The Shocking Stuff They Don't Tell You About Face Wipes (And Why You Need To Ditch Them Immediately)

Marketed as a convenient and easy way to remove your makeup, face wipes have to be one of my most hated innovations ever - alongside Microchips (not the computer variety) and leggings with see-through panels. (Don't @ me!) This multi billion pound global industry has seen a boom in the last few years, particularly as time poor women are keen to enjoy the benefits that convenient solutions can provide. With store shelves awash with all variety of wipe from every brand imaginable, you could be forgiven for thinking they're an acceptable way to remove your makeup at the end of a long day. I hate it to be the one to break it to you, but even if they promise to 'gently remove makeup' they're telling you all kinds of lies; face wipes are, in my opinion, the beauty equivalent of an Uber ride or a Deliveroo order - super quick and convenient, but really not the best option for your health.

I've discussed my hatred of face wipes numerous times over the years, but after many lengthy conversations in the last few weeks I felt like the time was right to revisit it. Far too many women are still reaching for these dreaded wipes at the end of the day and, without being too judgy, I'm on a campaign to stop them. Not only are they bad for the environment (more on that later,) but they're often the root cause of too many skin issues, even if you feel like they're not having a visible negative impact on your complexion. If you suffer with dry, oily or spot prone skin, ditch the face wipes immediately; if you think they're offering you an easy solution, let me help you wise up on the alternatives. Here's exactly what they don't tell you about face wipes and why you need to push them aside in favour of something far more effective. 

Few face wipes actually include ingredients that will effectively remove makeup, dirt and oil from the surface of skin; in fact, these saturated oversized pads are much better at just moving it around your face. When you 'wipe' you're simply removing the surface level of makeup and rubbing the rest back into your pores, leaving skin saturated with bacteria, dirt and irritating chemicals. It's like having a baby wipe wash at a festival: fine when it's the only option, but you know it's not actually properly cleaning. What's even worse is that these bacteria, dirt and chemicals stay on the surface of your face and gets transferred onto your pillow while you sleep - which then gets rubbed back onto your skin, causing a vicious circle of nastiness. These tiny fragments can block pores, causing congestion and breakouts as well as preventing the rest of your skincare regime from working properly. As a solution alone they're simply not effective - but even as a 'first step' they're really not ideal.

Even if you think the beloved wipe isn't 'doing any damage', makeup wipes are inherently harsh on our skin. The amount of pressure required to actually remove visible makeup is incredibly irritating; frequent rubbing can damage the skin and leave it feeling dry, as well as potentially causing an increase in fine lines, wrinkles, and hyperpigmentation. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting says: 
"It may take a considerable amount of physical force to get stubborn make-up off, thus risking harming the delicate eye area. If you’re dragging the thin skin around your eye backwards and forwards and up and down on a regular basis, you could be prematurely ageing it." So in a nutshell, ditch these wipes (that are actually quite hard to use) and save yourself some effort.

Let's get scientific for a sec: free radicals in the environment cause the breakdown of healthy collagen, which results in fine lines on the skin; makeup clings onto these free radicals in the same way that it clings onto bacteria, having a negative effect on the skin and speeding up the ageing process. Furthermore, our skin naturally renews itself as we sleep - as it doesn't have to fight against free radicals and UV rays that are everywhere we turn during the day. During slumber our skin can renew, replenish and repair itself, but not if it's still caked in makeup and grime from the previous day because you've used an ineffective face wipe. A recent study showed a woman sleeping in her makeup every day for a month caused significant ageing, dehydration and dullness to occur - and testimonies by many readers over the years has reaffirmed my view that cleansing properly is the first step to great skin.  

Saturated with chemicals that allow for the easy removal of makeup, face wipes may seem like they're full of moisture and goodness but they're often really not. Alcohol is often one of the main ingredients listed on these wipes, used to give them a quick-drying finish and helping to lift away grease; however, alcohol can cause dryness, unnecessary erosion of the skin's surface and a negative impact on how the skin replenishes itself. The result it that skin can look dull and often overcompensate for dryness by producing excess oil, which can also cause congestion and breakouts. So what may start as an innocent quick swipe before bed can actually be having a much deeper and long-term negative impact on your complexion.

