Favorite Eye Makeup Removers

On Friday I posted a link to a news item about a woman who had not properly removed her eye makeup for years and sustained some terrible long-term eye injury as a result. I'm not going to re-post the link here - the photos are a little graphic - but the upshot is that over a period of a few decades, bits of left-behind mascara and eyeliner embedded themselves on the underside of this woman's eyelids, where they scratched her corneas and caused irritation and vision problems.

So, yeah, if you weren't already motivated to remove your makeup every night, maybe that story will do the trick?

I've been meaning to talk about eye makeup removal for a while, so I guess this is good timing. A few months ago, a work friend confessed to me that she'd been using micellar water to remove her mascara. I'm not sure that's the worst thing you could do - better to remove it somehow than to not remove it at all - but I suspect the surfactants in micellar water might be a little harsh. Wouldn't that sting if it actually got into your eyes?

Anyway, here, in order from least to most favorite, are my recommendations for eye makeup removal products.

All three of these products are great. They all remove even tough waterproof makeup with very little effort; that is, they dissolve the mascara so you don't have to tug and pull on your eyelashes. Some work faster than others, but the biggest difference between all three is probably the price point.

Use these with cotton rounds, not cotton balls (I find that cotton balls are more likely to leave behind stray fibers that can irritate your eyes; rounds, especially better quality ones, have dense surfaces that won't get caught on your lashes). Just wet the cotton round and gently wipe across your lashes:

Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
This oil free remover is composed of glycerin and eye-safe surfactants that have to be mixed before use. It does what it says on the tin - removes even tough waterproof makeup with little effort - but I've found that this product stings sometimes, so I wouldn't recommend it for sensitive eyes.

Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips
This is a good mid-range product. I like that it's gentle enough to be multi-purpose, and I've never had any irritation when using it on my eyes. I think Clinique is one of those brands that's earned a lot of trust in the skincare, but if you want to try before investing in a larger bottle, they often include this cleanser in mini packs, samples, or special offers, so just check the Clinique web site every once in a while.

Lancome Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover
This is my HG remover. I don't always use it because it's a little spendier than the other brands, but it's so worth it. If you have sensitive eyes, if you've had trouble finding a makeup remover that doesn't hurt to use, this is the one for you. It's a powerful cleanser, but so mild, and it leaves your lashes gently conditioned.

Wipes for travel

I travel a lot, and when I do I rarely want to bring along a full bottle of this kind of cleansing product. Instead, I usually pack wipes - they're not the most thorough solution, but they'll do if you just want something quick and convenient. Remember, some cleansing is better than nothing at all:

My Morning Routine


Yves Rocher Hydra Vegetal Moisturizing Cleansing Wipes

I do all of my serious cleansing at night, and even then I would never use wipes as my main cleansing method. Still, they're great to use in the morning for clearing off oil and any excess product from the night before.

These wipes from Yves Rocher are as moisturizing as they claim, leave almost no residue, and they smell so green, it's a real burst of freshness in the morning.

I don't love everything from Yves Rocher's Vegetal skincare line, but I'll order these over and over again.


Cedar + Stone Rose Water

Facial mists aren't as useful as they seem - any mist that only contains water will actually draw moisture towards itself and away from your skin. A spritz to cool your face on a hot day probably won't hurt, but as a remedy for dry skin it's the opposite of helpful.

This is one of those kinds of mists - nothing but water, albeit fragranced (a byproduct of the fragrance distillation process). That's why I spray this on only as a first layer, give it about 30 seconds, and then follow immediately with moisturizer.

This is the one part of my routine that I do strictly for the aesthetic value. I love the fragrance, and the cool mist sensation is really reviving on a sleepy morning.


100% Pure Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream

No doubt, a caffeine-based product is what you need to de-puff swollen eyes in the morning. I'm surprised that there aren't more caffeine infused creams and oils on the market. There are a few, and this is my favorite - it absorbs so quickly that you can really see it working, smells faintly of coffee, and it's emollient so it works as a moisturizer for the delicate eye area as it's doing its depuffing work.

Another caffeine eye product I've tried lately and liked is the caffeine solution from Deciem (The Ordinary). It's an oily serum with a high concentration of caffeine as well as hyaluronic acid. I don't find it to be as effective as the 100% Pure cream, but it is affordable and might suit you better if you'd rather have something unscented.

(I didn't realize until I started this write-up how much I rely on fragrance in the products I use in the morning!)


