Over the last few years, the double cleanse has become about as popular as leopard midi skirts or posting pictures of yourself as an old person to Instagram—nearly everyone has gotten involved. Thanks to K-Beauty, we know now that if we wear makeup, sometimes we need more than one pass with a cleanser to get rid of all the stuff chilling in our pores. While choosing which cleanser to use for that second part is determined by skin type, making the decision of which makeup remover to use for step one isn’t so clear.
“You need to start off with a clean slate before you put on to anything else,” says K-Beauty expert Charlotte Cho, the brains behind Soko Glam and Then I Met You. Thanks to skin-care technology, there are a whole lot of options out there that will help you get rid of the remnants of your lipstick, foundation, and mascara to create a clean slate before you wash your complexion. There’s micellar water, cleansing oil, and of course good old-fashioned makeup remover, all of which do the job just fine. But which one are you supposed to reach for? The pros, it seems, have some opinions—and spoiler alert, but one method reigns supreme.
How to get off every kind of makeup imaginable
Cleansing oil: Surprisingly enough, cleansing oil is actually the best makeup-removing option for most skin types. “Cleansing oils often contain vitamins C and E, which are antioxidants,” says board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling, DO. They leave behind a slight layer of oil, which is nourishing and sets the stage nicely for cleanse number two. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’ve got oily skin, there’s actually no need to shy away from using an oil as your first cleanse. All of this also applies to cleansing balms, which are oil-based. Whether you opt for a traditional oil or something in solid form really comes down to personal preference.
Micellar water: Micellar water may be known as one of the gentlest cleansing options out there (thank you, French girl wisdom), but actually happens to be great for getting rid of eye makeup. “I use it to remove anything that’s really stubborn,” says Cho, adding that it’s apt at nixing eyeliner and mascara. She recommends drenching two cotton pads in micellar water and letting them sit on your eyes for a few seconds—aka long enough to break down the makeup residue—then wiping everything away. The “micelles” that make up micellar water attach to the dirt and grime on your face and pull them away.
Makeup remover: When you see a product with the words “makeup remover” on it, chances are it’s some sort of combination of the other two formulas—they’re part oil, part water. “Most makeup removers are oil, water, and a preservative,” board-certified dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki, MD, previously told Well+Good . “The vast majority don’t contain cleansing, micelle components, which is the real difference between them and cleansers.” But Dr. Sperling cautions against these for anyone with sensitive skin. Some (though not all) may contain surfactants, which can strip the skin of natural oils, so if you’re prone to irritation be sure to read the label carefully or reach for one of the other two options.
If you did happen to forget to use one of these methods before bed, don’t fear—here’s what to do if you accidentally fell asleep in your makeup. Plus, a certified cleanser queen answers every question you’ve ever had about washing your face.
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