The 12 Best Makeup Removers for Sensitive Skin of 2022

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water wipes out makeup and dirt without drying

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products. Healthcare professionals review articles for medical accuracy. Learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
Commerce Photo Composite

Byrdie / Sabrina Jiang

Anyone interested in skincare will know how important it is to properly remove your makeup each day. But the caveat for sensitive skin types is that some makeup removers can leave the complexion feeling tight, itchy, stripped, or irritated—not exactly what we’re after. 

That’s why—if you’re sensitive—it’s paramount to seek out a product that removes makeup, dirt, and debris without compromising the skin. That however is easier said than done, which is why we’ve done the work and curated a dozen makeup removers that are effective and safe for easily-irritated complexions. 

Meet the Expert

Melanie Grant is an esthetician, facialist, skin expert, and the founder of Melanie Grant Skin Health, a clinic with outposts in Sydney, Melbourne, and Los Angeles.

Keep scrolling to shop the best makeup removers for sensitive skin.

Best Overall: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water

4.8
Bioderma Sensibio H2O

Walgreens

What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Doesn't need to be rinsed off

  • Great for travel

What We Don’t Like
  • Heavy makeup will require an additional cleanse

Who else recommends it? Allure, Insider, and CNN all picked Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water. 

What do buyers say? 85% of 33,300+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 5 stars.

This iconic French product is loved by skin experts, makeup artists, and beauty aficionado’s world over for its ability to gently remove makeup, skincare, and sunscreen. Simply saturate a reusable cotton round and sweep it across the face, neck, and chest for clean (not stripped) skin. 

“Sensibio H2O is the first and only dermatological micellar water perfectly compatible with the skin,” Grant tells us. “Formulated with fatty acid esters and constituent elements of micelles, it works to gently saponify sebum, grime, dirt, and pollution without disrupting the delicate acid mantle. This rinse-free cleanse is the perfect travel companion, pre or post-cleanse, and/or makeup remover tolerated by even the most sensitive eyes.”

Price at time of publish: $17

Type: Micellar water | Size: 16.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Even heals blemishes

  • Doesn't strip protective oil barrier

What We Don’t Like
  • May leave skin a bit greasy

Much like Bioderma’s iteration, Garnier’s micellar water is a cleansing solution that whisks away dirt, makeup, sunscreen, and skincare without rubbing, tugging, or rinsing. The ingredients differ slightly (there’s no cucumber extract or fatty acid esters), but it still delivers on the promise of clean skin, sans irritation.

Price at time of publish: $10

Type: Micellar water | Size: 13.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Fragrance-free

  • Creates softness

What We Don’t Like
  • Can leave a film on the skin

  • Not ideal for oily complexions

While all French pharmacy brands cater towards sensitive complexions, La Roche-Posay’s Toleraine Dermo-Cleanser is especially gentle when it comes to removing makeup and skincare without disrupting the delicate acid mantle. The milky fluid contains glycerin, a humectant that improves hydration and promotes healthy barrier function. Try massaging it into dry skin before tissuing off. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Fluid cleanser | Size: 6.76 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Waterproof Makeup: Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup Melting Butter Cleanser

5
Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

Ulta

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Breaks down waterproof makeup

  • Exfoliating

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Rich in fruit, nut, and seed oils, this buttery cleanser from Drunk Elephant is hard-working, dissolving even the most stubborn waterproof makeup and sunscreens. But because of the high oil content, it’s wonderful for protecting the barrier, preventing irritation and redness. It also comes with an exfoliating powder that can be added to the balm to exfoliate the skin. 

Price at time of publish: $34

Type: Balm | Size: 3.88 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Cosmedix Purity Clean

Cosmedix Purity Clean

Amazon

What We Like
  • Reduces acne bacteria

  • Exfoliating

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • Heavy makeup will require an additional cleanse

“This cleaning gel is amazing for congested and acne-prone complexions,” says Grant. “It’s rich in lactic acid and tea tree oil to support the demarcation process and reduce the incidence of acne-causing bacteria. And because it’s a light fluid-gel, it’s a wonderful first cleanse to remove makeup.” 

