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Simple Plastic-Free Makeup Remover Tips

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Learn more about how to remove your makeup the zero-waste way, with this handy guide to plastic-free makeup removal tips.

Right now, there never have been more options when it comes to zero-waste and plastic-free makeup. There are heaps of different brands offering innovative solutions to cut the plastic from your makeup routine. From refillable options to compostable packaging, there really is no excuse for single-use anymore.

When it comes to plastic-free makeup remover, however, I feel like the industry hasn’t yet caught up. Beyond the wide availability of reusable cotton pads, there is considerably less in the way of makeup removal products. Given the scale of the plastic-waste problem in the beauty industry it’s disappointing that many brands have overlooked this key part of our beauty routines.

Plastic-Free Makeup Remover Options

Reusable cotton pads in a wicker basket, with a blue text box that reads the easy guide to zero-waste and plastic-free makeup removal.

That being said, there are a few ways to green your cleansing and makeup removal regime. Here are my tried and tested top tips, techniques, and favourite products to help you zero-waste your skincare. These will leave your skin and the planet looking spotlessly clean!

1. Soap and a Flannel


When it comes to taking off your makeup at the end of the day then, for me, soap is where it’s at. I promise you. I’d say it’s my top plastic-free makeup remover.

I don’t wear a lot of makeup. It’s not my skill set. But I do wear some from time to time. Since my teens, I’ve always sworn by the fact that soap and a simple flannel (or facecloth, washcloth, or whatever you want to call it) does the job of removing makeup superbly. Mostly, I would not use anything else – it really is such a superb plastic-free makeup remover.

I wet the flannel with warm water, and sit it on my face for a few seconds. Then I pop a little soap on my hands and rub gently into my face. And then I pop the flannel back on my face and gently rub in circular motions to remove my makeup. Finally I rinse the flannel and wipe my face clear of the soap.

I’m not fussy about which soap I use – I just use the same bar that I use to wash my hands and my body. Here is a guide to sustainable soaps, if you’re looking for a new brand. And if you have sensitive skin then you might want something extra gentle, but you do what works for you.

My facecloths aren’t fancy either, just run-of-the-mill ones I’ve had for years. Using a facecloth is slightly exfoliating, so you don’t even need to buy an exfoliator. Win! I then just pop the flannel straight into the washing machine once I’m done, or pop them in a wet bag ready for the next load. Easy!

2. Natural Oils

Most of the time, for my needs, soap does the job. However, if I’ve used mascara then I often find I need a little something else to shift it. I find that I particularly need something that can gently remove mascara and other eye makeup without having to rub hard on my poor eyes.

This is when I raid the kitchen cupboard for some natural oil. I promise I’ve not gone wild – most natural oils do a great job at removing makeup.

Here are just some of them – some of which you probably have to hand in your kitchen cupboard – and will all make for a great plastic-free makeup remover:

  • Avocado oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Olive oil
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Sweet Almond oil

Carbon footprint-wise, if you’re in the UK then rapeseed oil made in the UK probably has the lowest carbon footprint because it travels the least distance to get to us. Especially compared to avocado or almonds which are all grown much further afield. Something to bear in mind that can’t be repeated enough – just because something is plastic-free doesn’t make it better if it has to travel thousands of miles to reach us. Local is almost always better (even if it comes in plastic).

How do you remove makeup with oil? I find massaging in a tiny drop of oil with my fingers removes even the most stubborn of eye makeup.

I then run a flannel/facecloth under warm water, before wringing it out a little so it’s not soaking wet. Next, I place the warm flannel on my face, leaving it for a few seconds before I wipe the oil off with the flannel. I then dry my face and moisturise as usual. Whilst pouring oil down your drain is not recommended, this method does not block your drain, as you are using such minimal amounts of oil that is applied directly onto your skin and then wiped off with a flannel.

If your skin feels too oily after using the oil, you can use toner in a glass bottle to remove any residue.

You can also use oil to make homemade moisturising facial oil, which is great at keeping your skin soft and supple.

3. Solid Plastic-Free Makeup Remover Bars

If the idea of using soap or oil on your face isn’t for you (I get it, it’s a bit of a leap), then SBTRCT’s Gentle Foaming Cleaner, is a great option. Available at Naturisimo, this is a solid bar that rinses away without residue, leaving your skin soft, moisturised and clean, without feeling stripped or tight.

