How to Properly and Thoroughly Remove Makeup—Even Waterproof Eyeliner and Mascara

Head to bed every night with a clean, makeup-free face (without over-scrubbing).

You've had a long day at work, followed by an even longer evening of taking care of your kids, or your pet, or your partner, or simply trying to take a little care of yourself. So yes, we get it if you don't want to spend any time scrubbing off your makeup and would rather just hop in bed. But it's crucial to get your skin ready for bed—and hey, the act of wiping off the day can be soothing too.

So, how should you go about cleaning off your makeup so you can start anew tomorrow? We chatted with Nancy Satur, MD, board-certified dermatologist, medical director and CEO of Curology, to find out the right steps to removing your makeup at the end of the day.

Do You Have to Remove Makeup Before Going to Bed?

Ready for a little controversy? According to Satur, you don't technically have to remove your makeup before bed, as long as you're wearing the right kind. (However, Satur still believes you should, which we'll get to in a minute).

"Your skin doesn't 'breathe,' so falling asleep without removing your makeup isn't actually going to smother your skin—it might actually be worse for your pillowcases than for your complexion," she says. Satur adds that if your makeup is not pore-clogging, wearing it for a longer period of time shouldn't be a problem—in theory.

"That being said, make sure your makeup products aren't acne-causing culprits. Although it's not a guarantee, it's best to stick to products labeled with terms such as 'non-comedogenic,' 'non-acnegenic,' 'does not clog pores,' or 'won't cause breakouts.'"

Want to know for sure if your makeup meets that criteria? Satur suggested looking your products up on There, you'll find out if your favorite face washes, creams, and soaps contain any ingredients you should avoid. Satur recommends you stop using any products with acne scores of three, four, or five on the site.

Having said all that, Satur still thinks you should remove your makeup every night due to your natural perspiration throughout the day. "Perspiration on a hot day or after exercise could cause bacteria to proliferate in that moist environment," she says. "So, if you don't rinse off, those microbes could multiply even more overnight—and that could certainly aggravate a breakout tendency. Environmental pollutants and other irritants may have accumulated throughout the day, so it's probably best to reset with a clean face before getting a good night's sleep."

How to Properly and Thoroughly Removing Makeup

Satur recommends using micellar water as a gentle and effective makeup remover. For those unfamiliar, micellar waters are non-rinse, soap-free cleansing waters that contain tiny oil droplets suspended in soft water. To use, put a few drops on a cotton ball, apply to dry skin and cleanse.

"Micellar water is a particularly great option if your skin is sensitive," Satur explained. "It offers a mild formulation that doesn't strip your skin of moisture—just make sure you're being gentle as you swipe the product over your face."

Satur particularly recommends Bioderma Sensibio H2O and Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water. Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water Makeup Remover is also our favorite eye makeup remover for sensitive skin.

The Right Way to Remove Eye Makeup

It's important to be thorough when cleansing all parts of your face. But, as Satur explained, eye makeup can be particularly challenging, especially when you're wearing waterproof or water-resistant mascaras.

"Mascara and eyeliner can be difficult to properly remove, but avoid scrubbing because the eye area is already sensitive," she says. She recommends an oil-based formula to remove waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner, but one that is not so oily that leaves a residue.

"Alternatively, you can use a micellar water that's formulated to remove water-proof makeup, such as Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof. An effective make-up remover should not require intense scrubbing and should rinse off easily."

Don’t Use Baby Wipes—They Won't Get the Job Done

You may be tempted to grab a bunch of baby wipes to save both time and money, but Satur believes it's best to go for real-deal makeup-removing products instead. "While baby wipes may resemble makeup wipes, they're not formulated to do the same job," she explains. "Baby wipes offer gentle cleansing for the skin, but they don't necessarily contain the ingredients you need to break down stubborn makeup."

Skin Care Steps to Follow After Removing Makeup

Good news: Skincare doesn't have to be wildly complicated or time-consuming. "I recommend a simple skincare routine," Satur says. "After removing your makeup, wash with a gentle facial cleanser. For dry or sensitive skin, La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ formula is a great body wash that can also be used on your face. Wait until your face is completely dry before applying any skincare medication, such as your custom Curology formula. Then, follow up with a separate moisturizer if your skin needs it."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles