Word around the neighborhood is, if you really want to take your makeup off in the lap of luxury, Shiseido Facial Cottons are the end-all, be-all. Every few Top Shelves, someone will often bashfully mention it because—why hide it?—they're on the expensive side. And as anyone who's ever used a cotton ball knows: Not all cotton pads stand up to nail polish remover or even a decent coat of waterproof mascara. To prove the hypothesis, we resolved to try the Shiseido version—but if you learn one thing from life, where there's one extravagant, nonessential beauty product, there are many—and amped-up cotton balls are no exception. So in the name of a makeup-removal process that is actually enjoyable, we got to swiping. Here are the results:
Shiseido Facial Cottons
Gleaming white, pillowy perfection—as expected. Feels like fleece on the face and is easily split into two for more hygienic eye makeup removal (to avoid eye infections, never clean both eyes with the same cotton pad). They don't stand up particularly well to nail polish removal—but that's why they're called Facial Cottons.
Clé de Peau Beauté Cotton
Where the Shiseido Cottons feel like your favorite oft-washed t-shirt, these are a bit more like silk pajamas. The threads on the surface of the pad actually glimmer a little on closer inspection (because they are natural silk—your eyes are not deceiving you) so the surface is smoother. They're also easy to split should you choose.
Koh Gen Do Pure Cotton
Larger surface area; more organic feeling. The grainy texture gives just a hint of exfoliation during removal, which is nice.
Sephora Collection Purely Pure Organic Cotton Facial Pads
Just like the Koh Gen Do (organic and natural-looking—no bleach here!), but a little smaller and less expensive.
Muji Layered Cut Cotton
Unlike the previous four, these pads are sealed off on the ends for a less natural look but a higher likelihood of the pad standing up to the wear-and-tear of your face/nails.
DHC Silky Cotton
Not glam in the slightest, but the only pad that could stand up to dark nail polish without the help of more acetone or pads. When in doubt, go clinical.
Photographed by Tom Newton.