How to Remove Heavy Wedding Makeup

Wedding season, in all of its splendor, is about to be in full swing. With the plethora of potential photo ops, you may be putting a little extra time and thought into your look — from the ensemble to its makeup matchup. And when it comes to the camera and what shows up in those high-flash moments, a full beat may actually be what you’re after.

After all the “I dos,” no matter how much your feet hurt from showing off your TikTok moves, taking off that full face is still a must-do. “It’s very important to remove all traces of makeup so that you wake up the next day with skin that looks clean, moisturized, and refreshed,” explains esthetician Elizabeth Grace Hand of New York City’s Ställe Studios. The best way to erase all of your handiwork? Keep reading for Hand’s tips on how to make sure all that heavy makeup is washed away so you can greet the next day with clear skin.

Why You Should Wash Your Face

“Heavy makeup can be drying, and it can trap dirt and bacteria on skin,” Hand says. “If left on, it can contribute to breakouts and cause skin to look dull and puffy the next morning.” And we won’t even get into what it’ll do to a white pillowcase. She also explains that our skin renews itself while we sleep, and a layer of makeup prevents optimization of that process.

Use a Cleansing Balm

The oils in balms effectively break down dirt, oil, and heavy makeup. Plus, they won’t strip skin of its own natural oils, leaving it nice and supple. Start by massaging the balm onto dry skin with your fingertips using circular motions. After you see most of the makeup starting to melt, add some water to emulsify the balm — it should take on a milky consistency. Hand is a fan of Augustinus Bader’s The Cleansing Balm ($74), which can be rinsed away using its accompanying cloth.

Go Slow When Cleansing

“When cleaning your skin, especially when removing heavy wedding makeup, I recommend spending a full minute on the first cleanse,” Hand says. “That’s the magic number for cleanser to have time to break down the makeup.” She suggests using lukewarm water — cold tightens pores, which can trap the bacteria and dirt you’re trying to whisk away, and hot water strips skin of protective oils. Be sure to rinse thoroughly and pat — don’t rub — your skin dry with a soft, clean towel.

Don’t Forget to Double Cleanse Your Skin

Double cleansing is crucial to removing heavy makeup, maintains Hand. “The first cleanse breaks down the makeup, and the second treats the skin.” Follow the balm with a gentle gel or foaming formula like the Shani Darden Cleansing Serum ($38) to eliminate any breakout-inducing oiliness. It’ll also help give you more of a clean feeling, especially if you’re not used to using an emollient balmy cleanser regularly, as it clears away any lingering makeup.

Use a Waterproof-Makeup-Specific Cleanser

Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to remove every trace of stubborn waterproof eyeliner, mascara, or lipstick. Look for a product that combines oil and micellar water — usually you’ll have to shake them to combine the two ingredients, making them work in concert. You also want to find something with soothing secondary ingredients and without any added fragrance, especially if you’re using it on your eyes. Try out the Glossier Milky Oil ($12) by soaking a cotton round and holding it over your eyes or lips for a few moments so that it has time to break down the makeup before sweeping everything away.

Finish With Toner

Before you call it a night, give your skin a quick once-over. You could use a makeup wipe to make sure you’re in the clear, but be sure to go easy and not tug on the skin. Hand’s preference is to apply a gentle toner like the Furtuna Skin Acqua Serena Micellar Cleansing Essence ($78) that’s been dabbed on a cotton pad (reusable, if you can) as the final step.

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