There have been times in my my heavily made up life when a chainsaw has seemed like the only viable option to remove a particularly stubborn glittery liner or cement-like long-wear foundation. I’ve used all sorts of cleansers in my daily cosmetics removal crusade, and while I agree that it seems ludicrous to spend lots of cash on something that you’re simply washing down the sink at the end of the day (and at the beginning of it too I hope), if a cleanser whisks off makeup with ease and leaves skin soft and conditioned post-use, it’s worth the investment. Compared to creams, serums and treatments, cleansers are generally less spendy, but can reap almost as many anti-ageing, skin perfecting benefits. A miracle potion is redundant if the skin’s surface is still harbouring makeup and bacteria, and if you’re a regular SPF and makeup wearer (the two essentials of life in my book), it’s particularly vital to clear the decks, so to speak. If you want healthy looking skin that not only requires less makeup in the first place but also ages beautifully, an efficient cleanser is a must, and this lot all pass muster in my opinion. Hair back, game on, makeup off.
The Oily One
Don’t be put off by greasy connotations; a slick cleansing oil can shift makeup and grime like almost nothing else. Asian women have been using them for decades (shout out to Shu Uemura ) to dissolve makeup, lingering SPF, and even, get this, oil. Oil attracts oil, so an oil cleanser can break up sebum far better than suds and water, without disturbing your natural moisture balance. In short, you can strip your skin of makeup, without actually stripping your skin. I’m a big fan of the plant oil based Bare Minerals Mineralixirs™ Facial Cleansing Oil , £21. It has a lovely silky consistency that isn’t too gloopy and it shifts makeup without the oft associated scrubbing and rubbing. Massaging it into dry skin feels quite indulgent (I swear this part of the process makes my skin look plumper) and while it does contain fragrance, I haven’t found that it irritates my eyes, although it might be wise to tread carefully if you’re sensitive of skin.
The Watery One
Micellar waters aren’t new on the scene; they were invented in Paris over a century ago to soothe skin exposed to the city’s harsh, hard water. Micellar solutions contain tiny molecules of oil (micelles), suspended in soft water, that attract grease, impurities and makeup (see above). Far superior to makeup wipes (more on those later), micellar waters have become backstage staples for makeup artists and models alike, they’re mild, refreshing and effective, not to mention free of soap and alcohol. I find them most useful as part of a double cleanse routine- sweep on a micellar and then do a ‘deep clean’ with your preferred product, some water and a flannel if you so desire. This belt and braces approach ensures that your skin is entirely makeup free and perfectly primed for other skincare. My top micellar pick is Garnier Cleansing Micellar Water , £3.32. It’s one of those beauty products that seems too good to be true; it’s incredibly cheap, you get a lot of product for the mere pocket money that you’re spending and it lifts away makeup just as well as its more expensive competitors, without irritating skin in the slightest. I’m on about my tenth bottle and still haven’t found a catch.
The Balmy One
If you’ve tried a balm cleanser in the past but found them too waxy, rich or perfumed, Clinique’s appropriately named Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm , £22, will convince you the balms have been brought bang up to date. With similar makeup expunging powers as oils, but not nearly as messy, a decent fragrance free balm such as this can ease off everything from stuck-fast concealer to waterproof mascara in mere moments. The experience is also pretty pleasurable- working a buttery balm into the skin and seeing makeup dissolve from, and in front of, your eyes is immensely satisfying. I particularly love ‘Take The Day Off’ as its lack of essential oils and short-ish ingredients list is quite literally a comfort for reactive skin, and a teeny tiny blob goes a long way. Basically, there’s a lot of days to be taken off within the one sleek purple jar, encouraging you to give your mug a proper cleanse each and every night.
The Gel-y One
I could hardly leave a product named ‘Fabulous Makeup Melt’ out of this column, and thankfully said product does indeed live up to its claims, so it’s in here. Bliss Fabulous Makeup Melt Gel-to-Oil Cleanser , £24, may be a mouthful, but it thankfully makes short work of removing stubborn makeup (97% of testers agreed). The gel formula looks fairly familiar when you initially squeeze it from the tube (you’ll only require a minute amount), but it somehow turns from bog standard facial wash to clarifying, deep cleansing oil as your work it into skin. It’s not at all drippy and contains antibacterial and antioxidant essential oils to support and protect the skin, although if you struggle on the essential oils front you’re possibly better using the balm above. I found the addition of milk thistle intriguing- I know it principally as a liver detoxifier, so it’s good to know that it facilitates cleaning your face too. As luxurious-feeling cleansers go this one is invigorating and light- a good option for summer and if you’re travelling. No excuses people.
