We Tested 13 Eye Makeup Removers—These 6 Are the Very Best

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The 6 Best Eye Makeup Removers in 2022, Byrdie Tested

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

One of the best pieces of beauty advice we've ever received (or given!) is this: Do not go to bed with makeup on. Ever. We get it—removing makeup at the end of the day is sometimes the last thing we want to do, too. But the good news? The right eye makeup remover makes all the difference.

Removing makeup is not just about cleansing the complexion and preventing breakouts—it’s about taking care of our sensitive eye area, brows, and eyelashes, too. “For optimal lash and eye health, we want to make sure that we thoroughly remove all traces of makeup before hitting the pillow,” explains Dani Kimiko Vincent, a celebrity makeup artist. “This will help keep lashes and brows full and healthy while also preventing unwelcome conditions such as styes.” Yes, not properly removing eye makeup could result in a stye, aka the acne of eyelids. No thank you!

Meet the Expert

Dani Kimiko Vincent is a celebrity makeup artist and brow expert. She is also the founder of the makeup brand KIMIKO.

However, finding an eye makeup remover that's gentle but powerful enough to lift away waterproof mascara and eyeliner is no easy feat—which is exactly why we did the work for you. We spent more than two weeks researching and testing 13 different eye makeup remover formulas, rating each on a scale of one to five for efficiency and whether or not it caused any irritation. Then, based on our results, we narrowed our list down to the formulas that we felt were truly top-shelf.

Keep reading to learn more about the best eye makeup removers out there right now.

Best Overall: Glossier Milky Oil

5
Glossier Milky Oil

Glossier

Our Ratings
  • Efficacy
    5/5
  • Eye Irritation
    5/5
What We Like
  • Good applicator

  • No eye irritation 

  • Softens skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Out of all the formulas we tested, this is the one we loved the most—and the one we're continuing to use daily. The bi-phase formula features a blend of micellar water and castor oil that lifts away long-wear makeup without excessive force (aka tugging and rubbing). Our tester said she was amazed at how easily it removed waterproof makeup and loved how the applicator bottle dispensed the right amount of product. 

We first tried this product on Pacifica's Vegan Collagen Fluffy Lash Thickening & Lengthening Mascara along with powdered eyeshadow and pencil eyeliner. Our tester followed the application instructions and squeezed the formula onto a reusable cotton pad, then pressed the pad onto her eye for a few seconds. Swiping away removed all of the eyeshadow and half the mascara and eyeliner. After a few more gentle swipes, all makeup was removed from our tester's eye contour.

To test waterproof mascara and eyeliner, our tester held the cotton pad over her eye for a little longer (about 30 seconds, compared to 10 seconds). She followed the same swiping motion, which she said removed more than half of her makeup, and a few more swipes around the creases of her eyes and lash line did the trick for the rest of it. For this reason, she rated it a 5/5 for efficiency. 

Formula and Type: Bi-phase liquid | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Removed Makeup

Byrdie / Jessie Quinn

What Our Testers Say

"It's oil-based (as the name suggests), which initially turned me off, but I wasn't left with greasy residue after all was said and done, and my lids and under eyes felt softer and smoother afterward—a nice plus." —Lindsey Metrus, Editorial Project Director

Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Cleansing Cloud

5
e.l.f. Cleansing Cloud
Our Ratings
  • Efficacy
    5/5
  • Eye Irritation
    5/5
What We Like
  • Reusable 

  • Just needs water

  • Can double as a hot compress 

What We Don’t Like
  • Requires a lot of rubbing

If you’re looking for a fuss-free (and affordable) eye makeup remover, we found it. When we first got our hands on the Cleansing Cloud, we were confused—it's just a fabric pad that you soak in water. Our initial thoughts were: “How can that be?” and “This surely isn’t going to work.” 

This eye makeup remover comes with two reusable fabric pads—one for everyday makeup and one for more stubborn, long-wear formulas. Following the instructions, our tester first dunked the everyday makeup pad under warm water to remove water-based mascara, powdered eye shadow, and eyebrow gel. Our first impression was that it felt really nice, similar to a hot compress. She held the pad over her eye for about 30 seconds and then began to wipe it away. Because it requires just water, she had to rub her eyes a little bit more than other formulas, but the warmth of the water and softness of the fabric prevented any irritation. After massaging the fabric over her eyes for about 30 seconds and then swiping about five times, our tester's makeup was totally gone.

