Why You Must Ditch The Makeup Wipes

Makeup wipes may seem to clean the face – but they’re doing more harm than good. Here’s why.

Beauty experts have long touted the necessity of removing our makeup every day. And, the most convenient option to maintaining a (somewhat) good skincare routine has been to reach for a pack of makeup wipes.

A simple swipe, and makeup is removed, keeping every beauty editor out there happy with your fresh face.

But that fresh-faced feeling isn’t as trustworthy as it seems. Makeup wipes aren’t as good for the skin as one would think, and there’s also the environmental factor that should be considered. 

Bondi Beauty investigates why you should ditch the makeup wipes and come up with a more sustainable skincare routine.

Think of the Planet

In the UK alone, 9.3 million face wipes are flushed down the toilet every day, causing 93% of all sewage blockages.

Don’t think that’s an issue? In 2017, a “fatberg” mass of wet wipes, nappies and fat was found to be blocking a section of London’s ageing sewer network. It weighed the same as 11 double decker buses (approximately 130 tonnes) and stretched across a length the same as two football pitches.

It took workers over three weeks to remove.

 Frustratingly, this could have been avoided if people didn’t flush their wipes down the toilet, said Matt Rimer, head of the Thames Water’s waste networks.

Pile of trash and seagulls
9.3 million wipes are flushed down the toilet everyday in the UK – they end up in landfill.

State toxicologist with the Hawaii Department of Health, Diana Felton MD, highlights the sheer volume of discarded makeup wipes as the biggest environmental problem. “Many wipes are disposed of in landfills, and despite claims to the contrary, most are not biodegradable,” she said.

Once they do enter landfill, wipes can take years to breakdown, thanks to their makeup of polyester, cotton, wood pulp or rayon fibres. They often are also wrapped in plastic, which only makes the issue even larger, especially when the products are flushed or enter waterways.

This can contaminate the environment and pose a potential ecological hazard to marine life.

They don’t actually clean your face

While the aftermath of a makeup wipe may seem as if all of the products have been picked up, there’s actually still a whole bunch of residue, dirt and grime left on the face.

Celebrity facialist and skincare expert from UK skincare brand Time Bomb, Emma Brown, highlights that face wipes only remove makeup and bacteria that is on the surface of the skin.

Woman removing makeup with makeup remover wipes
Don’t let the wipe deceive you – there’s still a tonne of bacteria, grime and makeup left on your face after using a wipe.

“Face wipes will do nothing for your skin, they can’t actually clean your skin,” she says.

“They’re not able to effectively breakdown the makeup, oil and dirt, [so you] just end up smearing the days grime around your face,” she told Glamour Magazine.  

This can lead to clogging of the pores, which can cause increased breakouts and unwanted spots.

They may cause irritation and redness

In order for wipes to remain contamination free and increase their shelf life, most contain a plethora of preservatives and chemicals that can be less than kind to the skin.

And as most people don’t rinse their faces after using a wipe, these harsh concentrations of solublizers, surfactants and emulsifiers stick around on the skin, according to the Huffington Post.  This can irritate sensitive skin, while causing others to dry out.

Further, most people tend to rub and scrub at their skin with wipes. Dr. Joshua Ziechner, Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, stresses the damages that can be caused by recurring scrubbing.

makeup wipes with red lipstick kiss
Ths kiss of premature ageing and redness: why you should ditch the makeup wipes

“Rubbing can cause low-grade inflammation, that, over time, can promote skin pigmentation or even early wrinkling,” he said.

Wait, makeup wipes can cause premature ageing?

As Ziechner mentions, harshly rubbing of the skin can, overtime, can cause irritation and inflammation, which can leave skin more lined, dull and wrinkled.

Wipes can also remove the skin’s natural healthy oils and cause dehydration, says skin expert Jane Scrivner. “Prolonged face wipe usage can challenge the pH of the skin’s acid mantle, which is one of the main reasons people think they have sensitive skin,” she says.

All of these factors contribute to skin that is less than healthy and more susceptible to pre-mature ageing, which is the direct opposite of what one wants to achieve when they think they’re washing their face.

When are face wipes okay to use?

While they’re not the best options in terms of providing a full cleanse, makeup wipes can be beneficial for those on the go, when travelling or for a quick touch up post-sweaty gym session.

They can also be super beneficial for removing makeup mistakes, such as a winged eyeliner gone wrong, or to remove foundation residue from your hands.

girl wiping face
Make up wipes can be great for on the go, but they should be disposed of correctly.

If you have to use a makeup wipe on your face, ensure that you rinse with water immediately to remove all the nasty chemicals left behind. Additionally, ensure the wipe is disposed of correctly – no more flushing down the toilet.

More and more brands are also now launching sustainable makeup wipes, that can either be reused or recycled. Though as a general rule, it’s best still not to flush anything other than toilet paper down the toilet – biodegradable wipes included.

Face Halo Chloe Morello cleansers
FaceHalo is the brainchild of beauty influencer Chloe Morello

The FaceHalo makeup wipes are a great alternative to traditional makeup wipes. The soft, cotton pad simply uses water to remove makeup – no harmful chemicals or preservatives.

Addressing the environmental concern, the FaceHalo can be washed and reused up to 200 times. The brand claims just one of their pads can replace up to 500 single-use makeup wipes.

Zoe Bradbury

Zoe is a self-confessed health and fitness fanatic. She loves working out and being active, almost as much as she loves going out for brunch and eating avo toast. If she’s not in the gym, you’ll usually find her online shopping, buying something she definitely does not need, or updating her Pinterest board with travel and adventure ideas for the future. Her other loves include dark chocolate, coffee and cats, all enjoyed while watching bad (or really good?) reality TV

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