The 7 Best Ways to Remove Eye Makeup, According to Beauty Experts

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best way to remove eye makeup a photo of a woman using cotton pad to remove eye makeup
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Who among us hasn’t been guilty of scrubbing and rubbing our eyes without thinking twice about the damage we might be doing to our skin? While we love our waterproof mascaras and budge-proof eyeliners for their longevity throughout the day, they’re 10 times harder to wipe away later. So, in an attempt to find some gentler, but still effective ways to remove our eye makeup, we asked three beauty experts about the top mistakes to avoid (as well as their best tips for getting the job done safely).  

Meet the Experts:

  • Adi Kempler is a licensed esthetician, makeup artist and regional educator at Heyday
  • Anton Khachaturian is a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Tia Mowry, Jenna Ortega, Richa Shukla Moorjani and Meg Donnelly. 
  • Preeti Luthra is a skincare expert and founder of Pure & Cimple, a skincare brand dedicated to using natural ingredients.

1. Stop Scrubbing

This is the most common mistake people make when removing their eye makeup. Remember: the skin around the eyes is delicate. When you scrub harshly to remove makeup, you can cause irritation, redness and dryness in the area. According to Kempler, it may lead to signs of premature aging (i.e., wrinkles and fine lines). “The skin around the eyes is already more prone to fine lines, thinning and aging, so it's important to be super gentle in this area,” says Kempler. Use light circular motions to remove makeup, which is less irritating to your eyes, rather than rubbing back and forth.

2. Try the Soak Method

“The ‘soak’ method is gentle and effective. It will start to break down the product immediately without any aggressive wiping,” says Khachaturian. To try it, saturate a soft cotton pad with makeup remover (like Shiseido’s). Then, place the soaked pad over the eyes for 10 to 15 seconds (or a little longer if you’re dealing with glitter). You want to give it enough time to break down the makeup before lightly swiping away any residue. 

3. Use the Rolling Trick

If you’re having trouble with an especially hearty mascara or eyeliner, Luthra has a helpful trick. “Apply the makeup remover on to a cotton pad and gently roll it along your lashes to dissolve the mascara. You can also use a clean spoolie brush to comb through your lashes and remove any remaining clumps,” she adds. The same technique works for eyeliner, but instead of using makeup remover, try rolling a cleansing balm over any stubborn liner and sweeping away the rest with a clean angled makeup brush. 

4. Find the Right Makeup Remover

Not all makeup removers are created equal. For one, there are specific formulas that are dedicated to the eye area. (We recommend Sephora’s and Lancome’s.) You should also take your skin type into account. Micellar water might be great for sensitive skin, while jojoba oil can be better suited for oily skin and a cleansing balm is best for dry skin. Here’s a breakdown of each kind of remover below: 

  • If you’re trying micellar water: It’s been a beauty favorite for decades, so you’re definitely in good hands. “Micellar water is a water-based solution that contains tiny micelles, which attract and lift dirt and makeup from the skin,” explains Luthra. 
  • If you’re trying a cleansing oil: “As mentioned, the skin around our eyes is much more delicate than the skin on other parts of our face. A cleansing oil is great at breaking down makeup and removing surface debris from the skin. By breaking down the makeup itself, we’re creating a much easier removal process that won’t cause as much damage as scrubbing would,” explains Kempler. (Note: Make sure to apply cleansing oil to dry skin and massaging it in before rinsing it off with water.)
  • If you’re trying a cleansing balm: “A cleansing balm helps gently remove makeup, dirt, and SPF without stripping the skin's natural barrier of moisture and oil,” explains Luthra.
  • If you’re going the natural oil route: There are plenty of products already in your cabinet like baby oil, jojoba oil and Vaseline that can effectively remove your eye makeup. However, Kempler warns they can potentially be irritating and/or too oily for some skin types. She recommends selecting a cleansing oil that’s fragrance-free and enzyme-free to avoid causing any stinging or irritation. 

5. Don’t Just Use Makeup Wipes

All the experts we interviewed agree that you shouldn’t just rely on makeup wipes to get the job done. In fact, most wipes contain alcohol-based ingredients that can dry out the skin and strip away its natural oils. “Makeup remover wipes are convenient and easy to use, but they may not effectively remove all makeup and can be harsh on the skin if left on,” says Luthra. If you’re going to use makeup wipes, just remember to go in after with another makeup remover and/or cleanser afterwards.

6. Use Cotton Swabs for Certain Areas

If you’re having trouble with the harder-to-reach areas (i.e., in-between lashes and the inner corners of your eyes), swap your cotton pad for a cotton swab instead—especially when it comes to removing false lashes. “I always recommend loosening the glue with some eye makeup remover on a cotton swab. A gentle back and forth motion on the lash line is the way to go here!” says Khachaturian. “Please never rip off your lashes. Not only will you damage your eyelids, but you’ll lose your lashes very quickly. If you’re not planning to reuse your lashes, just go with the “soak” method by holding a remover-soaked cotton pad over your eyes for a few seconds before gently coaxing the strip off your lash line.”

7. Finish With Your Skincare Routine

Sure, you may have wiped most of your eye makeup off, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on the rest of your skincare routine. There can still be some hidden residue, so following up with a face wash can ensure you get the cleanest finish. (Psst, don’t forget to cleanse your eyebrows and around the hairline while you’re at it). As always, it’s crucial to end your routine with a hydrating moisturizer. 

A Step-By-Step Guide to Remove Eye Makeup Safely

  1. Wash your hands. “This step is important to ensure that no dirt or bacteria from your hands is transferred to your face, which could potentially cause skin irritation or infection,” says Luthra.
  2. Soak a cotton pad in makeup remover and let it sit. This will break down your makeup (yes, even the toughest waterproof mascara) before you move onto the next step.
  3. Swipe off the excess. Using a light pressure, gently press down on the soaked cotton pad and sweep away any residue. Again, avoid scrubbing or tugging at the area. 
  4. Repeat as needed. If you still see remnants of eye makeup on your cotton pad, it’s OK to go over the area again. Luthra also recommends applying a warm cloth over your eyes until all traces of makeup are removed. Once the area is fully clean, cleanse the rest of your skin and finish up with your skincare routine to reduce the chance of causing dryness and flakes. 

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...