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Some eye makeup removers work just fine, the way a slightly-dull pair of scissors are fine—they do the job, maybe after several tries and with no subtlety, but they still get it done. You might not even mind losing a few eyelashes every time (just the price of beauty!) and scrubbing your eyelids raw. That is, until you try a makeup remover that not only dissolves your eyeliner on contact, but leaves your skin feeling better than before, too. Read on for the top eye makeup removers, from a rich balm that doubles as an aromatic experience to a petite solution for sensitive eyes.
Best Overall: Mahalo Unveil Cleanser Melt Concentrate
Let’s get the most extravagant, indulgent pick out of the way: This Mahalo cleansing balm boasts a steep price tag, but offers much more than basic makeup cleansing. The rich, sage-green cleansing balm melts to a milky oil that dissolves everything from oil to stubborn eye makeup, as gentle enzymes provide cursory exfoliation. Aside from the luxurious texture, there’s also the beautiful scent: An elegant herbal blend of lemon, peppercorn, and even cocoa.
As for how to use it, scoop out a dime-sized amount and massage on to skin. Take your time massaging, which won’t be hard because the balm smells like a dream, then add water to emulsify and continue massaging. Then, rinse. You don’t need a washcloth or additional tools—the balm washes off without residue. If you want to treat yourself and maybe get lost in rapture for a few minutes, this is your best bet.
Best Budget: Garnier Micellar Water
Like Twinkies after the apocalypse, this is one of those products that will always be around, even in the most barebones drugstores. And not only that, it works. Even with more expensive versions available, even the most hardcore beauty enthusiasts love this product. It’s cheap and it’s reliable, for when you don’t exactly want to restock your pricier holy grail makeup remover.
The Garnier micellar water uses micelles to cleanse, which attract oil. When you press a cotton pad soaked with micellar water over your eyes, the micelles break down eyeliner and mascara (there’s also a waterproof version for stubborn eye makeup). The Garnier version comes in a generously-sized bottle that’ll last you about a month or two, even if you love heavy makeup. It’s not quite as a gentle as the Bioderma micellar water, but it’s not at all irritating either.
Best Drugstore Option: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
You have probably seen this deeply, deeply loved micellar water several times already, if not in carefully curated skincare spreads. A French import known for being gentle and effective, it removes makeup without irritating sensitive skin. When used all over the face, it leaves skin feeling clean and soft. On the eyes, it takes off everything without tugging or stinging. It’s even gentle enough to use on the lips. There’s no scent and no overt oiliness for those who dislike any kind of residue. Unfortunately, it takes a few tries to whisk off waterproof makeup, but given how well it does everything else, you might not even mind.
Best for Waterproof Makeup: Lancome Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover
If the Bioderma isn’t quite up to par, this Lancome remover is specially formulated for waterproof makeup. It dissolves even the most ironclad liner and mascara with little effort, which is a relief if you’ve ever lost a few eyelashes due to excessive tugging. The formula itself is gentle and soothing on the skin, though it does leave a slight residue. Reviewers with dry skin didn’t mind the film as much, and those who habitually used micellar water might agree. Application is simple: All you have to do is soak a cotton pad and gently press over your eyelids, wiggling slightly to loosen any remnants.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Glossier Milky Oil
Bioderma is the holy grail for sensitive skin users, but if you have particularly sensitive eyes that even react to Bioderma, it’s worth giving Glossier’s Milky Oil a try. The bi-phase formula, housed in a small pink-capped squeeze bottle, dropped earlier this week as a companion to the wildly popular Milky Jelly Cleanser. The Milky Oil contains comfrey root extract, with skin-soothing allantoin to alleviate any irritation. It works well on regular makeup, though it took a few passes to fully remove waterproof makeup. While those used to larger bottles of makeup remover might hesitate at the 100mL product, a little goes a long way.
Best Makeup Remover Wipes: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes
Sometimes, and this is nothing to feel guilty about, you just can’t be bothered to use a proper makeup cleanser. Wiping off your face with a towelette is still better than going to bed with your makeup on, and it’s nice to be able to work them around the contours of your eyes. These Neutrogena wipes, an old, nostalgic favorite, are still a solid option. They helpfully come in a light blue box to keep the wipes from drying out, and take off eye makeup without the fuss of rinsing. They do struggle a bit with waterproof makeup but with some patience eventually get even the most longwearing mascara off.
Best for Eyelash Extensions: Neutrogena Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover
If you have lash extensions, that unfortunately means you can’t use oil cleansers or micellar water, since they might dissolve the adhesive. Luckily, the cleanser that does keep lash extensions in place is cheap, easy to find, and not unpleasant to use. Still packaged in the same cornflower blue bottle, this drugstore makeup remover gently washes away eye makeup without loosening up your lashes. And because it’s oil-free, it doesn’t leave a greasy residue, even conditioning the skin around your eyes for softer, hydrated skin.
Our writers spent 25 hours researching the most popular eye makeup removers on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 23 different eye makeup removers overall, screened options from 22 different brands and manufacturers, read over 95 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 4 of the eye makeup removers themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.