We Tested 29 Eye Makeup Removers, These 12 Wipe Away Stubborn Shadow, Liner, and Mascara

Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover erased all traces of makeup.

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Eye Makeup Removers

Ulta / Sephora

There’s no denying the benefits of long wear makeup, but removing those waterproof and smudge-proof shadows, liners, and mascaras can pose a challenge. To avoid rubbing and pulling at (read: irritating) the delicate skin around your eyes, consider a gentle-yet-effective makeup remover designed specifically for your eyes. These formulas are made to dissolve makeup, even the most stubborn kind, without bothering your skin. 

With so many eye makeup removers available in a variety of different forms — ranging from balms and oils to wipes and waters — finding the right one can be overwhelming. To help you pick the best remover for you, we enlisted the help of a handful of testers to rigorously test 29 of the most popular eye makeup removers. After keeping application, feel, residue, and performance top of mind, the testers determined the 12 best eye makeup removers of 2022. 

Overall, Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Make-Up Remover came out on top thanks to its weightless consistency, ability to effortlessly remove makeup, and high scores in the aforementioned categories. 

Keep reading for the full list of the best eye makeup removers, according to InStyle testers. 

Best Overall: Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover

5
Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Makeup Remover

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: This soft gel removes all traces of eye makeup in a gentle swipe. 
What We Don’t Love: The formula contains sesame seed oil, which some people can be highly allergic to. 

As far as eye makeup removers are concerned, a creamy lotion isn’t usually what comes to mind first. But, after putting this rich formula from Clinique to the test, it’s changed everything we know about eye makeup remover. “Initially, I was a bit worried about putting a cream on my eye since it’s a lot different than what I usually use, but I was amazed,” our tester admits. “It didn’t get in my eyes or cause burning — instead, it made my makeup come right off.” Given its silky texture, our tester was pleased to find that it left her lids feeling soft and moisturized. 

One thing to note: The formula contains sesame seed extract, which may trigger a reaction from those who are allergic to various nuts and seeds. 

Size: 2.5 fl oz. | Type: Lotion | Ingredients: Sesame seed oil, Algae extract

Best Value: e.l.f Cosmetics Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm

5
e.l.f. Cosmetics Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm

Ulta Beauty

What We Love: A little bit of this makeup-removing balm goes a long way, so you get the most bang for your buck. 

What We Don’t Love: You might need to work it into your skin when removing waterproof mascara and eyeliner.

A luxurious makeup-removing balm doesn’t have to be expensive. Case in point: This cleansing balm from e.l.f. Cosmetics. Our tester, who has tested tons of balms prior to this one, said that it stood apart from the rest. “I loved the feel of this balm on my skin. It didn’t feel harsh, unlike other makeup removers I’ve tried,” she says. “Compared to other balms I’ve used, it required minimal product — which is something I value a lot — and left behind no residue.” Formulated with a blend of nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides, the balm offers deep hydration on top of effective cleansing. “The product effectively took off all of the eyeshadow I was wearing in just a few swipes and I never once felt greasy or slimy,” she explains. 

While our tester didn’t have a bad thing to say about the product’s makeup-removing capabilities, reviewers online mentioned that it might take a bit of elbow grease to remove waterproof eyeliner and mascara. 

Size: 2 oz. | Type: Balm | Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Ceramides, Peptides

Best Splurge: Tata Harper Nourishing Makeup Removing Oil Cleanser

4.8
TATA HARPER Nourishing Oil Cleanser

Bloomingdale's

What We Love: Containing a blend of botanical ingredients, this luxe cleanser restores balance to the skin while breaking down makeup and buildup.  

What We Don’t Love: If you use too much, you might notice some residual oil.

