These Beauty Wipes Are Derm-Approved

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
A few weeks ago, while walking down the aisle of a dollar store, I found skin-care wipes that claimed to be infused with wrinkle-fighting retinol and collagen. I doubted their skin-fixing powers for a number of reasons. After all, I'd never heard of the brand, they appeared to be standard sheets and not moist, thick wipes (translation: potentially dried out), and the biggest red flag of all, they were only a dollar.
A beauty junkie can only dream that all products — from self-tanner to perfume to anti-agers — can be harnessed in the ease of a wipe. But which are actually effective, and which are doomed to end up at a discount store collecting dust? Luckily, a gal can do more than dream — she can call a couple of dermatologists and ask them which wipes are probably bunk and which have the potential to be the real deal.
So, we present to you: 11 types of wipes, only some of which are actually worth spending your hard-earned dollar-dollar-bills on.
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Wipe In Question: Nail-polish remover

Verdict: Derm-approved — go for it!

“There are certain wipes [that] are no-brainer better than the alternative, and to me, this is one of them,” says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD. “They make it so much easier.” To wit: There’s no risk of spilling some smelly potion all over your hardwood floors, you can stow the pads in your purse to remedy chipped-nail emergencies, and they work. Okay, we admit this first one was a little too easy.

Sephora Instant Nail Polish Remover Wipes, $5, available at Sephora.
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Wipe In Question: Cleanser

Verdict: Derm-approved — go for it!

Yes, these passed our derms' evaluation, but note that not all cleansing wipes are created equal. “You really want to stay away from anything that’s going to be very textured and exfoliating,” says Dr. Hirsch. “You want to go gentle, gentle, gentle — because the act of using the wipe is already more physical than just washing your face.”

So, too much texture on your wipe of choice could irritate your skin. With that in mind, choose something simple, says Dr. Hirsch. “I mean that figuratively and literally. I like Simple, the brand. And I like Burt’s Bees, too,” she says. “Never spend a lot of money on these — there is no need for cleansing wipes to be expensive.”

In a pinch, cleansing wipes can be a lazy girl’s bestie. “The nice thing about cleansing wipes is that you can put them in the nightstand next to your bed, so when you realize right before you're drifting off to sleep that you haven’t washed your face, you just reach over and they're there,” says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths, $6.37, available at
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Wipe In Question: Antioxidants

Verdict: Failed — stick to the real deal.

“With vitamin-infused wipes, the effectiveness depends on the stability of the vitamin, but it’s certainly an easy way that you can get something onto your skin on the go,” says Dr. Zeichner. That being said, there are better ways to get your vitamins.

“Generally, actives are best supplied in serums because they’re meant to stay on your face,” says Dr. Hirsch. This means that a mask or serum is a far better bet if you want the formula to be effective. Which, obviously, you do.

Serum 10 AOX Plus, $69, available at
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Wipe In Question: Deodorant

Verdict: Derm-approved — go for it!

“I have a lot of patients who travel and swear by deodorant wipes because they work really well," says Dr. Hirsch."They’re just easier to pack than deodorant." Plus, these genius wipes pull double duty, since the application process (wiping, duh) is likely to pick up some odor-causing bacteria, as opposed to layering a stick formula over them.

Pacifica Underarm Deodorant Wipes with Coconut Milk & Essential Oils, $9, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Wipe In Question: Micellar water

Verdict: Failed — stick to the real deal.

“Micelles” is an ooh-la-la term for super-gentle cleansing bubbles — so, basically, micellar wipes are the swankier version of cleansing wipes. “They’re absolutely fine — and from reputable companies,” says Dr. Hirsch. “But a French woman would never use micellar as a wipe because the whole purpose of micellar water is to have this very gentle experience, so if you buy into the concept of a micellar water, you probably wouldn’t get it in wipe form.” Translation: They're not bad, per se, but you're not getting the true experience, so opt for the real thing or treat them like cleansing wipes with a fancy name.

Micellar Cleansing Water, $5.94, available at Walmart.
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Wipe In Question: Sunscreen

Verdict: Derm-approved — but only for touch-ups!

