It has been a personal journey to stop everyone in my life from using makeup wipes. I get it, sometimes you need to give a girl a break and have an easy option at the end of a long day. So can’t I just let it go? Nope. Just can’t do it! In my journey to rid the world of makeup wipes, the girls in my life always just ask the simple question: so are makeup wipes bad for your skin?
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase through the link I may make a small commission. I am not a medical pro, just someone who loves skincare and has done the research. Everyone’s skin is different and any serious skin issues should be consulted with a dermatologist or your esthetician.
Benefits of using makeup wipes
Well, they are easy! The temptation to reach for a wipe after a long day is real.
There is something satisfying about seeing mascara and makeup sitting on a wipe..girls are weird idk.
The benefits end here.
Why makeup wipes are bad for your skin
We can all understand the allure of using a makeup wipe at the end of a long day, but this habit may actually be wreaking havoc on your skin!
Amber Rambharose on Glamour.com says it best: “Makeup wipes are fake skin care”.
She is right. Makeup wipes trick us into believing we are cleaning our face and leaving skin without makeup, but that ain’t it!
From the ingredient lists to the impact on your skin, read on to see why TFE says no way to makeup wipes.
In a skincare world where ingredient lists are long and confusing, it can get overwhelming to understand if ingredients impact our skin negatively. Many popular makeup wipes are full of certain ingredients that can cause sensitivity and skin irritation. These are never good things, especially when all we want to do is cleanse our skin!
Makeup wipes (like a lot of products out there) are full of a combination of very safe and not so safe ingredients. Generally speaking, reputable brands will not put out a product packed with ingredients that will significantly harm our skin or bodies, but it is important to understand what you are applying to your skin and what long-term exposure might mean for you.
Some common makeup wipe ingredients are listed here, but remember that not all products are created equal. Check out the ingredient label of any product before diving in.
sodium lauryl sulfate
SLS is a controversial girl. You will find this in a lot of wipes and cleansers, as SLS is a foaming agent. This is used to help remove makeup, which is exactly what we want to do. BUT, SLS can actually irritate your skin and your eyes and cause lots of dryness.
You will find SLS on the naughty list when it comes to “clean” beauty. This ingredient is one of the “dirty dozen” chemicals to avoid in beauty. TFE doesn’t have a strong opinion about what is being called clean, so form your own opinions when it comes to these ingredients.
Not everyone is sensitive to SLS, though, and many recommend that if you choose a product with SLS on the ingredient list that you follow up with a great moisturizer.
Diazolidinyl and several other preservatives
Preservatives are an important part of our products to make sure they stay stable and don’t grow mold or other unwanted substances. BUT the preservatives used in many makeup wipes are said to be formaldehyde releasing chemicals.
Diazolidinyl is a part of the formaldehyde releasing preservative family. This is typically considered safe in concentrations of 0.5% or less and is said to release below the maximum exposure limits of formaldehyde. TFE likes to stay away from these types of preservatives when possible.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and while we do not fully understand the long-term effects of exposure through our skin, I find it best to keep your exposure to a minimum where you can control it.
This should come as no surprise, but formaldehyde releasing preservatives are on “clean” beauty’s naughty list as part of the “dirty dozen”.
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
The PEG family is found in several beauty products mostly due to their ability to help products easily smooth across the skin and the ability to help other ingredients penetrate deeper into the skin. The penetration ability of PEGs is of key concern for those who already have a damaged or sensitive skin barrier. PEGs penetrate at different levels, depending on molecular weight.
Generally speaking, the lower the molecular weight, the higher the ability to penetrate your skin. PEGs are found in products ranging form PEG 2 to PEG 100 or higher. TFE generally likes to avoid products with PEGs 2 – 9.
PEGs are also on “clean” beauty’s naughty list as part of the “dirty dozen”.
You will find fragrance in countless beauty products. This is not an essential component of any skincare routine, but that does not mean it is bad.
Fragrance can be very sensitizing and cause some major irritation for those with sensitive skin. If you are sensitive to fragrance, always check out the ingredient list or look out for things like essential oils, linalool, citronella, perfume, or parfum.
Fragrance also makes “clean” beauty’s naughty list due to its sensitizing behavior.
Effect of makeup wipes on skin
Said to cause actual tears in your skin, Makeup wipes are leaving your skin barrier damaged and exposed. Some of this has to do with how we use a makeup wipe.
Most makeup wipes are not made with exfoliating textures (steer clear if so), but many of us are too aggressive with a wipe and tend to rub on our skin.
Aging by pulling
We work so hard to prevent signs of aging on our skin. Many of us tend to pull a makeup wipe around our skin with a less than gentle approach. We know by now that the more we pull on our face, the faster we will show signs of aging.
Moral of the makeup wipe application story – if you are going to use a wipe, work to master the art of smoothing across your skin. Any time you need to apply pressure or pulling to “cleanse” your face, you are only hurting your skin.
Makeup not removed
Seeing all the colors on your makeup wipe after use is deceiving. Of course wipes remove some dirt and makeup, but do they really get it all?
Makeup wipes have this fun way of just moving makeup and dirt around your face, rather than lifting them off of your face.
Many of your cleansers are not formulated to remove makeup. This means that as you go through your skincare routine, you are layering products on skin that is still holding makeup! This can lead to a series of unfortunate events including clogged pores, oil production, and breakouts.
Say you use 1 makeup wipe, 5 times a week (and this is probably too low). That is 260 wipes a year just piled up in a landfill. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands (prob more) who use a makeup wipe – we got a problem.
What should I use instead of makeup wipes?
Double double cleanse, girl!
Say it with me: “I love to double cleanse”.
A two cleanse approach to your nighttime routine is guaranteed to make your skin happy. I know, I know, this adds ANOTHER step to your skincare routine. But, don’t you count the makeup wipe as a step anyway?
Cleansing with an oil or cleansing balm first breaks up and removes makeup, pollutants, sebum, dirt, and even your sunscreen from your face. This is a great way to pull that makeup and sunscreen off of your face without irritating or damaging that ever important lipid barrier.
Essential tip: cleansing oils or balms absorb oil from your skin. A long oil cleanse (I call that 2 – 15 minutes) will help pull oil plugs and blackheads right up! This will leave your baby smooth skin and a bump free nose that you didn’t know you could achieve! Trust TFE on this one and give it a try, you won’t regret it.
Micellar water is another great option, especially for those of us who hate the part of cleansing that requires you to splash water on your face. Just be careful with application here. Always use reusable cotton rounds and don’t pull or tug at your skin.
Related post: want to learn more about how to properly wash your face for clear, happy skin? This post breaks down all you need to know on cleansing.
Really in a jam and can’t avoid the makeup wipe?
While we don’t want to support this habit, TFE knows that some nights we need some vital assistance. Here are some TFE approved makeup wipes for those (very limited) emergencies when a makeup wipe is the only thing that is going to happen.
It’s time to break up
Your makeup removing routine might be broken. It seems hard now, but this is what your skin
That skin is meant to glow, so toss those wipes aside and make way for the makeup free skin you have been craving.
What are your favorite makeup removing products? Let us know in the comments so we can learn all your tricks for clean skin.