Next, it was time to move on to the waterproof makeup. For this experiment, our tester wore thicker eyeliner. She massaged her eyes with the long-wear pad for about 30 seconds and then rubbed it around eight or nine times to remove the makeup. While the rubbing is not ideal, she was still impressed with the fact that she was able to remove waterproof makeup with just water. 

Formula and Type: Cotton pad | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Clean: Farmacy Meltaway Cleansing Balm

4.5
Farmacy meltaway cleansing balm

Beauty Bay

Our Ratings
  • Efficacy
    5/5
  • Eye Irritation
    4/5
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • Melts into skin 

  • Sustainable packaging

What We Don’t Like
  • Messy

  • Some irritation

Cleansing balms can err on the side of messy, but this clean formula impressed us enough to land on our best-of list. We loved how easily its waxy texture melted into an oil upon application and how easily it removed eye makeup. On top of that, we loved that the product comes in ultra-sustainable packaging: The jar itself is made of 50 percent recycled post-consumer resin and comes in an FSC-certified paper box decorated with natural inks, too. 

We first tested this product on powdered eyeshadow and a combination of water-based liquid eyeliner and mascara. After our tester massaged the product on her eyes for around 30 seconds, the pigments lifted easily and without rubbing or tugging on her skin. She liked how the product didn’t require a cotton pad so she could get a good look at how well the makeup lifted before adding water to emulsify and rinse.

Waterproof mascara and eyeliner, on the other hand, were much more stubborn. Our tester couldn’t get the formula to lift makeup easily on its own before adding water. But once she did add water, it came right off. Because she spent more time removing her makeup, her eyes felt more irritated after use, so she rated it a 4/5 for irritation. However, she also said she thought this had more to do with getting makeup in her eyes when cleansing versus the actual formula irritating the eyes. 

Formula and Type: Balm | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Micellar Water: Bioderma Sensibio H2O

5
Bioderma Sensibio H2O

Walgreens

Our Ratings
  • Efficacy
    5/5
  • Eye Irritation
    5/5
What We Like
  • Easy to use

  • No irritation or burning

  • Softens skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Applicator hole is slightly big

Designed with sensitive skin in mind, this micellar water is said to remove dirt, debris, pollution, and makeup. In our testing, we found that it over-delivers on these promises. 

We first tested this product on waterproof mascara and thick waterproof liquid eyeliner. Our tester added the formula to a reusable cotton pad and held it over her eye for a few seconds to see how well the makeup lifted without swiping. Once she removed the pad, she was amazed to see that nearly all of the waterproof makeup had lifted off and stuck to it—it was like magic. She then swiped the pad across her eye a few more times and the rest of the makeup disappeared, too. 

Our tester then conducted the same experiment on water-based makeup. When she removed the cotton pad, she observed that even more makeup had lifted off. Post-removal, her eyes felt clean and she didn't feel like she needed to follow up with any cleanser. She also noted that she didn’t experience any irritation whatsoever. 

If we are being nitpicky—and we are—we have to point out this product's only flaw: The size of the applicator hole is a little big, so it’s easy to pour too much onto a cotton pad. If you’re prepared for it, though, it’s completely manageable and doesn’t take away from how sincerely stellar this micellar water is. 

Formula and Type: Micellar water | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

bioderma sensibio micellar water

Byrdie / Olivia Hancock

What Our Testers Say

"When the makeup came into contact with the micellar water, it began melting away effortlessly." —Olivia Hancock, Product Tester

Best for Waterproof Makeup: MAC Gently Off Eye and Lip Makeup Remover

5
MAC Gently Off Eye and Lip Make-Up Remover

Ulta

Our Ratings
  • Efficacy
    5/5
  • Eye Irritation
    5/5
What We Like
  • Has a locking cap

  • No irritation or burning

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

When we think of MAC, we think of gorgeous, statement-making eye makeup, so we were excited to put this one to the test and see just how much of that eye makeup it could really remove. Even before testing this product, our reviewer noted that she loved how the lid locked in place (like a pill bottle!)—a serious plus for anyone who has spilled makeup removers in their suitcases over the years.

We first tested this product on everyday eye makeup, which included a clean mascara (our tester wore Saie Mascara 101 for this test), a brow gel, and liquid eyeliner. Much like we expected, the bi-phase formula removed the makeup in around three swipes of a cotton pad and required zero clean-up around the edges.

