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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: December 18, 2007

Submitted by on December 18, 2007 – 12:35 PM96 Comments

Oh wise one in the ways of many things fashionable (bow, scrape), can you or the readers recommend a good eye-makeup remover? I’ve finally gotten the hang of putting on eye liner (bless the Mary Kay folks: easy to put on, doesn’t smear when I have a contact lens moment) but taking it off is a huge pain. I know scrubbing the area around your eyes is supposed to cause sagging and wrinkles after a while, but any of the products I’ve tried seem to require almost as much scrubbing as just using a washcloth in the shower. (Mary Kay folks: don’t make me take back the nice things I said about you, your makeup remover sucks.) Ponds cleansing cloths? No love. Regular soap? Ack, so drying, and still needs a lot of scrubbing. I’d be willing to pay extra for something, as long as it worked half as well as what they show in commercials. Would you have any suggestions?

Thanks very much,

Out, Damn’d Eye-Liner!

Dear Out,

I haven’t been able to find it since college, but my mom and I used to use this stuff called Albolene; I never had any problem with blemishes or anything. I’ve also used Vaseline, which is not the most elegant solution but is sometimes the only thing that will take off a stubborn mascara, but people use all sorts of things — unscented lotions, soap and water, special wipes.

…Oh, look: Albolene still exists. Readers, care to share your eye-makeup-removal secrets?




  • Vanessa says:

    I just use J&J baby shampoo! Doesn’t sting your eyes and it’s pretty effective with a minimal amount of scrubbing. Or in a pinch I use contact lens saline solution.

  • Jamie says:

    I’ve had good luck with Clinique’s. I know some people use baby oil on a cotton ball, but I have allergic reactions to mineral oil.

  • Tiffanie says:

    I used to use L’Oreal Eye Makeup Remover, in both the oil-based and oil-free varieties. Since it’s impossible to get acne on your eyelids (biologically impossible), the oil won’t clog your eye skin up and make you fear a zit, and i find it works best. I say “used to” because I now just use plain old mineral oil (or unscented baby oil), massage in, then lather up my face as usual and rinse, wipe, and snooze. i also find cold cream works well and is great for moisturizing that delicate skin so it doesn’t dry out and wrinkle up too soon.

  • CarolynEll says:

    I’m a big fan of Sephora’s own brand eye makeup remover.

    It looks like they’ve changed their packaging since I last bought some, but I’m sure the formula hasn’t changed. The stuff works great and doesn’t sting. It’s pretty cheap for Sephora, too.

  • Janice says:

    Clinique’s “Take the Day Off” eye makeup remover, or any of the removers that separate into two layers and need to be shaken up before you use them. Almay used to make one, but I haven’t been able to find it lately.

    Soak a cotton pad with it, and hold it against your closed eye/lashes for a couple seconds–everything wipes off easily. I also dip a Q-tip in it to clean up eyeliner that goes where it shouldn’t. It also takes off long-last lipstick, and bar stamps from the back of your hands. :)

  • Jaybird says:

    This is horribly low-tech and drugstorey, but baby wipes (scented or unscented, with or without aloe, but preferably alcohol-free) are what I use to remove makeup. This is partially to save money, partially to save scrubbing and rubbing, but mostly because I have a toddler, and we buy stuff in bulk at Sam’s Club, and diaper wipes are handy. They do work fine for removing eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow, as well as all my other makeup. (I don’t use waterproof makeup, which makes removal easier anyway.)

  • Rain says:

    Speaking as one prone to putting on too much mascara/eyeliner:

    First, you take cold cream. Then you take your face. Then you vigorously but gently combine the two, trying to cover your lashes/eyelids with the cold cream until you look like you were hit in the face with a pie. Or, raccoon eyes in negative– a lot of cold cream, is what I’m saying.

    With a warm wet cotton square, remove the cold cream. Circular motions, not scrubbing. Many cotton squares may be required.

    Optional: Use a makeup remover wipe– I think I’m currently using Neutrogena ® Make-up Remover Cleansing Towelettes, I don’t really know– to remove any cold cream/mascara that may have stuck around. Usually it’s cold cream, at least for me.

    Required: Rinse face with cold water.

    Very little scrubbing required; the cold cream seems to liberate the eye makeup and the cleansing towelette then gets any excess cold cream.

    This has proven effective on black eyeshadow/black eyeliner/mascara combinations time and again. The cold cream doesn’t make my eyes puffy or my eyelids red like just the cleansing towelettes.

