It's pretty much a given that you're going to be wearing varying levels of makeup for your pre-wedding events, as well as on the big day itself. Even if you're the most low-key bride, we'd go so far as to say that you'll want to layer on a bit of foundation, BB cream, or mascara to bring out that bridal glow in person and in photos. And just as important as the pre-makeup skincare regimen is, you also need to think about getting all that makeup off at the end of the night. There's truly nothing worse than waking up the morning after your wedding (or really any morning at all) with mascara running down your face and an outcropping of pimples on your nose. Makeup remover is going to be your best friend by the end of this wedding journey (and beyond!).
There are a number of different ways to go about effectively removing even the most heavily built makeup looks, from balms to oils to foam. You'll want to pick your makeup remover based on your skin type—oils and balms are particularly great for those wanting to infuse extra moisture into their skin, while micellar waters and foams are better for those with sensitive skin.
Here's how to wash your way to a clear, radiant, photo-ready face, without the raccoon eyes. Plus, I can personally vouch that none of these makeup removers will burn your eyes, even with the most vigorous massage (a very important factor/deal breaker in my book). So go forth and cleanse!
"Oil is one of the best ways to remove makeup," says New York City dermatologist Heidi Waldorf. Oil actually absorbs oil, so those with combination or acne-prone skin don't need to be worried about feeling greasy or clogged. That being said, not all oils are created equally. Those with skin on the greasy side should look for oil cleansers that contain grapeseed, argan, lavender, or coconut oils, while those with dry skin should lean towards oil cleansers formulated with avocado, jojoba, or sunflower oil. To use, apply to the face while it's dry, massage until all your makeup starts to melt away, then wash with warm water.
Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser
This oil is pure magic—seriously. I can see a definite difference in my skin's radiance pretty much immediately. With a silky texture that's on the thicker side, Tata Harper's cleanser starts working the second you start massaging it into your skin and will dissolve even the most stubborn eyeliner. Antioxidant-rich sacha inchi oil adds rich botanical sources of omega 3, 6, and 9, all without stripping the skin of it's natural barrier. Plus, it smells legit incredible thanks to rose geranium essential oil.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $76
KIEHL'S Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
The Kiehl's oil is slightly less thick than Tata Harper's version, but still super effective (I like to use this one in the summer when I'm wearing little to no makeup). It contains squalane (a natural antioxidant), Evening Primrose oil (for omega-6 fatty acids), and lavender essential oil for a combination that balances and soothes skin without leaving an oily finish.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $32
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
There's a reason this spare but effective oil is sold every 10 seconds worldwide. The Japanese formula begins with olive fruit oil for its antioxidant properties, and contains rosemary leaf oil (to tone) and vitamin e (to condition and protect from pollutants). It's 100% the heaviest of the bunch, but you can really feel it pulling the gunk out of your pores. Great for removing sunscreen after a day at the beach.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $28
Ok, so many balm cleansers are technically oil-based—they start as a creamy balm and melt into an oil once you add them to the fingers and face, then emulsify once you add warm water. However, they do still tend to be a bit thicker than a cleansing oil, and are definitely the most hydrating of the bunch: essential for the winter months and for those with chronically dry or sensitive skin. Balm cleansers often also invite a more spa-like ritual; products like the Eve Lom and Goop cleansers come with a muslin cloth and instructions as to how to get the most out of your cleanse/exfoliate routine.
Eve Lom Cleanser
Honestly, this is the only cleanser you'll ever need. Seriously. It's that good. A little goes a long way, and the whole process is just so damn luxurious—but it's just that: a process. I use this on nights when I have a moment to spend some time on my face (read: not after a few margs). The whipped balm becomes slightly oily—the perfect texture for giving yourself a much-needed face massage. The company suggests that you take the muslin cloth that comes with the jar and do a mini steam—rinse the cloth in piping-hot water and place over your face (you do this twice) before gently wiping all the impurities and makeup away. The active ingredients of clove oil (to target blemishes), eucalyptus oil (to combat toxins), hops oil (to tone), Egyptian chamomile oil (to soften and sooth), and cocoa butter combined with the delicate exfoliation leaves you looking radiant immediately.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $80
Grown Alchemist Hydra-Restore Cream Cleanser
More of a thick cream than a balm, perse, Grown Alchemist's cleanser was surprisingly effective, especially if you slather it on a cotton pad before applying to your face. I like to cover a cotton round and rub all over my dry face and even all over my eyes—it won't burn, I promise!—before splashing warm water and drying off. You can see all the makeup lifting onto the cotton pad, which is oh-so satisfying. The all-natural ingredients include olive leaf extract, B vitamin, yarrow extracts, trace element zinc, polysaccarides and fucoidans from red seaweed, and plantago extract and Beta-Glucan from oat.
SHOP NOW: Bloomingdales, $49
Goop Luminous Melting Cleanser
The goop cleanser is similar to the Eve Lom (it also comes with a muslin cloth with almost identical instructions) but has a bit of a more solid consistency—it's much more balm-y when you massage into the face. This is a great choice for those of you with more greasy or combination skin; the formula is full of lighter oils like almond, olive, and coconut oils, as well as jojoba and sunflower that provide hydration as well.
