How to Remove Lipstick Without Staining Your Face

woman in red lipstick

Rosdiana Ciaravolo / Contributor

We appreciate any lip color that stays on our lips and not our coffee cups (or our significant other, for that matter). That being said, when it comes time to remove, long-wear lipsticks can have the tendency to overstay their welcome. When you’re stuck with a high-impact lip color that just won’t go, chances are you probably start scrubbing like there’s no tomorrow, which leaves your lips raw and still stained along with the skin surrounding your lips—ineffective and not cute. For this reason, we've rounded up the best tips on how to get lipstick off when it just won't budge, with board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner and celebrity makeup artist Jillian Dempsey to weigh in.

Meet the Expert


Scroll down to see how to remove lipstick—sans stains.

Blot and Re-Hydrate With Vaseline

woman blotting lipstick
Kat Borchart

According to Zeichner, vaseline contains triple purified petrolatum—aka it's the ultimate multi-tasker when it comes to skincare. "When applied to an area of soiled skin, Vaseline can be used as a makeup remover, dissolving the makeup and removing it as it's wiped off of the face," he notes. Here's how to use it to remove stubborn lipstick. First, blot to remove the top layer of lipstick. Keep blotting on a clean section of the tissue until you’re no longer removing any color. Next, apply a generous layer of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($5) and let it sit—like a lip mask of sorts—for about three minutes.

Dampen a cotton pad (cotton balls won’t work here—too fuzzy) with warm water, and fold it in half. Line up the edge of the cotton pad with the top of your cupid’s bow and press down on that side of your lip. Use firm pressure, and wipe down and in toward the center of your mouth.

Repeat the process, using a clean portion of the cotton pad each time. On your bottom lip, follow the shape of your lip and continue to wipe in toward the center of your mouth. A benefit of using Vaseline here is that even after it's taken off, some of the petrolatum is still left on the skin, which provides moisturizing benefits, says Zeichner.

Use an Oil-Based Cleanser

Nourishing Cleansing Oil
Jurlique Nourishing Cleansing Oil $34
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Oil-based cleansers are great at removing makeup, including lipstick. "Since oil dissolves oil, these cleansers act like magnets for makeup to fully remove them from the skin," explains Zeichner. Plus, many are formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients that'll leave your lips feeling hydrated, like this one from Jurlique, which takes on a milky texture upon contact with water and contains plant-based oils to leave lips feeling anything but raw post-lipstick removal.

Dempsey says to avoid using cleansing oils that contain alcohol, as these can be drying, especially if you've spent a day wearing a long-wear lip color.

Remove With a Micellar Water

SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water with Vitamin C
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water with Vitamin C $9
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Have sensitive skin? Don't skip on micellar waters, which Zeichner describes as "a liquid cleanser containing tiny oil droplets that trap dirt and soiling to pull it from the skin." Though these types of products are considered to be among the mildest of all cleansers (sensitive-skinned folks, rejoice), they're highly effective at getting tough-to-remove lipstick off your lips. There's no need to tug on your lips with micellar waters, as evidenced by this one from Garnier, which dissolves that red liquid lip like a breeze without making your lips feel dry.

Stay Hydrated All Day For Easy Removal

The Guardian 100% Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm
Eos The Guardian 100% Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm $3
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If you've every tried to remove a long-wear lip color from chapped, dry lips, you know the struggle that ensues. "Removing lipstick from chapped lips can be tricky because lipstick can get into the lip lines," says Dempsey. Plus, the physical act of rubbing the skin while you're trying to remove the lipstick can disrupt your skin barrier disruption and lead to inflammation. To avoid this, it's important to maintain hydrated lips all day when you're wearing a long-wear lipstick. Try dabbing this coconut-infused one from Eos on your lips throughout the day—not only does it make cracked lips a thing of the past, but we're giving it bonus points for containing SPF.

Try a Dissolving Mist and Wipe Combo

GO OFF Makeup Dissolving Mist
One/Size Go Off Makeup Dissolving Mist $24
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When it comes to stubborn lip products, makeup wipes alone may not be the solution you're looking for (hello, excess tugging and pulling). But when combined with a two-step cleansing routine, Zeichner says it'll definitely do the trick. This makeup dissolver from One/Size has a continuous mist that instantly dissolves liquid lipstick—just spray onto your lips, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe off with the One/Size Go Off Makeup Remover Wipes ($15) for ultra-clean lips.

Consider a Cold Cream

Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser
Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser $5
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Cold creams are emulsions, or mixtures of water in oil, and they get their name because they feel cool when applied to the skin. "Because of their oil phase attracting soiling on the skin, they are great at removing makeup and are particularly useful in people who have dry skin since they offer moisturizing benefits," notes Zeichner. The cold cream from Pond's can be everything your lips need after spending the night in a matte lip—just apply a small amount onto your lips and wipe away with a warm washcloth.

Create a DIY Exfoliator

brown sugar


Anna Quaglia / EyeEm / Getty Images

Sometimes the answer to all of your beauty dilemmas is sitting right in your pantry. A DIY concoction of equal parts brown sugar, olive oil, and honey can be effective at removing matte liquid lipstick, and can be especially helpful at getting rid of those final remnants of lipstick residue. Dempsey touts brown sugar for its exfoliating benefits while olive oil hydrates and honey helps to pull the makeup off the lips. Apply the mixture to your lips for 30 seconds before rinsing off with a warm washcloth. Pop on a lip balm to restore hydration and voila—lipstick is nowhere in sight. (FYI: You can also use exfoliating makeup wipes like the charcoal ones from Sephora Collection, $3.)

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