When it came time to test how well this product removed waterproof makeup, we increased the challenge. We decided to use about half the amount of formula to see how well it would lift away waterproof mascara and thick waterproof eyeliner. While it required a little more effort, our tester's makeup disappeared from her eyes in about five swipes of the cotton pad. Post-removal, we had some clean-up to do around the edges but, overall, this worked very well on waterproof mascara. Our tester then followed up with a cleanser to remove any oily residue.

When using eye makeup removers, you’ll inevitably get some in your eyes. While a few of the products we tested caused irritation, this bi-phase eye makeup remover didn’t cause any burning or itching sensations and didn’t make our eyes feel cloudy, either. 

Formula and Type: Bi-phase | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Balm: Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup Melting Butter Cleanser

5
Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

Amazon

What We Like
  • Versatile

  • No irritation or burning

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

We love a multi-use product, so this one immediately caught our eye. Not only can you use it to remove makeup, but you can blend it with Drunk Elephant’s Bamboo Booster to exfoliate the complexion on a weekly basis. Formulated with a blend of skin-friendly oils—including marula, baobab seed, Kalahari melon seed, mongongo, and Ximena oils—as well as vitamin C and fatty acids, this balm lifts away tough-to-remove makeup while nourishing the complexion.

At first, we applied this formula to water-based mascara, powdered eyeshadow, and thick liquid liner. Like other balms, it did create a bit of a mess at first. However, this formula is activated with water, and once our tester splashed some onto her skin, the mess quickly dissipated and the makeup rinsed away without much rubbing. After this test, our reviewer noticed that her eyes never felt irritated. We conducted the same test on waterproof mascara and liquid eyeliner and saw the same results, again without irritation. 

Overall, this was our favorite balm in the group. It didn’t cause irritation or discomfort, and it efficiently removed every kind of eye makeup. Our tester says that it's now on regular rotation in her routine. 

Formula and Type: Balm | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Our top pick for the best eye makeup remover is Glossier's Milky Oil, a bi-phase formula with added skincare benefits that easily lifts both water-based and waterproof makeup. Another of our favorites is Bioderma's Sensibio H2O, which is the best micellar water we’ve tried to date. And, if you're in the market for a cleansing balm, Drunk Elephant's Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser was another standout—it worked well on stubborn formulas and didn’t irritate the eyes.

Tested Makeup Removers

Byrdie / Jessie Quinn

Other Options We Tested

Clarins Instant Eye Make-Up Remover ($30): This was the first eye makeup remover we tested. Because it's a bi-phase formula, we initially thought it could be a top contender. However, it wasn't as efficient as we thought it might be—plus, it caused a lot of eye irritation. The formula worked well on water-based makeup, but while wiping everything away, some of it got in our tester's eyes and caused instant irritation. Additionally, it left behind an oily residue and clouded her vision. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work as well on waterproof mascara and eyeliner, either. After scrubbing back and forth about 10 times and beginning to experience the same discomfort, our tester called it quits and used a different makeup remover to lift everything away.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water ($4): We once used this drugstore micellar water religiously and were excited to test it against other makeup removers. Much to our surprise—especially since so many people love this product—it didn’t go as well as we had thought. We tested the formula on water-based mascara and liquid liner, as well as waterproof mascara; it was much more effective at removing the water-based options. Also, a word to the wise: Less is more with this stuff! After accidentally squeezing too much product onto the cotton pad, our tester got a decent amount in her eyes. This caused some discomfort and cloudiness that didn’t go away until she flushed her eyes out with some eye drops.

Athena Club Soft Face Wipes ($10): We wanted to like this product as an eye makeup remover, but it didn’t quite make the cut. We loved that these wipes feature nourishing ingredients (like vitamins B3, B5, and E), but they work better at cleansing the complexion after using a product formulated to remove eye makeup. We first tried the wipes on waterproof mascara, eyebrow gel, and an eyeliner crayon. The eyebrow gel lifted away in about two swipes but left behind some of the eyeliner and most of the mascara. After some aggressive rubbing, we were able to remove most of the eyeliner (with some lingering along the lash line), but the mascara didn’t budge. We then tried the wipes on water-based mascara, which lifted away easily, and eyeliner, which made a mess—the wipe spread it everywhere.

Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm ($38): This eye makeup remover was so close to making it to our best-of list because it actually did a good job at removing both types of makeup. We also loved that its clean formula is filled with skin-friendly ingredients like seaberry oil, grape seed oil, and vitamin E. But the cloudiness we experienced from the balm-to-oil formula caused a lot of irritation and discomfort, which made it hard for us to want to use the product again. Compared to the other balm formulas, this one required a lot more rubbing to lift away makeup.

