If your regular makeup remover isn’t up to the task of removing sooty eyeshadow and waterproof mascara, it’s time to invest in one of the best eye makeup removers. Though they come in various forms — water-light liquids, gentle pads, oil-based cleansers — they’re all powerful enough to remove even the most stubborn of makeup, but they won’t leave your eyes greasy or stinging. Narrowing down your perfect match mostly comes down to personal preference, though if you have sensitive eyes, you may want to choose a fragrance-free formula that’s made with gentle ingredients, while those who favor waterproof makeup should opt for something a bit more heavy duty.
Unless you’re buying pre-moistened wipes, you’ll probably need to pick up some cotton pads to use with your makeup remover of choice. But here’s a tip: Stop wasting money (and help save the environment while you’re at it!) and buy a pack of reusable cotton rounds instead. Another exception to the cotton pad rule are oil cleansers, which tend to be extremely effective at removing stubborn eye makeup, though note that these should be followed up with a water-based cleanser (like a gel or foam) to give your skin a proper clean.
With that in mind, scroll on to shop the best eye makeup removers that are also a pleasure to use.
1. Editor’s Pick: Best Micellar Water
Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water is my holy-grail makeup remover, period, and one of the few products I truly couldn’t live without. Full disclosure: I don’t often wear waterproof eye makeup, so I can’t speak to its prowess in that department, but for the non-waterproof stuff — foundation, concealer, liquid lipstick, glittery eyeshadow — it removes makeup better than anything else I’ve ever tried.
What I really love about this micellar water is how gentle it is. Like all of the products in Bioderma’s Sensibio line, it’s safe for use on sensitive skin, and another highlight is that it truly feels as light as water. Though I do choose to rinse this off with water and face wash, rinsing is technically optional. Whether you do or don’t rinse, it doesn’t leave any perceptible residue behind — not even a hint of oiliness.
For what it’s worth, a couple hundred Amazon reviewers say this does take off waterproof makeup. Just apply some product onto a cotton round and let it sit against your eye for 30 seconds or so.
2. Editor’s Pick: Best Oil Cleanser
Another personal favorite, I reserve DHC’s cult-favorite oil cleanser for heavy makeup days. (Sometimes, I use both this and the Bioderma micellar water, followed up with a gentle cleansing milk.) I slather this onto dry skin and massage it around for about 30 seconds, and immediately, my makeup — including stubborn eye makeup — starts to visibly melt off. Even though this is pretty much pure oil, it doesn’t leave my skin feeling oily once it’s been rinsed off (soft, on the other hand? Very much yes). For the most thorough clean, follow up with a water-based cleanser, and if you’ve never tried this method before, welcome to the double-cleansing club.
Pro tip: This works even better when removed with a wet microfiber towel or cotton facecloth. And if you’ve never tried an oil cleanser before and are hesitant to splurge on a full-sized bottle, you can buy a mini version for about half the price.
3. Best Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover
Formulated specifically to remove waterproof eye makeup (though still gentle enough to be used on sensitive eyes), La Roche-Posay’s Respectissime makeup remover boasts a unique dual-phase formula that comprises two layers of product — a water-based solution and a blend of oils — that become one powerful cleanser when mixed together. To mix, simply shake the bottle, then apply onto your eyes using a cotton round. The formula is fragrance-free and safe for contact lens wearers, as well.
4. Best Eye Makeup Remover Pads
If you can’t kick the old-school makeup remover pad habit, you might as well use these gentle, oil-free pads from Marcelle. My mom has always used the classic Almay eye makeup remover pads, which are very solid, but when I tried these, I liked them even better (they feel slightly more substantial). Each tub comes with 85 pads soaked in a dual-phase solution, and they’re nice and thick, with a subtle texture. They’re also free of alcohol and fragrance, in addition to oil, and they should be up to the job of removing most waterproof makeup, as well.
5. Best For Removing Extremely Stubborn Waterproof Mascara
When all else fails, break out Heroine Make’s Speedy Mascara Remover to take off the most stubborn waterproof mascara. This was designed specifically to remove the brand’s cult-favorite “super waterproof” mascara, which is notoriously difficult to get off, but it can be used to remove any mascara. It’s applied to your lashes using a wand similar to the type you’d get in tube of mascara; leave it on your lashes for about two minutes (you can get to work on the rest of your face with your regular cleanser while you wait), then wipe off with a cotton round, et voila.