I Finally Found a Face Wash That Meets My High Standards
12.07.17
Collage by Edith Young

For the past couple of years, I’ve avoided wearing any eye makeup whatsoever. I was fortunate that this initiative coincided with a bare-lid heyday, but my choice wasn’t so much for aesthetic reasons as it was for practical (and lazy) ones: I’ve never been one to use a separate eye-makeup-removing product before washing my face, and I’ve ruined far too many washcloths with mascara smudges as a result.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to double cleanse and all that jazz — but sometimes, especially after being out late, I can barely muster the energy to wash my face at all, much less do it twice. Is it so wrong to yearn for a product that simply DOES IT ALL? Something powerful enough to strip away my eye makeup yet gentle enough to not strip my sensitive skin of its essential oils?

I think not.

Perusing Sephora, I decided to test out the site’s five top-rated face cleansers advertising makeup-removing capabilities and praised by reviewers as effective in this regard. In addition to evaluating how they felt on my skin, I also implemented a literal “washcloth test” to see how well each one removed substantial eye makeup after a single wash. Read on to find out how they stacked up.


1. First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser

This cleanser is billed as “a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser that effectively removes makeup, dirt, and grime.” When applied, it goes on super creamy and melts into a slightly foamy texture when you start massaging it around (+1). Afterward my face felt clean but not irritated, and my washcloth remained stain-free when I patted dry (+1).

Total points: 2

2. Philosophy Purity Made Simple Facial Cleansing Gel & Eye Makeup Remover

This gel formula is thick and kind of gooey. I liked how it felt on my skin but it did appear to leave a slight residue after the initial rinse (-1). When I stepped out of the shower to perform a washcloth test, I noticed that I still had traces of smudged eye makeup around my eyes (-1). I went back in a second time with the cleanser, scrubbing a little more vigorously in the eye area, and that took care of the last of it (+.5).

Total points: -1.5

3. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

This one smells like spa cucumbers. It’s lovely (+1). In terms of feel, the texture is definitely a bit jelly-like, which is fun (+1). Similar to the Philosophy cleanser, I had to do two rounds of cleansing to fully remove all my eye makeup for a clean washcloth bill of health (-.5).

Total points: 1.5

4. Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash

True to its name, this cleanser is indeed quite frothy. If you like a super clean post-wash feeling and enjoy the idea of washing your face with cappuccino foam, I would definitely try this one out. If you have really sensitive skin though, I might steer clear — I’ve personally found that intense foaminess can be irritating (-1). As per the previous two, this one also required an additional round of eye-focused sudsing to remove the tougher bits of makeup (-.5).

Total points: -1.5

5. Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil

This one was, in a word, dreamy. It comes out as an oil and emulsifies upon contact with water and skin, so it doesn’t leave any residue (+1). It felt soooooo gentle around my eyes and removed all makeup completely in one go, leaving my washcloth pristine and my rosacea chilled-out (+1). The only downside is its steep ($48) price tag (-.5).

Total points: 1.5

Conclusion: My desire was justified. Face cleansers that “do it all” do, in fact, exist, but are few and far between. I would recommend First Aid Beauty’s cleanser for an affordable option, and Tatcha’s if you’re looking to splurge. Both are a rare combination of makeup-removing and non-irritating. Washcloths, rejoice.

Get more Beauty ?
  • Love the First Aid Beauty cleanser! Good choice, Harling.

  • Meghna

    Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Cleansing Oil is a godsend and lasts forever!

    • Kattigans

      I would be wary of this one – I have sensitive skin and tried this and the serum. Both broke me out like crazy. Def get samples first

    • mags

      I love it too!! I know people have issues with the lavender, though..

  • Kinsey W

    I just got back from a 5-day New York trip and the Tatcha Cleansing Oil saved my life! My skin wasn’t loving the pollution and dryness, but the Cleansing Oil with the Tatcha Water Cream kept my skin looking good.

  • Nora

    I swear by FAB Cleanser. I am acne prone and this is one cleanser that cleans my skin and doesn’t break me out!

  • glossiers milk jelly has saved me! takes off eye make up without making my eyes red and sore and you can use it whilst you’re in the shower – so much easier than my previously loved but fiddly liz earl hot cloth cleanser that required washing muslin cloths every few days!

    • Cristina

      I wanna try this sooo bad but shipping kills me. WHY CAN’T THEY BE IN SEPHORAAA UGH.