  • Mary Anne says:

    I like the Almay makeup remover pads, especially for travel. They provide nice spot removal and they’re less likely to leak. You can get them at pretty much any drugstore – Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc.

    The other trick that works for me is to dip a Q-tip into a liquid remover (currently Clinique rinse-off eye makeup solvent) and swab along the eyeliner to get it off. I hate getting water in my eyes, let alone soapy stuff that stings, so the precise application of the Q-tip rather than a cotton ball is ideal.

    With both you still have to follow-up with an overall face wash to get the remover off, but it can be much more gentle.

    Good luck!

  • I’ve always enjoyed the Clinique makeup remover that you have to shake before using – here we go, Take The Day Off. It leaves a slightly greasy-feeling residue, but since I just use it on really stubborn eye makeup, I’m not too bothered.

  • Leigh says:

    I’ll admit I’m no longer a huge devotee of eye makeup or products for its removal, but I got some free Clinique remover in a little purple bottle when I bought something else a while back, and it’s worked quite well on the occasions I’ve needed it. Even with some fairly bulletproof liquid liner on.

  • wozzle says:

    I’ve used Origins eye makeup remover with great success. I use it on a cotton pad for larger areas (cheeks, eyelids) and on a q-tip for more sensitive areas like the lash line. I’ve gotten it in my eye and there was a sensation as though my eye felt as if it ought to be stinging, but couldn’t bring itself to, so it’s pretty gentle.

  • Rachel says:

    I use Almay oil free eye makeup remover pads, which are just little round wipes that come in a canister (the label is purple). It says right on there that it’s good for contact lens wearers, too. They work well for me, since I only wear eyeliner and shadow, but they’re not as good for mascara.

    Otherwise, I don’t know of too many other products designed specifically for makeup removal, but I have a friend who does theatre, and she uses Vaseline to get off her stage makeup, so I’m sure that’s effective as well.

  • Anna says:

    I’m pretty happy with Nivea’s “Eye Make-Up Remover”. It comes in a light blue tube at any drug store. I use it after I wash my face to get rid of the residual raccoon smudges around the eyes.
    Clinque’s “Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips” works really well too. It does leave an oily residue on your face so I recommend using it before you wash your face. It is also a little more expensive.

  • Kathryn says:

    Albolene is pretty great, I had forgotten about that stuff. I use my regular lotion, Pond’s Dry Skin Cream, for eye makeup removal. Just glob a bit on the eye area and wipe it off with a tissue. For me and my crazy-dry skin, anything that lets me get away with using as little hot water as possible is great.

  • Jeanette says:

    I like Almay’s Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover Liquid
    I don’t wear contacts, but it claims “The oil-free formula won’t leave any greasy residue and won’t blur or fog contact lenses. “

  • Jo says:

    I use a little bit of olive oil on a tissue. I tried it in an emergency one day and it works great. It’s also cheap and natural.

  • Jen says:

    I’m with you, Sars — Vaseline and Q-tips. Cheap and effective.

  • Katherine says:

    Plain old mineral or vegetable oil (something relatively light like canola) on a cotton swab or tissue will work. If you’re taking off your eye makeup at night, just leave the residue on to moisturize after you’ve got all the makeup off. Do be sure to take your contact lenses out before doing makeup removal, however. The nice thing about this method is you don’t have to worry about irritating fragrances, soap in the eyes, or any other common allergens.

  • Katharine says:

    I use an Evian one myself, or alternatively, the super-cheap pre-soaked eye makeup remover pads (I forget the brand name). I prefer the Evian because it’s not oily, and I don’t like the way oily removers sometimes seep between my lashes and leave a haze over my eyes for a while. But honestly, plain old baby oil works fine, too.

    I wonder if the problem might not lie in the remover so much as technique? It’s not a wipe-on-wipe-off thing, especially with any of the water- or smudge-resistant types of makeup. Out, are you holding a remover-soaked pad or cotton ball over the area for a good few seconds to soften the eyeliner before you try wiping it off? That, plus your usual facial wash routine afterwards, might do the trick.

  • Cindi in CO says:

    I just use baby oil on a cotton ball, then wash with Noxzema.

  • Susannah says:

    I love Lancome’s “Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover” – seems to work pretty easily, doesn’t sting my eyes, and isn’t oily. Get it at a department store when Lancome is running a ‘gift with purchase’, and you’ll get a bunch of fun little extras. I love gift with purchase.

