5 Reasons You Need to Drop Makeup Wipes ASAP

5 Reasons You Need to Drop Makeup Wipes

January 23, 2020

Can we all agree that taking your makeup off at the end of a long day is one of the best feelings? When you take your makeup off, you want to make sure it’s all off. Sleeping in makeup can ruin your bedding, age your skin, clog your pores, the list goes on. Unfortunately, makeup wipes aren’t going to get all of that stubborn mascara or full coverage concealer off, even if it seems like it does. Makeup wipes are really just smearing around your makeup all over your face. Sure, there’s a good amount of pickup on the makeup wipe, but have you ever used a second wipe to see what the first one missed? It’s pretty disgusting.

Disclaimer: This post is for everyone who cares about their skin health and/or the environment. While we are not medical professionals, there are a lot of resources online that signify makeup wipes are not only terrible for the skin but also terrible for the environment. 

This is a flat lay shot of several used makeup wipes with eyeshadow, foundation and mascara smudges.

1. They’re not actually removing the makeup from your skin.

Unfortunately, makeup wipes aren’t going to get all of that stubborn mascara or full coverage concealer off, even if it seems (or looks) like it does. Makeup wipes are really just smearing the makeup all over your face. Sure, there’s a good amount of pickup on the makeup wipe, but have you ever used a second wipe to see what the first one missed? It’s pretty disgusting. 

“Very few makeup wipes contain ingredients that can actually break down all of your face oils, makeup, and gunk on your skin, so you’re really just rubbing bacteria, irritants, and makeup-wipe residue around your skin and into your pores.” (source: Stylecaster).

While I always cleanse my skin after using a wipe (I’ve always used it as a first step to getting the bulk of the makeup off) the bottom line is that the makeup wipe is actually smearing makeup that was on your forehead, now on your chin, nose, cheeks, etc. Would you ever apply blush to your forehead? Or mascara to your chin? Essentially when you’re using one makeup wipe, you are smearing all kinds of makeup to parts of the face they normally wouldn’t.

2. There are lots of chemicals that can harm your skin.

Some of the biggest name brands have a lot of chemicals in makeup wipes. When I reviewed the Kylie Skin line, I noticed those wipes have fragrance in them and that’s not an uncommon thread amongst skincare brands making these wipes. In the US, the ingredient “fragrance” can have over 100 ingredients underneath it, which is wild. Most people don’t know that, but it’s where brands hide all the nasty ingredients they don’t want to list each ingredient out. Consumers have also gotten smarter and if there’s 50 ingredients in a product, it’s likely not going to be the best item for us because ingredients going on out skin should not have that many ingredients.

According to Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, makeup wipes can cause irritation due to preservatives that prevent micro-organisms from contaminating the wipes. In some, that includes formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, solubilizers, surfactants, and emulsifiers. The bad stuff tucked away inside of makeup wipes is housed in the cleansing ingredient so unless you follow your wipe down with a cleanser, you increase your risk of developing inflammation on your skin, Zeichner says (source: Glamour.)

Through all my trials of makeup wipes over the years, there’s been a good amount that actually broke me out, caused redness for several hours or actually felt like they were burning my skin. Why even put yourself through that? It’s kind of like a box of chocolates. You don’t know which one you’ll get until you bite into it, but unfortunately with makeup wipes you can cause damage to your skin.

3. They require a lot of pressure to “remove” makeup. 

Depending on the brand and the potency of the wipe, you have to wipe pretty hard to get the mascara and eyeliner off. Not to mention the full coverage foundations that end up sinking so deep into the skin you feel like you need 15 wipes to get it all over your face and neck.. I’ve had to literally scrub certain areas to get the makeup off, and I know tugging and pulling on my skin like that is not good for anti-aging. Especially when we’re talking about some very sensitive skin (under eye) which ages first anyway. Regardless of tugging and pulling. 

4. They’re drying out your skin.

It’s true. A lot of the wipes have alcohol in them which is going to cause a “clean” yet overly dehydrated feeling long-term to your skin. This is why with some wipes you see “alcohol-free” on the label.