With ongoing use, this formula will assist with removing dead skin cells and promoting a smooth, even texture. 

Price at time of publish: $42

Type: Gel | Size: 5.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: Biologique Recherche Lait U

Biologique Recherche Lait U

Vicki Morav

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Breaks down waterproof makeup

  • Non-greasy

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

“Formulated with nourishing almond oil, this emollient cream cleanser is suitable for those prone to inflammatory skin instants such as sensitivity, redness, rosacea, and acne,” says Grant. “It’s gentle enough to be taken over the eyes for breaking down waterproof makeup, leaving the skin comfortable and replenished.”

Type: Milk | Size: 8.4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Balm: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

Clinique: TAKE THE DAY OFF CLEANSING BALM
What We Like
  • Dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested

  • Boosts radiance

  • Transforms from a balm to silky oil

What We Don’t Like
  • Must be rinsed off with water

Few makeup removers have as many rave reviews as Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm. The formula is made on a base of safflower oil, and when it comes into contact with the skin, it transforms into a light, silky texture that cuts through makeup (even waterproof mascara) with ease. It doesn't have any fragrance, alcohol, or sulfates, so it’s a great pick for sensitive skin types. Simply massage it into dry skin, and emulsify it with warm water. You’ll be left smooth, glowy, and clean. 

Price at time of publish: $26

Type: Balm to Oil | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Wipe: Burt's Bees Sensitive Skin Facial Cleansing Towelettes

Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes With Cotton Extract

 Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Great for travel

  • Made from repurposed cotton

  • Doesn’t need to be rinsed off

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for daily cleansing or makeup removal

Facial wipes aren’t our top choice when it comes to makeup removal, but sometimes they’re just too easy to pass up. Enter the Burt’s Bees Sensitive Cleansing Towelettes. Made without any harmful parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum, they are simple, effective, and swiftly remove all traces of makeup without the need for water or rinsing. Each wipe is even made from 60% repurposed cotton. 

Price at time of publish: $17

Type: Wipes | Size: 30 pre-moistened wipes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Liquid: Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

4.8
Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

Amazon

What We Like
  • Dermatologist-tested

  • Oil- and fragrance-free

  • Designed for sensitive skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Doesn’t have any skin cleansing properties

Simple, effective, and formulated with sensitive skin in mind, this liquid makeup remover from Cetaphil is the ideal first cleanse—especially if you’re wearing stubborn eye makeup. It’s fragrance-free, dermatologically tested, and contains botanicals like green tea and aloe vera to prevent redness or irritation. 

Price at time of publish: $10

Type: Liquid | Size: 6 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Chanel Sublimage Gel-to-Oil Cleanser

Chanel Sublimage Gel-to-Oil Cleanser

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Luxurious formula

  • Soothing

  • Enriched with two light-enhancing ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Often, makeup removers that suit sensitive skin aren’t luxurious or overly special to use, but Chanel’s Sublimage Gel-to-Oil Cleanser is the exception. The creamy formula is like silk on the skin, turning into a light, frothy oil when it comes into contact with water. While the price tag is substantial, if you’re into the finer things in life, this is gold class. 

Price at time of publish: $110

Type: Gel to Oil | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Eyes: Neutrogena Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover

5
Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

Walmart

What We Like
  • Breaks down waterproof makeup

  • Affordable

  • Ophthalmologist-tested

What We Don’t Like
  • Not for daily cleansing or makeup removal

This bi-phase liquid contains an oily component to cut through oil-based makeup, removing it quickly and efficiently. To combine the formula, give it a shake before dispensing it onto a cotton round (even better if it’s reusable). Because of the oily layer, there’s no need to pull, rub or tug—a great feature for sensitive eyes. The drugstore price point is a bonus! 

