Failing to remove your makeup at night may cause clogged pores, breakouts, and a dull complexion. On the other hand, using a harsh makeup remover might dehydrate skin and potentially damage your moisture barrier. On top of that, artificial fragrances, detergents, and preservatives can cause trouble for sensitive skin types. So unless you're planning to forgo makeup altogether, it's worth finding a natural makeup remover that works for you—which is where we come in.
The following natural makeup removers effectively remove foundation, lipstick, and mascara while keeping the skin nourished—sans chemicals. Plus, if you're into sustainable, environmentally friendly products, a natural alternative might be the way to go. To find out how to balance effective makeup removal with clean and green skincare, we turned to Dr. Marie Hayag and MUA Nydia Figueroa.
Meet the Expert
Keep scrolling for some of the best natural makeup removers to try.
Coconut oil: the most versatile product in your beauty stash. We've found that the natural oil works as a moisturizer, hair treatment, cooking ingredient, and effective makeup remover. Just massage it into your skin like a cleansing balm and rinse with warm water, wiping off the excess with a wet washcloth. It's also a great pick for heavier makeup-wearers: "Coconut oil is the best in my opinion to remove waterproof makeup," says Figueroa. However, if you're acne-prone, proceed with caution since coconut oil has the potential to clog pores, adds Hayag.
"Jojoba oil and grapeseed oils are better options for acne-prone skin because they are both non-comedogenic," explains Hayag. This nourishing carrier oil is a favorite for mixing with essential oils, but it also has about a million skincare uses on its own, including its ability to remove makeup and "regulate sebum production," she adds. Rich in vitamins A, E, and D, plus antioxidants and fatty acids, jojoba oil treats the skin while removing products as stubborn as waterproof mascara. Just apply it to the face, wait a minute for it to penetrate, and wipe it off with a reusable makeup remover pad.
More sensitive skin types might like a vegan or raw milk-based cleanser. "Milk is a great way to remove makeup gently while helping seal in the skin's natural moisture," says Figueroa. She loves the Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Cleanser for a store-bought option made with the brand's proprietary Desert Milk blend of soothing ingredients: fig milk, oat milk, shea butter, argan milk, squalene, and grapeseed oil.
Sweet Almond Oil
Like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil is rich in vitamins A and E and promises to deeply cleanse the skin without breaking you out. Plus, it's incredibly mild, meaning it's safe to use on the most temperamental of skin types. Just be aware: "If you are choosing some sort of oil as a makeup remover, choose one that is cold-pressed and unrefined," says Hayag. "In other methods of manufacturing, chemicals used to extract the oil can bind to it and lead to a lesser quality oil."
Alcohol-free witch hazel has been used to cleanse the skin for centuries. Use it alone with a cotton round or try mixing one-part witch hazel with one-part water and jojoba oil for a super-gentle, homemade makeup remover. Figueroa and Hayag agree that witch hazel is an especially good option for those with oily skin. "It has anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as an astringent, which helps fight against acne," says Hayag. T.N. Dickinson's Witch Hazel Cleansing Cloths ($6) are Figueroa-approved for on-the-go makeup removal.
Witch hazel is derived from the witch hazel plant, also known as Hamamelis virginiana. It is known to relieve inflammation and fight acne.
If being an anti-inflammatory and a moisturizer isn't enough, argan oil is also chock full of fatty acids and antioxidants. In other words, it does wonders for the skin. Want the benefits of more than one ingredient without any dyes, fragrances, or preservatives? You'll be hard-pressed to find a makeup remover more natural than Era Organics Facial Cleansing Oil and Makeup Remover. Its ingredient list includes five good-for-you items: argan oil, apricot oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and rosemary extract.
Whether you're snacking on it or slathering it on your face, cucumber holds the secret to glowing skin. "It gently exfoliates the skin while having anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe the skin," explains Figueroa. She recommends trying Cucumber Herbal Conditioning Cleanser by Kiehls or even making your own cucumber paste at home.
If you haven't introduced grapeseed oil into your beauty routine yet, what are you waiting for? The ingredient "is high in linoleic acid, which aids in skin barrier repair functions," says Hayag. And while you can take the DIY route with plain store-bought grapeseed oil, those with acne-prone or reactive skin may want to exercise caution. "Ultimately, cosmetically formulated makeup removers are going to be a better option for most people because they are gentle, more effective, and are less likely to clog pores and cause acne," she adds. The antioxidant-rich PCA Skin Daily Cleansing Oil formulated with a blend of oils, including grapeseed, is one such product.
Do like the ancient Greeks and incorporate more olive oil into your life. This liquid gold does wonders for both skin and hair, moisturizing, hydrating, and removing makeup, too. Derms also laud olive oil for its multiple skin benefits and especially recommend it for breaking down clingy, waxy substances (read: waterproof mascara and eyeliner). Using a small amount, massage onto your face for a couple of minutes, add water, and continue rubbing gently for another minute or two before rinsing clean.
You may already be using shea butter to moisturize dry skin, but have you ever considered using it as a natural makeup remover, too? It's non-comedogenic and stuffed to the gills with fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins, making it great for all skin types. To use, rub a small amount into fingertips and/or hands to warm up and gently massage into skin. Rinse with water to clean.
Thring TS, Hili P, Naughton DP. Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells. J Inflamm (Lond). 2011;8(1):27. doi:10.1186/1476-9255-8-27