The 12 Best Cotton Pads to Help Address All Of Your Beauty Needs

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Taking off nail polish. Removing eye makeup. Applying toner. Exfoliating your skin. These are just some of the (many) ways that cotton pads can play a role in your beauty routine. The point being, they’re an invaluable bathroom cabinet staple—but did you know that not all cotton pads are created equal? While yes, most of them can be used in any/all of the aforementioned ways, certain ones are better suited for certain scenarios than others. Things such as texture and absorption ability, as well as size, should be taken into consideration. Not to mention these days there are even reusable cotton pads out there, which are choice for those looking to minimize environmental impact.

Here, are the best cotton pads to satisfy all of your beauty wants and needs.

Best Overall: Shiseido Facial Cotton

4.6
Shiseido Facial Cotton

 Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Ultra absorbent

  • Smooth surface is very gentle

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill

Who else recommends it? Bustle also picked the Shiseido Facial Cotton.

What do buyers say? 2,700+ Sephora reviewers rated this product 4.8 stars or above.

Designed to be used daily, these Japanese-made cotton pads are extremely absorbent and supremely smooth, making them notably gentle on the skin (and a great choice for all skin types). FYI, they are meant to be used with skincare, in particular, and since they are a bit on the pricier side, you may want to reserve them for use on your face rather than for things such as nail polish removal.

Material: Cotton | Shape: Square | Count: 165 | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Drugstore: Q-tips Beauty Cotton Rounds

Q-tips Beauty Cotton Rounds
What We Like
  • Resist shedding

  • Travel-friendly

  • Ultra absorbent

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the edges are rough

There are plenty of great cotton pads to be found at the drugstore, but these take the cake. The quilted texture is strong and durable, easily resisting any piling or shedding. Still, they’re soft enough even to use on the delicate skin around your eyes when you need to take off waterproof mascara or eyeliner.

Material: Cotton | Size: 2.25 x 2.25 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 75 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best K-Beauty: White Rabbit Naked Cotton Classic

White Rabbit Naked Cotton Classic

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Very large in size

  • Unbleached

What We Don't Like
  • Very thin sheets

We love these oversized squares—they measure 4 inches by 6 inches—for applying or removing any type of skincare on your face, neck, and/or décolletage. Also nice: The cotton is unbleached and chemical-free. While they are a bit on the thinner side, they’re very lint-free and come in a big box of 200, always a win in our book.

Material: Cotton | Size: 4 x 6 in. | Shape: Square | Count: 200 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Sensitive Skin: MUJI Soft Cut Cotton

MUJI Soft Cut Cotton

Walmart

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Unbleached

  • Ultra absorbent

What We Don't Like
  • Can be pilling

True story: Cotton can soak up all kinds of pesticides and chemicals—the last thing you want if you have easily irritated skin. These Japanese-made pads are unbleached (it’s why you may see some flecks in them) and also completely soft and gentle on your skin, no matter how often you use them.

Material: Cotton | Size: 2.36 x 1.9 in. | Shape: Square | Count: 180 | Cruelty Free: No

Best for Skincare: Rael Beauty Soak It Up Facial Sponge Cotton Pads

Rael Beauty Soak It Up Facial Sponge Cotton Pads

Amazon

What We Like
  • Doesn't pill

  • Sustainably made

  • Ultra absorbent

What We Don't Like
  • Might be hard for sensitive skin

As the name suggests, these super-absorbent pads are more of a cotton pad-sponge hybrid. They’re made from a combo of natural cotton pulp and cosmetic-grade rayon, which gives them almost a cushiony or bouncy texture. It also ensures that they won’t pill and increases their absorbency, so you can apply less of your beloved skincare products to the pad and still get the same result. 

Material: Natural pulp cotton and cosmetic rayon | Shape: Square | Count: 200 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Makeup Removal: DHC Silky Cotton

DHC Silky Cotton

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to hold

  • Suitable for all skin types

  • Versatile use

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

These silky smooth cotton pads glide against your skin, an especially important factor when you’re talking about the delicate eye area and removing waterproof mascara or other eye makeup. They’re lint-free and have the added benefit of including a small flap to pop in your fingers, which makes them very easy to hold.

Material: Cotton | Size: 2 x 3 in. | Shape: Square | Count: 3 | Cruelty Free: No

Best All-Purpose: The Body Shop Cotton Rounds

The Body Shop Cotton Rounds

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Organic

  • Versatile use

What We Don't Like
  • Can pill

There’s nothing these pads can’t do. The double-sided surface ensures they work equally well for cleansing and exfoliating, while the lint-free texture makes them ideal for removing makeup, taking off nail polish, applying toner, you name it. It doesn’t hurt that they’re organic, too.

Material: Cotton | Size: 2 x 2 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 100 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Reusable: LastObject. LastRound Reusable Cotton Rounds

LastObject. Last Round Reusable Cotton Rounds

Amazon

What We Like
  • Sustainable

  • Feel just like traditional cotton rounds

  • Chic carrying case

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Yes, cotton pads are great when it comes to multi-tasking, but they’re admittedly not so great for the environment. Happily, there are now plenty of reusable options to choose from, including these. They’re made from a combination of wood cellulose and short cotton fibers that otherwise can’t be used in the textile industry, making for a result that feels pretty much exactly like any other cotton pad. The difference? They’re machine washable so that each one can be used up to 1750 times. We also love the adorable case they come in, which comes in six different colors and is worthy of displaying on your bathroom counter.

