Is there anything worse than emerging from a cloud of foamy face wash, only to realize there's residual mascara ink smeared across your eyes like war pain? As a makeup-obsessed beauty editor, I think not. But the sad truth is that most of the mild face cleansers we love for their gentle approach to washing just aren't formulated to loosen the death grip of a good mascara (or any other eye makeup meant to stay put through sweat, sleet, or snow).
So what's an eye makeup lover to do when ditching our beloved mascara is simply not an option? The answer lies in a much-needed, often skipped skincare step: eye makeup remover. This pre-cleanse ritual is a game-changer that rids your eyes of eyeliner, glitter, pigmented shadow, and, yes, even that stubborn waterproof mascara in one simple step.
But, of course, not all eye makeup removers are created equal. As a daily mascara wearer and clean face-enthusiast, I'm well-versed in the eye makeup removers that truly get your eyes so clean that you could sleep face-down on a white pillowcase. Ahead, check out the only 17 I'd vouch for.
If the idea of a cleansing balm gives you pause, then this is one you need to get your hands on. It's a solid paste that goes on velvety smooth and instantly melts down to oil as it's warmed on the skin. Then, as you work water into it, it gently lathers and rinses away completely. One quarter-sized scoop removes all makeup—including stubborn eye makeup—with ease.
This one goes from balm to oil to a milky consistency. Clinique's makeup-melting Take the Day Off balm is another solid option for removing every little stitch of makeup. Concentrate light, circular motions over the eyelids and lashes to get rid of even the most budge-proof mascara.
For those who aren't afraid to apply pure, unrefined oil directly to their faces, coconut oil is one of the most natural and effective eye makeup removers on the planet. It only has one ingredient, so it's the best option for the green queens whose skin doesn't immediately break out from just looking at the word "coconut" in an ingredient list.
Even if you're not part of the generation who relied heavily on the OG Pond's cold cream for every skincare step from cleansing to overnight masking, this balm is one to try. It smells distinctively powdery and a little grandma-ish (like any Pond's product), but when it comes to melting tough eye makeup, it's up there with the best of them.
This super-slippery oil-based makeup remover is blended with micellar water for a perfectly balanced cleanse. Soothing comfrey root extract and vitamin B5 keep the skin feeling soft and fresh instead of stingy and irritated. Pro tip: Apply a few drops to your eye area using your fingertips, and let it set for a moment before going in with a cotton round. Soaking a pad will waste way too much product.
Give the bottle a good shake and you've instantly got a dual-phase oil-and-rosewater toner that removes waterproof anything in one pass.
The name on this bottle says it all: Organically farmed cornflower is at the center of this potent formulation, which also mimics the pH of tears so that it doesn't sting the eyes.
This is a bottle you likely saw on plenty of vanities growing up, and there's a reason people still love it today: It loosens and removes eye makeup without leaving any oily residue left behind. The price is right, too.
Reviewers live for this gentle oil-and-water combo, saying over and over again that it's one of the gentlest options out there.
For those looking to infuse a bit of Parisian magic into their beauty regimens, this French pharmacy favorite is a must-have. It's great for a number of skincare practices, including removal of stubborn eye makeup.
Here's another beloved remover that gets the job done without destroying your skin and eyeballs in the process. It's technically a gel and not a liquid, which makes for exact product placement and a lot less mess.
These classic makeup wipes are really stretchy, so it's easy to get a firm pinch on your lashes or wrap around a finger to tackle any hard to remove makeup on the eyelids. They also smell really good.
There's virtually no way you haven't come into contact with these beloved cleansing towelettes by now. They're inexpensive, effective, and by far the most popular drugstore makeup wipe option we can think of. Be careful not to get the solution into your eyes. (Trust us—it won't feel great.)
These Koh Gen Do towelettes are a real treat. They're super thick, so the fibers in the sheets won't pill or roll up as you wipe them across your eyes, nor will they leave behind any oily residue. They're also surprisingly soft to the touch, so the entire tactile experience is super luxe.
Unlike most towelettes, which are soaked in astringents, mineral waters, and vitamin extracts, these unique wipes are soaked in organic coconut oil. In terms of makeup wipes, it doesn't get more natural than that.
If you're on the hunt for a reusable cleansing towel option, the Makeup Eraser is definitely one to try. It's made of plush microfiber that clings to makeup without using any other soap or cleanser. Just completely soak this thing in warm water and have at it.
Face Halo is another reusable cloth that can replace single-use wipes and harsh makeup removers. Just soak it in water and gently sweep across the face and eyes.