      • Ciccollina

        I don’t know for sure but if you look up the Glossier ambassadors (I think Coco Baudelle is one) on IG then sometimes they have promo/discount codes that might make you feel better about shipping 🙂

    • Hannah Laub

      I tried so. hard. to find something better for my skin than milky jelly because it’s pricey for the amount you get but after trying a new cleanser that broke me out in cystic acne, I am milky jelly forever. Take all my money.

      • Jeani

        Another low PH wash is CosRX Low PH face wash, if you’re interested in trying it. The only thing is it doesn’t remove makeup as well as Milky Jelly.

    • Ashley

      It’s so weird bc I used to feel like it took off all my eye makeup but lately I’m finding that I definitely still have residue around my eye (I’m on my third bottle now so I’ve been using it for a while). I now have to double cleanse to get a full clean. I’ve been wearing less eye makeup too, so I’m not sure if I used to just rub it around more or if I just never noticed that there was residue but I’d say it gets me to about 80% clean on the first go now.

    • Jeanie

      It’s the best, I agree. A good face wash is low PH and most of the ones out there are not low PH. I actually have test strips to check the PH of my face wash.

    • Kristen

      I just bought four bottles of Milky Jelly during Cyber Monday to last me all year. 20% off. Free shipping. It’s the only thing that doesn’t sting my eyes!

    • Selena Delgado

      My esthetician complimented how clean the Milky Jelly kept my skin. It’s been my go-to for a while now and its reasonably priced.

  • tuberoseandvetiver

    La Roche Posay toleriane hydrating cleanser. Takes off light makeup and non-drying.

    • Adrianna

      Best sunscreen, too

  • annie hall

    neutrogena’s fresh foaming face wash, usually under $6 and takes off EVERYTHING. So much better than any other face wash I’ve tried. The wipes aren’t bad either.

  • Eva

    The best cleanser for me is Tea Tree cleanser from Trader Joes! You get a big bottle and clean, non irritated skin. I’ve been using it for years 🙂

    • Suzy Shatz

      I’ve been using the Tea Trea cleanser from TJ’s! It’s kept in the shower stall for the rest of the family. I only use it on very grimey occasions. I have very, very dry skin and I live in Los Angeles. I have used the Shu Umera oil to remove make up. Love it. Now I use AVEDA Beautifying Oil for heavy eye make up removal. For over one year I have been using Annamarie Gianni Skin care products: the ALOE HERB cleanser is hands down my fave – mixed with the Kaolin exfoliant for chin area. Only issue is you need to order online. They have zero parabens and sulphates and many wellness professionals have referred them. They have a growing following – their serums are amaze balls also!

  • CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is the bees knees IMO. I use it alone, but also as step 2 in a double cleanse depending on the amount of makeup I have on.

    • Kaitlin Burnett

      I second CeraVe foaming cleanser OR their hydrating cleanser. Follow that with a quick swipe of Bioderma micellar water and you’re 100% clean

      • I feel so much better about using the Bioderma micellar as my toner knowing someone else does too! I know its not the “right order” but it just works so well!

    • JennyWren

      CeraVe foaming is my go-to summer cleanser. It’s a bit TOO effective for the winter months, but when August rolls around and I turn into a human oil slick it’s perfect.

  • Callie Clemons

    Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser! It gets off everything – even waterproof mascara/liner – without ove-rdrying. Also on the more affordable end of the spectrum ($19/5 oz), and a little bit goes a long way.

    • Bella

      seconding Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser! I use an absurdly small amount and the bottle still lasts forevs.

  • kerrin

    I used Fresh Soy Cleanser for years, but on a whim bought La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Cleanser at CVS for $15 and my skin has never been happier.

    • Paige

      Brilliant, thank you Kerrin.

  • Elle Fay

    Any oil or balm cleanser will do the job (The Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Balm or Oil are good budget options, Clinique Take the Day Off Balm or Oil are also good). Anything selling itself as a hot cloth cleanser will most likely work as well.

  • shuzluva

    I’ve tried the Fresh cleanser, Estee Lauder, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial…and have totally fallen in love with Laneige Moisturizing Foam Cleanser. I have sensitive skin, adult acne, and wear makeup. This has been my everything and it’s not a wallet buster (same price point as FAB).

  • mariahg

    I feel you in terms of not wanting to double-cleanse late at night. But, I still recommend that you do (or at least you makeup remover wipes and then cleanse). The oil cleanser attracts the makeup, dirt and oil on your face. But you still then need to clean your skin, hence the second cleanse. I’ve used Tatcha’s Camelia Oil cleanser before, and it’s great for taking off makeup (although I have to use double around my eyes because I use Benefit’s They’re Real mascara).

