When I was growing up, I was constantly being reminded that you must earn what you have. (And, if something bad happens, that you probably earned that, too.) I can remember people always stopping my mother — at the McDonald’s drive-through, the mall, the grocery store — to tell her how beautiful she was. She always blushed and half-smiled (she, like me, is self-conscious about her teeth), thanked them with a laugh, and then diverted the attention to whichever one of her four “handsome” boys was closest. Later, as we’d walk away, she’d attribute the compliment to her diligent skin-care ritual, or the makeup technique she had picked up at the counter last weekend. Just last week, she even called me to let me know that someone thought she was my brother's sister, which she owed to the right mix of Dior Glow Maximiser Primer and Clé de Peau foundation. (She calls me every. Single. Time. This happens.)
That’s probably why I’ve never been an advocate for a lazy beauty routine. I always wanted to be — and still, in fact, want to be — beautiful like my mother, so I take skin care very seriously. She encouraged (though never enforced) this behaviour when I was barely a pre-teen, starting me off with Neutrogena this-and-that before I finally smartened up enough to raid her cabinets for whatever products I knew she wasn’t using at the moment. No joke: I was applying concealer under my eyes before I stopped wetting the bed. I thought I could earn beauty, if only I aspired to it.
So much of the beauty industry now is catered toward ease. This is not a bad thing, per se — the last thing any of us needs is to be slowed down. So, by all means, cut any corner possible when it comes to makeup and hair — sport as much dry shampoo, smudged liner, and BB cream as you need to get you from point A to point B quickly. Beauty should not be like a pair of five-inch heels that prevent you from keeping up. But, for the love of God (and, by God, I mostly mean Beyoncé), do not sacrifice your skin.
Makeup wipes, in my humble opinion, are the epitome of lazy beauty. I know plenty a woman who keeps a stack of them by her bed, so she “never has to go to sleep with her makeup on.” At first, this seems like a great idea: Sleeping in makeup is bad for your pores and your general hygiene, and that’s the quickest fix. Right?
Not really. “Cleansing wipes don’t effectively clean the skin,” explains celebrity aesthetician Renée Rouleau. “Instead, they just smear dirt, bacteria, oil, and makeup across the face. It’s like applying cleanser to your face and then not washing it off, or skipping the rinse cycle of your laundry. Cleansing agents are designed to break down debris within the pores, but it’s the rinsing action that actually removes it."
Oh, dear. So, makeup wipes aren’t actually doing the trick, then, which is astonishing considering just how many people love, love, love them. “Women think they’ve cleansed their skin with a simple wipe, but this isn’t the case,” adds aesthetician Kerry Benjamin. “There’s still oil and debris that will clog pores, and products won’t be able to penetrate without proper cleansing and exfoliation."
Beyond that, makeup wipes have the potential to teach us a harmful lesson about cleansing, which many professionals consider to be the most crucial step of our morning and nighttime routines. “They’re bad-habit-forming,” Benjamin says. “The best defence to any skin strategy is a good offence. Learning to be proactive while you’re young will help you reap major benefits as you enter your 30s, 40s, and beyond."
Rouleau also points out that many makeup wipes are packed with ingredients like SD alcohol 40 and denatured alcohol. “These are put into the formula so they evaporate more quickly, so the skin doesn’t stay wet for long,” she explains. “But, skin cells are like fish — they need water to live, so alcohol is simply too dehydrating.” (If you’ve ever felt a slight burn post-face wipe, now you know why.)
So, what’s the solution? Look at removing your makeup as its own, individual step. Benjamin recommends investing in an oil, like jojoba or coconut, and smoothing it onto the skin, allowing it to melt, before activating it with warm water and wiping off with a (clean!) towel. You can follow up with a traditional, gentle face wash of your choosing. “Also, wash your face before you get tired,” Rouleau adds. “Do it before your head hits the pillow, or even right after dinner. Earlier is way better than never!”
Don’t worry, though: They’re not all that bad. Keep your makeup wipes for things like plane rides or bathroom touch-ups, when you might need to freshen up your foundation or erase mascara smudges. They should be tools of convenience, not necessity. (Make sure to avoid the nasty ingredients, though, by investing in a product like Josie Maran’s or Koh Gen Do’s.)
Hopefully, you’ll come to enjoy — nay, luxuriate in — the art of the double-cleanse. Your skin will certainly be better for it. And, in the grand scheme of things, what’s one extra step in your nightly ritual when clear, healthy skin is the end goal? So, drag yourself to the sink, oil in hand, and keep your eyes on the prize. There’s nothing that feels as good as a hard-earned victory.