The Problem with Makeup Wipes, According to a Dermatologist

Are makeup wipes bad for your skin? Short answer: they can be.

Makeup wipes– arguably the most popular skin care product– have always been a hot-button topic when it comes to their efficacy, impact on the environment, and whether or not they cause skin problems. Nobody can argue their convenience, though. It’s so easy to be able to wipe off the day’s makeup in a mess-free way. But are you sacrificing healthy skin for a one-step solution?

Don’t worry… I’m not about to tell you that you need to throw out your wipes ASAP. Since everyone’s skin is different, the concerns with makeup wipes may or may not effect you personally. However, they should be “used with caution,” according to Hayley Goldbach, MD Board Certified Dermatologist in Orange County.

Are Makeup Wipes Bad For Your Skin? The Problem with Makeup Wipes, According to a Dermatologist | Slashed Beauty

Rubbing Can Cause Irritation

“Those with sensitive skin should avoid,” Goldbach warns. “Even the motion of wiping your skin can be very irritating if you do it often.” I personally catch myself being rough on my skin when using makeup wipes, particularly around the delicate eye area. There have even been mornings I’ve woken up with puffy eyes after scrubbing them with a wipe to get off stubborn makeup.

Makeup Wipe Ingredients Can Be Problematic

The formula that wipes use to remove makeup may cause reactions, especially if you’re not double cleansing. “Wipes use cleansing agents just like face wash— but unlike face wash, you don’t rinse them off. This can be very irritating to the skin,” explains Goldbach. “I would recommend if you are wearing heavy makeup and need to use a wipe, consider rinsing with a gentle fragrance free face wash.” I always double cleanse after using makeup wipes, which also ensures that I’m removing any residue the wipe left behind. “Additionally, makeup wipes are wet. In order to ensure they don’t mold, they usually have preservatives in them. These types of preservatives can cause allergic reactions.

As with many beauty products, added fragrance can cause even more problems. “First of all, fragrances can also cause allergies. Secondly, parfum or fragrance can actually represent phalates and, though research is not complete on these chemicals, there are some concerns about how they affect our health,” says Goldbach.

The Environmental Impact Comes Full Circle

It’s no secret that makeup wipes produce a large amount of waste. Unless you’re using biodegradable wipes, your discard pile will sit in a landfill for years before starting to break down. Goldbach presses, “We need to guard the earth and reduce waste, and single use products like [wipes] are not ideal. Climate change affects all of us– our skin, the rest of our health, and our future.”

Check out these Biodegradable Makeup Wipes:

A Dermatologist’s Suggestion

If you’re not wearing heavy makeup, using a gentle cleanser should be enough to remove your makeup. “Using your fingertips and rubbing gently in a circular motion with a gentle cleanser should be enough to remove light makeup and cleanse your face from the build up of dirt and grime,” advises Goldbach.

My Recommendations

I do use makeup wipes, but always paired with another cleansing step. I do consider myself to have sensitive skin at this point in my life; I’m acne-prone and I experience occasional eczema flare-ups. The two brands of wipes I trust most are the Neutrogena Fragrance Free Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes and the Simple Micellar Cleansing Wipes. However, if I have really heavy makeup on, especially around the eyes, I’ll opt for a cleansing balm like the Physicians Formula The Perfect Matcha Cleansing Balm.

Also Read: The Best Drugstore Skin Care Staples

Next, I follow up with the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which has been my go-to face wash for over six years now. I prefer to use a cleansing device like the FOREO Luna to help work the cleanser into my skin, which is much more effective than with my hands.

Shop My Favorite Cleansing Products:


  1. I used equate (Walmart brand) and had a reaction to them as have sensitive skin and had never used this brand before this. What can I use over the counter to try to clear up reaction as I have sores from this reaction?? Please respond with any suggestions??

    1. Yikes sorry to hear that!! I would always consult a derm when dealing with severe reactions. Something that’s been working well for me is Hypochlorous Acid spray– it’s traditionally used as wound care and can be found in first aid aisles in the pharmacy but it’s also done wonders on my acne and other skin reactions. I’ve been using one from Walgreens but there are some on amazon as well!

  2. I used makeup wipes this weekend and I have the worse allergic reaction under my eyes and cheek bones. Redness itchy and bags. Ugh!,, today is my 64th birthday and I look 84.

    1. So sorry, Donna!! Yes, they can definitely be harsh, there are only a few brands that don’t irritate me but I’ve completely switched to cleansing balm now. Happy Birthday!

  3. Thank you for the interesting article. This brings me to my question. What causes sensitive skin? If you can, I would be grateful for a post on this.
    I love dove sensitive skin soap for my face and so does my cousin who has great looking skin.

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