The Problem with Makeup Wipes? Pt. 2

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Hello there, fine folks—welcome to part 2 of my The Problem with Makeup Wipes mini series. If you haven’t already make sure you read part 1 otherwise you’ll be like “whaaat?

In this post we’ll find out what the experts think and also get a quick rundown on some of the most popular makeup wipes on the market.

There are a gazillion different makeup wipes out there, so I asked Principal Scientist and Product Development Chemist Rhonda Davis to sum up what makes a “good” makeup wipe.

“A good makeup wipe not only consists of the towelette itself but also the cleanser,” she starts. “I think that an ideal wipe would be made of a quality fiber that is saturated with an effective cleansing solution that removes any and all types of makeup.”

Now keep in mind, there are other more preferred methods of makeup removal which include cleansing oils, but the type of remover you choose will depend on your skin type and lifestyle. “A consumer that barely wears makeup will not choose the same remover that a makeup enthusiast would,” Davis explains. “Someone on the go may not have time to use an oil and would prefer a wipe. Consumers all have different needs, thus there are removers for just about everyone, but they’re not all equal.”

So for those who like the convenience of a makeup wipe, what makes a “good” makeup wipe? Which ingredients should we look for?

“With today’s long wear and water resistant makeup trends, wipes typically contain surfactants, hydrocarbons, and silicones to remove makeup effectively and quickly,” Davis shares. “While this appears to be great, these ingredients are very drying and can be problematic for those with dry/sensitive skin. Adding skin soothing ingredients such as panthenol, glycerin, triglycerides and/or extracts to the formula will help moisturize, soften, and protect the skin. Of course all wipes will leave some sort of film behind, so consumers should follow up with a cleanser specific to their skin type to remove any remaining residue.”

The part about following up with a cleanser is not a point to gloss over, folks. One of the reasons why makeup wipes are popular is because they’re so convenient and easy, but they cannot replace your cleansing routine. Olay Principal Scientist & Associate Director Scientific Communications Dr. Frauke Neuser reminds us that makeup wipes were not intended to replace cleansing and offers a convenient cleansing method suggestion that I can also attest to being quick and convenient: Olay Daily Facials (see my review and demo here). I also love the RoC Skincare Daily Resurfacing Disks as a very convenient and quick cleansing method. Both the RoC disks and the Olay Daily Facials travel easy and have the cleanser built into their cleansing cloths/disks. But just to point out that these aren’t makeup wipes.

If you still think you can get away with using your makeup wipes to do the job of a cleanser, perhaps Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry can set you straight. “Makeup wipes do a poor job of really cleaning the skin because the debris and dirt is never actually washed off and is merely shifted around,” she says. “Also, many of the chemicals, cleansing surfactants, and preservatives used in makeup wipes can be very irritating to the skin. In addition to not cleansing the skin, it may actually cause redness and hyperpigmentation inducing irritation and inflammation. If you can, always wash your face with a rinse off cleanser. If you are in a bind and must use makeup wipes, chose those that are tested to be hypoallergenic like, Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes with Cotton Extract.”

So the consensus has been that makeup wipes should not replace your cleanser, but that doesn’t mean you should strike them out completely especially if you have ones you love for removing makeup. I wondered how some of the most popular makeup wipes on the market fared, so I asked Davis to give us her thoughts on a few based on their ingredients.


“Garnier Micellar Makeup Removing Towelletes appear to be less irritating to the skin due to its use of mild and conditioning surfactants. Coupled with the glycerin and panthenol, this formula is suitable for all skin types with minimal irritation.”

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes

“Neutrogena Wipes are packed with skin conditioning ingredients and compared to the other makeup wipes listed, Neutrogena’s ingredient selections are much more creamier, have more foam and aid in not only removing unwanted makeup but also moisturizing and softening the skin.”


“From the bat, Simple Cleansing Wipes waste no time in providing moisture and emollient rich ingredients. Cetearyl Isononanoate (the second ingredient listed) is an emollient derived from palm and palm kernel oil. Backed by panthenol and tocopherol, this product is best for those with dry, sensitive and normal skin.”

Coconut oil

“While coconut oil seems to be the cure for all of our troubles, I would advise consumers with oily/acne prone skin to avoid using coconut oil as a makeup remover because it is highly comedogenic. Comedogenic oils tend to block the follicles and cause comedones which are bumps that appear on the skin’s surface. Open comedones that are exposed to the air are called blackheads and closed comedones are called whiteheads. If consumers wish to use oils to remove makeup, I would suggest non-comedogenic oils derived from sunflowers or aloe vera.”

What are your favorite makeup removal methods? Tell me in the comments!

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas,, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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7 Responses to The Problem with Makeup Wipes? Pt. 2

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great follow-up post. Thanks for exploring this topic. Although everyone is different, it is important to note that we should all use an actual separate facial cleanser and nothing should replace that. Just like nothing can replace soap and water when you take a shower.

  2. Toi says:

    I just started using reusable microfiber makeup removing towels – I don’t think I’m going back to using wipes!

  3. Rosey says:

    Great post. This seems spot on, my face breaks out like crazy when I use the wipes only. I only really use for travel or to clean my hands after applying foundation or concealer.

  4. Fatima says:

    Hey beautybyFAR here and my cleansing routine is always wipes BUT I always follow up with actual cleansing that requires water and soap because what I notice with wipes is my face still felt oily and dirty and when I didn’t do a follow up cleanse I ALWAYS end up with a break out. After cleansing I use a moisturizing detox spray for my skin and I drink lots of water/coconut water and green tea this was a great read

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