These little sponges and cloths are big hitters for cleansing, removing makeup and grime with just water. For an eco alternative to cotton wool pads, step this way
There was a time when every trip to Boots meant a packet of cotton wool pads added to our basket – and later to landfill. But since reusable makeup pads came into our lives, with the pioneering Face Halo Original, £18 leading the way, it's now easier to make a less wasteful choice. Perfect if one of your New Year's resolutions was to be more eco in your beauty choices!
We're not the only fans either – Victoria Beckham declared her love for Face Halo in an interview with beauty site Byrdie, saying: "It has really helped me up my cleansing regime, which we all know is the foundation of any good skincare routine.
"I love how it helps get to the core of my pores for deep makeup removal (especially after wearing a full face of makeup onset). Even more, I love how it’s an amazing, sustainable improvement to disposable cotton pads of years past. A major upgrade in every way!’
Most reusable makeup remover pads are made of microfibre, an antibacterial cloth material which removes mascara, foundation, you name it with just water and draws out impurities from the skin. "When you add water to microfibre the positive charge attracts the negative charge of makeup," explains Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and founder of skincare brand Skingredients. "The fibres attach themselves to debris which dislodges the debris and carries it away."
Not only do these mean you don’t need to buy cleanser any more (a big saving), you’re also creating less landfill. One reusable cleaning pad can be used up to 200 times and replaces up to 500 disposable cotton pads.
How do you use microfibre cleansing pads?
Simply wet in warm water (warm water loosens oil-based makeup better than cold water) and then gently wipe off your makeup. Microfibres cling onto the debris so it doesn’t move about your face like with facial wipes
If you like to double cleanse (which is advised especially if you wear SPF or a long-wear foundation, or you're exposed to pollution ) the reusable pad would replace your first cleanse (bye-bye micellar water ). Carry out your second cleanse with a richer formula such as a cleansing balm , washable flannel and warm water.
“I’d follow with gel or foam cleanser ,” says dermatologist Dr Elif Benar of the Dr Elif Clinic in London. “Cleansing pads won’t remove oil or pollution from the skin, so it’s essential you follow with a product that does in order to avoid congestion and breakouts.”
Other experts favour the other way around.
“If you are wearing heavy makeup I would recommend removing it first with makeup remover and a reusable cotton pad,” comments Dr Dianni Dai , skin specialist at Pulse Light Clinic . “If you have a light coverage of makeup on you can go straight in with the cleansing pad.”
Cleansing pads are a good for exfoliation too, especially for those with sensitive skin, says Dr Dianni Dai. “Cleansing pads give a gentle exfoliation that doesn’t over-exfoliate the skin compared to other tools on the market such as face brushes. Because they don’t exfoliate the skin as much they are suitable for everyday use.”
How eco are microfibre cleansing pads?
There is concern about microfibre releasing microplastics into the water supply when you wash anything made of it so, as with most eco alternatives, it's not a perfect solution. The amount of fabric they use is small when compared to your microfibre fleece or sweat towel for example, but it's a question of weighing up priorities.
A konjac sponge such as The Konjac Sponge Company £9.99 , is a more natural option as it's made entirely of biodegradable plant material. We find it better for a morning cleanse as it's not as thorough at removing makeup. Alternatively, there are washable bamboo or cotton pads. We like Stylpro Reusable Bamboo Makeup Remover Pads, £12.99 for 16 pads and a washbag - again you'll need micellar water or makeup remover.
How to look after your makeup remover pads
We wash ours quickly with soap and warm water after every use to stop your mascara making itself at home on the pad. Once a week they can go into the washing machine with your whites for a deep clean. Put them in a wash bag to save having to fish them out of trouser legs or pillowcases.
One thing to remember: if possible avoid fabric conditioner when washing your facial cleansing pad as this can leave a coating that reduces how effective the fibres are.
There’s a raft of makeup removing pads on the market now, here are the ones we love.
The double-sided one: Seoulista Beauty Magic Cleanser, £11.95 for three-pack
These makeup remover pads won Silver in 2020 Get The Gloss Beauty and Wellness Awards this year and our editorial director Victoria is a convert to them. They’re double-sided – the textured side helps to loosen makeup, oil and daily grime from the surface of the skin. Flip over to the fluffy side and the natural, superfine and antibacterial fibres grip and lift oil, makeup and impurities from deep within pores as you sweep across the skin.
Lasting approximately 200 washes each, the pack of three ensures that you can keep your skin cleansed for up to ten months with no need for anything but water to work its magic.
The precision one: Face Halo X, £24
Face Halo’s original facial cleansing pad (loved by VB) was the first one we tried and they’ve continued to be innovative since that initial launch, introducing these precision removers, designed to replace cotton buds allowing us to precisely remove an errant eyeliner flick or smudged shadow. They slip onto the fingers to help you manoeuvre them and touch up your makeup. The original Face Halo is also available in black for removing heavy makeup that doesn’t show up on the snowy white fluff.
The pretty one: Skin Proud Clear Off Microfibre Cleansing Pads, £12.95 for two
These fluffy square pink cleansing pads look pretty in our bathroom as well as working hard to remove makeup. Win-win all round. We normally use these before Skin Proud's Velvet Cloud Foaming Cleanser , £13.95, for a soft, ultra-clean feeling face.
Great for getting into corners: Farm Girl by Sarah Jane The Saviour Sponge, £19.99 for two
Thicker than some of the others in this edit, this pad holds more water and has an ultra-soft rim making it bendable so you can really get into the crevices of your face for a deep clean.
For larger areas: Magnitone WipeOut SuperNatural Bamboo MicroFibre Cleansing Cloth, £16 for two
If you’re a flannel fan you’ll love this larger makeup remover pad. Rather than being cotton-round sized, this is flannel sizes for removing more makeup at once. It works in the same was as the pads; simply wet with warm water and apply pressure to the skin (don’t rub) to make the grab and hold fibres well and lock the makeup in the cloth. It needs to be washed after use on a 30-degree wash. Available in pink, grey and this bamboo one, it’s the first microfibre cleansing cloth made from 100 per cent bamboo fibres.
For heavy makeup: Bambu Babe Fresh Face makeup removal pad in charcoal, £6.95 for one
UK based Bambu Babe started out making face pads from bamboo to try and limit the amount of cotton pads we all use and quickly moved on to making reusable makeup remover pads too, albeit from microfibre rather than bamboo. We love these ones because they come in grey as well as white to avoid staining. You can buy a pack with white and grey in to use depending on how much makeup you’re wearing that day.
The luxury one: MZ Skin Instant Radiance Facial Kit, £245
This fluffy pink delight is only available as part of this kit, which also comprises a mask, a serum, ampoules, a headband, a mask brush, and a gua sha tool. It’s ultra fluffy and soft and combined with the rest of the kit, makes cleaning feel like an ultra-luxe self-care affair rather than a chore.