Makeup Removers for Acne-Prone Skin That Actually Work

Makeup is an amazing tool that anyone can use to creatively express their style and enhance their natural attributes. But of course, anyone with acne-prone skin knows that neglecting to properly wash off makeup at the end of the day can trigger major breakouts.

If you are looking for a highly effective solution that will give you peace of mind by removing every trace of makeup at the end of the day, I’ve created the ultimate guide to the best makeup removers for acne-prone skin. Whether you’re looking for a lightweight micellar water, an oil-based first cleanser for a double cleansing routine, makeup wipes, or something else, you’ll find an option that will work best for your needs.

How I Reviewed Each Makeup Remover

When selecting the products recommended below, I specifically sought out formulas that were made to be suitable for blemish-prone complexions. These formulas are thoughtfully made without pore-clogging ingredients, which means you won’t need to worry about them contributing to breakouts. 

Beyond that, I wanted to focus on formulas that weren’t overly harsh on the complexion. Many products made specifically for acne contain potent concentrations of harsh ingredients that can strip the skin of its natural oils. This can trigger the skin to produce even more oil in response (which can lead to clogged pores), and can also irritate the skin. The formulas below strike the perfect balance between being effective at cleansing but still kind to the skin. 

Of course, the most important element was how well the product cleansed away makeup. I only chose products that actually remove every last trace of makeup (as well as sunscreen and other impurities) to ensure nothing is left on the skin to clog pores. 

All of the makeup removers recommended below have either been tested by me or another member of the GoodGlow team. To ensure I selected the best of the best, I also referred to consumer reviews to see how other acne-prone makeup enthusiasts felt about these formulas. 

The Best Makeup Removers for Acne-Prone Skin Summary

BestMakeup Remover
OverallDermalogica – PreCleanse Cleansing Oil
BudgetGarnier – SkinActive Micellar Water for Waterproof Makeup
Exfoliating CleanserCosmedix – Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser
Water BasedBioderma – Sébium H2O Micellar Water
WipesNeutrogena – Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes
Cleansing OilBiossance – Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Best Overall:
Dermalogica – PreCleanse Cleansing Oil

This Dermalogica cleansing oil is expertly formulated with nutrient-dense oils and other ingredients that clear away makeup and other impurities without clogging pores. 

GoodGlow Score

4.7 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Conditions and Strengthens

Nutrient-dense oils soften the skin and strengthen the barrier.

Clinically Proven

Works on Waterproof Makeup

The formula is powerful enough to get rid of all traces of even the most stubborn waterproof makeup formula, as well as sunscreen and excess sebum.


Doesn’t Clog Pores

The oils used in this formula work to deeply cleanse and nourish without clogging pores.

Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Extract, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Citral, Limonene, Linalool.

While you may be nervous about using an oil-based cleanser on your breakout-prone skin, you don’t have to worry about the Dermalogica PreCleanse Cleansing Oil contributing to breakouts. This formula is one of the best makeup removers for acne-prone skin, and is the perfect first cleanser in a double cleanse routine. Start with this cleansing oil, and then follow up with another face wash that will keep your skin clear and blemish-free

The Dermalogica PreCleanse Cleansing Oil is made to be suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and skin prone to blemishes. It’s formulated with a range of deep cleansing oils that won’t cause skin congestion. These oils work to melt away makeup (including waterproof makeup), sunscreen, excess oil, and environmental pollutants. 

Some of the key nutrient-dense oils in this deep cleansing formula include apricot kernel, sunflower seed, and safflower seed oils. A range of essential oils invigorate the skin and add a natural scent. This includes orange, grapefruit, and lavender essential oils. 

While many makeup removers can leave the skin feeling tight and stripped of its natural oils (especially those that are specifically made for acne-prone skin), this formula is different. It supports the skin’s barrier and ensures the complexion is left feeling not just clean, but also comfortable, soft, and nourished.  

Like other cleansing oils, this formula is designed to be first applied to dry skin. Apply it directly to your face and massage into the skin to break up makeup and impurities. Add a bit of water to create a milky emulsion, and then rinse away with water. 

Dermalogica PreCleanse Cleansing Oil Pros:

  • Deeply cleanses but still leaves the skin feeling soft and comfortable. 
  • Specifically made to be suitable for blemish-prone skin
  • Vegan and cruelty-free. 

Dermalogica PreCleanse Cleansing Oil Cons:

  • On the pricier side.

Best Budget:
Garnier – SkinActive Micellar Water for Waterproof Makeup

This gentle micellar water from drugstore brand Garnier easily gets rid of waterproof makeup and other debris on the skin with just one swipe. It’s super lightweight, and perfectly suited for acne-prone skin. 

