Do Reuseable Makeup Remover Cloths Work? An Expert Explains.

“], “filter”: { “nextExceptions”: “img, blockquote, div”, “nextContainsExceptions”: “img, blockquote, a.btn, a.o-button”} }”>

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members!
>”,”name”:”in-content-cta”,”type”:”link”}}”>Download the app.

You know that feeling when you sprint from work to the car and the car to the yoga studio and you barely make that 6:30 class? You glance at yourself in the mirror real quick as you get your mat situated and then you see it: The full face of makeup you put on 11 hours ago is still going strong. Suddenly your face is looking a little overdressed for your yoga pants.

To be clear: I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong about wearing makeup while you move your body. Some days, when I don’t feel like going to the gym, I actually put makeup on so that I feel cute and get motivated to leave the house for a workout and be seen by other humans.

The thing is, studies show that wearing makeup—especially foundation—when you work up a sweat can clog your pores and worsen acne. But it’s not exactly convenient to carry around oil-based makeup remover, cleansing balm, micellar water, etc., for the occasions when you forget to remove your makeup before yoga. And though many of us love the convenience of a disposable makeup wipe, it can trigger some environmental guilt to constantly be throwing away single-use items.

The beauty industry’s response to this issue: reusable makeup remover cloths, particularly the ones that claim you can use only water to remove your makeup. Suddenly these products seem to be everywhere.

What Are Makeup Remover Cloths?

The first time I heard about makeup remover cloths, I was skeptical. It was in one of those creepily on-point targeted ads on Instagram. In the video, a woman simply wet a small swatch of fabric with water from the sink and wiped the makeup clean off of her face.

Compared to the reusable cotton rounds that are made to be paired with your favorite toner, cleanser, or remover, makeup remover cloths are supposed to work product-free. The instructions are to simply wet them with warm water and wipe your face as you would normally.

But seriously, how is cloth and water going to remove mascara? I’ve spent probably hundreds of dollars over the years trying oils and balms that not only didn’t work to remove my makeup, but had me unwittingly tearing out bushels of eyelashes in the cleaning process. Perhaps it was time to try something new.

What Does a Dermatologist Say About Makeup Remover Cloths?

To address my lingering suspicion that makeup remover cloths are a millennial hoax, I had an email conversation with Lauren Ploch, MD, MeD, FAAD and board-certified dermatologist. Although a reusable product is a win for the environment, I wanted to know whether it’s actually good for my environment—aka, my skin. Dr. Ploch had really helpful insights:

Me: Are makeup remover cloths safe?

Ploch: Yes, they are generally safe—if they are used appropriately. Most microfiber cloths do require the use of a gentle cleanser or make-up remover to avoid having to scrub the face and also to avoid scrubbing makeup, dirt, and oil into the pores.

Me: How can you safely use makeup remover cloths?

Ploch: I recommend at most one to two passes per area with the cloth. More passes/scrubbing than that can lead to trauma from physical exfoliation with the cloth, irritation, and potentially rebound hyperkeratosis, which is a thickening of the dead skin cell layer.

I also recommend washing immediately after with a gentle cleanser using the fingertips in a gentle circular motion, then rinsing well.

Me: The microfibers are advertised as being exfoliating. Is that true?

Ploch: Yes, but sometimes they can be too exfoliating. Most dermatologists, including myself, are proponents of chemical exfoliation (i.e., retinoids, hydroxy acids) versus physical exfoliation (i.e., makeup remover cloths, scrubs, brushes). When the cloths are new and soft, they are gentle if used for one to two passes on the face. After they are used a few times, they get coarser/harder and can irritate the skin more.

Me: Are there any special considerations people with certain skin conditions should be aware of before trying makeup remover cloths?

Ploch: People with sensitive skin and rosacea need to be particularly careful with these cloths. People with acne-prone skin will likely need to use a gentle cleanser to remove potentially pore-clogging make-up.

I Tried Makeup Remover Cloths and the Results Were… Meh

Equipped with advice from a professional, I made my purchase. The particular brand has thousands of mostly positive reviews on Amazon. They claim that one of their cloths will survive 500 washes in the laundry. (Yes, you’ll eventually have to replace the cloths—but depending on how often you use them, they could theoretically last years before that happens).

It also sells an “eco-friendly” package. The materials are polyester, which is not eco-friendly, but they aren’t tested on animals and are gluten-free, paraben-free, and vegan.

My Process

Day 1

I may have, um, ignored the very medical advice that I sought out, only because I had to know whether the cloth and water would remove makeup, without any product, as promised on the package.

I’m a light makeup wearer day to day, so I decided to do a trial run of the makeup remover cloths by applying more makeup than I usually do. (Side note: I forgot how fun it is to apply makeup just for fun.)

