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Face Wipes: Makeup Wipes

Debunking the Myth: All Face Wipes Are Bad for Your Skin

February 2022 | 10 Minute Read 

Clean beauty industry maven Mary Futher founded kaia naturals® after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. Mary now shares her weekly content series, delivering a quick fix, home remedy, or clean beauty product suggestion for a variety of human discomforts that some may find too embarrassing to discuss.

The first rule for healthy, glowing skin is “never sleep with your makeup on”. We all know and live by this rule, but sometimes the thought of going through a multi-step elaborate skincare routine and standing over a sink after a long, exhausting day just sounds impossible. So, what is one to do? Reach for a face wipe, of course… they’re easy to use and so quick, plus you can literally cleanse your face anywhere you go.

Best beauty-hack ever? Well, it’s no secret that face wipes have a bad reputation in the skincare community these days. But are they all the same? No. Is there such a thing as a face wipe that is good for your skin? Yes, and it’s important to know how to look for them because the wrong ones will cause breakouts, wrinkles, micro-tears and irritation. 

What Makes Face Wipes Bad?

There are a several reasons face wipes have a bad reputation, and they are all valid. I’ll break down each one below as it’s important to understand what makes most wipes harmful and what to avoid.

Concerning Ingredients in Face Wipes

The ingredients used in face wipes are quite common among all mainstream brands, particularly those found in drugstores. 

Many of the ingredients are inexpensive and derived from petrochemicals; not necessarily toxic but definitely a skin irritant. The other thing about face wipes that most people are not aware of is their vulnerability to grow mold and fungus due to the moist nature of the product. This means preservatives used must be strong and effective in order to work. Unfortunately, conventional, non-natural brands are free to use some of the harsher and formaldehyde-forming ingredients (which keep in mind will be used around your eyes, mouth and on your skin) without rinsing. This is oftentimes the reason face wipes can sting and burn your skin and eyes. 

The following ingredients are what I would call chemicals of concern: 

  1. PEGs: You may find a number after each one. They are glycols that help the formula penetrate. While carcinogenic contaminants are the primary concern, PEG compounds themselves show some evidence of genotoxicity and if used on broken skin can cause irritation and systemic toxicity.
  2. Propylene Glycol: This ingredient is found in many non-natural face wipes and many other cosmetic products because it helps ingredients penetrate the skin. The problem with this ingredient is that it is considered a skin irritant in some countries, Health Canada has flagged this ingredient as a moderate human health priority, which means it is flagged for future assessment.
  3. Parabens: Wipes require extensive preservation as mentioned earlier and parabens are still some of the most commonly used preservatives by drugstore face wipe brands. My position on this ingredient is better to stay “safe not sorry” and avoid when possible. While the most common parabens also have “paraben” in their name — butylparaben, methylparaben, and propylparaben—they can also be listed as “alkyl parahydroxy benzoates”.

Read more about parabens here. 

  1. Synthetic Fragrance: This is defiantly considered a skin irritant (even though we love the sensorial affect). I don’t like synthetic fragrances as I know what can be hidden in the ingredient name ‘fragrance’. The production of fragrance is complicated and so are the possible list of solvents that are involved in making them and they are definitely NOT skin friendly and definitely not something I would be rubbing around my eyes. So, look for natural fragrance on the label or the actual essential oils. Just ensure you are not sensitive to any of them.

Read more on fragrances here. 

Face Wipes: Cleansing Face

Remember *THIS* Next Time You Use a Face Wipe

When you cleanse your face with a regular cleanser, you wash the product off your skin afterwards. With face wipes you’re wiping away makeup and dirt off your skin BUT then leaving the harsh chemicals on your skin.

Rayon Substrate

Most face wipes use rayon fibres, which are primarily made from wood pulp. 

Think about when you have a cold and you are constantly wiping your nose with tissue. Tissue also uses wood pulp, which causes tiny micro-cuts on your skin. When we are constantly wiping our nose, we’re creating many tiny cuts, which is why our noses become red and sore. 

The same analogy can be used with rayon face wipes; every time you wipe your face, you’re causing tiny micro-tears all over your skin, making it more receptive to breakouts and wrinkles. Combined with harsh ingredients mentioned above and you are definitely asking for trouble.

Impact on Sustainability

Face wipes are filling up landfills, clogging city sewage systems, and devastating the habitat for marine wildlife. Most wipes are made with rayon and plastic resins including polyester and polypropylene, making them not entirely biodegradable. In addition, face wipes that use rayon require wood fibres from trees are far from sustainable as it can take 20-70 years to grow to maturity. 

Face Wipes: Pile of Wipes

Can Face Wipes Replace a Regular Cleanser?

