This Is How Makeup Remover Really Works, According to a Professional Chemist

December 21, 2018
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
maybelline superstay eraser lip color remover

It’s 12:33 AM, and you just got home from a long-ass day. You’re ready to swan dive into your bed, but you’ve got a full face of makeup on, and you already know your skin won’t like it if you fall asleep with a complete beat. You reach for the nearest pack of makeup wipes, pull one out and wipe off your face — and although you’re barely conscious, you’re always impressed at how it takes nearly *one* swipe to take it all off. Like magic, you can now sleep in peace, sans makeup.

This situation is one we often find ourselves in, and it proves one thing for certain: Without makeup remover, we’re not really sure where we’d be. Since it seems to always defeat all odds (and even the most stuck-on clumpy mascara), we wanted to get to the bottom of how it really works, so we chatted with L’Oréal Senior Chemist Roselin Rosario to find out how. Turns out, it’s a lot more scientific than you may think, and here’s what she had to say.

How does makeup remover really work?

Makeup removers mainly work by dissolution or solubilization, meaning they dissolve makeup and keep it dissolved. Let’s take foundation as an example — once applied, it dries and adheres onto the skin because it is formulated to be “like skin” more than other surfaces. If you were to remove it with a dry cloth/tissue it would be very difficult and you can even hurt your skin. If you try plain water, it probably would not make removal any better. However, if you use a makeup remover capable of dissolving the foundation film, removing can be very easy. There is not one magic ingredient in all of this — it really depends on the makeup formula composition and the remover composition.  A key chemistry expression to keep in mind is “like dissolves like”. A water-based remover will work to remove water-based makeup, same applies for oil-based. The remover has to be capable of breaking the interaction between makeup and skin and maintain the makeup dissolved.

Can you explain the difference between a traditional makeup remover and a micellar water (and if there are there any differences?)

Micellar water is formulated to contain micelles in it. Micelles are formed when surfactant molecules aggregate in solution. Surfactants are molecules with a “water-loving and a water-hating” portion in them that help keep materials dissolved that otherwise would not dissolve. Micelles are responsible for encapsulating dirt or makeup in this case in order to remove them.  By having micelles in solution water can act as a cleanser making makeup removal is easy. Traditional makeup removers relay on a mixture of solvents to remove makeup. They can be water-based in which water is the main ingredient or oil-based in which a hydrocarbon, ester, or silicone oil is the main ingredient. And again you need to choose your remover taking into consideration that “like dissolved like”, so you’ll want to reach for water-based if you’re removing water-based, oil if you’re removing oil.


Is there a difference in formulation when it comes to makeup wipes and traditional remover in a bottle, or is it pretty much the same?

If you look at the ingredients list of makeup wipes compared to liquid makeup remover, you will see that the formulas are not exactly the same — although they may contain similar ingredients.  This is because the interactions between the formulation and their delivery method (i.e., liquid or wipes) are different. Therefore, you probably cannot add a bottle of remover to wipes and expect to have the same performance and stability.  With wipes, you have the convenience of just grabbing the wipe and using it rather than having two separate products, the liquid remover and a pad or tissue. With the liquid remover you have the change to “dose in” the amount of remover you want, you do not have this option with wipes because they come pre-soaked.

What kind of makeup removers work to remove really longwearing products, like the Maybelline Superstay Matte Ink, and why do they work?

To remove Superstay Matte Ink, it is best to use the Maybelline Superstay Eraser, which is specially designed to remove long-wear lipsticks. This remover is loaded with emollients that break and dissolve the lipstick film preventing it from staying adhered to the lips — an oil-based or oil-containing makeup remover will usually works best to remove long-wearing makeup and will leave your lips smooth and lubricated.

Photography: Chaunte Vaughn

Read More

Best Opaque Lip Glosses You Need To Try

How To Master The Smoked Wing

Why Wearing A Lip Liner Under Gloss Will Become Your New Favorite Hack

Read more

Back to top