The Right and Wrong Ways to Remove Makeup | hers (2023)

The Right and Wrong Ways to Remove Makeup | hers (1)

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 8/01/2020

Imagine that you’ve just spent a night out with friends and you’ve finally made it back home. How do you get ready for bed? You probably take the pins out of your hair and brush your teeth, and maybe swish with a little mouthwash to make sure you get rid of those red wine stains.

But what do you do about your makeup?

If you’re like most women, you probably grab a makeup wipe and go to town. After using a wet wipe, you probably feel like you’ve gotten rid of most — if not all — of your makeup. Those multicolored stains on the wipe are evidence of that.

What you may not realize is that regular use of makeup wipes may be doing your skin more harm than good.

Of course, using a makeup wipe is better than sleeping in a full face of makeup, but only slightly. If you’re making this makeup removal mistake, you might be making others.

We’ve covered the right and wrong ways to remove your makeup below to help you keep your skin clear and healthy.

Why Is It Important to Remove Makeup at Night?

You’ve undoubtedly had some of those nights when you’re simply too exhausted to even think about washing your face. You collapse in bed and wake up in the morning to find a color copy of last night’s look imprinted on your pillowcase.

What you may not realize is that sleeping in your makeup makes an impact on more than just your pillowcase — it can also affect your skin.

Here are 5 of the top reasons you need to remove your makeup at night:

  1. It can leave your complexion looking dull in the morning. The same makeup that helped you conceal those fine lines and wrinkles the night before can settle in overnight, making your complexion look dull and dry in the morning. It can actually make you look older!

  2. It can increase the risk of breakouts. The natural oil in your skin serves as a protective layer that locks in moisture. If you add makeup to the mix and leave it on overnight, the two can mix together in a pore-clogging combination that increases the risk of breakouts.

  3. It can counteract your nighttime anti-aging products. If you have a nightly anti-aging routine, you could be sabotaging your own efforts if you apply product over your makeup instead of cleansing first. Good anti-aging products aren’t cheap, so make sure you get your money’s worth by cleansing before applying them at night.

  4. It can clog your pores, making them larger and more visible. Dermatologist Dr. David Orentreich told Cosmopolitan that makeup can embed itself in the pores overnight, clogging and stretching them which makes them look bigger. Complete makeup removal and thorough nighttime cleansing is the key to having healthy, happy skin in the morning.

  5. It can dehydrate your skin and throw off your oil balance. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and it needs to breathe to remain healthy. Keeping it covered in makeup overnight can throw off the balance of oil and water in your skin that keeps it fresh and moisturized, leaving your skin looking and feeling dehydrated in the morning.

Makeup removal is one thing and cleansing your skin is another. Depending on what type of cleanser you use, you can sometimes kill two birds with one stone. But you shouldn’t assume that a cleanser will completely remove your makeup.

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The Top 4 Makeup Removal Mistakes

Removing your makeup seems like a simple task, but there’s more to it than you may realize. In fact, you could be making some of these makeup removal mistakes, and your skin could be suffering for it.

Mistake #1: Not Cleansing After Using Makeup Removal Wipes

Makeup removal wipes are not enough. They’re a great tool to remove makeup from the surface of your skin, but it doesn’t do much for the residue that accumulates in your pores. Plus, if you’re using oil-based makeup removal wipes, you could be adding extra oil to your skin which might increase your risk of breakouts. If you choose to use makeup removal wipes, follow it up with a quick cleanse.

Mistake #2: Forgetting to Pull Your Hair Back First

Pulling your hair back before washing your face is not just for the sake of keeping it out of your face. By pulling your hair into a ponytail before cleansing, you expose the skin around your hairline, which is where makeup residue tends to accumulate. Wash your face all the way to the hairline for a thorough cleanse that will leave your skin looking and feeling fresh.

Mistake #3: Skipping the Double-Cleanse

Even if you feel like your makeup remover takes care of your makeup, there could still be impurities left behind. The key to completely removing your makeup and cleansing your skin is the double-cleanse. Start by washing your face once to remove the makeup, then wash again to cleanse and purify your skin.

During your second cleanse, be sure to massage your skin as well to boost circulation for a healthy and glowing complexion.

