Sensitive-Skin Saviors: The Best Oil-Free Makeup Removers

Sensitive-Skin Saviors: The Best Oil-Free Makeup Removers featured image
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When it comes to makeup, taking it off should be easy. And it definitely shouldn’t leave your skin irritated or your pores clogged. And for those of us with oily or super sensitive skin, that means turning to the tried and true: oil-free makeup remover. These hydration-focused formulas are all about gently clearing makeup and dirt while reducing the tugging and pulling on our skin and leaving a clean, non-greasy finish.

Featured Experts

  • Courtney Rubin, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder and Chief Medical Officer of Fig. 1
  • Doris Day, MD is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York
  • Kally Papantoniou, MD is a board-certified dermatologist based in Melville, NY

Why Oil-Free Makeup Remover?

Certain oils are pretty good at removing makeup. Recently, superstar Shania Twain made headlines around the world when she shared her kitchen pantry formula for makeup remover: sugar and olive oil. A combination she’s been using for decades that seems to work well for her, Twain’s method raised some eyebrows among dermatologists.

“She looks like she has beautiful skin so it seems to be working for her,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD. “In general, the olive oil is fine, and the sugar could be exfoliating. But it could also be irritating, and there are better, more reliable ways to remove makeup than that.”

And a lot of our makeup is oil-based, making oil useful when it comes to removing it.

“Since most makeup, especially foundation and concealer, is oil-based, the best way to remove it is with an oil-based makeup remover or oil cleanser (like dissolves like!),” explains cofounder and Chief Medical Officer of Fig. 1, dermatologist Courtney Rubin, MD.

The problem comes for those of us with particularly sensitive or acne-prone skin: it produces so much oil regularly that you may be left with an oily-skin finish that no one wants. That’s where oil-free makeup remover comes in.

What Skin Type Is it Best for?

People with very oily skin tend to gravitate towards oil-free skin care, but Dr. Rubin explains that that’s only half the battle.

“Oil-free skin care is usually lightweight and water-based, often with a gel or lotion texture,” explains Dr. Rubin. “Those with very oily and sebaceous skin may benefit from water-based, oil-free skin care since their skin already produces adequate oils to condition the skin.”

Additionally, oil-free makeup removers need to be designed with balance in mind, especially if you’re going to use it as a cleanser.

According to Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD, that’s one thing people often get wrong about their skin’s natural barrier. “People don’t understand the importance of retaining a balance of facial oils,” she explains. “For oily skin types, a cleanser that is hydrating without being too drying will always be best. Cleansers that remove too many oils can sometimes lead to rebound oil production, so this must be taken into consideration when selecting a cleanser.”

The Best in Oil-Free Makeup Removers

1 / 10

Avène Gentle Eye Make-Up Remover ($24)

This aqueous gel is an oil-free way to gently remove makeup around the sensitive eye area without causing irritation. Created to be the same pH as tears, the formula doesn’t sting or burn and is safe for contact lens–wearers.

oil free makeup remover
2 / 10

Fig. 1 Micellar Oil Cleanser ($24)

Recommended by Dr. Rubin, this micellar cleanser starts as an oil, but becomes a milky lather when water is added. The grapeseed oil formula gently dissolves makeup, while the micelles trap dirt and help rebalance skin for a grease-free finish.

oil free makeup remover
3 / 10

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Peeling Water with 1% PHA + Glycolic Acid ($12)

This all-in-one micellar water is not just a makeup remover. It’s a no-rinse cleanser, a gentle peel and exfoliating toner, too! The formula is strong enough to easily remove makeup while providing a gentle exfoliation and cleanse.


4 / 10

e.l.f. Cosmetics Holy Hydration! e.l.f. Off Makeup Remover ($7)

This non-greasy makeup remover focuses on providing the ultimate hydration while carefully taking away the day’s makeup and impurities. Gentle enough for those who wear contact lenses and ophthalmologist-tested, this formula is packed with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide for the best in moisture.

oil free makeup remover
5 / 10

Clinique Take The Day Off™ Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips ($26)

Whisk away eye makeup with this oil free liquid makeup remover that’s free of fragrance, parabens, synthetic colors and drying alcohols. This dermatologist-tested formula is designed to dissolve long-wear makeup without causing irritation or stinging to the sensitive eye area.
oil free makeup remover
6 / 10

Paula’s Choice GENTLE TOUCH Makeup Remover ($22)

Aloe and green tea extract help nourish and soothe skin while licorice extract helps brightens for a clear complexion. All while the oil-free formula carefully removes makeup without irritating sensitive, acne-prone skin.

oil free makeup remover
7 / 10

Charlotte Tilbury Take It All Off Makeup Remover ($34)

This oil-free makeup remover is packed with brightening extracts and chamomile to help reduce the look of eye fatigue and soothe skin while gently clearing dirt and makeup. Replenish and hydrate skin while the corn starch formula wipes away even the most stubborn waterproof makeup.

oil free makeup remover
8 / 10

Curology Micellar Water Makeup Remover ($12)

This gel-water formula works to remove even waterproof makeup with a gentle hand, all without stripping skin or clogging pores. This formula was designed with sensitive, oily and spot prone skin in mind, providing a boost of hydration without weighing skin down.


oil free makeup remover
9 / 10

Neutrogena Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover & Cleanser for Sensitive Eyes ($10)

This 100-percent oil-free liquid eye makeup remover is perfect for sensitive eyes, gently removing makeup with a non-greasy finish and no oil residue. Aloe and cucumber extracts work to soothe skin and help remove impurities without tugging or pulling.

10 / 10

MILK Makeup Hydro Ungrip Makeup Remover + Cleansing Water ($32)

Blue Agave Extract and micellar technology act as a super magnet to smooth away makeup and grime from your day-to-day, while a hydrating formula keeps skin moisturized for a healthy glow.


oil free makeup remover

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