Tata Harper is one of those brands you never stop hearing about. It’s for good reason, we can assure you that. If it wasn’t, celebs like Brooke Shields and Kate Hudson wouldn’t be feeding into the hype. What makes the brand so special is that it’s dedicated to sourcing plant-based ingredients from its own farm in Vermont with the intention of using nature to provide clear, youthful skin. With that said, farm-to-face isn’t cheap, so if you’re going to splurge on a makeup remover, let it be on this one. Not only did it wow our testers, but a little bit goes a long way, so you can get the most out of your money. “I used a tiny amount on my eyelid and was able to easily remove my makeup,” our tester confirms. “It required minimal effort and pressure, too.” The tester also admits that upon first application, he used a little too much and noticed some residual oil. But, next time he tried it, he used significantly less and had no residue left behind. 

Size: 4.1 fl oz. | Type: Cleansing oil | Ingredients: Alfalfa, Vitamin A, Squalane

Best Balm: Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup Melting Butter Cleanser

5
Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

Sephora

What We Love: This buttery soft balm doubles as an exfoliating cleansing oil that works to remove makeup and grime.

What We Don’t Love: Although it’s due in part to natural ingredients, the balm has a fruity fragrance that can be off putting to some. 

There’s no question about it: Drunk Elephant knows a thing or two about skincare. This makeup-removing balm is no different. I had the opportunity to test the two-in-one product in the lab and was not disappointed. The buttery smooth formula felt incredibly moisturizing, even on my eyes. And, although there’s oil in the formula, it didn’t get into my eyes or make me temporarily blind, which is something that happens to me often since I wear contact lenses. 

It’s intended to be used on your whole face, either on its own to remove makeup or in conjunction with the exfoliating powder that comes with it. I wouldn’t put the exfoliating powder anywhere near my eyes (that screams recipe for disaster), but it does work quite nicely when I want to give my skin an extra zhuzh while cleansing. Plus, the tub itself is pretty large, so even though the price is up there, I know I’ll get a good use out of it. I also love that it comes with a spoon that can be used to dish out the perfect amount of product every time and eliminate any cross-contamination from bacteria or grubby fingers. 

A quick thing to note: It has a fruit smoothie-like smell. It didn’t bother me, given that there is no added fragrance and the scents comes from fruit oils, but I know scent can be a trigger for those with super sensitive skin. If you're easily irritated by scents, you may want to perform a spot test first just to be sure.

Size: 3.88 oz. | Type: Balm | Ingredients: Blueberry extract, Kiwi extract, Strawberry extract, Cranberry seed oil, Açai fruit oil, Watermelon seed oil

Best Cleansing Water: Glossier Milky Oil

5
Glossier Milky Oil

Glossier

What We Love: This milky oil-meets-micellar water contains comfrey root extract and pro-vitamin B5 to nourish skin after dissolving makeup. 

What We Don’t Love: The bottle is an in between size — not very big but not small enough to travel with.

If you hate the idea of slathering an oil or a balm all over your face, try this milky oil from Glossier. The perfectly-proportioned combo of oil and micellar water work together to create a dual-phase formula that dissolves makeup and conditions skin at the same time. The bottle is squeezable, so it’s mess-free, and it can be used either alone or with a cotton pad. “It’s super smooth and doesn’t feel greasy, despite having oil in it,” our tester says. “To my surprise, there’s no residue left behind, and I was able to use the same cotton round for both of my eyes (three swipes per eye).” 

Some reviewers say that the bottle is an in-between size and that they wish there was a larger size for more value and a smaller size to travel with. 

Size: 3.4 fl oz. | Type: Micellar water, Oil | Ingredients: Comfrey root extract, Pro-vitamin B5, Castor oil

Best Oil: Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil

5
Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil

Sephora

What We Love: The luxurious cleansing oil transforms into a hydrating milk that leaves skin silky smooth and makeup-free. 

What We Don’t Love: The oil might clog pores if you’re prone to breakouts.

This pampering cleansing oil feels so luxurious it turns your daily cleanse from a chore into a treat. The gentle oil is formulated with four oils — sweet almond, rapeseed, sunflower and castor — to condition skin as you cleanse, leaving it silky smooth and product-free. “I usually stay away from oil-based products, but I was surprised to find that this cleanser didn’t feel greasy on the skin,” our tester shares. “After using it, my skin felt fresh with no residue left behind, making it my new holy grail product.” 

