Face wipes might be one of the most maligned beauty products you can pick up at the drugstore—they’ve been accused of harming the environment, leaving skin dry and irritated, and doing little else than smearing dirt around your face.
But for every knock, I can counter with nearly twice as many ways they’ve become indispensable to my skin-care routine: as a first step in removing makeup before washing my face; a disposable solution for wiping down sweat after a workout; seemingly the only way to counteract airplane grime on long-haul flights; and, yes, to straight-up clean my face on nights when I just can’t even.
And, because it’s August and we’ve reached peak heat, these guys have never been more relevant (or necessary). With that in mind, I road-tested five drugstore face wipes in search of the absolute best.
One of the biggest stereotypes about face wipes is that they leave behind a sticky residue, and these from Olay aren’t exactly changing that perception. Their most distinguishing feature is a citrus-sweet scent—an “essence” of honeysuckle and white tea, according to the packaging—which is fine and lovely, but also slightly jarring for a product with “fresh” in its name.
On the plus, they do a decent job of removing makeup and retain moisture for a long time, so you can cover quite a bit of surface area without running out of juice. But I couldn’t get over how much they reminded me of a ripe peach or stop imagining how this must be what it’s like to rub one all over your face.
Aveeno Ultra-Calming Makeup Removing Wipes, 25 for $7.99
The first time I unfurled one of these of wipes, I thought the package had somehow dried out before even being opened because it didn’t seem very saturated. But after slowly massaging it on my face, I realized the heat from your body and/or friction helps release an oil-like solution that melts off makeup and feels akin to using a cleansing balm.
The whole process requires a bit more effort than I’d like to exert when wielding the ultimate lazy-girl staple, but my face felt especially hydrated and dewy after using these, so there’s definitely a payoff. I’m just not convinced it’s big enough to warrant these being the most expensive on this list.
Neutrogena Hydrating Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, 25 for $6.99
These wipes are as solid as they come: well saturated, slightly thicker than the competition, effective at refreshing and removing makeup, and yes, hydrating as promised, with a silky-smooth finish.
I brought them with me on a weekend getaway and didn’t regret it, but there’s also nothing particularly memorable about these that would compel me to grab them over other options next time I’m at the drugstore. The only thing that really sticks in your memory is the scent, a salty-sweet fresh aroma (and if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, good news: Neutrogena just launched a fragrance-free version this year).
Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes, 25 for $5.99
Consider this scent-free option the beauty equivalent of your classic white tee: not the most exciting thing hanging in your closet, but it’s an incredibly versatile, blank-slate staple that proves being “basic” doesn’t always have to be a pejorative.
These wipes are thicker than most, with a slight felt-like texture that does a thorough job at removing grime and makeup with next to no effort. My skin felt the freshest after using these, making them especially ideal for stashing in your gym bag.
Ponds Evening Soothe Wet Cleansing Towelettes, 30 for $4.66
I’ll admit I was starting to think that all wet wipes are created more or less equally, and that finding any sort of discernible difference required an actual microscope—until I opened this pack. Rather than resemble a wet dryer sheet, these Ponds towelettes are thicker, smoother, and more saturated, and feature a unique diamond-lattice pattern that helps gently lift the day’s remnants off your face.
My skin felt perfectly balanced after using these—neither dehydrated nor greasy—and it doesn’t hurt that they smell amazing in a subtle, moody floral sort of way. Best of all, you get five extra wipes in each pack for less than the going market rate. In a word: bomb.
WINNER: Ponds Evening Soothe Wet Cleansing Towelettes