The Best Eye Makeup Remover for Travel

Posted on
Sep 24, 2012
Posted in: S.T.I.N.K.s

It is 7:30am here in Seattle, and I woke up more than an hour ago, of my own accord but bleary-eyed, the lingering result of jet-lag after spending 10 days in Ireland. I rubbed my eye, and seeing the purple streak left on the back of my hand from makeup of days before, still stubbornly clinging to my lid, I realized that this is where I should start.

Before I tell you about my trips to Belfast and Dublin, before I described the ill-fated afternoon we decided to rent a car and drive on the wrong side of the road, before I start explaining how I gained several pounds in a matter of days eating Irish cakes and candy, I need to talk about eye makeup remover.

I hope you will forgive me. But I’m so very tired, and this rather banal topic will be an easy out, before I head off to tackle the mounds of laundry, stacks of mail, and try to figure out how, precisely, I can recreate those tea time scones at home.

Regarding makeup: I wear a lot of the stuff. Or rather, I wear a lot of it on one part of my face – my eyes. I don’t do face powders or foundation. I rarely wear lipstick or use eye-brow pencils and I seldom need blush because I am always too hot, which I’ve found produces a nice warm glow about the cheeks (and sweat stains under the arms, but let’s focus on the good.)

But my peepers are positively coated in cosmetics, nearly every day.

Here I am attacking my poor mother on my wedding day.

And this might not look like a big deal, but this is how much gold eyeshadow I wear TO GO HIKING.

You get the idea. My travel toiletry bag is packed with cosmetics, and along with them, a plastic container filled with a small stack of eye makeup remover pads.

My eye makeup remover pad of choice is one made by Almay (as usual, this endorsement comes with zero compensation. I have many faults, but being a sell-out is not one of them).

They have two variants – the “non-oily” kind and the “moisturizing” pads, which are coated in something akin to baby oil. As the years pass (ahem) – I find myself preferring the latter. They leave a bit of residue, but do actually provide some moisture to my eyes, which are the only part of my face that doesn’t get ridiculously oily.

For a long time, I figured that these pads weren’t exceptional by any means. I bought them regularly because they were inexpensive, easy to pack, and unlike an actual bottle of makeup remover, they didn’t count as a liquid (a big bonus when traveling) and weren’t as likely to spill. Plus, it was easy to count out how many pads I’d need for however many days I’d be on the road.

But towards the end of our trip to Ireland, I managed to lose them, case and all. It must have been when we switched hotel rooms along the way. At first, I figured it wasn’t that big a deal. I would just some eye makeup remover at the drug store.

Here’s what I looked like after a ten-minute struggle with the stuff:

If you think I look bad, you should see the other guy.

It was though I had gone a few rounds with a prize fighter.

I’m pretty sure Kate Moss made this look work in the late 90s.

By the end of it, my makeup still hadn’t come off, but the skin around my eyes was raw. And holy cats, did it sting. Needless to say, I do not recommend the following product, which can be found in various European drugstores, despite the claims of “vitamin goodness” which appear right on the package.

It costs about 7 Euros, or roughly $9. That’s about twice the price of my regular pads. And notice how much of it I used in one night.

I don’t even know what “vitamin goodness” means, anyway. But if a cookie package said that, you can bet I’d run like hell.

I’m home again, and I happily have a huge stack of eye makeup remover pads sitting by the sink. I think I’m going to slap them on my lids like cucumber slices, while I lay back and eat chocolates. Just as soon as I get through everything else that’s waiting for me today.



Leave a Comment

  • Stacey

    I have oily skin, too. My favorite oily complexion tip: toilet seat covers work magic absorbing oil. Plus, they’re free and virtually in every public place!

  • Comment in list form ahead!
    A.) You always make me laugh or at least smile. Thanks for that
    B.) Perfect timing for eye makeup remover, since I was made up as a zombie on Saturday night and had absolutely no idea what I was doing in both the applying *and* the removal departments. I, too, looked like I’d had a few rounds in the ring.
    C.) Love your love of all things sweet and delicious. I am right there with you.
    D.) Can’t wait to hear about Ireland!

  • ellen

    Excellent stuff, that Almay eye makeup remover. i have a small container of them from an ophthamologist friend and keep refilling from the big container (they carry these at BJ’s) for travel . Now I’ve found a great eyeliner that is almost like glue – it doesn’t come off until I tell it to! It’s from a company called Blinc (online at Sephora or just via eBay). It’s perfect for travel…you can peel/rub it off at the end of the night/travels. I, just like you, do not go anywhere without eye makeup…liner at absolute minimum.

  • Kari

    Agh, it’s so frustrating to lose essential supplies while traveling! My go-to makeup remover in a pinch is plain old coconut oil. It removes makeup like a charm, and I can usually find it in grocery stores.

  • Colleen

    I use the Almay pads with the oil and I use a baby wipe which I use to remove my facial makeup to tone down the oil left on my face. I have to use eye drops after removing my eye makeup with those pads, despite not opening my eyes just like the package says not to. So, maybe I should switch to no oil. Thanks for the tips!

  • As an American transplanted in the UK, I can not only sympathize, but literally feel your pain. I am a long-time Almay and Neutrogena user, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, neither brand can be located in Britain. I either have to make do with sub-par alternatives or hide a bunch of the good stuff in my suitcase after visiting my family in the US. I just don’t understand why Britain imports so many terrible things from the US, then neglects the necessities. *sigh*

  • Good to know. I’m always struggling to find good makeup remover for the eyes. I’m ridiculously allergic to most stuff, but need something strong enough to remove my eye makeup (which I also woke up with this morning…sigh.)