Size: 5 fl oz. | Type: Cleansing oil | Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, Rapeseed oil, Sunflower oil, Castor oil

Best Bi-Phase: CHANEL Chanel Demaquillant Yeux Intense Gentle Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover

5
Chanel Démaquillant Yeux Intense Gentle Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover

Macy's

What We Love: This bi-phase makeup remover effectively removes all types of makeup, especially heavy, waterproof kinds. 

What We Don’t Love: We wish the bottle was larger given the price tag.

Like most things stamped with the coveted Chanel branding, there’s an intentional and meticulous construction behind this formula. Spoiler alert: It’s exceptional. While it dissolves all traces of stubborn makeup as good as any top-performing makeup remover, it’s the state of skin afterwards that makes it such a stand out. 

The oil-based formula feels watery but is surprisingly pleasant to work with. “It’s not drippy, and though it contains oil, it didn’t leave behind a greasy or slimy feeling,” Senior Beauty Commerce Editor Shannon Bauer says. “It removed every speck of eyeshadow in one swipe. There was no residue left on my eyes after using it and I didn’t feel like I needed to wash it off with a cleanser.”

It goes without saying that almost $40 feels like a lot for a makeup remover, especially one that’s only three ounces. But, given the results during the lab test, our tester would recommend it for lighter makeup days. “It can get off the tough stuff, but for glam looks I would reach for something a little tougher,” she says. 

Size: 3.4 fl oz. | Type: Bi-phase liquid | Ingredients: Cornflower and Rose extracts

Best Pads: Marcelle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads

5
Marcelle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads

Amazon

What We Love: These pre-soaked makeup remover pads gently clean away makeup and don’t leave eyes red and irritated. 

What We Don’t Love: The pads aren’t too moist, so they may dry out over time if you don’t use them fast enough.

Makeup remover pads and wipes have gotten a bad rep these last few years. It makes sense why — they can be a little more irritating than balms and oils, as well as less planet-friendly — but as long as you’re removing your makeup before bed, it’s hard to hate. If you’re still part of the camp of people who stand by their wipes, these gentle pads are right up your alley. “They’re moist without making your face all wet and don’t seep into your eyes,” our tester explains. “It dries on contact and leaves skin feeling smooth instead of sticky.” It only took one swipe per eye to get rid of stubborn eye makeup, which, obviously, is impressive. But, the best part of all is that the tester says “eyelids aren’t red at all” after. 

Seeing as the pads aren’t overloaded with liquid, they may dry out over time, especially if you don’t use them that often. If that’s the case, you may need to wet them a bit in order to bring them back to life. 

Size: 85 wipes | Type: Wipes | Ingredients: Aloe vera

Best for Waterproof Makeup: Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover

4.8
Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover

Sephora

What We Love: Waterproof mascara and eyeliner are no match for this bi-phase makeup remover. 

What We Don’t Love: It has a fragrance, which can be irritating for some.

Waterproof eye makeup is key for a long-lasting, impenetrable makeup look. But, if you’ve ever packed on waterproof mascara, then you know how much of a struggle it is to get off. To rid yourself of raccoon eyes for good, consider Clarins Instant Eye Makeup Remover: As the name suggests, it removes tough eye makeup in an instant. Our tester, who tried it on eyes covered in dark shadow and mascara, was easily impressed. It seamlessly wiped away her eyeshadow and left her skin “comfortable and soothed” with no residue in sight. “This is a great option for those, like me, who hate residue on their eyes,” she says. “Usually, makeup removers leave a sticky oil on my eyes and I can’t see clearly for some time, but this one didn’t do that.” 

If we could change one thing, it would be to make it fragrance-free, since not everyone is a fan of fragrance and it can be irritating to some. 

Size: 4.2 fl oz. | Type: Bi-phase | Ingredients: Glycerin, Chamomile extract, Damascus rose extract

Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover

5
Neutrogena Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover

Amazon

What We Love: The oil-free formula is particularly gentle on skin and is equally as effective at removing waterproof mascara.