Simple Eye Makeup Remover Pads ($6): These eye makeup remover pads are small and compact, which we love for traveling. The formula is also on the cleaner side of the spectrum, which is another plus—especially for the sensitive eye area. But it didn’t do a great job at removing most types of eye makeup. We first tested it on water-based mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow. It easily lifted the eyeshadow, but the mascara and eyeliner hardly budged. And, when it came time to test it on waterproof formulas, it was even harder to remove makeup.

Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Make-Up Remover ($21): We were initially very intrigued by this formula, which has a gel-lotion consistency. As instructed, our tester massaged the product directly onto her eyes and tissued off the residue. It was messy and smeared black mascara and eyeliner all over the place. It also burned and caused irritation. Based on irritation, mess, and difficulties removing makeup (waterproof mascara, in particular), this product didn't make our best-of list.

La Roche-Posay Respectissime Waterproof Eye Make-Up Remover ($16): This is another formula that was so close to making our list. We loved the bottle and how the applicator had a small hole to help control how much product comes out. While it did a decent job at removing water-based eye makeup formulas, it didn’t shine in the waterproof makeup portion of the test. Because of that—and because of the amount of tugging required to lift away the makeup—we felt that we couldn’t put a full stamp of approval on it.

How We Test Eye Makeup Removers 

The author of this article, Jessie Quinn, spent more than six hours over the course of two weeks testing 13 eye makeup removers on different types of makeup, from stubborn waterproof eyeliners and mascaras to water-based formulas and powdered eye shadows. With each one, she tested how quickly and effectively it lifted makeup from the skin. She also noted how much rubbing, swiping, cleansing, and rinsing were required for each formula to work.

What to Look for in an Eye Makeup Remover

Ingredients

Eye makeup remover ingredients are ultra-important, as you want them to get the job done without irritating the sensitive eye area. “I prefer gentle hydrating ingredients such as glycerin, coconut oil, jojoba, and marine algae,” says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami. “It’s important to consider makeup removal as an opportunity to hydrate delicate eye skin that often is the first to show dryness and signs of aging,” she adds.

According to Dr. Ciraldo, there are also ingredients you want to avoid, including fragrances, sulfates, artificial colors, and ethyl alcohol. These ingredients can “make delicate eye skin get red, irritated, and puffy, and even exaggerate the appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet,” she notes.

Removal Process

Byrdie / Jessie Quinn

Formula

When shopping for an eye makeup remover, Vincent says the first step is to look for a product that's designed for the eye area. She also recommends a bi-phase formula: “Bi-phase makeup removers contain an oil and a water—you can recognize them from the visible separate in the bottle as oil is lighter than water and sits above it,” she explains. “These products contain an emollient portion to break down and dissolve makeup and a water portion to cleanse off that residue." She also notes that choosing a formula with “minimal fragrance” is also a good idea, since the eye area is so sensitive. 

Meet the Expert

Dr. Loretta Ciraldo is a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist. She is also the founder of the skincare brand Dr. Loretta Skincare.

FAQ
  • How do you completely remove eye makeup?

    When it comes to completely removing eye makeup, Vincent says a little patience goes a long way. “Saturate a cotton page and gently press it over the eye makeup. Give it time to settle into the makeup by counting to ten and back down again, then you can slowly use gentle circular motions to begin removing,” she explains. “You’ll likely feel some leftover residue [after]. That’s why I recommend removing eye makeup first and then continuing with regular face cleansing to wash away remaining [formula],” she adds. 

  • What is the most gentle way to remove eye makeup?

    Finding a formula that doesn’t require too much rubbing or tugging on the skin is the most gentle way to remove eye makeup. Vincent says to look for bi-phase formulas—such as Glossier's Milky Oil—since oil breaks down makeup most easily.

  • What is the best product to remove waterproof mascara?

    When removing waterproof mascara (and eyeliner, for that matter), Vincent says to stick with bi-phase or oil-based remover formulas, as the ingredients do the best job at breaking down long-wear pigments designed to stick to your lashes and lids.

Why Trust Byrdie 

Byrdie contributor Jessie Quinn personally tested every eye makeup remover on this list to determine which formulas worked the best. Each formula was graded on the same scale, and Jessie took extensive notes on how easily different types of makeup (from water-based to waterproof) lifted away from her complexion. She also interviewed two experts for this piece to help answer some frequently asked questions and ensure she knew what to look for in the best eye makeup removers.

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