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If you ask your mother or grandmother about their go-to beauty product from back in the day, chances are you'll hear the words “cold cream.” But what exactly is cold cream? According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, it’s a mixture of water and oil that usually includes added thickeners and beeswax.
While cold cream is considered to be a multifunctional product, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, it’s mainly a makeup remover. “Consider it a moisturizing makeup remover, rather than an irritating, drying makeup remover that contains alcohol or other inflammatory ingredients,” she says. “Use it to remove all makeup each night, whether you have normal, dry, or sensitive skin. Ultimately, it’s a cleanser.”
Cold creams are also sometimes used as moisturizers and moisturizing masks, but Dr. Shuting Hu, cosmetic scientist and founder of Acaderma, agrees that cold cream should be used primarily as a makeup remover. “Even though it’s great for ‘locking’ water into the skin due to the high mineral oil content, it shouldn’t be solely used as a moisturizer since it can cause dryness in the long run,” she says. That said, if you're going to use it for moisturizing purposes, don't make it a part of your everyday routine.
Ready to add cold cream to your skincare routine? Here are our picks of the best cold creams to cleanse, remove makeup, and soften the skin.
Best Overall: Pond's Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser
This cold cream is beloved by just about everyone who uses it, and for good reason. It removes dirt and even the most stubborn makeup (we’re looking at you, waterproof mascara) while moisturizing your skin at the same time, so your face never feels tight or dry. "This is my absolute favorite," says Dr. Nazarian. "It's so gentle and so effective, and I find that even people with sensitive skin can use it without issue. It leaves the skin soft, doesn't strip its natural hydrators, and does a phenomenal job at removing makeup. The primary makeup-grabbing ingredient is mineral oil, and it wipes away easily with a damp cloth."
Best Classic: Nivea Crème
We call this the OG cold cream. Everyone knows this one, thanks to its iconic blue packaging and standout formula that has stood the test of time. It’s formulated especially for those with very dry skin and has a super-rich texture that provides major hydration. And although the cream inside the blue tin is marketed as a moisturizer, you can actually also use it as a cleanser to remove dirt, excess oil, and makeup from the surface of your skin. (In fact, Redditors proclaim that this product can be used as everything from makeup remover to hand cream to a hair mask.)
Best Splurge: Eve Lom Cleansing Balm
This isn’t your mama’s cold cream, that’s for sure. This ultra-luxurious product exfoliates and deeply cleanses to blast through waterproof makeup (and dirt and excess oil). The formula is jam-packed with good-for-your-skin ingredients like clove oil, eucalyptus oil, hops oil, Egyptian chamomile oil, and cocoa butter, and it'll refresh and soothe the skin while helping to keep breakouts at bay. "It also has essential oils, which give it a great fragrance and fresh appeal," says Dr. Nazarian. "However, it uses lanolin rather than mineral oil, so make sure you avoid if you have a lanolin allergy. But otherwise, it's a good choice." Bonus: This cold cream comes with a muslin cloth, which provides gentle exfoliation.
Best Drugstore: Noxzema Classic Clean Original Deep Cleansing Cream
You don’t have to break the bank to find an effective cleansing cold cream. This bargain pick does the job really well without setting back your budget. It penetrates deep into pores to get rid of dirt, oil, and makeup and has a slight tingle to it, which refreshes and invigorates the complexion. Plus, the skin-refreshing formula is infused with eucalyptus, soybean, and linseed oils.
Best Budget: Jergens All-Purpose Cream Face Moisturizer
This drugstore cold cream is a true multipurpose product. Not only can it be used to deeply cleanse and remove your makeup at the end of the day, but it can also be used as a makeup primer or overnight moisturizing treatment. The formula is ultra thick and rich, making it ideal for dry or very dry skin. Trust us, you’ll be amazed at how soft and smooth your complexion feels after swiping this one on.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Avène Cold Cream
If you have sensitive skin, then you know how essential it is to use products that are gentle. This extra-nourishing cold cream moisturizer fits the bill. It’s formulated with beeswax and Avene’s superstar thermal spring water to calm inflammation as it softens your skin. Reviewers rave that it deeply moisturizes the skin without ever leaving it looking greasy, a major plus.
Best for Dry Skin: Prai Beauty Platinum Cold Creme Cleanser
If your skin is on the dry side, consider reaching for this cold cream from Prai Beauty. Formulated specifically for drier skin types, it uses gentle cleansing agents to melt away makeup and other impurities. It’s also packed with five rich emollients, such as mineral oil and root oil, which bind moisture to the skin while helping to smooth it out. The skin is left clean, soft, and comfortable—and, more importantly, never stripped or dry.