    I recommend DHC Deep Cleansing Oil and then use Avene Antirougeurs Anti-Redness Dermo-Cleansing Milk. Both are really affordable, and the Avene cleanser does WONDERS for sensitive skin and redness!

    • CeeEm

      LOVE the Avene cleansing milk!

    • Kattigans

      second the DHC and recommended it in my comment too

  • Meg Bowie

    YES echoing Glossier Milk Jelly – I wear a ridiculous amount of mascara everyday and can finally have face towels that aren’t black. IT’S A MIRACLE AND A CHEAP ONE! Everyone get on this.

    • Meg Bowie

      (I was so excited when I tried the sample that I woke my husband up to tell him and even he was excited)

  • Kattigans

    Try using micellar water – Garnier makes a great one and its sold at most drugstores/target. Also really recommend an oil based cleanser. You can find some that range in price. I actually really liked Burt’s bee’s oil cleanser and again can find in drugstore. Also DHC has a good one too.

    • Cristina

      I tried micellar water after reading an article and I hate it. I mean, it removes eye makeup, but people that are able to use it for their whole face I don’t get. I went through 6 cotton pads before finally giving up, and I don’t even wear that much makeup! I went through half the bottle in a week and a half.

      • Kia

        Use a paper towel

      • MM

        You may not have been using it correctly. Micellar water is a little weird to use at first, it’s not like a makeup wipe where you just swipe across the face. You have to press down lightly and hold it to the skin for around 10 seconds before dabbing or wiping it away. That might have been your problem because you don’t really need to use a lot of it for a light face of makeup; I usually use one saturated pad, back and front, for day to day or two pads at the most for heavier makeup. I always follow with a cleanser, too, but the micellar water removes basically everything that you can see.

      • Kattigans

        Hey Cristina, not too sure what brand you bought or your technique in using it, but like MM says you may have been using it incorrectly. With the Garnier Brand (pink bottle top) I’ve never had a problem. I just apply to a cotton pad and swipe across my face and usually use both i side of the cotton pad. For eye makeup just hold down on eye for a few seconds and swipe. Its good to then do a cleansing oil after or even coconut oil just to make sure all makeup is off before washing your face. Hope that helps!

      • kb

        Hi Cristina, try using your normal face cleanser or makeup removing wipe to get off the majority of your makeup, then you should be able to use just 1 or 2 cotton pads with the micellar water to make sure you’ve taken off everything. I know that’s an extra step but you’ll be surprised the extra makeup the typical cleansers leave behind!

    • Meg

      I used a sample of micellar water and I liked it a lot! My only complaint is having to also buy the cotton pads so I can actually use it to remove makeup, but as someone who uses eye makeup this was my favorite eye-makeup removing solution!

      • Kattigans

        Don’t really mind buying cotton pads, they’re a staple in my bathroom and are cheap

  • Lauren Melonic

    PAI makes a lovely creamy face wash for us gals with super sensitive skin. It’s the only thing that doesn’t make my skin burn like the fires of hell, actually removes all my makeup, and leaves me glowing like a newborn. And they send it with an organic muslin that perfectly exfoliates- so no need to buy washcloths!

    • Paige

      Would you mind terribly mentioning it’s approximate cost? Please.

      • Lauren Melonic

        It’s $50 for the 100ml which I know is pricey but if you get the 200ml it’s only $70 and lasts me quite a while

        • Paige

          Thanks very much. I really appreciate it.

  • Fayla Garcia

    I’m all about that Cetaphil daily cleanser, my skin likes it and so does my wallet. I tried the Fresh soy cleanser, it isn’t too bad, but I always felt like I had to wash my face twice

    • KatInTheDesert

      I’m with you. Cetaphil daily face wash (not the one for oily skin) is the best I’ve found. I have really sensitive skin and it gets ALL my makeup off. The best thing is that when you are REALLY lazy you can just tissue it off: no rinsing required. You can also use it as a shaving cream and it doesn’t clog your razor.

      • Fayla Garcia

        Awesome tip about using it to shave, definitely going to try it!!

  • Cristina

    Welp, gonna add this to my list! Ugh, I’ve been trying to find my holy grail cleanser for the past year! I’ve done the oil cleansing method for a couple years oh, 3 or 4 years ago and while I didn’t hate it, I didn’t like waiting for my water to get piping hot and washcloths are really harsh on my face. I also felt like it didn’t do anything for or against my skin.
    My skin is suuuupppperrr dry all year round, and the drugstore cleansers are a no go, they are soooo drying. I still don’t get how people love Purity (lucky them cause it smells so good) because it leaves my face feeling like a cement parking lot in a drought.
    I’ve tried Mario Badescu and same, so stripping.
    Micellar water is a bust because it takes like half the bottle to remove one light face of makeup.
    I’m currently trying out a Shea Moisture foam that I don’t hate, but also don’t love.
    Next on my list is an actual facial balm that I think I can use without water.
    And then the aforementioned Fresh cleanser.
    I really want to buckle down and try the Glossier Milky Jelly too.
    Ugh, being clean is hard.