Material: Round 70% wood cellulose | Size: 2.36 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 7 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Splurge: Jenny Patinkin Organic Bamboo Reusable Cosmetic Rounds

Jenny Patinkin Organic Bamboo Reusable Cosmetic Rounds

Blue Mercury

What We Like
  • Sustainable

  • Can be used for weeks before washing

  • Includes a laundry bag

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Yes, these are much pricier than the pack of cotton pads you’d pick up from the drugstore, but they’re well worth it. For starters, they’re not only totally reusable, but they’re also made from bamboo-derived Lyocell. Bamboo is one of the most sustainable crops on Earth, so you’re doing even more good for the environment by purchasing these. You can use one of the rounds for one to two weeks before it needs to be washed; when it does, it’s easy to do so with the included laundry bag.

Material: Bamboo | Size: 0.31 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 14 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Exfoliating: Up&Up Exfoliating Cotton Rounds

Up&Up Exfoliating Cotton Rounds

Target

What We Like
  • Dual-sided texture for gentle exfoliation

  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like
  • Can pill

Use the smooth side of these double-sided pads to remove makeup and use the textured side to apply cleanser or serum for a little added, though still gentle, exfoliation. The wallet-friendly price can’t be beaten, and they come in packs of 100 or 600 if you want to stock up.

Material: Cotton | Size: 2.25 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 100 or 600 | Cruelty-Free: No

Best Organic: Sephora Collection Organic Cotton Pads

Sephora Collection Organic Cotton Pads

Sephora

What We Like
  • Organic

  • Gentle

  • Versatile use

What We Don’t Like
  • Can pill

These square pads are made from 100 percent organic cotton, which also happens to be GOTS certified by Ecocert (this means you can feel confident knowing no hazardous chemicals are being used during the production and processing of the fiber). They’re soft and lint-free and surprisingly dense, the ideal choice for applying skincare or removing makeup.

Material: Cotton | Shape: Square | Count: 50 | Cruelty-Free: No

Best for Nail Polish Removal: ForPro Premium Nail Wipes

ForPro Premium Nail Wipes

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to hold

  • Great for any nail polish remover

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Is there anything worse than getting little pieces of lint stuck in your nail polish as you’re trying to take it off? We think not. That won’t be the case here; these durable rounds are lint-free. But the feature that makes them a manicure staple is the handy plastic tab at the top that you can grip as you swipe on the remover—without having to deal with it soaking through and soaking your skin.

Material: Cotton | Size: 1.75 in. | Shape: Round | Count: 240 | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Cotton pads can be used in an endless number of ways, and the Shiseido Facial Cotton lets you do exactly that. The super-absorbent rectangles are supremely smooth and gentle. If you’re looking for a good drugstore pick, consider the Q-Tips Cotton Rounds. And if you prefer a more sustainable alternative, the Last Round Reusable Cotton Rounds and Jenny Patinkin Pure Luxury Organic Reusable Rounds earn our vote; both are machine washable and reusable.

What to Look For When Buying Cotton Pads

Absorbency

When buying cotton pads, you'll want to look for something with an absorbent design. Cotton is absorbent in and of itself, but some beauty pads are thicker, larger, or quilted, making them better than others at soaking up products. This means you don't have to use as much and can expect more of the formula to deposit onto your skin.

Texture

Some cotton pads are smooth on both sides, which is ideal for everyday use and for anyone with sensitive skin. Other options are smooth on one side and slightly textured on the other. The textured side can be used for exfoliation or removing stubborn nail polish, and the smooth side can be used for removing eye makeup and applying various skincare products.

Single-Use vs. Reusable

Most cotton pads on the market are designed for single use. Though they're usually not exorbitantly expensive, using one or more a day can add up. With larger pads, Dr. Engelman says you can "cut each square in half to make them last longer."

Having said that, investing in reusable pads can save you money in the long run. Plus, washable options are better for the environment.

FAQ
  • Are cotton pads good for your face?

    Cotton pads are a natural choice for your daily face care needs. Because most varieties are very gentle, anyone can use them, regardless of their skin type.

  • Do cotton pads cause wrinkles?

    It's all about how you use them. Used gently for purposes, such as removing makeup, you shouldn't have any issue. However, you'll want to avoid using any product or material in a rough manner around your delicate eye area since that can contribute to wrinkles.

  • What is better: cotton pads or cotton balls?

    It depends on what you're using them for. Cotton pads let you use less product. They're easier to work with thanks to their shape and don't give off lint.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She likes to use inexpensive, drugstore cotton rounds for nail polish-removing purposes and recently switched to using reusable ones for removing makeup.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 5 best cotton pads for toner. Bustle. https://www.bustle.com/p/the-5-best-cotton-pads-for-toner-16909846

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