GoodGlow Score

4.7 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Vegan and Cruelty-Free

The formula is 100% vegan and isn’t tested on animals.


Works on Waterproof Makeup

This micellar water is specifically created to effectively get rid of stubborn waterproof makeup.

Clinically Proven

Gentle and Lightweight

The non-comedogenic and water-based formula is made without common irritants, including fragrances, alcohol, sulfates, or parabens.

Aqua/Water, Cyclopentasiloxane, Isohexadecane, Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Hexylene Glycol, Dipotassium Phosphate, Disodium EDTA, Decyl Glucoside, Polyaminopropyl Biguanide.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, one of the best budget-friendly makeup removers on the market is the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water for Waterproof Makeup. This super gentle product is personally one of my favorite micellar waters, as it effectively and quickly gets rid of all traces of makeup, but does so without drying out or aggravating the skin. It deserves a spot in any makeup wearer’s clear complexion skincare routine.

This lightweight and gentle micellar water was specifically formulated to get rid of waterproof makeup, and can be safely used on the lips, eyes, and face. You simply drench a cotton round or ball with the solution, and then swipe across any areas of the face you’re looking to cleanse. The micelles in the formula work as magnets, lifting away not just waterproof makeup, but also dirt, pollutants, sunscreen, and other impurities that collect on the skin throughout the day. 

This formula is made to be suitable for all skin types, and is non-comedogenic – which means you don’t need to worry about it causing breakouts. Like the Dermalogica oil recommended above, it’s able to gently cleanse without stripping the skin, and leaves the complexion feeling soft and comforted (although, since it is water-based, it has a much lighter consistency compared to the Dermalogica formula, and isn’t quite as moisturizing).

What’s also great about this formula is that it’s super simple, and doesn’t contain any unnecessary frills or fad ingredients. It’s completely free of fragrances, oils, parabens, sulfates, and alcohol.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water for Waterproof Makeup Pros:

  • Super gentle and lightweight formula that effectively gets rid of all traces of makeup without stripping the skin.
  • Non-comedogenic formula is made without fragrances, oils, parabens, sulfates, or alcohol. 
  • Vegan and cruelty-free. 

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water for Waterproof Makeup Cons:

  • Not the most eco-friendly option, since it needs to be used with cotton balls or rounds. 

Best Exfoliating Cleanser:
Cosmedix – Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser

This exfoliating cleanser from Cosmedix works to remove makeup and other impurities from the face while keeping breakouts at bay, minimizing excess oil, and improving skin tone and texture.

GoodGlow Score

4.3 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types, but specifically made for congested skin.


Hydrates and Refreshes

Aloe, glycerin, peppermint oil, and plant extracts lightly hydrate and purify the skin.

Protecting Skin

Fights Breakouts

Tea tree oil works to fight acne-causing bacteria and soothe inflammation.


L-lactic acid clears away pore-clogging debris and improves tone and texture.

Aqua, Glycerin, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Lauryl Glucoside, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Lactic Acid (L), Glycol Distearate, Coco-Glucoside, Glyceryl Oleate, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate, Sodium Lauryl Glucose Carboxylate, Xanthan Gum, Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta (Neem) Flower Extract, Coccina Indica Fruit Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Riboflavin, Glucoronic Acid (D), Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexyglycerin

If you’re looking for a high-performance makeup removing cleanser that also exfoliates, you’ll want to check out the Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser. This formula is specifically made for congested skin, and works to effectively yet gently clear away makeup, dirt, excess sebum, and debris to refresh and purify the complexion. It also contains ingredients that help keep breakouts in check. 

The Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser features a 5% concentration of l-lactic acid, a chemical exfoliant that works on the surface of the skin, clearing away pore-clogging debris. It also helps improve texture and uneven skin tone, making this formula particularly beneficial for anyone dealing with acne scars and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

In addition to this chemical exfoliant, this formula features tea tree oil. This oil is often considered a natural solution for acne, as it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The formula also contains peppermint essential oil, which refreshes and calms the complexion. 

While this formula does feature strong active ingredients, it’s still kind to the skin, and doesn’t leave it feeling tight, irritated, or stripped of its natural moisture. This is partially due to the addition of other soothing and hydrating ingredients, including aloe barbadensis leaf juice, glycerin, and antioxidant-rich plant extracts. 

It’s important to note that this formula may not completely get rid of waterproof makeup or more dramatic makeup looks (especially makeup around the eyes, as this formula shouldn’t be used around the eye area). That said, it’s a great option for those that wear lighter makeup, or that are looking for a second cleanser to use in a double cleanse routine. If you are looking to create your perfect double cleanse routine, it can partner well with any of the other makeup removers recommended on this list. 

Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser Pros:

  • Effectively exfoliates the skin to remove pore-clogging debris and promote a softer complexion and more even skin tone.
  • Contains tea tree oil, which further fights breakouts and calms inflamed skin.
  • Leaves the skin feeling soft and comforted. 

Cosmedix Purity Clean Exfoliating Cleanser Cons:

  • On the pricier side. 
  • May not fully get rid of waterproof or heavier makeup on its own (in which case you may need to use this as the second step in a double cleansing routine).

Best Water Based:
Bioderma – Sébium H2O Micellar Water

This micellar water from cult-favorite brand Bioderma was specifically made for combination and oily skin types. It removes excess oil and makeup while reducing the production of sebum for a clean, shine-free complexion.

GoodGlow Score

4.7 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for combination and oily skin types.



This micellar water doesn’t contain ingredients known to clog pores.

Protecting Skin


Zinc gluconate works to limit sebum production for a shine-free complexion.

Clinically Proven

Gentle and Lightweight

The dermatologist tested formula is super lightweight, and doesn’t irritate the skin.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Sodium Citrate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Sulfate, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Mannitol, Xylitol, Rhamnose, Fructooligosaccharides, Propylene Glycol, Citric Acid, Disodium Edta, Cetrimonium Bromide, Fragrance (Parfum).

Another one of the absolute best makeup removing micellar waters for acne-prone skin is the Bioderma Sébium H2O Micellar Water. Unlike the Garnier product mentioned above, this one is specifically made for combination and oily skin types. It purifies and effectively gets rid of makeup and excess oil, and has even been shown to eliminate 93% of microparticles on the skin. It also limits the production of sebum to reduce shine and prevent clogged pores.

This non-comedogenic and dermatologist tested solution uses micellar technology that contains micelles inspired by the skin’s natural lipids, which means they are super gentle on the skin. These micelles attract and sweep away impurities on the eyes, lips, and face, while at the same time preserving the skin’s natural protective film to maintain comfort and health. The formula also features a patented complex that strengthens the skin, helping to make it more resilient against external stressors that can contribute to irritation. 

The oil-controlling power of this micellar water comes from zinc gluconate. This ingredient regulates sebum production, and also has antibacterial properties, which makes it ideal for oily and acne-prone complexions. Like the Garnier micellar water, this formula is gentle on the skin, and doesn’t dry it out or leave it feeling tight. 

Bioderma Sébium H2O Micellar Water Pros:

  • Gentle on the skin, and leaves the complexion feeling refreshed and soft, rather than tight and dry.
  • Works to sweep away oil and control sebum production for a shine-free complexion. 

Bioderma Sébium H2O Micellar Water Cons:

  • Not the most eco-friendly option, since it needs to be used with cotton balls or rounds.  
  • Contains fragrance, which may irritate more sensitive skin types.

Best Wipes:
Neutrogena – Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes

These gentle and affordable oil-free wipes from Neutrogena are made specifically for acne-prone skin. They work to refresh and remove makeup and other impurities without causing irritation.

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for normal to oily skin types, including acne-prone skin.

Clinically Proven


These wipes are made without oil, and don’t leave behind any greasy residue.



The pre-moistened wipes effectively cleanse, but are still gentle on the skin.

Protecting Skin

Safe for Acne-Prone Skin

The solution features acne-fighting salicylic acid, and is specifically made to be suitable for skin prone to breakouts.

Inactive Ingredients: Water Alcohol Denat Butylene Glycol Salicylic Acid Ppg-5-Ceteth-20 C12-15 Alkyl Lactate Fragrance Sodium Citrate Dipropylene Glycol Sodium Hydroxide Cocamidopropyl Pg-Dimonium Chloride Phosphate Peg/Ppg-20/6 Dimethicone Cetyl Lactate Benzalkonium Chloride Boswellia Serrata Gum Menthol Disodium Edta Sodium Benzotriazolyl Butylphenol Sulfonate Propylene Glycol Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract

Active Ingredients: Pink Grapefruit

While many makeup removing wipes can aggravate the skin, the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes are different. These oil-free pre-moistened wipes (which can be safely used on the eyes, lips, and face) are super soft, and work to remove makeup, excess oil, and other pore-clogging impurities from the surface of the skin. However, despite the effective cleansing power, they’re able to clean and refresh the skin without causing irritation or leaving behind any greasy residue. 

