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10 best make-up removers

Our pick of the no-hassle products that are soft on the skin, but strong on make-up

We spend so much time and effort putting products on our faces that the thought of removing it all can seem like quite a chore. But what goes on must come off. While removing your make-up before bed might be the last thing you want to do after a hard day’s graft (or a heavy night out), if you don’t, clogged pores and a sullied pillowcase await. 

Thankfully, a whole host of beauty brands have launched removers that take all the grimy hard work out of eradicating make-up, but with so many on offer, finding the right one for you can be an ordeal. From oil-based formulas to watery micellar solutions, we’ve tested the best products to banish panda eyes so you don’t have to. 

1. Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm: £22 for 125ml, Look Fantastic

It’s easy to get seduced by complicated products, but there’s really no need. This functional, fuss-free option, described as a cleansing balm, comes in solid form but quickly dissolves into a silky oil upon application. We found the best way to use it is with your fingertips, massaging the balm over dry skin and rinsing well. This is great for all skin types and is super-effective at removing all make-up – including waterproof products – without any of the rubbing associated with wipes or cotton pads. The silky consistency leaves your skin feeling clean and soothed, like you’ve just had a facial. One thing to mention here is that it’s also fragrance-free, which is great for those with sensitive skin.    

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2. Dior Instant Eye Makeup Remover: £22.50 for 125ml, Boots

This is a two-phase, or biphasic make-up remover – it’s made up of two separate oily and water-based layers. When you shake the bottle, the layers mix to create a product that easily removes all make-up, including stubborn waterproof mascara. This remover is super-gentle on the skin – it’s made with pure lily extract, which helps moisturise and soothe – and while it’s marketed for the eyes, it easily removes all of your make-up. The idea of applying oil to your face can seem daunting, especially for those with grease-prone skin, but this leaves little to no residue. It’s also a great option for anyone with sensitive eyes. A little goes a long way, too.

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3. Nivea Double Effects Eye Make-up Remover: £3.59 for 125ml, Superdrug

This is another two-phase remover, but is at the cheaper end of the spectrum. Like similar formulas, this one uses an oil phase to effectively remove waterproof mascara and eye make-up, while the water phase protects and cares for the lashes. This one contains cornflower extract, known for its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, which is great news for anyone with sensitive or sore eyes. For the best results, wet a cotton pad with the solution, apply the cotton pad to the eyes for a few seconds and wipe away. While this can be used on the rest of your face, it does leave a slightly oily residue, although it’s nothing a little splash of water can’t fix. 

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4. Bioderma Hydrabio H20 Micelle Solution: £9.15 for 250ml, Feel Unique

Back in 1991, this French skincare brand developed the world’s first micellar water – essentially, water that contains micelles, tiny round balls of cleansing molecules which float in water and, when applied to the skin, gently sweep away oil and dirt. This micelle solution is made with aquagenium, a patented biological complex that stimulates the skin’s ability to retain moisture. While it might sound complicated, this is easy to use and really effective – simply pop the water onto a cotton pad and let it do its magic. Not only does this product remove make-up and impurities, but it’s also amazingly refreshing. Other versions are available for sensitive and oily, blemished complexions. 

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5. Make-up Eraser: £17, Selfridges

If you suffer from ultra-sensitive skin, finding a make-up remover can be challenging but this product allows you to take it all off with just warm water. We were sceptical at first, but this soft cleansing cloth really does work. And what’s more, it claims to last more for more than 1,000 washes. The cloth is made from knitted, polyester/silk fibre which, when wet, helps break the bond between make-up and the skin. It is surprisingly gentle and while no lashes were lost in our battle to remove mascara, you should be careful not to over buff. Because it contains no chemicals, it’s friendly to all skin types and even has a second side you can use to exfoliate. It’s a great option for travel as you don’t need to worry about the 100ml liquid limit. 

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6. Estee Lauder Take It Away Eye and Lip Make-up Remover: £20 for 100ml, Debenhams

This dual-phase formula from Estée Lauder quickly dissolves make-up, including waterproof and long-wear products, without all the faff. Unlike many of the others here, it also has a zesty scent, so it’s refreshing to both the skin and the senses. The oily formula means that with just a light sweep of a cotton pad even the most stubborn of make-up will lift. It’s marketed for the eyes and lips and while you can use it on the rest of your face, you should expect a little residue. It’s infused with aloe vera, too, one of the beauty world’s greatest soothers. 

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7. La Roche-Posay Make-up Remover Milk: £12 for 200ml, Boots

La Roche-Posay delivers products that can be tolerated by the most sensitive of skin and this make-up remover is no exception. It has a much thicker consistency than others on the list, but comes with a pump for controlled dispensing. Described as a milk and delicately fragranced, it’s great for those with dry to very dry skin. It manages to quickly dissolve make-up without any rubbing, residue or redness and leaves your face feeling very clean and soft. We found that using your fingertips gave the best results, but if you don’t like to get messy then cotton pads are a great alternative.

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8. Chanel Démaquillant Yeux Intense: £22 for 100ml, Feel Unique

This formula from Chanel has a light blue bottom phase, which is rich in rosewater and cornflower water to help soften and soothe the skin, while the upper phase contains highly purified oils to help eliminate all traces of make-up. It does an amazing job at removing stubborn cosmetics that just won’t budge and also leaves your skin feeling soft and pampered. While it’s described as an eye make-up remover, this is a great all-rounder that doesn’t leave any oil residue on the surface. For a Chanel product, it’s excellent value, too.

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9. Bobbi Brown Instant Long Wear Makeup Remover: £18 for 100ml, Bobbi Brown

This oil-based formula from Bobbi Brown is a one-swipe wonder, gently removing all traces of product while soothing the skin. Fragrance-free, this is a great option for those with sensitive skin or who wear contact lenses. We found that it easily removed the toughest of waterproof and long-wear products with little to no rubbing. And it contains lash conditioning ingredients that promise to leave you in a flutter. However, it does leave some oily residue so rinsing with cool water is recommended. 

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10. Mac Cosmetics Cleanse Off Oil: £21, Mac Cosmetics

If you have oily skin don’t be put off by using this, because oil attracts oil, meaning a cleanser like this will work wonders to break up the sebum in your skin. Mac describes this as an industry-strength oil and they’re not wrong – it loosens the most stubborn of products with ease and thanks to ingredients such as oils of olive fruit, evening primrose and jojoba seed, it’s soothing to your skin too. For best results, massage over the face until all make-up is dissolved and rinse thoroughly with cool water.

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Top of the list has to be Clinique’s Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, which not only managed to remove all traces of persistent make-up but left us feeling truly pampered. (Who knew working a buttery balm into your skin and watching it dissolve could be so satisfying?) If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, you really can’t go wrong with Nivea’s offering which is just as good as some of its more expensive counterparts, albeit with a little residue.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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