What the cotton pad lacks in glamour, it makes up for in functionality. But surprisingly, not all cotton pads are created equal. The best cotton pads will hang onto just the right amount of product without absorbing too much or falling apart, and they won’t leave fuzz behind on your face or feel scratchy. Beyond that, though, cotton pads can be made of many different materials, and some are better-suited for more specific purposes — like taking off nail polish — depending on their texture.
If you’re an eco-conscious shopper, you’ll be pleased to know that you can still use cotton pads without feeling wasteful. Reusable cotton pads are more popular than ever, and you can also find cotton pads that are made of organic cotton or biodegradable materials. As non-profits like The Better Cotton Initiative explain, fertilizers and water associated with cotton production, and the waste created by single-use cotton products, can cause significant concerns for the earth. “According to researchers, the largest environmental impact of single-use cotton pads [comes from] the pesticides used to grow the cotton [which] affects the animals and people living within growing areas,” Maria Harutyunian, Partnership Manager at LastObject — a brand that makes reusable cotton rounds and cotton swabs, among other things — tells EliteDaily. This is why cotton pads that are made of certified-organic cotton, or come from brands that recycle their water, are worth paying a little extra for.
1. Best Sustainable Cotton Pads
Meet the sustainable cotton pads of the future that perform and look just like traditional cotton pads, except they’re machine washable and reusable. Made of 70% wood fibers and 30% cotton fibers, these come with seven pads — one for every day of the week — and a cute container that’s handy for storage and traveling. Because they’re reported to last for up to 1,000 uses, they drastically reduce the amount of waste associated with single-use cotton pads. The brand also produces them using recycled and reused water, and the cases are crafted from Certified Ocean-Bound Plastic and plant-based materials.
2. Best Reusable Bamboo Pads
Like the LastRound rounds, these cotton pads are reusable and machine washable. The difference is that these are made from super-soft bamboo cotton — another sustainable material — and they come with 20 pads instead of just seven, for about the same price. So these are an even better value, but you won’t get a compact travel case, though you will get a storage container and a laundry bag to wash them in. The pads are biodegradable, compostable, certified OEKO-TEK compliant, and gentle enough for sensitive skin. Over 13,000 Amazon reviewers have awarded them a perfect five-star rating or review, and note that they’re incredibly soft and easy to wash clean.
3. Best Organic Cotton Pads
If you prefer single-use cotton pads, Organyc’s 100% organic cotton rounds are about as good as it gets for the price. Made entirely from raw materials, they’re free of chlorine bleach, latex, and parabens, and are also biodegradable and compostable. The brand ensures the quality of their cotton through a third-party certification from the Global Organic Textile Standards, and the rounds are pH-balanced as well, so they’re a great choice for people with sensitive skin. For just $3, you’ll get 70 rounds. Or, you can pick up a three-pack (that gets you 210 rounds) for just $9.
4. Best Double-Sided Cotton Pads
Because these cotton pads from The Body Shop are textured on one side, they’re great for removing nail polish — even the stubborn glittery types. Made of organic cotton, these rounds promise not to leave behind fluff, while their dual-sided design makes them ideal for using with both lotions and liquids. You’ll get 100 pads in this $3 pack, and Amazon even offers a “Subscribe & Save” option so you never run out.
5. Author’s Pick
Unlike the other rounds on this list, these sponge-y, tear-resistant cotton pads are bigger and square shaped. The brand uses Airlaid Technology — which means they were created without water (and with “high air pressure” instead) — to make them super soft, silky, and absorbent. This way, they’ll absorb less of your toner, micellar water, makeup remover, or lotion, so they’re definitely worth it if you use expensive skin care products that you don’t want to waste even a drop of. Made of natural pulp and rayon, these don’t leave behind fluff, won’t fall apart, and can be used for DIY sheet masks thanks to their thin, lightweight design.
Maria Harutyunian, Partnership Manager at LastObject, a Danish company that creates sustainable cotton products.