The Battle Of The (Party) Makeup Removers

Oh hey, party girl! And no, we’re not talking about the Parker Posey movie (although we did quite enjoy that, too). What we’re talking about is this: Festive makeup is awesome, but when the night is over and you have a few too many champagne cocktails under your belt, and you’re home with your bed temptingly calling your name, suddenly you have a difficult decision ahead of you. Maybe, you think, it wouldn’t be so bad to collapse sans face-washing just this once…. 

Stop it right there! Don’t even think about it. All of that foundation, blush, gloss, and mascara that made you feel totally stunning can make you feel just as gross if you wake up with it caked into your pores in the morning. The nighttime hours are when your skin does the majority of its repair work, and if it can’t breathe, you’re missing out on allowing it to benefit from that crucial beauty sleep. 

We mean it. And because we believe that stocking up on a good makeup remover during party season is almost as important as finding the perfect red lipstick, we rounded up three of our staffers to put three different formulas (an oil, a water, and a lotion) to the test.

Scroll through to see how each product did, and let us know in the comments if you’ve found a makeup remover or cleanser that you swear by! 

Photos: Via Sephora, Space NK, Nordstrom


Who: Chloe Daley, production assistant 
The Contender: SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil 

“With breakout-prone skin, I rarely ever wear a full face of makeup, so my day-to-day routine is just a little BB cream, mascara, and lipstick. Eyeliner makes an appearance only a few times a month, since I loathe taking it off, and liquid liner maybe only once a year (hello, shaky hands!). So, it makes sense that I’m a complete novice when it comes to taking off paint. For a while now, I’ve been using this mysterious French remover I found in a beauty closet (at least, I think that’s what it is) that’s light and watery. I’ve had a strict aversion to anything oily for years, but recently, an editor explained that I’ve probably been under-moisturizing, so I was willing to overlook my no-oil rule when the beauty department handed me the SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil. 

“First, I made the rookie mistake of pumping way too much on the cotton pad, and submerged my eye in an oil bath. But having learned my lesson, on the second eye, I was careful to not let it seep in. To my happy surprise, all the eyeliner came off in just two swipes! There was no strong scent, and it didn’t feel chemical-y at all. The first try stung a little (since it went in my eye) but otherwise, the process was a complete breeze. The lipstick was harder to remove, but it disappeared in three swipes. 

“Afterward, my face felt soooo good and silky, like a baby’s bottom, and the cleanser actually moisturized my skin in the process. After a few splashes of water I was ready to go, and I didn’t reapply makeup for the rest of the day. Later that afternoon, my skin still felt fresh, but my eyes were very watery (which I’m chalking up to that whole I-got-it-in-my-eye thing).” 

Result: “Since I don’t wear makeup that often, it’s a hefty investment at $60, but it could totally be worth it for someone who wears eyeliner all the time. A little goes a long way, and using cotton swabs would be the way to go. I thought the oil would be too heavy for me, but now think we could have a future together!” 

SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil, $60, available at Sephora.


Who: Neha Gandhi, deputy editor 
The Contender: The Balm Time Balm Coconut Milk Cleansing Face Cream 

“Confession: I hate taking my makeup off. And ever since a derm told me that the whole point of washing your face at night was to make sure you moisturize, I’ve basically felt like I had carte blanche to apply my SK-II without actually doing any makeup removing at all — but then I end up with mascara on my pillow case more often than not. All in all, not a great situation. 

“For me, a big part of my annoyance with the whole makeup-removing process is having to fish out cotton pads, which, in my bathroom, are perpetually disappearing (seriously, WHERE do they go?). So, I was pretty stoked to try out a lotion-type solution that I could just apply with my fingers. No cotton anything required.” 

The Result: “Ultimately, this felt more like a gentle cleanser than a true makeup remover. It felt mild on my face, it stayed true to its no-cotton-pad promise, and it did make my face feel clean afterward. But…it also required me to wash it off, and it only did a medium job of getting off eye makeup. 

“On days when I’m skipping the mascara and liner (not a rarity, for me), I feel like I could be perfectly happy with this guy. But, if I’m trying to get off party makeup, I’ll probably just stick to the annoying biphase Chanel — because when push comes to shove, Kleenex can fill in just as well as cotton swabs…but I hate smudged sheets even more than I hate taking my makeup off.” 

The Balm Time Balm Coconut Milk Cleansing Face Cream, $26, available at Nordstrom.


Who: Sara McDowell, ad sales photo editor 
The Contender: Rodial Dragon’s Blood Cleansing Water 

“When I discovered makeup remover in college, it totally changed my life. I vowed to never again wake up with blacked-out eyes that screamed of a bad night with Lindsay Lohan (not that I’ve ever actually had one of those). Since then, I’ve become kind of anal about makeup remover, cringing at the idea of waking up with any trace of the previous day’s makeup on my face. Over the years, I’ve experimented with various types, from oil to creams, and have settled on Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes. My everyday makeup is fairly simple, but I’m rarely without waterproof mascara and black eyeliner and my regular face-washing routine doesn’t come close taking it off in the way I really want. 

“So, I was actually excited about the prospect of testing a new makeup remover, because as much as I swear by the Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes, I am by no means brand loyal — I will use whatever works best and gives me the results I want I had never used a water-based makeup remover before, and I think my first mistake with the application was over-soaking the cotton ball. With the first swipe over my eyelid, my eye immediately began to water as the product seeped in. On the second try, I used only one pump of the remover and tentatively dabbed my other eyelid and found that with only four swipes, most of the product was completely gone, but my eye was still slightly irritated. I continued wiping down the rest of my face, and discovered that when it wasn’t being used on my eyelids, I really liked the product. The rest of my makeup came off easily, and it felt like it was not only removing the makeup, but cleansing my face as well. Once I was completely makeup-free, my skin felt hydrated, and the rosewater scent was a refreshing bonus.”

The Result: “It definitely removes facial makeup easily, but my main use for makeup remover is for eye makeup, and I didn’t feel comfortable rubbing my eyes with this product. I think that for people who are mostly concerned with removing foundation, this product would be ideal, but for me, it doesn’t work.” 

Rodial Dragon’s Blood Cleansing Water, $30, available at Space NK.

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