Learning to cleanse my face properly and consistently was without a doubt my gateway to a solid skincare routine, and in turn, a better-than-ever complexion. (Specifically, it was Eve Lom's cleanser that got me hooked on the ritual.) But it wasn't always this way: Just a couple of short years ago, the extent of my face-washing habit was a container of Trader Joe's tea tree cleansing pads kept on my nightstand as halfhearted inspiration, should I feel inclined to remove my makeup after crash-landing in bed. Needless to say, I usually woke up with mascara smudges on my pillow.
Now, I honestly enjoy the proper technique, and the visible difference to my complexion is convincing enough in itself. But I'm still a human being—a lazy one at that—and after long, stressful days at the office, I'm really just focused on removing my face as quickly, thoroughly, and painlessly as possible. On such an evening recently, I exhaustedly opened up my vanity cabinet only to be met with half a dozen different makeup removers. Wipes? Oils? Balms? Which would get the job done and allow me to pass out sooner?
Determined to find my most efficient route from commute to bed, I thought I'd find out for sure, by using a stopwatch to time five different categories of makeup remover. (In the interest of accuracy and #science, I picked a few different products from each category and averaged it out, before picking my favorite.) The results don't lie—see how they stack up below.
Time: 1 minute, 17 seconds
I was admittedly surprised when all my oil cleansers clocked in significantly quicker than the rest of the formulas I tried—even wipes, which I've always considered the quick and convenient standby. But it dissolved my waterproof mascara in just a matter of seconds and without any elbow grease, which is usually the element of the makeup removal process that takes the most time for me. The only thing I dislike about oil cleansers is the residue they leave behind. I actually love moisturizing with face oils, but for some reason, right after cleansing the day away, leaving any of the formula on my face just feels dirty. I sop up everything with a cotton pad and follow with a refreshing, water-based toner.
Time: 1 minute, 24 seconds
I love micellar water for the sole fact that it's the closest thing you can get to splashing water all over your face, without any of the mess. My issue with it is also the reason why it didn't take the top spot: It was easy to remove my foundation, concealer, and the day's oil and grime, but it took some time to remove my eye makeup. (Surprise, surprise: Micellar water and waterproof mascara are not the best of friends.) There was a little residue left behind for sure, which is why I usually use a different product specifically for my eye makeup. (More on that in a minute.)
Time: 1 minute, 38 seconds
I try not to use wipes on the regular, since they tend to dry out my sensitive skin, but they're obviously wonderful in a pinch and for travel. As mentioned, I assumed going into this whole exercise that wipes would be the winner by a long shot. I was wrong: While it's great to take off all my foundation and concealer with just a few sweeping motions, I kept getting stuck with my eye makeup. Even wipes that can remove waterproof mascara still require a little bit of effort, and since one of the cardinal rules of beauty is to avoid tugging the delicate skin around our eyes, I had to take a gentle (read: slow) approach.
Time: 1 minute, 58 seconds
One of the (many, many) uses of balms and salves is makeup removal, particularly if they're oil-based. Again, oils really dissolve and draw out any residual makeup and grime, but because the consistency of balms is so thick, the functionality falls closer to that of a cold cream. When I'm not staging the makeup remover Olympics, I usually use a balm to remove my eye makeup after cleansing the rest of my face with my Eve Lom cleanser or a micellar water—it's so gentle and soothing, even on the stubborn stuff. Using balm on my whole face took a little more time (and several more cotton pads) than the rest of the formulas I tried, but because it left my skin so soft and hydrated, I could skip my moisturizer afterward. (And I'm happy to clock in a few extra seconds if it means more time inhaling the scent of One Love Organic's Skin Savior. So good!)
Time: 2 minutes, 16 seconds
Another solid option if you want to hydrate while you cleanse, cold cream is an oldie but goodie—though there are plenty of amazing, modern formulas on the market today. The formulas I tried definitely took more time and effort than any of the other categories, but I loved how velvety my skin felt afterward.
What are your favorite makeup removers? Got any tips for speedy and efficient cleansing? Sound off below!