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
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
4. Cetaphil Gentle Makeup Removing Wipes
5. L'Oréal Paris Micellar Cleansing Water
6. CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm
7. La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water
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.
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.