Here’s a list of the products I applied to my face before testing the makeup remover cloth:

  • SPF stick
  • Vitamin C serum
  • Moisturizer
  • Foundation
  • Bronzer
  • Cream blush
  • Powder blush
  • Highlighter
  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Eye shadow
  • Mascara (two coats)
  • Lip liner
  • Lipstick

The eco-friendly pack contains three different color cloths: a light pink, a light beige, and a white one. I tested the white. After my first use, I waited a few hours before machine-washing it according to the package instructions. I couldn’t find advice from the company on how often a cloth should be washed, but some reviewers noted they throw their cloths in with their regular laundry about once a week.


  1. It (mostly) worked
    I was pleasantly surprised at how much red lipstick as well as mascara the wet cloth removed. After I wiped the cloth over my eyes, I did the “finger test” of swiping through my lashes—there was still a bit of residue left behind, but my lashes felt soft, which is enough for me to rest assured I won’t wake up the next day with caked-on product.
  2. Exfoliation
    My face felt clean and smooth—similar to how it feels after I’ve used a light exfoliant. A little tingly, but fresh.
  3. Portability
    This is definitely a major pro. Instead of traveling with products that inevitably leak all over my makeup bag, this seemed like a lightweight alternative to remove excess makeup on-the-go—especially if you are using a public bathroom and don’t want to balance products on the edge of the sink as you attempt to wash your face without touching any dirty surfaces.
  4. Absorbent cloth material
    The makeup on the cloth didn’t rub off on my hands (as makeup would with other materials). The microfiber seemed to soak it up for the most part.


  • It doesn’t remove absolutely everything
    To be fair, I don’t know of a makeup removing product that does. But the faint glitter from my highlighter was still visible on my cheeks after I wiped my skin a few times. Which brings me to my next point…
  • You have to wipe your face multiple times
    This is probably the biggest con, as Ploch pointed out. It definitely took some added pressure and multiple rounds of wiping my face to get most of my makeup off (especially around my lips and eyes). Gently holding the wet cloth against my face for a few seconds did help loosen the makeup before I wiped it.
  • Exfoliation
    This is a pro and a con. Yes, my face felt clean, but also pretty dry after use.
  • Makeup stains didn’t come out in the laundry
    I washed the cloth on a delicate cycle in cold water, according to package instructions, and the makeup stains didn’t come off…at all. I washed it again in hot water and that helped a little, but it’s still pretty stained. The brand that I tried does make a black makeup remover cloth, but it’s not included in the “eco-friendly” package.

Day 2

After testing the cloth with water, I followed Ploch’s advice and used the cloth with products. I applied my makeup removing pre-cleanser to my face as I normally would, then wet the makeup remover cloth. I dabbed it along my face, being careful not to wipe or scrub too hard. I followed the same process using my cleanser.


  • It removed the product from my face

Again, the microfiber seems to do a good job of wicking makeup and product from skin.

  • I didn’t have to lean over my sink to rinse my face

…And get my entire shirt wet in the process.


  • It left my face feeling, um, on fire

The tingly feeling the cloth had left on my face the night before was replaced by an unpleasant sensation 10 times more powerful. It felt like I had rubbed sand on my face. HARD. I checked in with Ploch about this, who confirmed it was most likely too much “trauma.” She also noted that it depends whether I scrubbed too hard the first time I used it (which I did). Which leads me to my next point…

  • It’s too strong an exfoliant to use on a daily basis

…At least for me. My face was tingling well into the next day.

  • Since I used it with cleanser, I could’ve just used a washcloth

*Insert metaphor here about spending money on the “next best” beauty product as my dusty and heartbroken washcloths glare at me from behind the slats of the bathroom closet door.*

My Takeaway

After a suspenseful two-day journey, I wouldn’t recommend microfiber reusable makeup remover cloths, especially for anyone with sensitive skin.

The promise of removing makeup with only water isn’t completely unfulfilled, as they can wipe off most makeup, but it came at much too high a skincare cost for me. This is mostly because of the exfoliation factor. I never would’ve guessed by touching the soft fabric with my hands that the cloths could have such an abrasive impact on my face.

But that doesn’t mean I consider makeup remover cloths to be completely unusable. These would probably be helpful if you regularly wear heavy makeup. As Ploch said, you can take a first pass with water to remove the excess, being careful not to scrub too hard—as long as you follow up with your cleanser on a non-exfoliating cloth (or fingertips) at home. Even then, they seem better suited for occasional use. But then you lose the portability factor.

Since it’s better for the skin to use product along with the cloths, which I don’t intend to do at a yoga studio, I may as well just keep using my hands or the cotton washcloths I already have at home. If you’re curious about what will work best for your skin, be sure to consult with your dermatologist.

And yes, I could maybe see tucking one or two of these cloths in a travel bag or in my car for a pre-yoga makeup removal emergency. But then again, I’d probably rather do Down Dog in a full face of makeup. At least I’d feel cute.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Belli Health
Shopping cart