How To Remove Makeup

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Have you ever washed your face at the end of the day and been totally convinced it was clean, only to notice foundation-colored marks across your towel after drying off? Even if you're already aware of the importance of taking off your makeup each night, if you're not sure how to remove makeup in terms of using the right methods and the best products, you can still be sabotaging your skin. Generally, when you’re wearing makeup, you'll want to double cleanse your skin using an oil-based cleanser first, followed by a water-based cleanser. (On no-makeup days, a single cleanse should be sufficient.)

"It's so important to thoroughly remove your makeup at the end of the day because at night is when most of your skin repair is done," explains Omayma Ramzy, an LA-based makeup artist and founder of Omayma Skin. "Having makeup residue on the skin blocks a lot of that repair, plus it can lead to a buildup of bacteria, which sadly causes breakouts," she adds.

When it comes to getting rid of every last trace of makeup, Ramzy advises doing a double cleanse, which, as the name suggests, requires two rounds of cleansing. "I always recommend using oil-based cleansers first, especially if you're wearing long-lasting or waterproof products," she says, naming oil cleansers and cleansing balms as her go-to formulas. You can also start with a no-rinse micellar water if you don't want to wash your face twice.

Either way, following up with a water-based cleanser — like a gel or foam wash — will ensure that all of the makeup, sunscreen, and impurities that have built up on your skin throughout the day are properly removed. Plus, it's a great way to incorporate a cleanser with ingredients that are targeted towards your skin concerns. "I'll use a vitamin C cleanser from Joanna Vargas to brighten and refresh my skin," Ramzy says of one route. Acne-prone skin types may want to incorporate a cleanser with active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, and dry skin types should look for a gentle cleanser made with nourishing ingredients like ceramides or oils.

No matter how you cleanse, follow up with a hydrating serum or moisturizer (or both!), as Ramzy says that this will "reinforce your skin's moisture barrier so your skin isn't left dry or stripped."

If you struggle with knowing how to remove makeup properly, scroll on for some makeup artist-approved tips.

1. Start By Pulling Your Hair Back

It can be easy to miss the makeup around your hairline if you rush through your cleansing routine or don't properly gather your hair away from your face. Not only can that lead to makeup transfer onto your pillowcases and towels, but it can also be the culprit behind breakouts or irritation along the hairline (or both, if you're really lucky, like me). A headband like Slip Pure Silk Glam Band can be used to keep your hair out of your face and protect your blowout at the same time (because it's made from silk, which produces less friction against your hair). You can use the brand's silk scrunchies if hair ties are more your thing, but I find the headband comes in handy when you're applying makeup or relaxing with a face mask, too.

2. Be Extra Gentle Around Your Eyes

Whether you prefer to use a separate makeup removing solution around your eyes or one, all-over micellar water, it's important to fully remove any mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow you’ve applied as not doing so can trigger eye irritation and infection. Because your eyes (and the delicate skin around them) are more sensitive than the rest of your face, you also want to be sure you're removing all of that makeup without rubbing at your skin. The simplest way to do this is to apply your makeup remover of choice to a cotton pad and use circular motions to gently massage them along your lids as your remover works to dissolve the makeup. If you’re wearing waterproof or heavy-duty eye makeup, try pressing a saturated pad against your eye for about 30 seconds before gently wiping it all off.

Instead of constantly buying single-use cotton pads, though, consider investing in this 20-pack of reusable cotton rounds. They’re environmentally friendly, will last you years, and are machine washable (this set even comes with its own drawstring bag for when you throw them in the wash).

3. Try A Micellar Water

"When I'm on set, I always give the models' skin a once-over with micellar water first, then go in with my facial oil serum as a prep for makeup," says Ramzy, who cites the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water as her go-to. "There's so much pollution, dust, and debris in the air that sticks to your skin, and so it's important to get your skin clean before putting any makeup or skin care on — that way, you aren't mixing bacteria in with your products or brushes." Ramzy adds that this Garnier product works well as the first cleansing step for all skin types, as it easily removes makeup without having to rinse or aggressively rub at the skin.

Editor’s note: You can find more of the best micellar waters, here.

4. Double Cleanse With A Balm

Ramzy's favorite way to start a double cleanse (and mine, too), is with a cleansing balm. Cleansing balms typically have a sherbet-like texture and then melt down into an oil once you rub them onto your skin (and note that they work best when applied on dry skin). "The oil will break down the makeup easily, and also prevent your skin's natural moisture barrier from being over-stripped and becoming irritated," Ramzy says. Farmacy Beauty Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm is my current go-to, as it combines sunflower and ginger root oils with turmeric and moringa extracts to remove makeup, sunscreen, and impurities. Despite being oil-based, it never leaves my oily skin feeling greasy — plus, it's housed in a recyclable jar, and it's free from synthetic fragrances, parabens, and phthalates.

5. Or Opt For A Cleansing Oil

Your other oil-based option is a cleansing oil, which also works most effectively at removing makeup when massaged onto dry skin. Tatcha The Camellia Cleansing Oil features Japanese camellia oil, a powerful moisturizing and antioxidant-rich ingredient that contains vitamins A, B, D, and E, as well as omega fatty acids 3, 6, and 9. The cleansing oil also includes the brand's trademark Hadasei-3, a proprietary complex of double-fermented rice, green tea, and algae that helps to resurface and hydrate skin. A little product goes a long way, so despite being pricey, this bottle should last you a while.

6. Follow Up With A Water-Based Cleanser

With your first cleanse done, Ramzy notes that you'll want to be more selective about your next cleanser if your skin is oily or acne-prone. "It's really important to make sure that your products are what is called noncomedogenic if you're acne-prone because this means the ingredients won't clog your pores," she explains. The gentle formula of CeraVe's Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser works for all skin types, but those with oily and acne-prone skin can rest assured that it's noncomedogenic. The creamy cleanser lathers into a lightweight foam that helps to remove any leftover traces of makeup, dirt, and oil, as ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides lock moisture into your skin. The formula is free of fragrance and SLS, so dry, sensitive skin types should be able to use it safely.

7. If Your Skin Is Sensitive, Pick A Gentle Product That Does It All

Ramzy adds that it's just as important for sensitive skin types to be aware of what they're putting on their skin. "The idea is to get the hang of what your skin is sensitive to, that way you can navigate exactly which products you will or won't do well with," she says. While everyone's skin is different, Ramzy lists fragrances, dyes, and parabens as common irritants, and notes that she likes to refer to the EWG's site when curious about specific ingredients. Avène’s XeraCalm A.D Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil is a calming, nourishing cleanser that's free from fragrances, soap, dyes, parabens, and alcohol. While it calls itself a cleansing oil, it lathers into a soothing foam, so it makes an amazing one-step cleanser. This can be used as part of a double-cleansing routine, but if you prefer to do a single cleanse, this face wash will cover all your makeup-removing bases.

8. A Makeup Wipe Is Better Than Nothing

No makeup artist or dermatologist will ever advise you to rely on makeup remover wipes to take off a full face of makeup, but Ramzy admits that sometimes they're necessary. "Sometimes a makeup wipe is all you can bring yourself to do at the end of the night, and I think we've all been that person," she says, adding that a makeup wipe is "far better than not cleansing at all." Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes are one of Ramzy's recommendations to keep on hand for emergency situations only. They even come individually wrapped so you can carry a few with you when you're on the go — just don't make a habit of using them, since makeup wipes can't give your skin a proper cleanse.