Price at time of publish: $6

Type: Bi-phase liquid | Size: 5.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Extremely Reactive Skin: Eau Thermale Avene Trixera Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Cleanser

Eau Thermale Avene Trixera Nutrition Nutri-Fluid Cleanser

Dermstore

What We Like
  • Full of lipid-rich ingredients

  • Tackles itchiness

  • Prevents moisture loss

What We Don’t Like
  • Not ideal for oily complexions

If your skin is extremely fussy with makeup removers (we’re talking redness, watery eyes, and that burning feeling), you need a cleansing formula that’s effective enough to melt through makeup and sunscreen but won’t trigger any irritation. Avene’s Trixera Nutrition Nutri-Fluid is all of that and more, designed to strengthen the skin’s barrier and prevent moisture loss through the inclusion of plant-based ceramides. Post-cleanse, face complexion should feel soft, clean, and replenished. It’s also soap-free and comes in a shower-friendly pump bottle.

Price at time of publish: $29

Type: Oil | Size: 13.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Our top pick is the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water for its gentle cleansing properties that wipe away grime, dirt, makeup, and sunscreen while hydrating the skin. If you're looking for an affordable pick, you can't go wrong with the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water (view at Amazon) or the Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover (view at Amazon). Finally, if you're wearing heavy, waterproof makeup, try a rich balm like the Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup Melting Butter Cleanser (view at Amazon) or the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm (view at Amazon).

What to Look for in a Makeup Remover for Sensitive Skin

Common Irritants 

Grant says that whether your skin is chronically sensitive or just irritated due to changes in weather, air travel, or the misguided use of actives, certain ingredients should be avoided at all costs. “Alcohol, fragrance, ammonium lauryl sulfate, and sodium lauryl sulfate are harsh on delicate skin, so be sure to check the ingredients listings thoroughly.” 

Hydrating Ingredients

On the other hand, Grant recommends finding a cleanser that contains restorative, hydrating ingredients. Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and plant oils are a few good ones to look out for.

Milks, Gels, Waters, Lotions, and Creams 

Finally, Grant advises that for sensitive skin, it’s best to steer clear from gritty scrubs or harsh, foaming makeup removers that will strip the skin of essential moisture. Instead, look for light, creamy formulations that leave your face feeling clean but comfortable. 

FAQ
  • How do you use makeup removers for sensitive skin?

    This really depends on your cleanser of choice, but generally speaking, you should massage your cleanser into damp skin, concentrating on the t-zone. Emulsify with a little warm water before removing gently it with a damp cloth. Balms on the other hand should be working into dry skin for best results.

    If you’re using micellar water, be sure not to tug or pull at the skin. A final tip from Grant is to use tepid water (not hot) as it’s less likely to cause further irritation. 

  • How often should you use makeup removers for sensitive skin?

    A dedicated makeup remover or makeup removing cleanser should be used any time you’re wearing makeup or a dedicated sunscreen. For some people, this might look like your first cleanse of an evening. 

    Grant also notes, however, it’s important not to over-cleanse sensitive skin just for the sake of it. 

  • Do makeup removers for sensitive skin expire?

    Grant advises to check your product to determine the expiry, but as a general rule, throw anything that has changed color, texture, or scent. 

 How We Researched & Tested

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. Our team also incorporated their own personal experiences testing products in their own lives. We then used these insights from our research and testing to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Emily Algar is an experienced freelance journalist and has over five years of experience writing about all things beauty and skincare. Aside from Byrdie, her work can be found in Popsugar, Vogue Australia, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, and more.

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 makeup removers for sensitive skin from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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. 19 Micellar Waters That Remove Your Makeup in One Simple Step. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-micellar-waters

  2. The best makeup removers. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/beauty/best-makeup-remover

  3. The best ways to remove your makeup, according to experts. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/cnn-underscored/beauty/best-way-to-remove-makeup

  4. Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in CosmeticsInternational Journal of Toxicology. 2019;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi:10.1177/1091581819883820

  5. Pazyar N, Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Feily A. Oatmeal in dermatology: a brief reviewIndian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2012;78(2):142-145. doi:10.4103/0378-6323.93629

Related Stories