SHOP NOW: Goop, $90
Palmer's Coconut Oil Formula with Vitamin E Facial Cleansing Balm
For a more budget-conscious alternative, Palmer's is a great option. Its all-natural formula is simple, clean, and rich, and removes makeup like a breeze. This one is on the more traditional oily side (you're basically putting straight coconut oil on your face) so anytime I use it I follow up with a cream or foaming cleanser to feel a little less weighed down by product. On the plus side, it smells like tropical paradise.
SHOP NOW: Walmart, $6.77
For people who wear an extremely minimal amount of makeup, try micellar cleansing waters. These rinse-free liquids contain oil molecules (micelles) suspended in water. Applied with a cotton pad, they remove dirt and makeup without dehydrating skin. Since they don't contain any alcohol, they're perfectly fine for all skin types. They've been a staple of the French woman's beauty routine for over 100 years—is there any better endorsement than that?!
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
The OG micellar water, Bioderma was once the number one export of American expats living Paris back to the US (wait, there was a time before online shopping?). It's pretty much a no-brainer if you go in the micellar water direction, and is perfectly formulated for any skin type. The best part: there's not a single leftover feeling of stickiness after use. Def a classic.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $10.90
Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Water
Like the name says, it's simple, it's no-frills, but, hey, if it works 🤷♀️
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $5.50
LA MER The Cleansing Micellar Water
Yes, yes, I know the price tag here is a bit extravagant, but La Mer's micellar water is truly lovely. If packaging is your thing, you can't get more elegant than this, plus there's no sticky film, the smell is pure luxury, and, oh, right—it works.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $95
La Roche-Posay Micellar Water Ultra
This option removes makeup while gently exfoliating—it contains citric acid (an alpha hydroxy acid) to smooth and repair imperfections. It only gets better with each use and is a nice way to introduce acids in their most low-key form.
SHOP NOW: Ulta, $19.99
Foam cleansers are definitely the safest bet for people with acne-prone skin, simply because most contain less surfactants (chemicals used to lift dirt and oil out of your skin). They are definitely less rich than oil and balm cleansers, but foaming cleansers still come in a variety of textures from super airy to gel-like to more milky. Just beware of the extremely foamy cleansers (i.e. ones that contain sodium laureth sulphate), as excess bubbles means excess drying.
Drunk Elephant Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
Everything about this cleanser is awesome, from the size (so much bang for your buck!) to the (naturally derived) smell to the texture. It's more of a gel than straight-up foam, but it does get a bit sudsy while you work it into your skin with water. Drunk Elephant is known for their perfectly formulated products, and this one is no different—the Beste cleanser is made with a non-stripping pH level of 5.5, meaning it's super gentle while also getting rid of makeup and city pollutants that accumulate throughout the day.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $34
Verso Foaming Cleanser
Verso has been one of my favorite newish brands lately, and the foaming cleanser has landed a permanent spot in my cleansing routine. It includes fruit enzymes which act as a light peel to slough away dead skin cells—I feel super glowy every time I use it without feeling like I need to forgo any other acids in my nighttime regimen. Shea butter and vitamin e nourish and hydrate for a nice plumpness with every wash.
SHOP NOW: Nordstrom, $40
Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
I absolutely adore all of Pai's super gentle but effective products, especially this cleanser. It's more milky than foamy, and the smell is extremely dreamy. It's great for people with sensitive skin and comes with a double-sided cloth; one side is muslin for gentle exfoliation while the other is super-soft flannel towelette for when you just want to feel pampered.
SHOP NOW: Amazon, $48
Avène Cleansing Foam
Really anything from this classic French brand is a go-to, with the thermal spring water base bringing out the best in all skin types. This cleanser is soft and lightweight, and contains glutamic acid to mattify skin's texture and control excess oil.
SHOP NOW: Avène, $20
See more: The Best Foundations for Your Wedding
Eye Makeup Removers
Yes, all of the above-mentioned cleansers will get that first layer of makeup gunk off your eyes, but, especially in situations like your wedding day where the products used will have super staying power, you'll want to give your eyes some extra love. For that second, hard-to-penetrate layer of mascara and liner, grab one of these ultra-gentle eye-makeup specific removers to get everything off. Remember to never scrub or rub your eyes, as the skin there is super thin and sensitive; instead, use a cotton pad and gently press on the eyes, then swipe down to protect your lashes from being pulled out.
NARS Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
NARS's formulation is extra mild and won't irritate the eyes or interact with contact lenses. It's non-greasy and dries without a trace, while soothing the eye area with aloe and cucumber.
SHOP NOW: Sephora, $25
Orveda Eye Make-Up Remover & Pro-Fortifying Lash Serum
I am sort of obsessed with this stuff. It's both a makeup remover and a lash serum that helps to keep your lashes intact and to actually keep growing. The formula contains bio-fermented kombucha black tea for skin rejuvenation, prebiotics, Marine enzyme (heals of the skin's natural moisture barrier), cleansing bamboo water, and peptide and clover flower extracts (known for their lash conditioning properties). Plus, it comes with a huge pack of non-woven compresses that won't pull at the lashes. TBH, it's worth the price tag.
SHOP NOW: Saks Fifth Avenue, $82
Kiehl's Supremely Gentle Eye Makeup Remover
Cooling and refreshing, this crowd favorite stays true to its name—it is, in fact, supremely gentle. The lightweight, non-greasy formula uses cucumber gel, antioxidants and apricot kernel oil to hydrate and protect the delicate skin around the eyes.
SHOP NOW: Macy's, $17