The Creamy One
If you love the silky, cashmere texture of a cream cleanser, classic Elemis Pro Radiance Cream Cleanse r, £29.50, does indeed have a cashmere price point, but using it is such a relaxing, ‘me time’ ritual that you can possibly justify it. Also, the fact that it works, really well, is obviously a big persuader. A cleanser that actually infuses skin with moisture rather than leaching it garners big respect from me, and its ability to grab onto makeup and other baddies and transport them from skin to plughole is excellent, and advanced by the lightly exfoliating wash cloth provided. Don’t get overly gung ho with the flannels and muslin cloths, but removing cleanser with the sweep of a wash cloth can really ensure that you don’t miss any lurking dirt and prevent cleanser from sitting on your skin and causing dullness. The end result is indeed improved ‘radiance’ and quite the beaming complexion. If you’re funds or schedule can’t quite stretch to a facial, this is probably the next best thing.
The Milky One
If alleviating red, reactive skin is as much on your priority list as removing makeup, a cooling, softening milk should sort the situation. Bringing down inflammation and protecting the skin barrier is paramount, and REN Evercalm™ Gentle Cleansing Milk , £16, contains omega fatty acids, flavonoids and enzymes to do just that. It feels like a healer as soon as you apply it, and whether it actually washes away the day’s pollution as promised I’m unsure, but it certainly feels that way when massaged into parched, grumpy urban skin. What it does do without doubt is smooth away makeup, although admittedly it’s more of a ‘softly, softly’ process than when using emulsifying balms and oils, but chances are that if you’ve got sensitive skin this is your approach of choice anyway. A milk to dip into daily, but especially during flare-ups; it makes skin feel comfortable and clean with no tight feeling.
The Eye One
Sooty, slept-in makeup does have some appeal, I’ll grant you. Pulling the odd overnighter can result in a zero-effort makeup win, but leaving your eye makeup to ‘smoke up’ itself is a recipe for brittle lashes, accelerated ageing and possibly, infection. Not so sexy. Cleansing the delicate eye area and around the lash follicles can be a tricky business- you need something that removes clingy waterproof mascara without actually removing your entire eye in the process (I mistook Listerine for eye makeup remover once...NOT the same). My old, loyal, much loved and ‘owned by all the females in my family’ favourite is Lancôme Bi-Facil , £21.50. It’s no bargain but when placed over lid and lashes on a cotton pad, it loosens eye makeup without the usual tussle of tugging and dragging, which in the end results in more eyelashes, and over time, fewer wrinkles. Short and long term gains with this one.
The Lip One
Okay, so this one is for eyes as well as lips, and you could use any of the above on the lip area too, but as a cheaper alternative to Bi-Facil, it’s hard to beat The Body Shop Camomile Waterproof Eye & Lip Makeup Remover , £8. The alcohol, colour and fragrance-free formula makes it especially appealing for budging bright lipstick before you cleanse the rest of your face, and it means that it’s suitable for sensitive skin and contact lens wearers too. Bargain brilliance, although I’m not sure where the camomile comes in.
The ‘Whoops’ One
For situations when you just want to remove a bit of makeup, i.e, a mistake, you require something small yet mighty. Coming to the corrective rescue of wonky lip lines, smudged eyeliner and rogue eyeshadow everywhere, anywhere and at anytime are DHC Olive Virgin Oil Swabs , £6. These dinky, individually wrapped Q-tips may sound as though they belong in the kitchen/ medicine cupboard, but their prowess in the beauty blunder stakes is seriously impressive. They eliminate mistakes precisely without any product spillage, and the the fact that there’s about a million in a packet (haven’t counted but...loads) means that you’ll rarely be caught short, or smudged for that matter. The organic olive oil that the swabs are soaked in make them ideal for gently pushing back and conditioning cuticles too. I have a feeling that this is the kind of beauty basic that mothers worldwide would approve of; cheap, cheerful, useful, perfect for handbags and they get the job done. You could get all DIY and soak little cotton buds in olive oil at home but...so faffy. These are also likely a million times more hygienic.
The Emergency One
Makeup wipes. A dermatologist’s nemesis. Sometimes, however, desperate times (festivals, camping trips, impromptu sleepovers) call for desperate measures. As desperate measures go, you could do far worse than No7 Beautiful Skin Quick Thinking Wipes , £7. Fragrance-free, generously sized and perfectly moist (gross but accurate description- nothing worse than a dry, abrasive wipe), these sheets are sturdy enough to remove most makeup and the addition of a small amount of witch hazel results in tighter, more refined pores, but none of the irritation that can sometimes be triggered by astringent additives. The fact that the packaging boasts a secure sealing method is a plus, keeping them soft, sanitary and as effective as the day you bought them, which is something that can’t be said for the crinkly wipe floating about in my gym bag currently. They may be a bit more dear than your average packet of cleansing wipes, but Boots ALWAYS have a 3 for 2 deal on, and the rest of the brand’s cleansing range ain’t bad either…
Do you have a favourite product or method to remove makeup? I’d love to hear about it- comment below or tweet me @AnnaMaryHunter