Better to wash your face with something than with nothing at all. But if you’re wearing any makeup on your face whatsoever, whether a full beat or mere wisp of concealer, what you should really do is pick up one of the best face washes to remove makeup. These cleansers are all formulated to break down makeup, including foundation and waterproof mascara, without disrupting your skin’s pH balance or stripping it of its natural oils.
Any of these face washes would be ideal for the first step in your double-cleansing routine; then, once your makeup is very much off, you can follow it up with any water-based cleanser you’d like. (One exception: The CeraVe foaming cleanser on this list is a gel, and the rare one that's equipped to thoroughly remove makeup.) You should tailor your second cleanser to your skin type and goals — like brightening, exfoliating, oil-controlling, or calming, for instance — since that’s the one that’ll be cleaning your skin itself.
On the other hand, all the best makeup-removing cleansers featured here will work nicely for all skin types, including sensitive skin. So the best one for you will mainly come down to formula preference and budget — and from a drugstore micellar water to a luxurious cleansing oil to a cult-favorite balm, you'll definitely find something you like here.
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1. Best Micellar Water
Micellar water gets its name from micelles, oil compounds made up of purified water, glycerin, and mild surfactants that pull up oil, grease, and grime living on the surface of your skin (i.e. all your makeup and sunscreen). But it won’t strip your skin of the oils it needs to stay balanced, so it'll leave your face feeling soft, supple, and soothed in the process. Pretty much any micellar water you pick up will work well at removing makeup, because the science is literally foolproof, but Bioderma's cult-favorite Sensibio H2O Micellar Water is inarguably the best (the brand actually invented micellar water in 1991). It's super gentle, so it's safe for use on the most sensitive of skin, but its effectiveness at removing stubborn makeup is unparalleled. The value is pretty unbeatable, too: This giant, 1.2-pound bottle only costs about $15 on Amazon, and it’ll probably last you at least six months.
2. Best Cleansing Oil
Similarly to micellar water, cleansing oils work via the “oil attracts oil” rule — though in this case, you’re literally slathering oils on your face, rather than a water-based compound. There are so many good cleansing oils on the market, as this science is also ironclad (and they’re ideal for all skin types), so the best one for you is mainly a matter of preference.
My personal preference: This Pai cleansing oil. The formula is a clean, simple, 90% organic blend of plant-based oils, vitamin E, and rosemary extract — all heavy-duty enough to take off every last trace of makeup (including about a million coats of waterproof mascara), but it feels lighter-weight and less greasy than some of the other cleansing oils I’ve tried. It leaves my skin perceptibly brighter and calmer, too. This is on the pricier side, but my own 100-milliliter bottle has lasted me well over a year.
3. Best Cleansing Balm
Cleansing balms are essentially cleansing oils with a firmer, sherbet-y texture, so they work just as well as their more fluid counterparts. This Banila Co cleansing balm is a perennial best-seller and bonafide cult-favorite, especially among K-beauty devotees. Over on Amazon, reviewers point out how easily this emulsifies into a silky, spreadable oil, and the included spatula helps you dole out just the right amount of product without contaminating the jar.
While "Original" is the most popular version of this product, it also comes in "Nourishing," "Purifying," and "Revitalizing" formulas. Take your pick depending on which one sounds best for your skin type/skin goals.
4. Best Foam
Foam cleansers should pretty much be the exclusive jurisdiction of oily skin — but even then, the harsh surfactants found in most foams can be overly drying. This CeraVe foaming cleanser is your best bet. This gel cleanser whips up to a light, satisfying lather that whisks away makeup and other impurities, but the brand’s signature blend of ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid helps protect your skin from becoming overly dried-out or stripped. It’s non-irritating on sensitive and acne-prone skin, too, as is always the case with CeraVe products. You can also use this as a full-body cleanser, especially if you’re hoping to calm body acne.
5. Best Oil-Foam Hybrid
For the unparalleled makeup-removing powers of an oil and the deep, thorough clean of a foam, get this Knours. cleanser. Applied on dry skin, this starts out as an oil (courtesy of olive fruit oil, apricot kernel oil, cannabis sativa oil, and antioxidant-packed broccoli seed oil) to slough away all your makeup. Add a bit of water to the mix, and it’ll magically transform into a fine, non-drying foam that picks up any leftover grime. It basically encompasses both steps of your double-cleansing routine in one. Genius.