What We Don’t Love: We wish it came in a travel size.

This drugstore staple has been around for decades and continues to be a favorite among supermodels, beauty professionals, and everyday makeup wearers alike. Why? It’s affordable, effective and doesn’t tout any bells and whistles. All you need is a cotton pad and a tiny bit of the dual-phase liquid to lift eye makeup without the need for scrubbing or tugging. “I love that the product is water-based and feels nice on my eyelids,” our tester shares. “Very little is needed to take off all of my makeup, which is huge.” To get the best results, the brand suggests shaking the bottle to break up the formula and then apply it directly to the face. You might notice an immediate calming effect, thanks to soothing aloe and cucumber extracts. 

There’s so much to love, except when it comes to sizing. The size is pretty standard — it’s not too big nor too small. Several reviewers noted that they wish that there was a bigger size and a smaller size to travel with, though. 

Size: 5.5 fl oz. | Type: Bi-phase liquid | Ingredients: Aloe vera and Cucumber extracts

Best for Sensitive Eyes: Mary Kay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

5
Mary Kay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover

Amazon

What We Love: This oil-free makeup remover is hypoallergenic and ophthalmologist tested to be safe for contact wearers.  

What We Don’t Love: We wish more retailers carried it.

Chances are, at one point or another, you’ve tried one of Mary Kay’s iconic cosmetic products. This eye makeup remover by the brand is our pick for those with sensitive eyes (like contact lens-wearers) because it refreshes skin and lifts makeup from the super sensitive eye area without any stinging or pain. Plus, it was tested by dermatologists and ophthalmologists, who proved it to be suitable for those who wear contacts and those who have skin allergies.

And, even though it’s gentle enough for those with sensitivities, it’s still highly effective. “It does an amazing job of removing makeup — I feel refreshed without any irritation,” our tester says. “I only needed a couple swipes to get rid of all of the makeup I had on; it performed way better than I expected it to.” 

It’s available at Amazon and Mary Kay, but we wish more retailers carried it in case they sell out. 

Size: 3.75 fl oz. | Type: Bi-phase | Ingredients: Water and Dimethicone

Best Clean Formula: Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

4.8
Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover

Amazon

What We Love: The formula is perfect for sensitive skin because it’s fragrance- and oil-free.

What We Don’t Love: The formula needs some shaking before each use.

Anything Cetaphil makes is known for being super gentle, and this makeup remover is no exception. The formula is kind to skin, but doesn’t back down against waterproof pigments. The result: Calm, relaxed skin without a trace of makeup. 

Our tester couldn’t stop raving about this one. Because it has a micellar water-y feel with a slightly oily texture, it feels conditioning yet doesn’t leave behind that annoying oily residue. Plus, it contains aloe vera, ginseng, and green tea botanicals to soothe skin along the way. “The product seamlessly removed shadow from my eyelids without seeping into my eyes and causing discomfort or irritation,” the tester notes. “It took off most of my makeup in just one swipe, no pressure or tugging required.” 

Size: 6 fl oz. | Type: Bi-phase liquid | Ingredients: Aloe vera, Ginseng, Green tea botanicals

Our Testing Process

In an effort to find the best eye makeup removers, we did our due diligence — by talking to makeup artists, ophthalmologists, and cosmetic chemists, as well as researching products on our own — to hand-select and test 29 of the most compelling eye makeup removers on the market.

Once we assigned testers to each product, they got to work weeding through initial picks in an effort to narrow down the top formulas. In order to do that, our testers rated each product on a scale of 1 through 5 in the following categories: application, feel, residue, and performance.

Once all the reviews were in, we determined the categories for the top eyeshadow primers.

