#BinTheWipe & Cleanse Properly: Why Wipes Are Incredibly Bad For Your Skin & The Environment

AD | In Partnership With Northumbrian Water

We’ve seen a lot of bad beauty inventions over the last decade (silicone lip plumpers and blackhead vacuums among them,) but without a doubt there’s one that causes more damage to both skin and the environment than possibly them all combined: the wipe. I’ve made no secret of my hatred for face wipes over the years, and I’ll continue to champion every other cleansing method available as an alternative until they cease to exist, but why are they so problematic and why should we all be choosing to #BinTheWipe in favour of more effective and sustainable alternatives?

Six Sustainable Alternatives To Face Wipes (& Why They're Bad For Skin)


Often marketed as an easy and effective way to quickly remove makeup and impurities, these little damp cloths tend only to remove the upper most layer of visible dirt while drenching your skin in drying chemicals and alcohol. ‘Wiping away’ only does so on a superficial level, rubbing the rest back into your pores while leaving skin saturated with bacteria, dirt and irritating chemicals. These tiny remaining fragments can block pores, causing congestion and breakouts as well as preventing the rest of your skincare regime from working properly.

There’s little point in investing in all manner of fancy and expensive serums and moisturisers if you’re not cleansing effectively both morning and night, and there’s little point spending an age slaving away in front of a mirror to apply your makeup when the surface is still saturated with dirt and grime. You wouldn’t wash your body with a wipe every day and expect to remain clean, fragrant and healthy – and your complexion is no different.

Worryingly, ineffective cleansing can also have a detremental effect on the ageing process. Makeup and dirt clings onto free radicals in the environment in the same way it does to bacteria; these free radicals cause the breakdown of healthy collagen in the skin, which results in fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation as we age. By effectively removing dirt from the surface, and those damaging free radicals in the process, we’re giving our skin the best possible chance to renew, replenish and repair itself as we sleep – helping our complexions to be healthy and radiant.

If you need further convincing, a 2013 experiment 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.

Furthermore, 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.

Even if you’re unconvinced at the potential damage your beloved face wipe could be doing to your 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 hyper-pigmentation. 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 not only do wipes speed up the ageing process and cause unnecessary pressure, but they’re ineffective, irritating and drying too. But still, it gets worse…


They may feel like paper, but 90% of the 11 billion wipes we use in the UK every year actually contain plastics. (Read more here.) We may feel increasingly guilty for using a takeaway cup to grab our morning coffee, using a plastic straw or forgetting to take our carrier bags to the supermarket, but the environmental impact of single use wipes could be just as dire. It’s estimated that the wet-wipe market will be worth over $20bn by 2021 – so that’s billions of predominately plastic (thanks to the inclusion of non-biodegradable polyester) wipes being thrown into landfill, and worse, flushed down our toilets.

Unlike loo roll, the majority of wipes don’t disintegrate in the sewage system, but gather together with other pollutants to block pipes; they are a huge contributing factor in blockages that cost UK water companies around £88 million a year to rectify, and that’s before taking into account the flooding and road works required to fix the issue. Even if they don’t cause a problem, blockages and reduced capacity caused by other wipes and unflushables in the network can lead to them entering the environment – even the sea.

It’s said wipes can linger for up to 500 years in the ecosystem, so they’re unfortunately just as bad as throwing out a plastic bottle and potentially worse than forgetting your re-useable coffee cup. But if you really can’t part with them, BIN them don’t FLUSH them!

Six Sustainable Alternatives To Face Wipes (& Why They're Bad For Skin)


Utterly convinced that you should finally #BinTheWipe and seek out better options for both your skin and the planet? I’ve tried and tested practically every cleansing solution over the last decade, and in my opinion these are the best sustainable alternatives to face wipes and sensible swaps that enable you to effectively look after your complexion while caring for the environment simultaneously.

1. Flannels
You can’t go wrong with a stash of flannels and they can offer great value too – you can re-wash them hundreds of times and bring life back into them with a touch of fabric softener too. They’re a great way to start your wipe detox, as they offer a gentle cleanse that works beautifully with a balm or oil.

2. Reusable cotton pads
Although using a decent cleanser with a cotton pad is better for your skin than a wipe, it’s not really any better for the environment. Reusable cotton pads are increasing in popularity, offering the same benefits as single-use pads while being so much better for the wider world.

