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These are the best makeup removers for acne-prone skin

How to remove makeup for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jun 3, 2024 • 4 min read
Medically reviewed by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Cotton pads with red lipstick marks on them
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jun 3, 2024 • 4 min read
Medically reviewed by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Every time I have to take off my waterproof mascara, I’m reminded of an old saying from Vaudeville: “what goes on must come off.” This rings especially true to me as someone with sensitive, acne-prone skin — I want to use makeup to conceal blemishes without making them worse. So this week, I looked at what the medical research says to figure out the best makeup removers for sensitive, acne-prone skin.

But first, let’s bust some skincare myths.

Does makeup cause acne?

Technically, most makeup won't cause acne, but certain ingredients can clog pores, which helps acne-causing bacteria grow and lead to breakouts. To avoid this, you'll want to choose your makeup carefully.

As a rule of thumb, choose makeup products that say “non-comedogenic,” “oil-free” or “mineral based”, because these are less likely to cause breakouts. See more tips on how to choose acne-friendly makeup here.

Gen Z female makeup eyeshadow trends

Does sleeping with makeup on cause acne?

The short answer is no. Combining your pancake face with your beauty rest doesn’t cause acne on its own. But sleeping with makeup on may lead to acne if your makeup contains pore-clogging ingredients. The other reason you might find a correlation between acne and falling asleep with makeup on is that a moist environment on your skin can help breakout-causing bacteria to multiply quickly.

But the main reason why you should remove your makeup at night is because most skincare products do better when applied on a clean, dry face. This is especially important if you’re using a nighttime acne treatment like your Curology medication.

Now that we’ve got the facts straight, here are my honest thoughts on some of the best non-comedogenic makeup removing waters and wipes.

Image of woman using micellar water to remove makeup

Is micellar water really the best makeup remover?

Over the years, I’ve tried several different methods of removing makeup — especially wipes, oils, and cold creams — with mixed results. Makeup wipes, in particular, were a staple of my PM skin routine for a long time. I tried several different brands (both drugstore and high-end) before realizing that none of them were taking off all of my makeup. And it turns out that a lot of makeup wipes contain harsh ingredients (hello, alcohol) which can irritate sensitive skin.

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Last year, I switched to micellar water, and I will never go back to wipes. Micellar water cleanses, removes makeup, and moisturizes in one step by using tiny particles—called micelles—that pull the dirt and oil out of your skin. A cotton ball soaked in micellar water removes my makeup easily without having to “scrub” (which isn’t ideal for sensitive skin).

That said, I still keep makeup wipes around for when I’m on-the-go. If you prefer makeup wipes, there’s typically no harm using them as long as they’re free of any potentially pore-clogging or irritating ingredients.

Image of Curology Micellar Makeup Remover

One of the best makeup removers for sensitive, acne-prone skin

The micellar makeup remover by Curology

($8, 3.4 fl. oz.)

  • Gentle, skin-first makeup remover to support your essential anti-acne routine. 

  • Powered by micelles, tiny particles that lift away dirt, oil, and even the most stubborn waterproof makeup.

  • Fragrance-free, vegan, no-clog formula designed by dermatologists for all skin types.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O

($14.90, 16.7 fl. oz.)

  • A micellar water that removes makeup while soothing and cleansing sensitive skin.

  • The micelles in this product are made of fatty acid esters, which help to rebuild and reinforce your skin’s natural moisture barrier.

  • The fragrance-free and non-comedogenic formula won’t clog pores.

One of the best drugstore micellar water options

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

($8.99, 13.5 fl. oz.)

  • Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic formula.

  • It contains glycerin, which is a great moisturizing ingredient for dry skin.

  • Used nightly by this (currently) breakout-free blogger!

One of the best makeup remover wipes options

Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths

($23.00, 10 ct)

  • A makeup remover cloth that won’t break you out.

  • It contains a pleasant-smelling blend of herbs.

  • Some ingredients might irritate your eyes, so don’t use these for eye makeup!

How to treat acne while you sleep

Looking for the perfect PM skincare routine to clear up acne? Then look no further. With Curology, a board-certified dermatology provider will help guide you through your unique skincare journey by prescribing you a custom cream for your skin needs.

Image of Curology Cleanser Custom Formula Moisturizer and Micellar Makeup Remover

You can also try the complete Curology set with our cleanser and your choice of moisturizer, plus the micellar makeup remover, all when you start your free trial. You’ll just pay $4.95 (plus tax)* to cover the cost of shipping and handling. Sign up for Curology and get your first month free.

• • •

This article was originally published on September 10, 2019.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

*Cancel anytime. Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Trial is 30 days + $4.95 shipping and handling.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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