Believe it or not, there's a right and wrong way to take off your eye makeup. And it's not just about what you're using, but rather how you're using it. These days, makeup is long-lasting, budge-proof, and often waterproof. As such, it's important to use a makeup remover that's ready to handle the job. If you use poorly made eye-makeup remover, you'll have to work harder (read: torture your skin more) to remove it.
We spoke to a few renowned makeup artists and dermatologists to get the skinny on the best technique and products to use. Unsurprisingly, they all agreed on one thing: Pulling or tugging at your skin results in damage and breakage of delicate blood vessels. You can easily tear the thin sensitive skin area around your eyes.
See below for everything you need to know to remove stubborn makeup without aging your skin in the process.
Gently Remove Eye Makeup
Before touching your face, wash your hands to prevent transferring bacteria to your face and eye irritation. "With your first step done (you've chosen a good quality and effective remover), the technique you use to apply the remover is next," says Rachel Nazarian, an NYC-based dermatologist. "Avoid using scrubbing or rough rubbing methods. Gentle dabbing and soft circular movements should be enough to lift the eye makeup off, without traumatizing the skin."
While makeup cloths conveniently remove dirt, they leave behind residue. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser after disposing of the cloth. To try to avoid irritation, use a fragrance-and-alcohol-free wipe.
Rinse Off Your Eye Remover
"Although many people skip this step, remember that makeup remover contains many ingredients and chemicals that make it shelf-stable, and you don't want those chemicals, or any residue, left on your skin. It's the buildup of all these preservatives and residue that can lead to early skin aging. Find a gentle soap like Dove's Beauty Bar ($5) and quickly rinse." Wallet-friendly cost with high end pay off make drugstore cleansers a must-have for your daily skin routine, especially if you have sensitive skin.
The eye area is the thinnest skin on your face and very sensitive. If you're having to work with force to take off the makeup, you should consider a new product.
Soak Your Makeup
"Soaking' the eyes with cotton pads is a very gentle way of removing eye makeup," says Honey artist Robert Greene. He recommends, "Cover your entire eye area with the gel, remembering to get your under-eye area as well. Spray two cotton pads liberally with Avéne's Thermal Spring Water ($14) and place them over your eyes like cucumbers. Wiggle the pads gently to help break down your makeup for about 15 seconds, and repeat if necessary. Any leftover makeup should be removed by using Q-tips, especially around the lash line. I like to finish this process by placing liberally sprayed cotton pads with Thermal Spring Water over the eyes to help soothe." Treat yourself to spa-level care even on the long days where you're tempted to skip washing your face, use a makeup wipe, and call it a night.
Double Cleanse Stubborn Makeup
Layers of sunscreen and waterproof makeup don't stand a chance against a cleansing oil. Soak a cotton pad with Boscia's MakeUp-BreakUp ($37) oil and gently swipe from the inner corner of your eye and outwards. The oil breaks down the makeup and helps lift it from your skin and eyelashes. Sunday Riley's Blue Moon Tranquility Cleansing Balm ($50) is another popular double cleansing favorite. Once applied, the balm turns into a silky oil, allowing your makeup to slide off your face.
If you’re only using a cleansing oil, the greasy residue may act as a barrier and won’t let your eye cream penetrate properly. You want the skin to be clean and bare to allow the active ingredients from eye creams to penetrate deep within the skin and deliver the best results.
Look For Active Ingredients
The term "active ingredient" may sound like the product will tingle or burn, but it means that the ingredients address the skin concerns you're targeting. If you do feel a burning sensation, your skin may be reacting negatively. To test how your skin will react to new ingredients, clean the inside of your forearm, and swatch the product. Wait 24 hours to see how your skin responds.
"If you love active ingredients like me, you'll also love Hyssop essential oil ($10). Hyssop essential oil, which is natural, has healing components, and helps to keep your skin clean. So when you're wiping away your makeup you're not left with irritated skin," says celebrity makeup artist Kira Nasrat. "It's anti-inflammatory and helps regulate breakouts too. I love this, especially in the winter."
Take Care of Sensitive Skin
Makeup removers for sensitive skin can protect your under-eye area as it is purported to be one of the first places to show aging on the face. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau explains, "It’s so important to treat this area gently. It is subjected to a lot of wear and tear from smiling, squinting, and rubbing of the eyes, which translates into wrinkles and fine lines." For eye makeup removal, Rouleau always suggests using a "liquid, oil-free, fragrance-free, no-sting eye makeup remover" (like my Soothing Eye Makeup Remover, $35), as these don’t contain "irritants and oils that can seep into the eyes and cause unnecessary under-eye puffiness."
Rouleau instructs, "Apply eye makeup remover to a lint-free toning cloth and gently press down on the eye, holding for 20 seconds. This gives your eye makeup a chance to dissolve to avoid unnecessary rubbing and touching. Then, after 20 seconds, wipe away your eye makeup and mascara in downward motions. Move the pad in an upward direction to get underneath the top lashes. Voilà!"
Rouleau recommends limiting the use of waterproof mascara, as it can be very difficult to remove, resulting in aggressive rubbing and tugging.
Fold Your Cotton Pad
To maximize the use of your cotton pad, fold the unused section over with each swipe. Using the same side of the cotton pad will redeposit the makeup you removed. Rouleau suggests, "Wipe away your eye makeup and mascara in downward motions. Flip the pad or cloth over and move in an upward direction to get underneath the top lashes." Using this method will save you from reaching for multiple cotton pads. Reusable eye makeup removers, like Face Halo's Reusable Makeup Remover Pads ($22) will save you even more.
Protect Your Eyes
"If you wear contacts and prefer a water-based remover, I love Koh Gen Do's Spa Cleansing Water," says Honey makeup artist Suzy Gerstein. "I saturate two cotton pads (Koh Gen Do makes the absolute softest and most luxurious ones) and apply one above and one just below the lashes. Then, hold them there for a good minute or so to let them do their work without pulling the eye."
Use a 'sting-free' formula because not only is it irritating when eyes sting but it might also cause under-eye puffiness, which is a prominent concern for many.
Keep Your Skin Moisturized
After you have applied eye cream to your freshly washed face, your skin should feel a bit damp. Instead of waiting for your skin to dry, seal hydration into your skin with a moisturizer like Drunk Elephant's Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer ($68). The moisturizer promises to balance oil production and protect your skin from fine lines and wrinkles. Forgot this step? Spray a facial mist or hydrating toner to bring the moisture back to your face.
Maintain A Morning Routine
Since your morning routine maintains your cleansing efforts from the night before, clean skin will allow the active ingredients in your other products to serve their purpose. La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser ($25) cleanses the skin without stripping moisture from the skin. The cleanser also removes makeup when it manages to cling to one stubborn eyelash. Once your skin is clean, wake up and brighten your eyes with Patchology's FlashPatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels ($3).
Pilkington SJ, Belden S, Miller RA. The tricky tear trough: a review of topical cosmeceuticals for periorbital skin rejuvenation. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2015;8(9):39-47.