On Trial: Waterproof Makeup Removers

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As a rule, I don’t wear waterproof makeup. It’s too much of a commitment. Waterproof seems like a great idea—Nearly permanent makeup! Cry all you want!—until you actually want to it take off. Then it's a disaster that I prefer to avoid. But the sporadically unhinged rain showers and 90 percent humidity in NYC (oh my God I’m doing it again…talking about the weather!!! Forgive me) have left me with no choice. Without waterproof mascara and eyeliner, by the time I arrive to the office in the morning, my eye makeup has melted all the way down to my neck. A dramatic look, but not the one I'm aiming to serve.

Switching to waterproof makeup is easy enough: Diorshow Blackout, Chanel Inimitable, and Serge Lutens' mascaras all look amazing on–especially if you're trying to hold a curl. But doing so might wreak a small amount of havoc on your nightly cleansing routine; it did to mine. Turns out there're a lot of different products that claim to remove waterproof makeup. Five categories of different products! I'll walk you through them and save you the time and energy and eyelash fallout. Hit it:

The Oils

Most waterproof cleansers are bi-phased (and iconic! see Lancôme Bi Facil). Part oil, part water, it’s a combination that works through 1) removal of makeup by way of oil; 2) removal of the oil by way of water. They usually remove the makeup well enough, but I almost always still have an oily film underneath my eyelids afterwards. Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover is a good alternative since it’s also dual-phased, but uses silicones instead of actual oil. However, if you're sensitive to silicones, try Dr. Alkaitis' oil-only version. It's lightweight, it's organic, and it's one ingredient that works just as well as, if not better than, two.

Addendum: Working with oil takes a bit of technique. First, I'd recommend using cotton pads (I like Muji's) to concentrate the remover where you need it. Secondly, be sure to shake the product well (oil and water always separate, plz see your fourth grade science teacher for more information) before soaking your cotton pad with it. Third, swipe in delicate, downward strokes while KEEPING YOUR EYES CLOSED. Then, once you’re sure the top half of your lash line is clean (you can never be too sure), work in gentle upward/outward strokes from underneath your eye. I like to follow with my regular face-washing routine, a serum and a heavy moisturizer. Goodnight.

The Waters

I’m a committed Bioderma user just as much as the next gal, but to answer your question: No, it does not remove even a fraction of extensively-layered waterproof mascara. However, If you do prefer micellar over an oil-based remover, Koh Gen Doh’s Spa Water works a little harder than Bioderma on most waterproof makeup. Mascara warning: No micellar works on the Diorshow. It’s invincible, and you have to use grease. I tried it with the Chanel, though, and the results were much better.

The Balms

Around the time the pile of makeup removers on my desk started to spill onto the desks of my neighbors, my colleague Amahlia Slacked me a link to her favorite: Banila Co.’s Clean It Zero. Now I love it, too! And all balms, actually! They're just like oils (greasy, hard on pigment), except they're MUCH easier to use. You can use your hands, you can actually control the product on your face, and you won't spill all over your bathroom... knock on wood. Emma Hardie and Eve Lom make similar products, but the Banila is just as good and half the price.

The Milks

During high school I used Aveeno body lotion as my makeup remover mostly because I didn't know any better, but also because its greasiness worked on almost everything. In a similar vein, but with fewer clogged pores, makeup removing milks and lotions are your best sensitive-skinned bet. Vichy’s 3-in-1 One Step Cleanser is my favorite. And it’s $12. (See also Biosource Biotherm, which I bought in France when I left my Milky Jelly in an Airbnb.)

The Wipes

For sustainability reasons, I typically avoid regularly using wipes. But if you’re using several cotton pads per eye with your oily cleanser, is that really more sustainable? Either way: The Serge Lutens Makeup Removing Pads. Are. Incredible. The wipes are soaked in a vegetable squalene—far less greasy, but equally as effective as any oil. And they're saturated in the perfect amount of product (unlike my DIY-cotton-pad version, which drips everywhere). With these around, I could actually consider converting to waterproof makeup for good. Someone would just have to sponsor me.

—Anna Stevenett

Avid waterproof mascara users unite! All the best ones, right this way.

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