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Even though I’ve narrowly escaped the perils of winter breakouts, sensitivity is still something I along with a lot of other people face. Retinol has been a gift and a curse to my face. Yes, it made my complexion even-toned and smooth AF, but now I can’t throw just any face mask on at the end of the day. What’s even worse is that makeup wipes have become pretty much obsolete in my bathroom because they literally hurt to the touch. So now here I am, doing the leg work for you and I by tracking down gentle makeup removers that actually work.
But first things first. According to Cayli Cavaco Reck, Founder and Creator of Knockout Beauty, what causes acne and sensitivity to flare aren’t inadequate makeup removers. It’s actually good old fashioned improper cleansing. “Leftover cleanser or residue is a great way to ensure you will break out,” she says. “The best way to ensure you won’t break out is to wash your face morning and night.” She also reiterates that a makeup wipe or remover does not wash your face. You still need to cleanse after, preferably with a pH-balanced formula to dry skin.
For sensitive or acne-prone skin specifically, cleansing oils or waters combined with a cleanser are the easiest and safest route. “I really only like the pre-cleansing oil from Environ for serious makeup removal, but honestly I need to wear a lot of makeup on set and I never use a makeup remover,” says Reck of her recommendations. “I just use a great cleanser like January Labs Pure and Gentle Cleansing Gel ($32), Kat Rudu Coco Cleanser ($48), Environ Low Foam, or the Colbert MD Gel ($60), which is amazing.”
Pair any of these gentle formulas with Reck’s go-to cleansers and you’re as good as gold.
Environ Pre-Cleansing Oil
Use this botanical extracts-infused formula before your main cleanser to not only remove stubborn makeup, but to help wiggle whiteheads out of the skin too.
$39.99 at Concept Skin Care
Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water
Micelles are essentially magnets for all kinds of dirt, making this affordable no-rinse remover a must for your bathroom cabinet.
$8.99 at Ulta
Dermalogica Precleanse Balm
This balm-to-oil makeup melter is the first of two products for a double cleanse routine that completely removes makeup and grime without drying the skin out.
$45 at Dermalogica
Caudalie Micellar Cleansing Water
A soap-free, no-rinse makeup remover made with grape water to decrease sensitivity, chamomile extract to soothe inflammation, and glycerin to restore moisture.
$28 at Sephora
Clinique Take the Day Off Makeup Remover
The ultimate, non-irritating remover for your most stubborn waterproof mascara and bold lipstick.
$19.50 at Clinique
Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser Lotion
This soap-free formula is a lotion that doesn’t require rinsing and is especially soothing to super sensitive skin. The brand’s thermal spring water is what gives it the ultra-gentle feel.
$24 at Dermstore
Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil
Japanese Camellia is a botanical oil that’s rich in 4 different vitamins as well as omegas to provide moisture and antioxidants (barrier protection) in addition to removing makeup.
$48 at Tatcha
REN Gentle Cleansing Milk
A milky cleanser infused with fennel seed extract which diminishes pollutant particles, while calendula oil provides gentle moisture.
$32 at Sephora
Lancome Paris Bi-Facil Micellar Water
Half micellar water, half oil, this makeup remover dissolves makeup and cleanses the skin in one full swoop.
$40 at Lancome
Farmacy Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm
An award-winning clean beauty option sunflower and ginger root oil for melting away makeup, turmeric for removing leftover residue, and papaya enzymes for gentle exfoliation.
$34 at Sephora
Paula’s Choice Gentle Touch Makeup Remover
Glycerin, aloe leaf juice, allantoin, and green tea extract are just a few of the many skin-soothers in this ultra-mild remover.
$12.80 at Paula’s Choice
Glossier Milky Oil
We can personally attest to the mess-free, super gentle effects of this half micellar water, half oil makeup remover.
$12 at Glossier
Origins Cleansing Makeup Removing Jelly
This jelly transforms into a milky emulsion as you lather and apply to the skin for gentle, pillowsoft cleansing.
$23 at Sephora