    • mags

      Had the same experience with Purity. If you’re looking for an oil cleanser that doesn’t involve hot water or washcloths, kiehl’s midnight botanical cleansing oil takes off my makeup better than anything I’ve tried before (Bioderma, cleansing balms, neutrogena). Their ultra cleanser does a fine job too, and it’s probably better for sensitive skin. Milky jelly smells so nice and feels SO good, but it broke out my acne-prone skin 🙁

      Wow. I just realized how much money I’ve spent on cleansers over the years…

  • kknapp

    CLE melting face cleanser! Light but totally efffective at tough mascara etc and leaves skin dewy (I’ve never typed that word before).

  • Tatcha’s Cleansing Oil has been a lifesaver for me. I use it religiously in tandem with a second cleanser to remove any other residues that the oil doesn’t pick up. Yes, the price is steep but a little splot of it goes a very long way. Have you also tried Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick? It’s a godsend for my rosacea xoxo

    • Kate Long

      I am loving cleansers in stick form. Haven’t tried the Su:m37 one, am currently using the Neogen Real Fresh Cleansing Stick in Green Tea and am a big fan.

  • Kristen

    Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash is not meant for removing makeup. I use this face wash every morning and it’s perfect. I think it would sting if you used it to remove eye makeup, and obviously if it wasn’t made for removing that it won’t work as effectively in that way. It is a great morning cleanser though, I love it.

    • Kristen

      Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Face Cleanser And Makeup Remover is an amazing makeup remover/face cleanser. It has a cheaper price point and it does the trick!

    • mags

      Agree. No matter what I’m using for skin care, I always have checks and balances on hand. I think I’ve repurchased 5 or 6 times at this point. I like to switch up cleansers because I feel like my face gets used to them pretty quickly, but the origins is my fall-back…I know it won’t break me out, I know it will make my face feel clean, etc. That said, it’s a bit too drying for me to use 2x/day, every day in the winter, and it’s 100% not a makeup remover.

  • eganmay

    listen,,, the cosrx morning cleanser hasn’t failed me YET

  • Brazinda

    Guys, Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Gel Cleanser DOES IT ALL + you get a lot of productive for a pretty solid price. ~Trust~

  • Lebanese Blonde

    I know this makes me sound like a heathen….but I use lotion (Avene Cold Cream) or coconut oil on my eyes, then put micellar water (Avene) on a cotton pad, use one side to wipe my eyes, then use the other side to mop down my whole face. If I have a ton of makeup, it takes 2 cotton pads for the whole routine, but probably takes no more than 1 minute total. Highly recommend the whole routine if you’re one of the laziest people alive!

  • Lebanese Blonde

    I know this makes me sound like a heathen….but I use lotion (Avene Cold Cream) or coconut oil on my eyes, then put micellar water (Avene) on a cotton pad, use one side to wipe my eyes, then use the other side to mop down my whole face. If I have a ton of makeup, it takes 2 cotton pads for the whole routine, but probably takes no more than 1 minute total. Highly recommend the whole routine if you’re one of the laziest people alive!

  • Christina

    I use Clinique Take The Day Off if I have a lot of junk on my face, but my HG for day-to-day is Cosrx Low PH Good Morning Gel. If I am feeling VERY lazy, I love La Roche-Posay Wipes (I like their formula much more than Neutrogena’s). Clearly I could talk about cleansers all day…

  • Lyndsay

    Harling! You’ve got to try Goldfadden M.D. pure start. Changed my life!

  • Larisa Ikeda

    More high praise for Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser! I apply on dry skin before stepping in the shower which seems to help with makeup removal. Also Son & Park’s Beauty Water is a super effective follow-up, it cleanses AND tones, for real! I saturate a cotton pad and give my face a good once over. Makes a huge difference.

  • I love Tatcha’s makeup remover. Unfortunately I really can’t keep getting it because it’s way too pricey. 🙁

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • CeeEm

      Same. I fell in love with my sample size Tatcha, but couldn’t deal with the price of the full size. I bought Sephora’s brand oil cleanser for $15 instead, and it’s been pretty good!

