Which first cleanser do I need? 7 types of makeup removers compared

Written by Jenny Wu
Jenny Wu

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  1. I have been searching a makeup remover for my oil skin. I’ve tried cleansing oils but it gave me so many pimples. Now I am using MICELLAR WATER, it seems perfect for me. I would like to know, if cleansing oils really can cause pimples? Or it was just depends on some other factors?


    • Jenny says:

      It would depend on the ingredients used in the cleansing oils. You can always check on cosdna to see if they have any comedogenic ingredients, or if you really want to get to the bottom of it, cross check the ingredients of all the cleansers that broke you out to see what they have in common, it’s possible your skin just doesn’t agree with that particular ingredient. Good luck!

  2. I use a couple cleansers from Korean as my second cleanse – I rotate them depending on my skin needs. But for my first, I mainly use Burt’s Bees Cleansing oil. It works really well and I love it. I basically mainly use micellar water as a last cleansing step, just to make sure every trace of makeup is removed. Thank you for sharing this post Jenny!

    Ann-Marie | http://facetocurls.com

    • Jenny says:

      Oh I didn’t even realize Burt’s Bees has a cleansing oil, I’ll need to check it out! That’s interesting that you use micellar water as a second cleanser, but i love that it’s versatile like that!

  3. Gloria says:

    This is a great post for skincare and makeup beginners Jenny! I agree with balms being the best cleanser, my holy grail is the Banila Co Clean It Zero the original version. Although l’ve recently started testing out the Sandahwa Milk Cleansing Oil and I think it might be my all time favorite makeup remover. It smells AMAZING (like real flowers! Probably cause it’s made out of camellia oil), and feels soo luxurious. It’s of a much thicker consistency than other cleansing oils I’ve tried, which prevents it from running down my arms and also adds to the luxurious feeling. I highly recommend that you give it a try, I think you’ll enjoy the experience of using it.

    • Jenny says:

      So glad you liked it Gloria! I still can’t believe I haven’t tried the Banila Co cleansing balms yet…one day! The Sandahwa Milk Cleansing Oil sounds so luxurious, and I do love products with a great scent – makes the cleansing process so much more enjoyable! Thank you for the recommendation, I’ll definitely check it out :)

  4. Amy says:

    No wonder your skin is so flawless Jenny! I am terrible at applying sunscreen and washing my makeup off at night. Lately, I’m been using Bioderm micellar water and it’s so convenient. Great post and products =)

    Amy ❤️ http://theblushingpink.com/

  5. Vanessa says:

    My favourite definitely are cleansing balms and micellar water. But if I had to choose it would definitely be Bioderma micellar water

    Vanessa x | http://www.springlilies.com

  6. Katherine says:

    I really need to try Bioderma products, I hear so many great things!


  7. Siyana says:

    I think you’ve missed foam. It’s my favourite as it’s so fluffy and gentle! Then I double cleanse with micellar water or eye-make up remover. xx


    • Jenny says:

      Hi Siyana! I consider foam a second cleanser since it’s usually not enough to remove makeup on its own and I’m not a fan of using it twice. Otherwise I do the same where I cleanse with micellar water first, followed by a foaming cleanser :)

  8. Amy says:

    Great post! I always double cleanse and agree it’s so important. I personally love a cleansing cream / gel followed by a balm but for no makeup days sometimes go for micellar water instead of the cream.

    http://amyevans.blog – Amy

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Amy! Your cleansing routine sounds very similar to mine, though I might switch out the balm for a foaming cleanser for the summer :)

  9. Michelle Bio says:

    Your blog really is my go-to when it comes to skincare! ♡

  10. Lately I use my cleansing oils very often because I became so lazy and it takes off all of my makeup. I never skip my lip/eye remover with oil because I Always use waterproof eyeliner and mascara and I’m afraid that the cleansing oil can’t take that off 100%. Somedays I use the oil, others the balm. I have to say that I enjoy the balms more than the oil because like you said of the luxirious feeling! When I do have to I first use the oil/balm and than the cleansing gel with my Clarisonic Mia 2, best routine!

    xx- An | http://thebeauparlour.com/

    • Jenny says:

      Cleansing oils are definitely easier and faster to use than balms, and I find myself missing them every once in a while! The ones I’ve tried haven’t been great at removing waterproof mascara…I always end up like a panda and would need to still manually remove them afterwards :P

  11. Batsheva says:

    This is so funny, as I just went to the store TODAY to pick up a cleansing balm, to start myself on a double cleansing routine. I bought the real nature olive cleansing cream from Nature Republic, which I hope will do the job as I haven’t used it yet, but I am really excited, as this is a whole new level of cleanliness for me, haha! I loved this post!


    • Jenny says:

      Thank you so much for reading Batsheva, so glad to hear you liked the post! What a coincidence that you just started double cleansing as well, hope the Nature Republic Cleansing Cream is working out well for you!

