothe. Always opt for flat cotton pads instead of balls, ideally with a quilted texture. Basic drugstore pads work pretty well, says makeup artist Fiona Stiles—but specialty versions can be worth it for serious makeup wearers. “I only use Japanese cotton squares because the cotton is woven in such a way that it doesn’t shed at all,” she says. “They’re like magical little pillows that remove everything.”
Always follow up makeup removal with moisture.
Even if you don’t have dry skin, makeup removal should always be followed up with at least some targeted moisture: Balm up those lips if you’ve just removed lipstick, and dab on eye cream. “Removing makeup can dry out the eye area, which is the most sensitive skin on your face,” Kazin says. “You need to keep it soft and hydrated.”