  • Ruth

    When I find myself without makeup remover, I have found that a small bit of one’s nighttime moisturizer, applied with a q-tip or tissue, does the trick.

  • I love the Almay eye makeup remover pads. They are one of my skin care staples!

  • I am jealous that you can look so great without makeup all over!! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your adventures. So glad I found your site.

  • HollyFromHomer

    It’s the simple things in life, ain’t it? Great post. I have been looking for a pad-version of a makeup remover for traveling so I’ll have to check these out.

    At home, I LOVE Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover (in purple-y bottle). It has two liquid-y layers (one of which looks suspiciously like oil….) which you shake together. It is so smooth and sucks that makeup right off. No stinging AT ALL either, so you can pretty much not even rinse with water and still be a-okay. And it’s only $5 or 6 bucks (up here in Alaska).

    Not super great for traveling, with the cotton balls and liquid factor and all, but I thought I’d share another super duper remover. It’s an important topic!

  • Your experience with eye makeup remover resonates. I’ll have to try some of your tried and true eye make up remover because it is so embarrassing to leave hotel towels covered with the stuff after you have quite dutifully (you thought) scrubbed it off your eye surrounds.

    Having recently enjoyed the experience (NOT!), I am quite looking forward to your promised post about driving on the “wrong” side in Ireland. Our experience drove me both to drink and to blog.

  • As a perpetual wanderlust, I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to get too very attached to any specific product – no matter how miraculous. The chances of me finding even a single Almay product here in Vietnam for example are… none to zip.

    But the good news – I’ve long used (sit down, get ready for it…) simple VASELINE for eye makeup remover. Non-liquid, only takes a smidge so a teensy tube lasts months. True, a tad greasy, but I tissue off most of it. And the residue is great moisturizer for those of us lasses “of a certain age”.

    • Jessa

      I use Vaseline too! It works great plus my ocular area is always on the dry side…good for preventing/worsening wrinkles. And I use for dry lips, happens to give a nice gloss too.

  • Petra

    While I am traveling I mostly take a small can of Nivea hand lotion with me. I once got those small testers for free and discovered that they are great for removing eye make-up.

  • As an American living in China, I can definitely relate. Shopping for beauty supplies here is frightening, especially when lotions are used for “whitening” and lead is a common ingredient. I use from I brought from home diligently and load up visiting relatives like mules.

  • Sephora makes them now, too. They come in small soft packages, sonthey are light and take up virtually no room in the toiletry bag. The toiletry size paks are too small for a long trip, so taking along 2 means disaster averted if you leave one in your hotel room!!!

  • I had to laugh when I saw the “Simple” bottle. I live in the UK and that’s the best thing I’ve found as a replacement for my Almay. I find that decent deodorant is also impossible to find here, so when family members ask what they can bring or send my list is usually made up entirely of toiletries. The stuff is like gold to me.

    • Emmi

      That’s funny: I had to ask my mum to send me more deodorant from the Netherlands when I was doing an internship in the US some years ago. I just could not find any decent stuff there. So I guess we all just want the toiletries we’re used to.
      You can get those eye-make-up remover pads (and tissues!) in the Netherlands too; most drugstores carry them. And I always use them for travelling too. Plus nailpolish remover pads: no spillage!

      • Jennifer

        I absolutely LOVE the deodorant’s in the UK. I actually am doing the reverse and taking them back to America with me.

  • Oh how I laughed when I saw the Simple bottle 🙂 I used this nightmare concoction once and, having scrubbed at my eyes for several minutes with a Simple Soaked Cottonwool Pad, wasn’t sure if it was still make-up I was trying to remove – or bruising.
    ‘Kind to Eyes’ yes – but only if you don’t use it.

  • Jennifer

    I cracked up when I saw this as I too am an American living in Britain. I understand what you went through!! Hence why I learned from my Mom many years ago that good ole baby oil works like magic and doesn’t pull at the very sensitive skin around the eye area. (It’s also the very ingredient found in most makeup removers.) Now that does mean your eyes feel like oil slicks when you’ve finished taking off that stubborn makeup but I just use a face wash after and voila! For $2.99 or in my case £4.00- done deal!

  • The question is, why does it look like Rand is wearing that much blush to go hiking?? And I totally get the Almay Makeup Remover love. I brought one jar over from America when I moved to Malaysia. I reached the point where I was mashing Q-tips into the pads to absorb excess remover, using the Q-tip that day and the somewhat drier pad the next.

  • word of caution: if (like myself) you have eyelash extensions (my personal must have and talk about a lot on your eyes!) you can’t use oil based eye makeup remover. Funny as always Geraldine!

  • FromtheVille

    I NEVER wear eyeliner but last SAturday night I was in the mood to be a little vampy and wore some extra thick black eyeliner. I slept in it overnight, aka, passed out drunk from too many cosmos, and woke up looking like I too, was beaten up by a prize fighter. So I was laughing as I read your column and positively cracked up when I saw the picture of the Simple, kind to eyes eye make up remover because I literally used half a bottle of it Sunday afternoon while trying to get rid of my ‘morning after’ sexy eyes. By the time I was done I had eyeliner smudged all over my face and my eyes were burning and red from rubbing them so hard with this ‘kind to eyes’ stuff. I’m so glad to know it is jsut a horrible product and that the next time I decide to get all wild with the make up that I won’t have to rub my face off to remove it!

    As always, I LOVE your column! It brightens up my day and always makes me want to eat sweets. ;D

  • Lynda

    I tried the Almay but it stung my eyes, but after reading this I’m gonna try it again! Maybe I didn’t use it right or something. Any good recommendations on moisturizer for oily face?

  • Melissa

    Baby oil or non-fragrant regular ole mineral oil will do the trick for you, should you ever leave home without your pads.

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