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Nothing gives me greater joy than taking off my makeup at the end of the day. (Well that, and taking off my bra as soon as I walk in my apartment door.) For most of my life, the quickest way to do this was with a drugstore beauty brand’s version of what is essentially a wet wipe. While seemingly convenient, they’re not particularly efficient if you’re trying to remove heavy-duty, highly-pigmented makeup. (Don’t even get me started on the clown mouth that results from trying to wipe off a deep red lipstick.)
Luckily, the beauty industry has evolved. Give that blue pack of Neutrogena wipes a break —they’re not going anywhere anytime soon — and try adding one of these alternative removers to your routine.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm, $29
Yes, this purple tub looks like a big jar of lip balm, but it is, in fact, a lovely way to remove makeup at the end of a long day. If you’ve ever used Vaseline or coconut oil as a makeup remover, this is a similar (if less messy) experience.
Because this balm is kind of thick, it’s perfect for winter months when I can’t bear the roughness of a wipe or cotton pad against my already dry face. The heat of your own fingers melts it down and helps to lift makeup from the skin. Because it’s Clinique, you don’t have to worry about clogged pores despite the thickness of the formula — these are skin-friendly ingredients like safflower seed oil and caprylic/capric triglyceride, both fatty acids that work to replenish the surface of the skin.
Caudalie Micellar Water, $28
The allure of the French woman will remain intact as long as there are magazines to write about them, and because of that, micellar water is arguably the trendiest way to wipe your face clean. (it’s what the French girls do!) The name comes from the micelles: molecules of surfactants (which are found in all soaps!) floating in the water that gently and effortlessly remove any oil, dirt, and makeup with the help of a cotton pad. Most good micellar waters also include a few soothing ingredients, Caudalie’s being grape water and chamomile.
Micellar water is a great option for sensitive skin because it doesn’t strip away natural oils. (It’s also often used as a remover, cleanser, and moisturizer, so it sure is minimal.) However, it’s not quite tough enough for heavy-duty makeup. Bioderma brand is the cult favorite, but I find Caudalie or drugstore brands like the Simple Micellar Water easier to find and buy.
Jane Iredale Magic Mitt, $15
If you don’t want to use any products at all, get yourself Jane Iredale’s Magic Mitt; this big pink mitten only requires water to remove makeup. The mitt is made from microfibers, so it’s gentler than using a washcloth on your face but still exfoliates your skin and emulsifies makeup so that it can easily be wiped away.
The “magic” of the mitt is that without cleanser, you don’t disturb your skin’s acid mantle, or the acidic film that sits on your skin and protects you from bad bacteria. But don’t just take my word for it — there are more than 100 glowing reviews on Amazon.
YonKa Cleansing Makeup Remover Gel, $39
Though I have fond memories of the jar of Ponds cold cream that sat on my grandmother’s vanity, the one time I tried to use it myself I felt like my face was on fire. Not exactly the experience you want when you’re getting ready for bed.
YonKa Gel has the same soothing, cooling effect that’s often (though not in my case) associated with cold cream. It’s able to dissolve hard-to-remove makeup products and also utilizes red algae, which can be taken in capsule form for its antioxidants and benefits to circulation.
An easy-to-find drugstore alternative is the Neutrogena Eye Makeup Remover Lotion. While it doesn’t simultaneously function as a great cleanser, the aloe and cucumber are equally soothing and cooling on the oft-puffy eye area.
Captain Blankenship Blue Chamomile and Lemon Oil Remover, $32
Even though it takes two minutes, washing your makeup off at the end of the day is a chore — or at least it feels like one. Captain Blankenship’s makeup removing oil makes the process feel a little more spa-like: A mix of four oils (sunflower, camellia, jojoba, almond) are the powerful ingredients that cleanse the skin and emulsify makeup.
Sure, you can quickly rub it on standing over your bathroom sink, but you can also slowly rub it in while sitting in an Epsom salt-filled bath tub surrounded by tea light candles. Dab a little extra around the eyes when you’re finished to use it as a moisturizing serum, too.
Too Cool For School Dinoplatz Magic Wand Remover Stick, $13
Trips, unexpected sleepovers, and a post-work trip to the gym are all good reasons to carry around a compact travel-sized makeup remover — ideally, one that’s mess-free.
Dinoplatz Magic Wands come in packs of 20 swabs that look like Q-tips; to use, separate the two ends, using one to remove lipstick or eye makeup and the other to wipe away any leftover mess. They’re also great for spot-cleaning, a.k.a. fixing the accidental swipe of mascara that ended up on your nose instead of your eyelashes.