Clinique Redness Solutions Daily Relief Cream

I get just a slight amount of redness in my cheeks and chin - it's not rosacea, I think my skin is just a little sensitive. I've been using this daytime moisturizer for about six months now, and I'm happy with the results but I'd be open to trying something new.

Although it's labeled as a cream, this product is definitely lightweight enough for daytime. When I use it, I don't see a dramatic decrease in the redness, and I think some of its positive impact comes from the fact that the cream itself is tinted green, so there's a bit of a masking/color correcting effect. It feels great though! It really is the most soothing cream I've used, with the possible exception of Nivea creme.


Supergoop Everyday Sunscreen SPF 50

And what can I say about sunscreen? You should always use it, whether you spend a lot of time outdoors or not. This one is fine - it does absorb quickly, and it doesn't leave a white cast as far as I can tell (but I have super pale skin, so). I might try something new once I finish this tube, but I just bought it so that's a long way off. I'll let you know when I get there.

Comparisons: Cleansing Balms

What is a cleansing balm and why would you use it?

A cleansing balm is a kind of cleanser that breaks down makeup and acts like a magnet for dirt, lifting both away without drying out your complexion. It has similar properties to a cleansing oil. In fact, a balm is basically an emulsion - oil and other liquids blended into a thick cream. When applied, a balm should break down into an oil.

Cleansing balms are appropriate for any age or skin type, but they can be especially useful for older skin during the winter when your complexion is likely to be dehydrated. They're less messy than oils, and frankly, I think they have a more luxurious feel.

Balms can be used on their own, simply massaged into the skin and then wiped away. They came to my attention, though, when I started reading about the Korean double cleanse.

What is a double cleanse and why should you do it?

Korean products have been flourishing in the skincare market for the last few years, and so have the stories about the famous (or infamous?) 10- and 12-step regimens. I'm not ready to commit that much time, but it has made me realize that I could have been doing more for my skin than I was.

My compromise has been to start doing the double cleanse - a two step process that involves using an oil-based product followed by a foam. The oil or balm locks onto anything oil-based - sebum, makeup, pollutants - and draws it out of your pores. Then the foam clears other debris such as sweat and dirt.

I've been doing it for about six months, and my pores look smaller, my skin is always radiant, and I made it through the winter without any noticeable dryness.

On that note, here are a few of the brands I've tried and what I thought about them:


Blood Orange Cleansing Balm
Brand: 100 Percent Pure
Price: $38.00 for 3 ounces / $12.66 per oz.

Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm
Brand: Clinique
Price: $29.50 for 3.8 ounces / $7.76 per oz.
Both of these products have been really effective. The Blood Orange balm is the best I've used, but it's a little spendy so I've only repurchased it once. It has a smooth texture and a very pleasant fragrance, though, so I think it's worth it if you're willing to pay the extra money. The Clinique balm is just as good, though. It costs slightly less and is unscented, so if fragrance bothers you, this is the one I'd recommend.


Cleansing Oil-in-Balm
Brand: Sephora
Price: $18.00 for 3.04 ounces / $5.92 per oz.
This Sephora brand balm is really just okay. The texture is waxy and thick, like a paste - it doesn't melt away into an oil as readily as some of the other balms I've tried. That said, it still gets the job done. Since it doesn't melt well, it doesn't rinse off that easily, but if you're doing a double cleanse and following up with a foam, that's not really an issue. It does certainly lift the grime away - I just finished a jar, and my skin has continued to look great. It did its job. The balm does smell slightly of baby powder, which I happened to like. So it's a good product for the price point.


Coconut Oil Cleansing Balm
Brand: YesTo
Price: $10.99 for 4 ounces / $2.74 per oz.
This YesTo balm is not something I could recommend. It has almost the consistency of straight-up coconut oil, but with a slightly gritty feel. I had a hard time rinsing the oil away, even with a foam cleanser follow-up - it just wanted to cling to my skin. I used it three or four times and then got rid of it. This is just speculation, but I think that if I had kept using it my pores would have gotten pretty clogged. I don't like to predict something like that without evidence, but I didn't want to risk a breakout.

A few other balms I'd like to try:


Nourishing Cleansing Balm for the Face
Brand: Diptyque
Price: $65.00 for 3.5 ounces / $18.57 per oz.

Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm
Brand: Farmacy
Price: $34.00 for 3.2 ounces / $10.63 per oz.

Refreshing Cleansing Oil Balm with Apple Seed
Brand: Innisfree
Price: $17.00 for 2.7 ounces / $6.30 per oz.