Although not true of all makeup wipes, a lot of brands include alcohol or methylated spirits. These ingredients are far too drying and strip away your skin's acid mantle. When this happens, your skin will become dehydrated, meaning it will be itchy, tight and flaky - ouch!! (source: Cleanse Off Mitt

5. They’re horrible for the environment. 

The makeup wipe you used last night probably won’t decompose in your lifetime. On average, a single makeup wipe takes a whopping 100 years to decompose. When I discovered the nasty chemicals hiding in these wipes and the amount of time they take to decompose in our landfills, I had to start the switch. 

A fresh pack of makeup wipes has been my go to (step one) in my daily routine. Just learning more about the negative effect of the wipes, we have been slowly trying to wean ourselves off them.

As you know, over the last year I have really started to care more about the products I am using more and more products that are good for the skin and body, and fewer products that have carcinogenic and useless effects. In all of my time researching a skincare routine best for me, I never once came across much about makeup wipes. Sure Allure and Cosmo mentioned they were bad a few years ago but you can find research that every single product, diet, lifestyle choice, etc is great for 10 reasons and at the same time there’s an article with 10 reasons it’s the worst thing you can do. However reading more into the research we did, it makes complete sense that wipes are not doing us any favors. Not to mention the environmental impact is just not the one. 

Think about it, have you ever met anyone who said, “These makeup wipes changed my skin”? No. When I came to this realization, I stopped purchasing them and focused more on using other ways to take off the day like micellar water and double-cleansing. What’s interesting is I used to use micellar water for years and over the last couple of years, I got lazy again and decided step one of my routine would be a wipe. Wrong move.

The makeup wipe you used last night likely won’t decompose in your lifetime.

Moving forward, what should you use? 

Haley tested this theory for the last few weeks, and her skin has started to feel like it could breathe again. Likely because it wasn’t being rubbed with a wet towel covered in formaldehyde-releasing chemicals, surfactants, solubilizers, and emulsifiers (yeah, you read that right). There are a ton of nasty chemicals used in makeup wipes to preserve them and lengthen their shelf life. 

Fortunately, over the last few years, there have been a ton of new solutions for makeup removal. Here are a few of our favorites. 

#1 Micellar Water

Micellar water was the first thing I tried when making the swap. I loved how easy it was to use and almost felt like the makeup wipe route. All you have to do is just dab a little water onto a cotton pad and gently rub the pad all over the skin. It easily cleanses and removes the makeup off the skin, and you don’t need to be rough with the pad. I  used this micellar water and it was perfect for my sensitive skin. My skin felt fresh and clean, but never dried out or tight. 

#2 Makeup Remover Cloth

I liked the micellar water, but I found I loved my makeup remover cloths even more. I’ve had my face halo for nearly six months, and additional makeup remover cloths from Ulta for a year now. They’re easy to clean so you can reuse them over and over again. Not to mention they really do an amazing job at taking off all of your makeup. They’re also incredibly soft and free of harsh chemicals. The amount of money I’ve saved on makeup wipes has also been a bonus. Cha-ching!

#3 Double Cleansing

When in doubt (or without a makeup remover cloth or micellar water) always double cleanse.I know we all get lazy, but you really need to ensure all the makeup and toxins from the day are removed from the skin. It’s as simple as it sounds, you just wash your face twice. Once to get off the makeup and a second time to make sure it’s totally off. When I’m without my makeup remover towel, I always double cleanse. It’s really easy and effective, but I wouldn’t recommend it for those with extremely sensitive skin.

This is a photo of several makeup wipes filled with lipstick and mascara stains.

Makeup wipes are okay for instances where you aren’t able to get to running water, or traveling (on the go in a plane for example.) Seeing Haley’s progress, and actually reading through a lot of the available research has convinced me to get rid of makeup wipes. Haley’s skin feels so much healthier, and it was a small, simple step that helps t reduce the amount of waste she produces (even if it’s just by 25 cloths a month, it’s definitely something). Whether it’s the chemicals in the wipes, the fact they’re so bad for the environment, or that they do a terrible job at actually cleaning your face, we hope you enjoy the alternatives!

What products have you used daily in the past that you’ve recently ditched?