I Finally Found a Face Wash That Meets My High Standards

Collage by Edith Young

For the past couple of years, I’ve avoided wearing any eye makeup whatsoever. I was fortunate that this initiative coincided with a bare-lid heyday, but my choice wasn’t so much for aesthetic reasons as it was for practical (and lazy) ones: I’ve never been one to use a separate eye-makeup-removing product before washing my face, and I’ve ruined far too many washcloths with mascara smudges as a result.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to double cleanse and all that jazz — but sometimes, especially after being out late, I can barely muster the energy to wash my face at all, much less do it twice. Is it so wrong to yearn for a product that simply DOES IT ALL? Something powerful enough to strip away my eye makeup yet gentle enough to not strip my sensitive skin of its essential oils?

I think not.

Perusing Sephora, I decided to test out the site’s five top-rated face cleansers advertising makeup-removing capabilities and praised by reviewers as effective in this regard. In addition to evaluating how they felt on my skin, I also implemented a literal “washcloth test” to see how well each one removed substantial eye makeup after a single wash. Read on to find out how they stacked up.

1. First Aid Beauty Face Cleanser

This cleanser is billed as “a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser that effectively removes makeup, dirt, and grime.” When applied, it goes on super creamy and melts into a slightly foamy texture when you start massaging it around (+1). Afterward my face felt clean but not irritated, and my washcloth remained stain-free when I patted dry (+1).

Total points: 2

2. Philosophy Purity Made Simple Facial Cleansing Gel & Eye Makeup Remover

This gel formula is thick and kind of gooey. I liked how it felt on my skin but it did appear to leave a slight residue after the initial rinse (-1). When I stepped out of the shower to perform a washcloth test, I noticed that I still had traces of smudged eye makeup around my eyes (-1). I went back in a second time with the cleanser, scrubbing a little more vigorously in the eye area, and that took care of the last of it (+.5).

Total points: -1.5

3. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser

This one smells like spa cucumbers. It’s lovely (+1). In terms of feel, the texture is definitely a bit jelly-like, which is fun (+1). Similar to the Philosophy cleanser, I had to do two rounds of cleansing to fully remove all my eye makeup for a clean washcloth bill of health (-.5).

Total points: 1.5

4. Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash

True to its name, this cleanser is indeed quite frothy. If you like a super clean post-wash feeling and enjoy the idea of washing your face with cappuccino foam, I would definitely try this one out. If you have really sensitive skin though, I might steer clear — I’ve personally found that intense foaminess can be irritating (-1). As per the previous two, this one also required an additional round of eye-focused sudsing to remove the tougher bits of makeup (-.5).

Total points: -1.5

5. Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil

This one was, in a word, dreamy. It comes out as an oil and emulsifies upon contact with water and skin, so it doesn’t leave any residue (+1). It felt soooooo gentle around my eyes and removed all makeup completely in one go, leaving my washcloth pristine and my rosacea chilled-out (+1). The only downside is its steep ($48) price tag (-.5).

Total points: 1.5

Conclusion: My desire was justified. Face cleansers that “do it all” do, in fact, exist, but are few and far between. I would recommend First Aid Beauty’s cleanser for an affordable option, and Tatcha’s if you’re looking to splurge. Both are a rare combination of makeup-removing and non-irritating. Washcloths, rejoice.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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