I have officially entered the part of 2020 wherein I put eye makeup on for no other reason than so that my iPhone facial recognition feature will actually know who I am. Now that I’m braving a little eyeliner and some mascara on the regular (okay, once a week, maybe), I’m also now having to remove those inky stains and liners. Some formulas are like taking acid to the face, so to make things easier on myself, I sought out the best gentle eye makeup removers around.
When looking for eye makeup removers there are a few things you’re going to want to keep in mind. Harsh surfactants, those that are found in traditional soaps have a tendency to be more aggressive around the eyes. Instead, you’ll want to opt for either something that’s a cleansing oil or an oil suspended in water (which is often called micellar water). To make things easy on you, I rounded up some of the best around below.
Drunk Elephant has raised the bar in all categories of clean skin care, so the fact that the brand’s makeup remover is best in class is not exactly a shock. Made from high-quality fruit extracts and natural oils, this balm cleanser turns to milk when it touches water—and feels just as comforting on the skin as it sounds. This product is proof positive you don’t need to strip in order to get naked, or at least not when it comes to removing the schmear from your eyes.
Shop now: Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser, $34
This award-winning makeup remover is a gold standard in its category. Its dual-phase (oil and water) rids lids of even the most stubborn waterproof mascara without causing the slightest stings, and there’s no after-slime that requires rinsing.
Shop now: Lancome Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover, $30
This is a cult-beloved, 25-year-old product hyped by celebrities, makeup artists, and dermatologists alike. Somewhat magically, a bottle is sold globally every two seconds. Part of its charm is that while it’s simplistic seeming—the formula is comprised of just 10 ingredients—the patented formula is non-irritating.
Shop now: Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water, $15
4. Dr. Hauschka Eye Make-up Remover, $20
Photo: Dr. Hauschka
This light, rose-scented remover is made from natural ingredients such as sesame oil, sunflower oil, and fennel seed extract. It’s not the most heavy duty of the bunch, but what it lacks in aggression, it makes up for in caress—which is a super embarrassing way of saying it’s soothing AF.
Shop now: Dr. Hauschka Eye Make-up Remover, $20
Real talk: Wipes/pads are not the best option when it comes to the environment, but also real talk that sometimes, you just cannot be bothered to properly cleanse over a sink. When rinsing is not an option for whatever reason, these are an editor-favorite. They’re effective and clean of any of the stripping ingredients commonly found in similar products, so your face feels fresh rather than tortured after a swipe. They’re also great if you prefer non-oily means of makeup removal.
Shop now: Simple Kind to Skin Eye Make-Up Remover Pads, $4
This is another cult product that not only cleanses using natural ingredients such as ginger root oil, turmeric, and moringa extract but also gently exfoliates courtesy of papaya extract. The balm turns to oil when warmed by your hands, and a little goes a long way—which means that it’s actually cost-effective despite the inclusion of premium ingredients. Plus, it smells sublime thanks to orange, bergamot, and lime essential oils.
Shop now: Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Balm, $34
This oldie-but-goodie cleanser utilizes cornflower water to pull impurities out of the skin—makeup, obviously, included—while simultaneously soothing inflammation and irritation.
Shop now: Klorane Eye Make-Up Remover Lotion With Cornflower, $16
If you like the Farmacy balm but are pinching pennies, this offering from Insta Natural is the next best thing. It’s a bit thicker than the Farmacy option and requires a bit more effort to rinse, but it’s also clean and nurturing so there’s no harm in letting it soak into your skin. (Plus, it beats a drying cleanser and/or having to scrub.) Plus, if you’re into rose scents—my personal favorite—this smells pretty balm, I mean, bomb.
Shop now: Insta Natural Rose Makeup Cleansing Balm, $18
8. One Love Enzyme Cleansing Oil, $42
This dry skin-friendly oil is rich in vitamin B-rich natural oils and utilizes papaya extract for gentle exfoliation. It can be used as a full-on cleanser or applied specifically to areas where makeup resides. It also smells like the tropical vacation you didn’t get to take this year—major pineapple vibes.
Shop now: One Love Enzyme Cleansing Oil, $42
This is an ultra-premium eye makeup remover for those who want to wipe away their day with luxury. The no-wipe oil cleanser’s ingredient list sounds like a naturalist’s dream and includes arnica, neem, mango butter, cocoa butter, argan oil, green tea leaf, pumpkin seed oil, ginger oil, rosemary extract, and more. And while the price tag is not for the faint of heart, a little goes a long way: A pearl-sized amount is all that’s recommended for each use.
Shop now: Mahalo The Unveil Cleanser Melt Concentrate, $70
This decadent cleanser is made from seven cold-pressed oils including almond, jojoba, baobab, pomegranate seed, castor seed, amaranth seed, and Vitamin E. As such, it hydrates as it cleanses, softening, and strengthening even your eyelashes with every wipe.
Shop now: Dr Alkaitis New Restoring Eye and Face Makeup Removers, $55
When you want to “take your face off,” but not literally, this gentle oil from Tatcha nourishes rather than strips, making it especially perfect for mature/dry/winter skin. Its star ingredients are Japanese Camellia Oil, which has been buzzy for actual centuries and is super nutrient dense, and Tatcha’s proprietary blend of three obscure ingredients that deliver extremely transparent results.
Shop now: Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, $48
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