Best for Oily Skin: Queen Helene Triple Whipped Professional Cleansing Cream
Have oily skin? You can get in on the cold cream fun with this product from Queen Helene, which is formulated to be suitable for all skin types. The fluffy, triple-whipped formula banishes dirt, oil, and makeup, leaving your complexion soft and refreshed, never greasy. Simply remove with a warm washcloth (which provides gentle manual exfoliation, a must for oily skin) and you’re good to go.
Best Brightening: Bésame Cosmetics Cold Cream
Looking to pack in some extra skincare benefits to your cold cream routine? This formula from Bésame Cosmetics is infused with skin-loving ingredients that do way more than cleanse and hydrate. The unique formula also helps to brighten and even out the complexion while improving elasticity and is packed with ingredients like rosehip oil, sunflower seed oil, matricaria flower extract, and jojoba oil.
Best Makeup Remover: Merle Norman Cleansing Cream
This hydrating cold cream from Merle Norman excels at removing every last trace of makeup, including stubborn long-wear and waterproof formulas that just won’t budge. Formulated for dry skin types, the oil-based formula gently cleanses the skin without stripping it and is packed with ingredients like mineral oil, beeswax, and cocoa seed butter, leaving your complexion soft and smooth. And fear not—even though the formula feels rich, it’s designed to not clog your pores.
Best Balm: Pond’s Cold Cream Cleansing Balm
Looking to add cold cream to your beauty routine but prefer the texture of a balm over a thick lotion? Then this one’s for you. Pond’s superstar cold cream is in balm form to cleanse and remove makeup. The balm-to-oil formula has a silky texture that moisturizes skin as it gets rid of dirt, grime, and all types of makeup. "This is a great product for people who wear a lot of makeup," says Dr. Nazarian. "It's slightly different than the original formula; it melts when you massage it into your skin like a true balm, but also rinses off gently and leaves the skin soft and smooth."
Best Natural: Weleda Deep Moisture Facial Balm
For a natural fix, turn your attention to this cold cream. It’s formulated with sweet almond oil to gently moisturize and protect skin and beeswax, which creates a barrier layer to prevent moisture loss. This cold cream is certified natural by NaTrue (a European organization) and is free of chemical preservatives, fragrances, and petrochemicals. This is the perfect cold cream to use when you’ll be outdoors and need a little extra protection.
We’re giving top honors to a true classic, the Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser. It gently removes dirt and stubborn makeup like a pro while keeping the skin soft and hydrated. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable. We’re also loving the Eve Lom Cleansing Balm, a modern take on traditional cold cream. It exfoliates as it cleanses and is brimming with good-for-you ingredients like clove oil and cocoa butter to prevent breakouts while nourishing the skin. Speaking of skin benefits, the Bésame Cosmetics Cold Cream is another must-try, as it brightens and protects the complexion while cleansing and removing makeup.
What to Look For in a Cold Cream
Cold creams are, by nature, pretty gentle in terms of how they cleanse the skin and remove makeup. Still, Dr. Nazarian suggests seeking out formulas that work well with sensitive skin, as you wouldn’t want to use anything that could potentially cause irritation or inflammation. It’s also important to consider what works well for your skin—if you’re allergic to lanolin, don’t choose a formula that uses it rather than traditional mineral oil.
Dr. Nazarian also recommends looking for cold creams that specifically state they won’t clog your pores. Because they're typically on the thicker and heavier side, a cold cream that isn’t non-comedogenic can potentially lead to breakouts—even if your skin isn’t oily or acne-prone.
No Filler Ingredients
As you would with any skincare product, Dr. Nazarian suggests looking for formulas that don’t include sulfates or parabens, as well as synthetic fragrances and other filler ingredients. “Nearly all cold creams are meant to be a combination of oil and water as its main ingredients,” she says, so there’s no need for anything extra other than added moisturizers or ingredients with actual skin benefits.
How do you apply cold cream?
Dr. Nazarian suggests applying cold cream as follows: “Apply to the entire face evenly with a massaging motion, then use a damp washcloth to remove." She also recommends rinsing with lukewarm water afterwards to remove any residue that may have been left behind.
When is the best time to apply cold cream?
In terms of when to apply cold cream, Dr. Nazarian says it's best used at night. “It’s so good at removing all the dirt, grime, oil, and makeup from the day, and your skin can really benefit from a gentle clean before bed each night,” she says. “It’s certainly not harmful to use twice a day, but if you’re choosing between the two, nightly is best.”
How does cold cream remove makeup?
Dr. Nazarian explains that cold cream is primarily an oil-in-water product with added moisturizers. “The oil clings to the makeup, dirt, and grime on your skin, and the water and moisturizers allow it to be wiped off easily with a trail of hydration left behind,” she says.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.
Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City specializing in both cosmetic and medical dermatology.
Dr. Shuting Hu is a cosmetic scientist and the founder of skincare brand Acaderma.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any cold creams from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.