The main gripe people have against face wipes is they believe they are not effectively removing makeup. Can they replace a cleanser? The short answer is yes, in a pinch, but they should be combined with regular cleansing. The beauty of face wipes is in their convenience, however using a face wipe on its own as your main and only cleansing step each day will likely leave behind some makeup, dirt and oils on the surface of your skin.

So What Should I Look For in a Face Wipe?

As a former beauty executive for global brands, I worked really long hours and travelled, and like many of us, just did not want to stand over a sink and wash my face. I relied on a conventional face wipes because they were so convenient, but the problem was every time I used them, I would experience eye and skin irritation, stinging and burning sensation. The vitamin cleanse cloths were the first product I created for kaia naturals and it took more than 2 years of research and testing to get the perfect formulation. NO SKIN BURNING!

Nourishing Cleansing Oils and Non-Harmful Ingredients

Your face wipes should have nourishing ingredients, free of the ones we listed earlier. The first product I developed was my vitamin cleanse cloths and I set out to create something that would be incredibly nourishing, non-toxic and never been done before.  

The vitamin cleanse cloths are soaked in a nourishing medley of organic honey, jojoba oil, sunflower oil and a custom-blend of citrus essential oils. This 3-in-1 cleanser + toner + moisturizer was formulated for even the most sensitive skin and eyes, guaranteed not to burn, sting or irritate. 

Face Wipes: kaia naturals vitamin cleanse cloth

Unbleached Bamboo Cloths

Instead of using rayon fibres which are too harsh for your skin, I used bamboo fibres instead. Unlike rayon, bamboo fibres are cashmere-soft, won’t cause micro-tears and won’t irritate your skin and are very soft around your eyes. 

Bamboo clothes are also 100% earth friendly. You can simply compost or bury the cloth in your garden or flower pots and they will disappear in 60-70 days. 100% biodegradable and non-toxic. Bamboo is very sustainable, taking only 2-4 years to mature (compared to trees). It is actually a grass….so no trees died for this cleansing cloth. 

Can Face Wipes Be a Part of My Skincare Routine?

The last thing to address is whether or not face wipes can effectively remove makeup. Many skincare experts advocate for avoiding wipes altogether, however we know that may not be a practical answer for those with busy lifestyles and rely on face wipes to avoid going to bed with makeup on. I am one of those people and so I’m going to explain exactly how you can use a face wipe effectively. 

The first way to incorporate face wipes into your skincare routine is to use them as a first step prior to continuing with your regular skincare routine. This works well if you are not exhausted from the day and plan on doing a full-blown regimen. Using the cloth as a first step helps to remove makeup, dirt, oil and impurities from the day and gives a gentle exfoliation from the bamboo cloth. 

Secondly, face wipes are a great on-the-go product, especially if you are someone who has oily skin or works out midday and needs something to easily remove sweat and makeup to refresh your skin throughout the day. My vitamin cleanse cloths come in smaller packs that are perfect for your purse or gym bag. 

How to Properly Cleanse Using a Face Wipe – Even From Your Bed

Face Wipes: In Bed

This routine is so quick and easy, and you can even do it from the comfort of your own bed, keeping your skin healthy, so you don’t have to feel guilty about it. It will also remove stubborn waterproof mascara and is the exact routine I use before bed. 

The Vitamin Cleanse Cloth Double Cleansing Routine 

  1. First Cleanse: apply a few drops of cold-pressed moringa oil to the vitamin cleanse cloth to help break down waterproof mascara and makeup. Hold the cloth to your face to let the oil penetrate before gently using circular motions to remove makeup. This will remove your makeup while cleansing your skin. 
  2. Second Cleanse: if you feel your skin needs it, take a second clean vitamin cleanse cloth and do a final gentle cleanse to remove anything that may have been left behind 

Moringa oil comes from the seeds of the moringa oleifera tree. Being a dry oil, it absorbs really quickly into the skin so it doesn’t leave an oily film. Using an oil dissolves makeup and debris from the day really well without stripping the skin. Moringa oil is my favourite oil as it is super nutrient dense, full of omega 3’s and leaves my skin as plump! This also means I don’t have to follow up with a moisturizer.

So, there is such a thing as a face wipe that is GOOD for your skin and will not only effectively remove makeup, but it will also nourish your skin, keeping those harsh chemicals far away. You can have your cake and eat it too… and have cleansed healthy skin, right from your bed. 

Each week on my blog The Little Book of Human Discomforts I share clever solutions for seemingly embarrassing skin, body, and hair issues. Consider subscribing below to be the first to know when new content is live! I also share lots of body and skincare tips on Instagram @kaianaturals and on my TikTok page @madamesweat.

All content found on this website is created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website. 

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