  12. Emily says:

    This is a really great post for people! I know cleansers can be so overwhelming haha. I prefer milks and balms. I am not a fan of using micellar water or wipes to actually cleanse my face. Sometimes I’ll take a balm or milk and cleanse in the shower to remove my makeup, and then I’ll take micellar water to get off the excess makeup those missed. Then I go in with my second and last cleanse for the night, which is more heavy duty. Cleansers are one of my favorite things to test and I have a million I swear, and I couldn’t live without a second cleanse!

    -Emily http://www.coatandcoffee.com

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Emily, so glad you think it’s helpful! When I do use an oil or my Clinique Cleansing Balm I love applying it before I shower and then letting the shower steam help the products better remove the dirt in my pores. I have an obsession with collecting and testing cleansers as well, there are so many options and types to try!

  13. jeanine says:

    I’ve tried a cleansing balm but it clogged my drain so much I’m back to using a cleansing oil. I’m just using a basic one now because I got the Blossom Jeju oil cleanser on sale but it stung my eyes too badly to use so I needed a plan B fast.

    • Jenny says:

      Oh yikes, I didn’t know cleansing balms could clog drains, but now that you mention it….I did have to declog mine recently. Anyways, I digress. The Blossom Jeju Oil Cleanser sounds very luxurious, and if it smells anything like their serums, then that’s amazing :D

  14. Marina Rosie says:

    Your photography is so good Jenny, it honestly makes me want to cry (In a good way though) I Really love balms for removing that cake off of my face at the end of the day, especially the Clinique take the day off balm (it’s gotta be a fave) However, from time to time, I do use a micellar water when I’m in a hurry, and that tends to be one by Garnier, it’s so good! x Thanks so much for sharing love! x
    Lots of love,
    Marina Rosie xx

    • Jenny says:

      Oh my gosh thank you for your sweet comment Marina!! <3 Love that Clinique balm as well, especially for the winter when my skin is drier. I've heard good things about the Garnier micellar water, many people say it's a great dupe for Bioderma, so I'll have to compare one day :D

  15. Stephanie says:

    Oh all of the above cleansers, my preference is always micellar water and sometimes balm! I don’t really like the oily feeling and I never feel like all of my makeup is gone even after a thorough double-cleanse process! Wipes are hit or miss for me – I need a really good one (Simple Cosmetics wipes are my fave!!) that doesn’t tug or pull at the skin too much!

    • Jenny says:

      Definitely agree that wipes can be a hit or miss, though they’re usually misses for me. Will need to try out the Simple Cosmetics wipes, I’ve heard great things about those!

  16. Amy says:

    Soo helpful!! Thank you for sharing. I’ve never tried a cleansing balm but have been really wanting to lately. I use a good old gel cleanser and always use coconut oil as my makeup remover. But now I’m all excited after reading your post and realizing there are sooo many other options out there!!

    xx, Amy

    • Jenny says:

      Yay, so glad you liked this post Amy! I’ve actually heard of using coconut oil as a cleanser and people have raved about it! I might try it to remove eye/lip makeup next time :) If you like using coconut oil I think you’ll really love cleansing balms, it has that same creamy luxurious texture!

  17. Elisa L. says:

    I’ve tried oils, cleansing milk, micellar water, makeup remover wipes and of course the specific eye/lip makeup remover to remove my mascara and eye makeup. For lips, i usually use my micellar water instead because i’m forgetful like that but hey, it works. Maybe is not a good idea, i wouldn’t know but it has never irritated my lips before.

    The first cleansing oil i used was shu uemura’s and it was as lovely as how people have been raving bout it. Unfortunately, i hate cleansing oils. They make me feel like a greaseball and makes me question whether or not my makeup has been fully removed (since it doesn’t give you that squeaky clean feeling the way micellar water does, you know?) cleansing oil is definitely not for me.

    For cleansing milk, my first one was from H2O+ and it was the “massage into dry skin, rinse with water” kind. It was good but again, nothing that made me go wow. It did remove light makeup though but for long lasting foundation, it took me quite some time. I recently bought my second cleansing milk from nivea and i think i actually like it better. Unlike the h2O+ one, the one from nivea says to massage the product into the face and then use cotton pad to wipe it off. Not only it’s affordable, it also does its job very nicely! It does leave my face feeling intensely moisturized, almost greasy which is why i definitely have to double cleanse. Then again, i ALWAYS double cleanse whenever i use makeup haha

    As for micellar water, i’m currently using one from corine de farme which is a french pharmacy brand, or so i heard. Bioderma is expensive for me and corine de farme’s largest bottle is like half of the price of bioderma so… :))
    I also love micellar water from this japanese brand called bifesta. It’s waaay more affordable and does its job as well. I just looove micellar water for everything ugh. Recently, a lot of brands have been coming out with micellar water; i see nivea has one, maybelline has one and of course L’oreal. It’s amazing to have cheaper options in the drugstore for those who can’t afford bioderma. I’m also intrigued by Garnier’s micellar water!