  • Soo I’ve been using my DivaWash for my face for at least a year now and it works pretty well. It’s something I already have in my cabinet, is concentrated and PH balanced (since it’s for your lady bits). Then I use a bit of coconut oil to remove any mascara that is leftover. It moisturizes, and I also have it around already! Boom.

    • Lou Boom

      i’ve been wondering about using a lady-bits-wash as a face-cleanser (I couldn’t find something like the DivaWash)- they advertise a pH 5,5 and lactic acid, while being gentle.

      I imagine them being similar. Does anyone have experience/ would recommend?

  • beebee

    HAVE to share – The $5 Biore Deep Pore Charcoal Face Wash is legitimately the best thing ever! I’ve tried so many fancy face washes from Sephora, etc… (including several of these) and was never impressed. Randomly grabbed the Biore at Target over the summer and I’m never going back. My skin looks incredible for the first time ever – no breakouts and my pores are invisible (which I didn’t think was actually possible). Seriously, cannot recommend enough!

  • Kelsey

    I always feel so silly recommending this, but I’m using GlamGlow Galacticleanse right now, and I think it’s dreamy. my skin is very happy, and it removes eye makeup really well. I believe it’s success is due to the fact that you apply it to a DRY face and that makes it easy to sorta gently rub it into my lids and lashes without ruining my hard contacts for the next week and a half. Price point between FAB and Tatcha.

  • Sabletoothtigre

    I’m a freak who pH tests my facial cleaners to make sure they’re below 7.
    I always do a double cleanse but ever since both an esthetician and dermatologist told me to steer clear of oils, Renee Rouleau’s Cleansing Emulsion works like an oil-cleanser to emulsify makeup but it’s got a more lotiony feel. Then I follow with a gel cleanser.

    I like the La Roche Posay miceller gel facial cleanser for light makeup removal. It says to apply to wet face and then not rinse which I find bizarre (uh, definitely rinse it off) but it gets rid of mascara pretty well. That Simple miceller cleanser is pretty good too and not expensive.

    Honestly I found that I never really felt fully cleansed with Milky Jelly — there was always residue for me. I think it’s probably great if you don’t really wear much makeup though.

  • Natalie

    KIEHL’S ULTRA FACIAL CLEANSER omg cannot say enough good things, whenever i dont use it i break out and my skin goes dry. I have, no exaggeration, 7 bottles right now just in case yanno the apocalypse hits.

  • I really like an exfoliating face wash (use Kiehl’s Clearly Corrective Brightening & Exfoliating Daily Cleanser) combined with makeup remover wipes to get my eye makeup off. The wipes do sting a little, which I hate, so I’m curious about Glossier’s Milk Jelly everyone is raving about! I find that the little bit of exfoliating keeps my skin clearer than not, but it might be worth a try.

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • Megan Klein

    The whole foods brand of cetaphil! It’s super gentle and rinses off so easily without leaving any kind of weird residue on your face and it’s about $8 and lasts for months and months

  • jdo719

    Neutrogena fresh foaming cleanser (in the periwinkle blue bottle) is the only face wash I’ve found that also gets rid of my eye makeup. And for like $4.99 a pop, can’t really beat the price.

  • Azi

    The best cleanser I have ever used is the Joelle Ciocco Senstive cleansing milk, albeit the price is too high. This darling saved my skin! I used to wake up to tiny white heads all over my mouth area every single day for a whole year. Aside from the white heads the area around my mouth was also super dry so I couldn’t even use makeup to cover it. And when I would burst those pesky white heads, the whole area would be embarrassingly red, like I applied red lipstick all over. I knew the issue was my cleanser so I tried so many different cleansers with different techniques and nothing worked. I did quite a bit of research and ended up finding out the Joelle Ciocco cleanser! I needed a cleanser that will remove everything and not disturb my skin. I finally took the plunge and bought the sensitive cleansing milk because on paper it was what I needed! And I was right, it was exactly what I needed. I can’t tell you enough how good this cleanser is! Since using it, initially I was waking up to less and less white heads until they stoped showing up all together! Also the skin around my mouth area is no longer dry!!! I can’t tell you how much better and confident I feel these days without those pesky white heads. I cry at all the money I had spent on buying creams and oils when in reality they couldn’t have possibly worked when my skin wasn’t cleaned properly! If you want to spoil yourself, I would highly recommend that cleanser and take the time to really massage your face with it!

  • Felicity Hopkinson

    Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner by Deciem is amazing for removing make up if you have dry skin!! Not a huge fan of Milky Jelly, but maybe that’s because it doesn’t do anything for my hormonal acne…