What to Keep in Mind

Type of Remover

Makeup removers come in different forms — from wipes, oils and balms to micellar water and bi-phase solutions. According to cosmetic chemist Julie Pefferman, they’re all effective, but differ only in ingredients.“Oil cleansers are largely oil, and micellar water or bi-phase solutions contain mostly water. Both are effective at removing makeup, but with added ingredients like a glycol and a surfactant, the cleansing powers are amplified,” she explains. Balms (like Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser) contain a lot of oil but differ from traditional oils due to the fact that they sit on skin for a bit longer and usually melt into a milky liquid when they come in contact with water. Wipes, like Marcelle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads, she says, are mostly made of water but have “a significant portion of emollients and silicones” to ensure the wipes glide easily over the skin. 

Skin Type

Choosing the right makeup remover for your skin type is important for optimum results. Oily skin types should look for micellar solutions, like Cetaphil Gentle Waterproof Makeup Remover, to draw out impurities and dirt on skin. Those with dry skin should opt for creamier, oil-based formulas (testers love Clinique Naturally Gentle Eye Make-Up Remover) that deliver hydration as they cleanse. Sensitive and mature skin types should look for more mild formulations, such as Neutrogena Oil-Free Liquid Eye Makeup Remover, that are fragrance-free and void of gritty exfoliants

Ingredients

According to board-certified ophthalmologist Diane Hilal-Campo, M.D., you should avoid using makeup removers containing parabens and sulfates, as well as benzalkonium chloride. This type of preservative is harmful to the ocular surface of the eye and has been found to decrease the production of tears, resulting in dry eye and overall discomfort. “Fragrance — a blanket term for anything that adds scent to a product — should be avoided,” she explains. “Many of these fragrances can be irritating and allergenic.” 

Your Questions, Answered

What is the best way to remove eye makeup?

The short answer: Gently. That’s why it’s so important to use a good-quality eye makeup remover that loosens and washes away the makeup on your face without the need for aggressive scrubbing. To avoid aggravating the skin and to protect the eyes, Dr. Hilal-Campo recommends using light pressure to push the product firmly against the eye (while your eye is closed). “Waiting a few minutes will allow the oils in the makeup remover to break down the makeup,” she says. “Then, gently wipe it away from your eyes and repeat as necessary until all makeup has been fully removed.” 


Which eye makeup removers are best for sensitive skin? 

Those with sensitive skin and eyes may need to be more careful about the formulas they choose. You’ll want to look for formulas chock full of skin-conditioning ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid (like our Best Value pick e.l.f. Cosmetics Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm), while avoiding irritants like alcohol, fragrances, and sulfates. You may also want to avoid makeup wipes if you have ultra-sensitive skin as the rubbing might be aggravating. 


What can I do if I get eye makeup remover in my eyes? 

Whenever you’re experiencing eye irritation from getting something in your eye, whether it be eye makeup remover or a stray eyelash, the technique is always the same. “Use a sterile eyewash solution — you can buy some at the drugstore — to flush out your eye,” Dr. Hilal-Campo explains. “Use more than you think you need to ensure the offender is fully flushed out.” If you’re still experiencing some redness and inflammation, a cool compress can help relieve any lingering discomfort. Of course, if the discomfort still persists, you should see your eye doctor, she says.

What is InStyle Picks?

Did you notice the InStyle Picks seal of approval at the top of this story? That means our team of testers has reviewed every product on this list using a unique methodology to ensure it's really worth your time, money, and attention. We may get samples for free to try but we never promise positive (or any!) coverage in exchange. Put simply: InStyle picks are products we love, and we've put them to the test to be sure you will too.

Why Trust InStyle

Caitlyn Martyn is a commerce writer for InStyle, where she covers skincare, makeup, hair, and fashion. With expert insight from a cosmetic chemist, an ophthalmologist, and tester first-hand experience, she poured over product specifications and rounded up our top picks for this story. Caitlyn has experience researching, testing and writing about beauty products and has tried tons of different eye makeup removers, including several from the above brands, including Drunk Elephant, Neutrogena, and Caudalie.  

Want more product recommendations? From best-in-class concealer to the black pants you need for work, check out all of our InStyle Picks content.

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