  • jive turkey says:

    Clinique “Take the Day Off” eye makeup remover (in the light purple bottle) works wonders for me. Doesn’t bug my contacts or require a lot of scrubbing. And it actually removes waterproof mascara! Their “Eye Makeup Solvent” (in the blue bottle) works well too.

  • Alp says:

    I am a big believer in Clinique’s Rinse-Off Eye Makeup Solvent. It has always worked for me, even when trying to take off the heavy eye makeup I wore during dance performances. It is a bit pricy at $14.50 for a medium-sized bottle, but if you buy it during Clinique Bonus Time you get lots of other goodies for free! Also, it must be pretty gentle…I have never rinsed it off (as the website just informed me I should), and I have never had any skin iritation problems.

  • KPP says:

    Sorry the Mary Kay remover isn’t working for you. I sometimes use a q-tip with some plain lotion on it to get the eyeliner. Just don’t poke yourself in the eye with it…

  • Alison says:

    I really like Vichy Sensitive Eyes eye-makeup remover. I have tried many other products over the years, including just rubbing more with my regular cleanser, but keep coming back to this.

  • Sarah says:

    The Clinique eye make up remover works well for me! I’ve never actually bought it (it tends to come in the “gift with purchase” bags fairly often) so I’m not sure of the cost, but since that’s less the issue here than the fact that it works, it could be a good choice. My caveat is that I don’t wear fully water proof eye makeup but I think it would still work for that too.

  • Maren says:

    Plain, ordinary unscented lotion or moisturizer. I used to scrub with a washcloth until I realized how many eyelashes I was losing, but now I just put a bit of lotion on a cotton ball, smear it around so it’s not too gloppy, and wipe. Waterproof mascara can be a little tricky, so I usually take it off the following morning after I get out of the shower, when it’s softened up a bit. Then I put the lotion on a square of toilet paper instead, so I can gently pull the clumps off my lashes without yanking them out.

  • jeanjeanie says:

    Baby oil gel works as well as Vaseline and, IMO, it smells better, and also soaks into your skin faster so it doesn’t leave you feeling so greasy. And it’s cheap.

  • k says:

    Clinique makes two different makeup removers and both are terrific. One comes in a blue bottle and is what I prefer; the other comes in a pink bottle and has some sort of weird emulsion thing–you shake it up so the two solutions in the bottle mix, and then use. The pink bottle stuff has a slightly more moisturizing feel–I think it might have something like baby oil (though not as greasy) in it; the blue stuff just works without drying your skin out. Both are about $13 for a 4.2 oz bottle, and the stuff lasts a good while. Hint: buy two bottles during Clinique free gift week to meet the minimum purchase.

  • Cait says:

    I absolutely love this gel eye makeup remover I bought from The Body Shop last year. From what I can tell it’s been discontinued, but I’ve heard good things about their Camomile Waterproof Eye Makeup Remover. You can probably find the gel on eBay. The key to a good eye makeup remover seems to be the viscosity- the thicker the product, the better it cleans and the easier it is to remove it without scrubbing.

  • Laura says:

    I am going to jump on the Clinique “Take The Day Off” bandwagon, however they make a second product in a jar – also called “Take The Day Off”, that is more like a vaseline, only washes off really easily with water once you loosen the makeup from your face with it.

    The one problem I have had is that the sales associates behind the Cinique counter sometimes make a joke when you ask for it, such as “well, which day do you want off?”. I realize that they probably need to spice up their day whenever possible, but groan.

  • Lauren says:

    I’ve found that the Clinique Naturally Gentle eye makeup remover works quite well at getting off stubborn eye makeup. Sometimes I need to do a second dash of it when I wake up the next morning to get the last bits off, but generally it works quite well and doesn’t feel like I’m scraping my skin off at the same time.

  • Marisa says:

    Chiming in to agree that Vaseline is a good choice and add the Pond’s Cold Cream always worked for me.

  • LLyzabeth says:

    (The original questioner here.) Cool! Thanks for all the suggestions everybody, you rock!

  • Melanie says:

    I use Vaseline. I also wash my face with Purity by philosophy and that actually takes off a lot of my eye make up too.