“I am a mom with three tiny people — sunscreen wipes are like my best friend,” says Dr. Hirsch. “They’re great for faces if you don’t want to spray down your face, for hard-to-reach areas, and for touch-ups.”

However, make sure your wipes are soaked with product. “I don't think that they take the place of traditional sunscreen, since you need to ensure that you’re depositing enough sunscreen on the skin, but certainly they have benefits,” says Dr. Zeichner. “You can have them in your bag if you're going out to lunch and you want to get an extra boost.”

MD Moms Babysafe Sunscreen Towelettes SPF 30, $15.99, available at
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Wipe In Question: Self-tanner

Verdict: Derm-approved — go for it!

“In many ways, this is a much more user-friendly approach than applying self-tanner with your hands,” says Dr. Hirsch. Editor tip: Shave or lightly exfoliate first to ensure your color goes on evenly. “Before wipes were readily available, I’d recommend those foam brushes from the hardware store that you’d use to stain furniture — totally works, and I still think they’re kind of better than wipes. They apply pressure in a natural way.”

Wipes have a similar feel because they let you get into crevices, but just make sure you don’t go hard on your elbows and knees or you’ll have darker color there than on the rest of your body.

L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Self-Tanning Towelettes, $11.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Wipe In Question: Anti-agers

Verdict: Failed — stick to the real deal.

As we expected, anti-aging ingredients are best saved for more traditional delivery methods, especially the two that inspired this story: retinol and collagen.

“I can’t speak to specific brands, but I don’t think [anti-aging wipes] would be very worthwhile,” says Dr. Hirsch. Because something like retinol would degrade on a wipe? “I’d assume that someone studied this — and would love for a reporter to ask this very fair question to the brands,” she says. “But I’m not a theoretical fan of applying a retinol with an active wipe or resurfacing disk because that brings its own irritation.”

And collagen? “I wouldn't expect the collagen wipes to perform any differently than a topical collagen product,” says Dr. Zeichner. “And collagen is a very big molecule, and it doesn't really penetrate well into the skin.”

Shani Darden Retinol Reform, $95, available at
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Wipe In Question: Oil

Verdict: Failed — stick to the real deal.

“Again, these are fine in a pinch — my only problem is that with oil, the point is to slather it on,” says Dr. Hirsch. “With a wipe you’re going to be wiping off part of what you put on, so a wipe isn’t the ideal vehicle for an oil.” Sorry, oil, but you're best on your own.

Acure Organics Argan Oil, $12.99, available at Birchbox.
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Wipe In Question: Hand sanitizer/antibacterial formulas

Verdict: Derm-approved — go for it!

“I think these are great, especially during cold and flu season or if you're traveling,” says Dr. Zeichner. “They're gentle enough for your body, but you can use the leftover wetness on any of your surroundings, [like] on the subway or an airplane, that you don't want to touch.” [Ed. note: I wish I’d had 'em on a recent Amtrak ride, sitting next to a man who'd never learned to cough into his elbow back in preschool.]

“They’ll never replace hand-washing from a hygiene point of view,” says Dr. Hirsch. “Hand-washing with soap and water for a full 20 seconds is the gold standard, fundamentally more effective than an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. But in situations when you can’t wash your hands, they’ll do a lot better than nothing. Liquid sanitizer probably coats the hands better than wipes, but wipes are a better option if you have a really expensive, Cognac-colored suede bag — and why do I know that?” I think we all know why she knows that.

Herban Essentials Lavender Bag, $16, available at Herban Essentials.
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Wipe In Question: Perfume

Verdict: Failed — stick to the real deal.

There's probably a reason very few perfume wipes are on the market, but that doesn't make them any less alluring. After all, perfume in a wipe? Genius! Unfortunately, you're better off sticking to a spray or solid perfume. “I’ve never recommended them because I just don't find them to be very elegant and they don’t sustain a scent," says Dr. Hirsch. "There are a lot of lovely brands that make solid-perfume sticks now — they also don’t make a mess and they last a long time. I just think they’re a better solution.” We agree.

Diptyque L'Ombre Dans L'Eau Solid Perfume in Blackcurrant & Damask Rose, $50, available at Net-A-Porter.
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