Makeup Removers Always Inflame My Sensitive Skin, so I Asked Derms for 12 Recs

If you have sensitive, reactive skin, even removing your makeup can feel like a risk and a chore. I'm definitely speaking from experience when I say this. As someone who has sensitive, acne-prone skin, it hasn't always been easy finding makeup removers that work without irritation. After lots of trial and error, I've found a few solid balms and micellar water removers that truly work wonders. What works for my skin may not necessarily work for everyone's, though. That's why I called in the experts. I asked two derms for the best makeup removers for all types of sensitive skin. Board-certified dermatologists Azadeh Shirazi, MD, and Lauren Penzi, MD, share some insight below. Keep scrolling for what they had to say.

How to Remove Makeup Without Damaging the Skin

If you have highly sensitive skin that reacts to things easily, Penzi says it's first important to do an at-home patch test before using anything new. "Take your new product and apply a small amount to your inner forearm for about two to three nights in a row," she says. "If no reaction occurs, then you should feel comfortable to start using the product on your face."

You'll also want to avoid rubbing, tugging, and pulling at your skin too hard when removing makeup as this can also cause irritation. There are also a few ingredients sensitive folks might want to avoid. "Fragrance is definitely the first thing to avoid, as this is the most common irritant and contact allergen," says Penzi.

"Preservatives are another thing to watch out for. Some common ones in cosmetic products include Methylchloroisothiazolinone/ Methylisothiazolinone (aka Kathon CG) and parabens. Be sure your makeup remover has no retinol or retinoid products in it because that can certainly be irritating. Also watch out for formaldehyde releasers in your makeup remover, as well as other potentially irritating ingredients like tea tree oil."

Overall, Shirazi also recommends using only a gentle micellar water for those who are sensitive. "Micellar water is soap-free containing tiny micelles (oil molecules) that dissolve and remove dirt, makeup, and oil. It's light and great for those who have oily skin or are prone to milia and clogged pores. It’s safe to use around the eyes and very gentle for those with sensitive skin." Take a peek below at some of their favorite formulas.

1. Bioderma Sensible H2O Micellar Water

"This is a super-popular makeup remover option that is perfect for those with extra sensitive skin due to its no-frills ingredients. This gentle product preserves your natural skin barrier and avoids stripping the natural oils in your skin."—Penzi

2. Albolene Face Moisturizer & Makeup Remover

"Albolene's moisturizing cleanser is a personal favorite of mine. It is very effective at removing stubborn makeup and dirt, yet leaves your skin feeling soft, supple, and moisturized due to its mineral oil base. I love using this product first when I double cleanse."

"Note: this may not be the best option for sensitive and acne-prone skin since it has mineral oil in it. Mineral oil is meant to lock moisture into the epidermis, but it can also potentially trap acne-causing bacteria. It's more suited to those with dry, sensitive skin. Those with acne might want to avoid it."Penzi

3. Living Libations Best Skin Ever Seabuckthorn Facial Cleansing Oil

"This is another favorite of mine. This versatile oil can be used to remove makeup and as a cleanser and moisturizer for the skin. It leaves my skin clean, moisturized, and glowy."—Penzi

4. Cetaphil Gentle Makeup Removing Wipes

"These are a great option for those on the go. I am normally not a huge fan of wipes for makeup removal, as most contain harsh ingredients, but these are gentle enough for daily use."—Penzi

Best Makeup Remover for Sensitive Skin



5. L'Oréal Paris Micellar Cleansing Water

L'Oréal's cleansing water is great for dry sensitive skin because it's gentle, hydrating, and free of harsh alcohol, soaps, and oils. Shirazi loves this formula because it's "great at removing heavy makeup and sunscreen as a first cleanser."

6. CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm

"CeraVe's cleaning balm is another fantastic option. It contains ceramides and jojoba oil and is suitable for all skin types. I also love using this product first when I double cleanse."—Penzi

7. La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water

Infused with La Roche-Posay's mineral-rich thermal spring water, this noncomedogenic cleanser is a favorite of Shirazi for sensitive skin. It's gentle, removes even the toughest of makeup, and hydrates the skin with ingredients like glycerin.

8. Farmacy Green Clean Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm

Farmacy's Green Clean is a staple in my makeup-removing kit and has been for some time now. I have sensitive, acne-prone skin and this clean, noncomedogenic formula works so well for it. It removes all my makeup in a jiff and never feels heavy or leaves a residue when I wipe it off. I like to use it as a first step in my double-cleansing routine. 

Best Makeup Remover for Sensitive Skin



9. Paula's Choice Gentle Touch Makeup Remover

Paula's Choice quickly removes waterproof mascara and other long-wear makeup. It's carefully formulated to be gentle enough for the eye area including your lashes. Soothing ingredients like aloe and green tea also calm redness and soothe the skin.

Best Eye Makeup Removers for Sensitive Skin

Neutrogena's classic eye-makeup remover is oil-free and works well for sensitive eyes. Sometimes, a cleansing balm or micellar water just doesn't get it all—that's when this comes in handy. I use this myself and I still think it's one of the best eye makeup removers on the market. A lot of other formulas are just eh

Another great option for sensitive eyes, Avène is known for its gentle yet effective formulas that remove stubborn, waterproof makeup without stinging or burning.

This herbal formula with chamomile, calendula, and lavender is an organic makeup remover that soothes irritation, disinfects, and lightly cleanses.