How To Take Your Makeup Off Properly

Photo: Erin Yamagata
Consider the scenario: long night out, full face of makeup, sweaty bar, lots of alcohol, home, then bed. Something missing? Yep. The (boring but necessary) requirement of taking off your makeup, the last thing anyone ever wants to do when bed is calling and you can’t see straight. And whether it's just after a long day at work or post-night out, it’s more important than you think: "There are no excuses if you want good skin," says London-based facialist, Vaishaly. "It takes seconds, not hours." The skin undergoes its repair and restore process at night so the cleaner your skin, the more pores can breathe, and the better the process can happen. Yes, beauty sleep really is a thing.
What happens if you don’t take it off?
You might already know that neglecting to clean your face at the end of the day has big consequences for your skin: “If you don’t remove every trace of makeup, it can seep into your pores and clog them, typically causing breakouts,” says Vaishaly.
But that’s not all. Even if you don’t wear makeup, airborne pollution – which is literally everywhere, especially in cities – clings to the surface of skin and causes dullness, pigmentation, dehydration, fine lines, congestion and loss of firmness and elasticity. So pretty much everything, then. And that’s not even taking into consideration the number of bacteria you’ll be unknowingly picking up on the Tube (a study this year found 121 different bacteria and moulds living on the Underground), bus or anywhere else you frequent day-to-day.
The essentials
First things first; makeup remover wipes aren’t enough. Although the easy life is always a temptation, wipes only remove whatever is on the surface of the skin, which means pores and below are left neglected. So while they’re okay to use as a first step, they’re not enough to remove makeup thoroughly. Vaishaly also points out that they can be really drying on the skin.
The products you do want to use are good cleansers. “Cleansing oils are great for all skin types,” says Vaishaly. Why? Because oils are the best agent at dissolving other oils so sebum and other pore-cloggers are gone, no problem. Even oily skins should use one; instead of using cleansers that strip the skin (that tight feeling is a sign they’re not doing it any good) these will nourish it, causing it to produce less oil to counteract the dryness. You’ll notice your face becoming less oily the more you use one.
Some of the best on the market are Tata Harper’s all-natural Nourishing Oil Cleanser, £64, which is packed with skin-feeding vitamins and minerals; Votary’s Rosemary and Oat Cleansing Oil, £45, which is great for healing and detoxifying acne-prone skin; and Super Facialist’s brightening Vitamin C+ Skin Renew Cleansing Oil, £10.99.
There are other options too, though. If you’re very averse to the idea of oils, then foaming cleansers can work. The trick is to find one that doesn’t foam too much: “The more foam and bubbles in the formula, the more drying it is on the skin.” And drying is a no-no because it just leads to more spots, irritation and a dull look. “The culprit is a chemical called sodium laureth sulphate so always read the label and avoid any cleansers that contain it,” says Vaishaly. The best ones we’ve come across are Mario Badescu’s Enzyme Cleansing Gel, £13, Kiehl’s Cucumber Herbal Cleanser, £19.50 and Avene’s Cleansing Foam, £12.50.
Muslin cloths can also be a good addition to your routine as they help gently exfoliate dead skin cells, while being a great guide as to how much product you might still have on skin.
How to get makeup off… properly
So where to begin? “Start by tying your hair back (if necessary) to make sure you can see your whole face,” says Vaishaly. This way, you’re less likely to miss any areas, in particular those that are easy to miss, like the hairline, neck and jaw.
Next, you’ve got the option of steaming; not totally necessary but helps to open up pores and deepen the cleanse. Either steam in a hot shower or submerge your muslin cloth in hot water and then put it on your face for 30 seconds.
Then it’s time to cleanse, starting – ideally – with the oil cleanser. Massage about a 50p size into skin in circular motions to help lift up makeup. “Take your time,” says Vaishaly, “and always massage with firm circular movements to help the cleanser dissolve makeup and remove dirt trapped in the pores.” Then simply wash off with warm water and a muslin cloth.
“I always recommend cleansing twice to make sure skin gets a really good clean,” says Vaishaly, which is where the double cleanse comes in. Essentially, all you need to do is cleanse again, ideally with another cleanser to tackle a different skincare concern. For example, if your skin is acne-prone, you might try a clarifying cleanser like Omorovicza’s Moor Cream Cleanser, £49, or if dry, try a gentle formula like Aurelia Probiotic’s Miracle Cleanser, £42. A facial brush, like Clarisonic’s Mia Fit, £170, is also a great tool to blitz the skin once or twice a week because it removes up to six times more makeup than manual (or tool-less) cleansing.
Now the skin is practically gleaming it’s so clean, it’s onto the eyes, ie. the most delicate area on the face. The skin here is thinner and the eyes themselves are more susceptible to infection, so no ‘yesterday’s eyeliner’ looks anymore – mascara, shadow and liner need to be gone pre-sleep.
The important thing to remember is not to rub them, whether it be with cotton wool, your fingers or any other inanimate object – they need to be treated with care. While you can use your oil cleanser to get rid of the first layer of mascara – let’s face it, there are a few – typically you’ll need a good eye makeup remover to get it all off. Nars’ Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, £18.50, is a great option. All you need to do is soak a cotton wool pad and hold it over your eyes to soften any makeup that’s there. Then, wipe downwards in the direction of growth to avoid breaking or pulling eyelashes out.
Then you’re ready for serums, moisturisers and oils galore. A serum we love is Avene's A-Oxitive Antioxident Defense Serum whose powerful antioxidants will help reduce the effects of pollution, especially when paired with the Water Cream from the same range. And while it might sound like it takes a long time, it will only take a maximum of 10 minutes, and is guaranteed to boost the quality and texture of your skin in as little as a few weeks. Get removing!
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