  • chaia says:

    I *love* DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil (massage into dry skin; it rinses off clean), but have recently been experimenting with Jane Iredale’s Magic Mitt (microfiber cloth thingy: add warm water and wipe off face). I use long-wearing/waterproof eye makeup (Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner and Urban Decay Lingerie & Galoshes mascara prep/waterproofer) pretty much daily, and have been known to don a drag queen look on a regular basis; both the oil and the mitt are very effective cosmetics removers no matter what I have on my face.

  • jill says:

    Amen to the Clinique. I have extremely dry, sensitive skin, and it never gives me any problems.

  • Emily says:

    Another vote for olive oil. I just smear it on my eyes and gently massage (bonus – does not sting at all if some gets in your eyes, although you might be viewing the world in soft focus for a few minutes), then wipe with a wet washcloth or a tissue (be gentle if you’re using a washcloth). I use an olive/castor oil blend to clean my whole face (google “oil cleansing method” for more info than you ever wanted), but it works great for just the eyes, too. The oil will leave the skin around your eyes soft and protected, and it’s ridiculously cheap (you don’t need to use fancy oil for skincare – flavor is obviously not an issue!) Smear on a little extra overnight as a night cream.

  • PollyQ says:

    Ditto the recommendations for Lancome’s “Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover” — I only use waterproof mascara, and this is the only product I’ve found that removes it easily without leaving my eyeballs greasy. It’s a little spending, but you can get it at a pretty good discount on eBay. Sonia Kashuk’s version of the product is almost as good for half the price (Target only).

  • Trish b. says:

    I have really dry skin, so I always have Eucerin lotion (or a generic knock-off) available (the stuff in the tub that’s like thick marshmallow fluff). It gets my mascara off with no rubbing or scrubbing.

  • Pixel says:

    I second Rain’s ‘slather of moisturizer’ method, and then a q-tip with more lotion on it to get leftover bits. It’s so much less harsh than soap, and less stingy than Noxema.

  • Nicole says: Palmer’s cocoa butter. I’m hoping it will help prevent crow’s feet over the years too.

  • Lucy says:

    I’m another proponent of baby oil or baby shampoo. Pre-mixing the baby shampoo with water in one of those travel bottles is a great way to make your own eye makup remover for just a few cents. The baby oil (or something like Almay’s oil-based eye makeup remove pads) are great for moisturizing while removing the makeup. I use the baby shampoo for everyday makeup and the oil for theatre makeup.

  • Loree says:

    I wear the virtually-indelible MAC Liquidlast eyeliner (seriously — one application of this stuff takes three days to even *start* flaking). The only thing that takes it off reliably is Pond’s cold cream. Take your contacts out first, rub it gently into your lashline, let it sit for a minute, then wipe away with a damp washcloth. Mineral or vegetable oils will work too, but leave you in the position of needing to clean your face after you’ve… cleaned your face. Buh?

    Pond’s is also excellent for removing two-part long-wearing lipcolors like Outlast by Cover Girl.

  • Lori says:

    Grew up using Vaseline. Switched to Ponds Cold Cream when I discovered it was waaaay easier to remove, although Vaseline did a journeyman’s job, and I would use it in a nanosecond if there were no Ponds around. I just dab the Ponds onto a couple fingers, dab the eyes, and tissue off, gently. I have a countertop of other “eye” products to moisturize, blah blah blah, so I always wash the face clean of the Ponds and remaining facial makeup and proceed to use the pharmaceuticals galore.

  • Devon says:

    Clean & Clear’s Makeup Removing Cleanser is the best! You don’t have to bother with a separate makeup remover which I love. I wear waterproof eyeliner and it takes it off no problem.

  • Karalynn says:

    I don’t wear a lot of eye makeup, but I use Norwex face cloths to clean my face. No cleanser required. My friend takes off her eye makeup with the cloth and it works perfectly for her. The cloths do look dirty after a while if you take off a lot of mascara, but otherwise they are fabulous.

  • Nicole says:

    I used to use the Clinique stuff, until I discovered the wonders that is Keihl’s makeup remover. It’s expensive, but worth it! I can’t use anything with alcohol in it, and I got sick of how greasy oil based makeup removers left my skin. The Keihl’s stuff is a lotion, and gets off even my dramatic smoky eye attempts. Not to mention the fact that since you only need a tiny bit, it lasts forever. I’m still using a bottle I bought a year ago.

  • Chyna says:

    I second Cait’s recommendation of the Body Shop’s gel (especially nice because you don’t need a cotton ball or pad) as well as Melanie’s suggestion of Philosophy’s Purity (which is great because you can use it to wash your whole face and it’s not drying).

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