Mistake #4: Scrubbing Instead of Dabbing or Soaking

Sometimes you need to put a little work into removing your makeup, but avoid scrubbing at your skin too hard — especially in delicate areas like the skin around your eyes. For stubborn eye makeup, soak a cotton pad in makeup remover and hold it over your eye for ten seconds or so before gently dabbing and wiping the makeup away. For everything else, dab at your skin with your preferred makeup removal product rather than scrubbing back and forth or pull in one direction to avoid damaging your skin.

Another important tip to keep in mind when removing makeup is to take your time. Though it may seem like a quick scrub is the best way to get the job done, it’s better to let your makeup removal product do the heavy lifting. Soak and dab to prevent friction which can damage delicate skin and cause irritation.

The Right Way to Remove Your Makeup for Healthy Skin

Water is the foundation of life, and it’s also the secret to removing makeup as well as dirt, oil and sebum without going through your entire cleansing routine. We’re talking about micellar water (pronounced me-sell-air). Not only is micellar water a quick and easy way to remove makeup and impurities, but it is gentle on your skin and suitable for all skin types.

Though it has only become trendy in the United States within the past few years, micellar water has been a Parisian skincare secret for decades. Micellar water is comprised of myriad tiny micelles (oil molecules) suspended in water that act as a magnet to lift oil, dirt and makeup away from your skin.

To use micellar water, all you have to do is saturate a cotton pad and wipe it across your face — no scrubbing and no rinsing needed!

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to remove stubborn makeup, micellar water is the way to go, but there are other options worth considering as well. Here are some other simple tips for removing your makeup to keep your skin looking radiant:

  • Remove your lip color first. Everyone loves a bold red lipstick — except when it’s smeared all over your face. Make lipstick removal the first step in your bedtime routine to avoid this disaster. Soak a cotton pad in micellar water or cleansing oil and wipe it gently across your lips.

  • Be extra gentle around your eyes. Pulling and dragging at the skin around your eyes can lead to irritation and may increase the appearance of wrinkles. Instead of scrubbing away eye makeup, saturate a cotton pad in micellar water or makeup remover and lay it over your eyes for a few seconds before gently rubbing the makeup away.

  • Apply a few drops of cleansing oil. Oil tends to attract oil, so using a cleansing oil on your skin can help lift stubborn makeup (like heavy eye makeup) while also nourishing your skin and replenishing its natural moisture. Simply apply a few drops of cleansing oil to a cotton pad and dab it gently on your skin as needed.

  • Soak up some steam before cleansing. Steam opens up your pores, making it easier for your cleanser to penetrate deep into the skin, lifting away stubborn makeup and debris. Fill your sink with hot water and hover your face over it for a minute or two. You can also soak a washcloth in hot water then wring it out and drape it over your face to open up your pores.

  • Use toner after cleansing your skin. Toner is typically used to condition your skin and to remove any excess oil leftover after cleansing. It can also give your cleansing routine a quick boost, helping remove impurities that might remain after you wash your face. Simply saturate a cotton pad and wipe it gently across your skin before moisturizing.

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Once you’ve removed all of your makeup, it’s important to apply a nighttime moisturizer to help replenish your skin’s natural moisture and to protect it overnight. Apply moisturizer immediately after your final cleanse while your skin is still damp — this will help lock in the moisture. Go for a water-based moisturizer featuring aloe vera or hyaluronic acid at night for maximum hydration.

Looking for more skincare tips from the pros? Check out the hers blog!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.


What is the proper way to remove makeup? ›

Scouring it with cotton pads and makeup-removing wipes, or rubbing vigorously with your hands is damaging and completely unnecessary. Invest a couple extra minutes to remove makeup gently in circular motions, and pat dry with a soft cotton towel.

Is it enough to remove makeup? ›

It is very important to remove makeup before going to bed - it can cause extensive damage to your skin during the night. The skin renews itself while you sleep, and when you leave makeup on, you are preventing that from happening. The skin ceases to breathe and fatigue signs appear soon enough.

How do dermatologists recommend removing makeup? ›

Almost all of the dermatologists and makeup artists we spoke to recommended micellar water for all kinds of skin types — including normal, sensitive, acne-prone, and dry skin — because, as King explains, the micelles in micellar water “draw out impurities without drying out the skin.” They cling to “dirt, oil, and ...


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