    For eye / lip makeup remover, i just used one from maybelline or L’oreal. Works ok and affordable so no complaints. I used to buy MAC’s makeup remover though and it was lovely as well but MAC’s salesgirls aren’t always lovely and i hate having to deal with them so i stopped going to MAC.

    For makeup wipes, i think they are definitely better at removing swatches. I don’t use them very often but when i do, it’s only to erase mini imperfections like when my eyeliner game goes wrong or my mascara smudges or the fact that i have excess foundation on my hand or something.

    Tbh, i can’t relate to people who do not double cleanse when they are wearing makeup. I’m so scared of clogged pores that i HAVE to cleanse my face with a cleanser even after i’ve removed my entire makeup with micellar water haha. I only double cleanse when i wear makeup though since i don’t wear sunscreen when i’m indoor (and my room has no windows so there’s no need for SPF)

    • Jenny says:

      I don’t like the Corine de Farme brand is widely available here, but it sounds great and I’d love to try it out! I didn’t know Bifesta also made cleansing water, but I do love their eye makeup remover. Again, not readily available here, which is a bummer :(

      I don’t get people who don’t double cleanse either. Asides from clog pores I’ve heard that the residue pigmentation from foundation can leave your skin sallow and dull in the long run!

  18. Cat L. says:

    I am such a fan of cleansers! They’re probably my most popular skincare item, next to face masks. I love using all kinds of different textures depending on how my skin feels that day and just to switch it up. The Omorovicza cleansing balm has been on my list for ages. Now that Sephora carries the brand, I think I’ll start with a sample and see how I do. Thank you for sharing this post Jenny! Your recommendations never disappoint!

    ~ Cat L.

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you for your kind comment Cat! I wasn’t a fan of cleansers when I was younger but now they’re also one of my favorite skincare items to collect and experiment with. The Omorovicza balm is very luxurious, so see if you can get a sample from Sephora, and if you like it, buy the full-size from Cult Beauty – it’s much less expensive there!

  19. Samantha says:

    This is such a great and uber informative post! Normally, I just use micellar water and then switch up my second cleansers from time to time, depending on what I need to finish up. Where would you put cleansing foams in this list? I have one but I’m not sure if it is better to use as a second or first cleanse.

    Sam | My Beauty Cloud

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Samantha! I typically categorize cleansing foams as second cleansers, even though some claim to be able to remove makeup. Now that I’m thinking about it, I guess it’s possible to use the cleansing foam twice as both your first and second cleanser, though foaming cleansers in general will be slightly more drying than non-foaming ones. Hope this helps!

  20. Sakuranko says:

    Wow this is a super post about everything about makeup removers
    My Favorite is bioderma!
    I really love it that one

  21. Denise says:

    I loved reading these reviews of all of them! I have tried oils in the past, but they tend to be way too heavy for my skin! I love micellar water as well and swear by it!

    Denise | Fashion Love Letters

  22. This is a great post Jenny! I love my cleansing oils because I like to pump, cleanse, and move on quickly to the more luxurious parts of my routine. Cleansing waters too are Staples – I looooove the Atrue Sweet Song Black Tea cleansing water, it is so so gentle, and my default when I don’t wear much makeup.

    • Jenny says:

      Thank you Camilla! Cleansing oils are the way to go when you need something efficient and effective. I think if I wore makeup regularly I’d probably add it back into my routine.

      Love the sound of that cleansing water, I’m a sucker for anything with tea in it, haha. Will need to try it out once I finish my Bioderma, thanks for the recommendation!

  23. Jasmine says:

    I love Micellar water and Clinique Take The Day off too. I wasn’t sure about TTDO at first as it felt oily but love the fact it removes eye makeup. I will check out some of your other recommendations.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Jaz xoxo

    • Jenny says:

      I totally agree with you Jaz, I too felt the same way about TTDO at first, but once you get over the oiliness it’s actually amazing :) Thanks for reading!

  24. I tend to change my first cleanse depending on the season, balms in the colder months and oils in the summer. And micellar water for quick cleanses in between, like refreshing before I reapply makeup, after being outdoors in the summer and all that.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • Jenny says:

      That makes sense because our skin tends to change a bit with the seasons as well. I might start using my balms less in the summer time, we’ll see how my skin gets when the time comes ;)

  25. I use Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing balm as second cleanse too but usually I cleanse with my Shiseido Ultimate Cleansing oil and then followed by that. I rarely cleanse with micellar water anymore these days, no idea why though I think I’m just in a no-micellar water phase. Does that happen to you too? I go through phases where I either don’t or obsessively use certain products for weeks and sometimes months and then stop and switch to other things.

    • Jenny says:

      Tell me about it! I do get bored of my products if I use them for too long, but at the same time I get all OCD when I have a bottle that’s half way done just sitting there, lol.

      Btw I bought the omorovisca balm after Mili talked about it, and I think she bought it because of you, haha. The degrees of enabling is increasing!

  26. totally love this informative review!
    style frontier

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