The dermatologist tested wipes are also specifically made for acne-prone skin, so they won’t contribute to breakouts. They feature salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that works deep in the pores to unclog excess sebum and debris, helping to treat and prevent breakouts. They also contain grapefruit extract, which refreshes the skin and energizes the senses. 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes Pros:

  • Pre-moistened wipes contain salicylic acid, which is great for keeping acne-prone skin clear. 
  • Gentle and leaves the skin feeling soft and refreshed. 
  • Budget-friendly. 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes Cons:

  • Not an eco-friendly option, since each wipe is single use. 
  • Contains fragrance, which may irritate more sensitive skin types.

Best Cleansing Oil:
Biossance – Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Biossance’s lightweight cleansing oil dissolves makeup, sunscreen, and other impurities while working to hydrate and soften the skin and defend it against damaging free radicals. 

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Clean, Vegan, and Cruelty-Free

The non-toxic and fragrance-free formula is 100% vegan and isn’t tested on animals.


High-Powered Yet Gentle Cleanser

Squalane and oils work together to effectively dissolve makeup and other pore-clogging impurities.


Hydrating and Strengthening

Nutrient-dense and antioxidant-rich oils and extracts moisturize, nourish, and protect the skin against free radicals.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyglyceryl-2 Caprate, Squalane, Hydrogenated Farnesene, Polyglyceryl-2 Sesquioleate, Triethylhexanoin, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Rosa Moschata Seed, Oil, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil, Oenothera Biennis, (Evening Primrose) Oil, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), Leaf Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Oil, Helianthus, Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Limonene, Linalool.

The Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil is a personal favorite, and for years has been my go-to cleansing oil for removing sunscreen and makeup from my acne-prone skin. The gentle formula effectively dissolves makeup (including waterproof makeup and mascara) and other impurities on the surface of the skin and deep in the pores, and leaves the skin feeling soft and comfortable. 

This lightweight oil formula is powered by sugarcane-derived squalane, a non-comedogenic oil-like ingredient. Squalane helps remove impurities from the skin, and also hydrates and softens the complexion. The formula also features a range of nutrient-dense oils that moisturize and strengthen the skin’s barrier while helping to dissolve impurities. This includes oat kernel, evening primrose, sunflower seed, and moringa seed oils. 

In addition to these ingredients, this cleansing oil contains rosa moschata seed oil, another hydrating oil that is packed with vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant defends the skin against free radicals, helping to reduce damage. Vitamin E provides additional antioxidant benefits for a healthy complexion, while lavender and orange essential oils refresh and soothe the skin. 

For those with breakout-prone skin, I highly recommend this Biossance cleansing oil as the first cleanser in a double cleanse routine. Just like the Dermalogica cleansing oil recommended above, this formula is designed to be used on dry skin, and can be safely used on the eyes, lips, and face. 

Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil Pros:

  • Gentle on the skin, and leaves it feeling soft, refreshed, and hydrated. 
  • Made with antioxidant-rich and moisturizing oils that defend and enhance the skin. 
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, and made without fragrances or parabens.  

Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil Cons:

  • Made with essential oils, which may irritate sensitive skin.

Originally Published: February 08, 2023

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Analyzed by Kyra Heenan
Kyra is a Los Angeles-based content writer. She started her career after graduating from Santa Clara University, and has since worked with countless companies and online journals in the greater health, wellness, and beauty industries.

In the skincare space, she has partnered with numerous skin and beauty companies, helping to create informative content for their businesses. This includes popular skincare lines, men’s grooming brands, beauty tool companies, and natural supplement brands. She also works regularly with online publications (like GoodGlow!), writing review pieces and educational articles on acne treatments, anti-aging practices, viral skincare trends, and everything in between.

As someone who has been a skincare fanatic since her teens, she enjoys helping others learn the intricacies of skincare so that they can create a routine that works perfectly for their unique needs and lifestyle. She spent plenty of time making skincare mistakes as a teenager, and hopes to steer others in the right direction! The world of skincare can be complicated, so she aims to break down the endless information so that readers can take actionable steps. She also believes caring for your complexion holistically is essential. Being consistent with the solutions we put on our skin is equally as important as being mindful of what we are putting in our bodies.

Kyra is always on top of industry trends, and loves testing out new products and exploring new-to-her ingredients to see how they stack up. That said, she believes that following the tried-and-true science (and having a bit of patience!) is key for getting your best skin yet.

When not obsessing over skincare (and helping friends and family members perfect their routines), she can be found exploring her other interests in the health and wellness world, including meditation, yoga, cooking, and hiking. She is also an avid traveler, and runs her own travel blog. Read more of Kyra's articles.

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