Unlike loo roll, the majority of face wipes don’t disintegrate in the sewage system; they are a huge contributing factor in blockages that cost water companies around £88 million a year (in the UK alone) to rectify. If they do make it through the system, they can end up in our seas and consumed by sea life - having a negative impact on the environment that’s similar to the microbeads that have been recently banned. Nobody wants their cucumber face wipe to end up back in the food chain and end up on your plate alongside an actual piece of cucumber. So even if you're not convinced to ditch the wipes for your skin, think about the impact on the wider world...

I recently ran a Twitter poll to find out how prolific face wipe useage still was, after many recent conversations (both online and in 'real life') left me somewhat horrified! With nearly 700 people responding, it gave me a good baseline indicator: 22% (around 160 people) said they used face wipes daily, either alone or as a first step, 35% admitted to using them while they were feeling lazy (being drunk or at a festival totally falls into this category!) while a pleasing 43% confessed that they never use face wipes and have a hatred towards them as strong as my own. I'm fully aware that some will be beyond convincing, but others are teetering on the edge and want to know how to best look after your skin; I'm here to inform and educate, providing you with the information you need to make a conscious decision about how to best look after your body. Whatever you do after that is up to you!

So, in my opinion, what should you be doing instead of reaching for wipes? The easiest and most effective way to cleanse is to use a great cleansing balm or oil, massaged directly onto skin to lift away makeup and grime before being washed away with a warm wet flannel. (Here are my 'best ever cleansers' if you need some inspo.) Double cleansing is important if you wear heavy makeup or SPF too, leaving skin squeaky clean without stripping it of goodness or causing more problems with over zealous rubbing. Any great oil or balm will effortlessly glide over skin and lift away makeup without much trouble, offering a much easier and quicker solution than a face wipe - while also potentially saving you money. (You'll get much more use out of a pot of balm than the equivalent cost in face wipes.)

Even when I'm knackered, drunk or away from home I always cleanse my face with a decent oil or balm because I know those two minutes at the sink will pay off (or on the flipside, show up on my skin the next day if I choose not to bother.) Although I always have a stash of wipes for emergencies and to mostly wipe away swatches or excess makeup from my hands, my hatred of them will never wane. They're not the cleansing solution so many think they are, no matter how much marketing budget is put behind convincing you otherwise.

Ditch the wipes. Your skin will thank you.


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  1. Thanks for this advice. I do use wipes, not all the time but occasionally as the first step to remove the make-up and then I do a proper cleanse. I was totally aware of the things you said and the bad effects on the skin. I thought as long I still cleansed properly afterwards then it was ok. Thanks for this great advice.

    1. I would always recommend other things as a first step - but I think your approach to them is really common and there's a lot of misunderstanding. Glad my advice helped though!

  2. I have wipes but I only use them Saturday nights when I have heavier makeup on to remove the first layer. I do finish with a proper cleanser and toner afterwards but maybe I should stop using them all together!
    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

    1. I think if you're only using once a week and it's when you're removing heavy makeup they're not going to do that much damage, but micellar water or just a great balm will do the job just as well (if not more so!)

  3. I haven't as much as kept face wipes in the house for years now - my drunk/exhausted alternative to a proper cleanse is almost certainly falling asleep in my makeup, or micellar water on a cotton pad. I recently managed to ditch cotton pads too, after my bestie made me some crocheted reusable pads!

    The environmental impact of face wipes was what convinced me to get rid, though yours and other bloggers' campaigning against their lack of effectiveness was a total eye-opener!

    Lis / last year's girl x

  4. you made me quit face wipes years ago! thank you!!


  5. I’m guilty. I only use them to take the thick off if I’m pushed for time after a night out & I do still cleanse & wash but totally take the point about pushing all that crap back into pores. Definitely reconsidering now

  6. I use wipes to remove my mascara as I find it takes ages to remove otherwise! Is this still bad??

  7. I totally ditched wipes a year or so ago thanks to you and a couple of other people. My skin is looking so much better now and I know its all down to cleaning creams and balms.

  8. I used to use them as a student because they were cheap and convenient. Then I wised up and decided that spending a little bit more and looking after my skin was important. I do have some stashed away, I think my mum bought them for me, but I only use them for wiping up spilled make up and search clear up.


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