Made with vegetable-derived emollients, and scented with essential oils including geranium, rose and tonka, it’s a gentle yet effective way to remove makeup the plastic-free way.

Used daily, SBTRCT says its bar will last for 10 – 12 weeks, making it a cost-effective cleansing solution. What’s more, as it’s wrapped in paper in a cardboard box, there is zero plastic here.

Makeup Remover Pads

You can 100% just use a face cloth. However, if you would prefer to use makeup remover pads, there are a few different options.

You can buy a set from any online eco shop. I’m a fan of organic cotton pads like these ones as they give a good scrubbing action. If you prefer something softer, try these bamboo ones, which offer a gentler cleansing action. Either are a great buy if you are looking to swap from single-use wipes or pads.

You can also make your own makeup removal pads using this free crochet pattern. If you can crochet, it’s a great way to use up any odds and ends of wool to make something truly zero-waste.

If that’s too tricky (I can’t crochet either!) then if you (or a crafty friend) have an old towel (maybe one that’s got a few holes and you were thinking about binning) then you can cut it up into squares to make your own pads. You might want to hem the sides to prevent fraying.

What about DIYing Makeup Remover?

I’m a big fan of DIYing. I love making my own products and messing around in my kitchen. For the last little while, I have tried making my own makeup remover solution with a range of different ingredients.

In the end, I found nothing as simple, effective, low waste, and as low cost at removing makeup as either soap or natural oil, or a solid cleaning bar. This served as a good reminder to me that not everything has to be complex to work!

Do you have a good plastic-free makeup remover solution? Are you a soap or oil fan? Maybe not convinced to make the switch?

PS: here’s a natural makeup brush cleaner recipe that might be up your street too.

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    1. Hi Nicole, you only need a tiny amount of oil so the cloth is in no way saturated in oil, and is fine to wash. If you are concerned the other option discussed in the article – good old soap – is non-oily.

  1. Hi, I love your articles, I just wanted to share my plastic free hints. I suffer from Psoriasis and eczema and that means I can’t use soap , or many expensive products, I’ve tried loads. I accidentally found a local business (Northamptonshire) that produces hand made balms in plastic free packaging. I’ve found them to be amazing, gentle effective and plastic free. I promise I have no affiliation with them other than being a very happy customer, but urge you to check them out, they are called The Ilex Wood and offer vegan products . The cleaning oil is wonderful , I was a sceptic but my aged skin looks better than it ever has and is soothed as well. I’ve also made my own face wipes from old cotton flannel pyjamas, if you sew just use 2 layers, they work as well as flannel if not better.

    1. Hi Rosie, I really enjoyed reading your comment, and was excited to check out the brand you recommend. (I am looking to work with another producer of handmade skincare.) Sadly, I am 99.99% sure they are using products extracted with solvents. Rose Oil, when steam distilled, is very expensive… nearly £500.00 for 10ml. As they are using Rose Oil in their signature products, which are very inexpensive, this leads me to believe they are using the potentially toxic Rose products. I’m sorry to hear you have Eczema and Psoriasis… Psoriasis, as I’m sure you know, is a stress related autoimmune condition, and both Eczema and Psoriasis result in digestive disorders. Dietary changes can lead to better outcomes…

  2. I like the simplicity although I worry about washing the oils down the sink – particularly coconut oil as I understood it to contribute to fatberg type blockages?

    1. Never use Coconut to remove makeup as it is too comedogenic, will block pores, and possibly cause breakouts… Always use Jojoba, which is actually a wax… you’ll use it in such small amounts it won’t be an issue. I advocate for using it with Witch Hazel, which would mean you use less. But, you can also use Dr Bronner Castile Soap instead, which is the only soap I advocate. (Soaps are also made of fat/oil by the way.)

  3. This is a really useful article and thank you Wendy for turning this topic into a simple one. I had no idea that the oils you mentioned could be used and it always pleases me when a product is versatile with multiple uses.

    Didn’t know there was such a thing as solid make-up remover bars, they do sound a great idea.