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The Best Drugstore Makeup Removers

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By Marissa DeSantis
Elite Daily/Amazon

Much like applying sunscreen every morning, washing your makeup off each night is a non-negotiable (yes, even after a late night out). And while there are plenty of luxurious cleansing options to choose from, the best drugstore makeup removers are just as effective when it comes to getting rid of all of the makeup, dirt, and oil that can build up on your skin during the day. Before you add just any makeup remover to your cart, it's important to consider what exactly you expect it to do. Heavy-duty waterproof makeup will require an equally hardworking cleanser, while lighter coverage makeup can just as easily be removed with a cleansing gel or foam. You’ll also want to consider any skin concerns you may have, as well as which vehicle of makeup remover you prefer to use (i.e., a makeup removing solution or a face wash).

If you're feeling lost or looking for an upgrade, there are a few general rules to follow. Oily and acne-prone skin types may want want to opt for a gel-based makeup remover, or something that contains pore-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. For combination or dry skin types, cream and lotion cleansers that contain nourishing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and oils will be ideal. Meanwhile, sensitive skin types will want to look for formulas that are free from fragrance and other potential irritants, such as sulfates.

To help keep your skin (and your pillowcases!) clean, here are some of the best drugstore makeup removers available on Amazon.

1. Best Micellar Water

Not only is Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water a French drugstore staple, but it's also possibly the most spotted backstage beauty product at New York Fashion Week (and it has over 20,000 five-star ratings on Amazon). The reasons behind its popularity are numerous, but they all stem from the product's micellar technology, which uses micelles to gently lift away makeup, dirt, and other impurities from the skin. The nonirritating cleansing agent is actually a glycerol ester, which doesn't disrupt our skin's natural protective barrier or even require rinsing with water. Additionally, Bioderma's micellar water uses pharmaceutical-grade water and is free from synthetic fragrances. Despite its gentle formula, it's never failed to remove my waterproof mascara or liquid eye liner — just be sure to hold a thoroughly saturated cotton pad to your eyelids for a few seconds so you give it enough time to really work its magic.

2. Best Reusable Eye Makeup Remover Pads

Whether you wear eye makeup every day or you use a micellar water that has you flying through cotton pads, a reusable solution like Garnier’s SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Eco Pads will both save you money and serve to be more environmentally friendly. You can use these in conjunction with the Bioderma micellar water above, Garnier's own micellar water, or any other makeup removing liquid you like. Each of the three pads will last for up to 1,000 washes, and you can either clean them by hand with soap and water or toss them into the washing machine (and then lay them flat to dry).

3. Best Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover

If you're looking for a drugstore makeup remover that was developed with eye makeup in mind — specifically, stubborn waterproof formulas — La Roche-Posay's Respectissime Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover is a foolproof choice. The brand’s products are developed in partnership with dermatologists, and this remover is a bi-phase formula that uses water and oils to effectively remove makeup without any harsh rubbing. The makeup remover is also fragrance-free and paraben-free for anyone sensitive to those potential irritants.

4. Best All-Over Makeup Remover

There are also oil-free makeup remover options, like Cetaphil’s Gentle Makeup Remover, which is still strong enough to remove waterproof face and eye makeup. Free from fragrance, parabens, and oil, the remover won't leave your skin feeling greasy, but it also won't dry it out thanks to a combination of soothing ingredients like aloe vera, green tea extract, cucumber extract, and allantoin. This is also a budget-friendly makeup remover, ringing up at less than $10 on Amazon.

5. Best Cleansing Balm

Personally, I'm a big fan of cleansing balms when it comes to removing makeup. The oil-based formulas have a more solid, balm-like texture that melts into skin while it's still dry and rinses off with warm water (taking your makeup with it, but leaving your skin feeling soft and not stripped). Neutrogena’s Makeup Remover Melting Balm uses soybean, rice bran, and coconut oils to help remove makeup while simultaneously hydrating your skin. A little product goes a long way, so this one tub will last you a while.

6. Best Cleansing Foam

If you prefer a more lightweight cleanser for removing your makeup, try a foaming option like Aveeno’s Ultra-Calming Foaming Cleanser. This particular formula was developed with feverfew to help reduce signs of irritation, like redness, which typically occurs in those with sensitive skin. It's a fragrance-free, soap-free, and noncomedogenic cleanser, and even with its gentle formulation, it's still strong enough to wash away most makeup. This would also make an excellent second cleanser in a double-cleansing routine, preceded by the Neutrogena cleansing balm featured above.

7. Best Makeup Remover For Acne-Prone Skin

CeraVe combines the powers of a makeup-removing cleanser with an effective acne treatment with their Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. To help minimize the bacteria behind your breakouts, the cleanser contains 4% benzoyl peroxide, while ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides keep your skin moisturized and soft (and help counteract any dryness the benzoyl peroxide might cause). One thing you'll want to be careful of, however, is getting this cleanser in your eyes. Because it does contain benzoyl peroxide, use a separate eye makeup remover for your smoky eye and mascara, and save the CeraVe for your face only.

8. Best Cleansing Oil

Similar to cleansing balms, cleansing oils use one or several nourishing oils to bind to makeup, oils, and oil-based skin care products on your skin and help rinse them away. Mustela Stelatopia Cleansing Oil uses avocado and sunflower seed oils to thoroughly remove makeup while ensuring that your skin isn't stripped, as well as glycerin to offer further nourishment. Because it was formulated for babies (though adults love this cleanser, too), it’s fragrance-free, tear-free, and free of common irritants like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and phenoxyethanol. It's even been accepted by the National Eczema Association, making it an excellent makeup-removing option for people with very sensitive skin.

9. Best Cleansing Jelly

If you're familiar with Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser, consider this its drugstore counterpart. Bliss Makeup Melt Jelly Cleanser has that same ultra-hydrating feeling as you work the cleanser into your skin, leaving it silky, smooth, and completely free from makeup once you wash it off. The secret behind its jelly-like consistency is multiple moisturizers, including a shea butter-based cleansing agent to remove impurities, pro vitamin B5, glycerin, and oat amino acids. For the most thorough clean, massage the cleanser onto your skin while it's still dry, concentrating on the areas where makeup is the most stubborn to remove, then rinse it right off.

Studies referenced:

Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare, by Katie Rodan, MD, Kathy Fields, MD, George Majewski, and Timothy Falla, PhD; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5172479/

Beauty and The Beastly Truth of Ocular Surface Disease, by Jennifer Lyerly, OD; https://www.nceyes.org/assets/docs/2019FallCongressHandouts/Lyerly%20-%20Beauty%20and%20the%20Beastly%20Truth%20of%20Ocular%20Surface%20Disease.pdf