Six Sustainable Alternatives To Face Wipes (& Why They're Bad For Skin)

3. Konjac Sponge
These appear hard to start with, but when saturated with water they become soft and squishy; made from natural konjac root (a porous vegetable that grows in Asia) they were first created as a way for Japanese farmers to cleanse a baby’s skin, but are gaining in popularity thanks to our love of Asian skincare. They’re a much gentler way to cleanse and exfoliate dead or dry skin during your daily face wash, while making better choices for the environment.

Six Sustainable Alternatives To Face Wipes (& Why They're Bad For Skin)

4. Muslin cloths
Made from fine cotton, the better quality muslins are fine and smooth in texture but effectively remove makeup from the surface of skin; they also gently exfoliate the surface too. I used to use these every day, but now I reach for them perhaps once a week to help lift away any dull skin for a deeper cleansing experience. Opt for non-bleached cloths from sustainable sources for extra environmental points!

5. Microfibre cleansing cloths
What’s different about these cloths is the microfibres used within them; they swell up when wet, grabbing onto makeup particles and holding them tightly so they’re effectively washed away. Many of the brands claim you don’t need to use a cleanser because their cloths are so effective, but my opinion is that you need a decent cleanser to get rid of the dirt lingering beneath the surface – for all the reasons laid out above. They are great at removing superficial makeup though, and they can be used thousands of times!

Six Sustainable Alternatives To Face Wipes (& Why They're Bad For Skin)

6. Compostable or Biodegradable Wipes
If you really must rely on a wipe (emergency and travel situations are acceptable!) then make the swap to compostable or biodegradable wipes that don’t contain plastic and won’t cause harm to the environment. So many brands are making the switch, and retailers including Holland & Barratt are now refusing to stock non-biodegradable wipes entirely. Just like we’re opting for paper straws and bamboo cloths, fully degradable wipes provide a much better option if you really need to get your fix.

Which of my top five sustainable alternatives to face wipes are you most intrigued by?


Find out more about the #BinTheWipe campaign HERE.

AD: Sponsored feature in partnership with Northumbrian Water; all opinions and recommendations my own.

Discover more of my cleansing recommendations here.



  1. Annette Lanham
    February 18, 2020 / 11:13 am

    I normally don’t like sponsored as they feel fake and un-related to the blogger but this is really good!!! Is going to be shown on television as well?

    • hayleyhalluk
      February 18, 2020 / 5:56 pm

      Haha thank you! I always ensure my collabs are authentic as possible – and talking about cleansing couldn’t be more on brand. And nope, no TV for me!

  2. Nikki Hayes
    February 18, 2020 / 5:56 pm

    I don’t wear makeup and I use biodegradable face wipes. I also use a scrub once a week and micellar water a couple of times a week. My skin is fine, never dry and I look (apparently) 10 years younger than I really am. I do however tend to use expensive serums and moisturisers – my skin has never looked better and I am 50 now.

    • hayleyhalluk
      February 18, 2020 / 6:06 pm

      You’re obviously blessed with very good skin! Wearing makeup causes a lot of the issues, so if you’re not wearing it at all that helps. I would recommend you using a cleansing oil, balm or milk though every day.

  3. February 19, 2020 / 8:42 am

    I have extremely sensitive skin and the only thing I can use is baby wipes,I have tried so many different products over the years but I always have to go back to using wipes as that is all that seems to suit my skin. I don’t wear any make up so I find these are enough.

    • hayleyhalluk
      February 19, 2020 / 10:41 am

      Oh my goodness, PLEASE find an alternative! For all the reasons above! There are so many great cleansing oils and balms for super sensitive skin – ARK’s pre-cleanse oil and their face wash is amazing, as is La Roche Posay.

      My friend Lex has rosacea and has so many amazing recommendations for super inflammed or sensitive skin here if it’s of help: https://talontedlex.co.uk/ I promise there’s something your skin will like and it’ll be a million times better than baby wipes.

  4. katherine
    February 21, 2020 / 4:22 pm

    I had no idea wipes had so much disadvantage. I use a facial cleanser and baby wipes.. I have to ask, are baby wipes safe?

    • hayleyhalluk
      February 21, 2020 / 7:01 pm

      Nope – they’re just as bad for your skin and the environment. They may not contain as harsh chemicals, but the rest is the same!

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