Are You Removing Sunscreen The Right Way?

by Gio
right way to remove sunscreen

Do you really need a special cleanser to remove sunscreen?

Rumour has it that only oil-based cleansers can melt those stubborn UV filters away. Does that mean you have layers of sunscreen still clogging your pores?!

Do You Need An Oil-Based Cleanser To Remove Sunscreen?

Good news: you don’t need an oil-based cleanser to remove sunscreen. You need oils AND/OR surfactants.

I get it how the myth started. A lot of UV filters have oily textures, and there’s nothing like an oil to remove another oil.

Oils work because like attracts like. The oils in your cleanser attach to the oils in your sunscreen, melting them off and away.

But surfactants are good for the job, too. They help water mix with oils, rinsing them off down the drain.

It’s like washing your dishes. The last time you had to clean a greasy pan, did you use an oil-based cleanser to do the job? Of course not! You used your regular dish washing soap. Guess what that has? Surfactants!

If surfactants are good enough to clean a greasy pan, you can trust them to remove your sunscreen. Sure, your cleanser has gentler surfactants than dish washing soap, but you get the point: surfactants CAN remove sunscreen.

Put another way, the cleanser you’re already using can remove your sunscreen. No need to throw it away and look for something else. Phew!

Related: How To Choose The Best Cleanser For Your Skin Type?


How effective is your sunscreen? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Sunscreen Audit” Worksheet and find out if your sunscreen is really up to the job:


What Are The Best Cleansers To Remove Sunscreen?

Again, that cleanser you’re already using is probably up to the job. But if you’re curious to know what my fave cleansers are, check out the picks below:

Are There Any Cleansers That Can’t Remove Sunscreens?

Yes, but they’re rare. Occasionally you will come across a cleanser like Avene Tolerance Extreme Lotion that has neither oils nor surfactants.

They make good morning cleaners but they can’t get rid of sunscreen or waterproof makeup. You need something stronger for that.

The Bottom Line

You don’t need a special cleanser to remove your sunscreen. Any cleaser with oils and/or surfactants will do the job. And that includes 99% of cleansers on the market. Phew!

EDIT: This post was edited on 09/02/2019 with the latest scientific information.

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45 comments

bebe August 18, 2015 - 4:04 pm

I use a micellaire water and then a gel cleanser. Am I doing it wrong?
I have a very oily skin so I do not like oil based cleansers.

Gio August 18, 2015 - 7:45 pm

Bebe, it really depends on what your sunscreen contains. If it has titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or is waterproof, a non-based cleanser may not be enough.

Alexandra August 18, 2015 - 4:19 pm

I have a quick question. Is it true that using normal tape water for washing the face is bad? Does it really makes a huge difference to use micellaire water??

Gio August 19, 2015 - 11:44 am

Alexandra, micellar water is just another fancy name for cleanser. It works well, but you can just use any cleanser that works for you, even if it has a different name.

And no, that’s not bad. I wash my face with tap water too, and I have never had any problems with it.

Liyan September 8, 2016 - 10:41 am

Do bar soap cleansers work the same oil base cleansers when it comes to removing sunscreen

Gio September 28, 2016 - 9:37 pm

Liyan, I wouldn’t recommend a bar soap. They tend to be too harsh for the skin.

Jessica Lee June 19, 2020 - 6:47 pm

Unless it’s a bar soap like sebamed.

Janessa August 19, 2015 - 1:55 am

I use DHC’s cleansing oil. I’ve tried Boscia’s (more espensive and not any better than DHC), Shu (tried samples and thought it worked really well and didn’t dry out my skin, but it’s too $$ for daily use), Kose (dried out my skin and doesn’t remove eye makeup as well as DHC).
Soo DHC is the clear winner because it’s not too pricey, works really well at taking off my makeup and super water-resistant sunscreens and nearly all my eye makeup.
I always follow up with Fresh’s cleanser (my all time favorite so far for morning and evening use because it’s so gentle but effective and doesn’t sting if a little gets into my eye) to remove any trace of eye makeup, and to be extra sure I’ve cleaned my skin.

Gio August 19, 2015 - 7:57 am

Janessa, DHC is wonderful, isn’t it? Definitely great value for money. And what a great routine. Your face must be squeaky clean!

Jess June 19, 2020 - 6:51 pm

If you’re confident enough and don’t mind experimenting, you can look into making your own facial cleansing oil concoction. It ends up being cheaper in the long run if that’s another fun factor for you. Gio wrote a post about that too. https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/what-is-the-oil-cleansing-method-ocm/

Jur July 6, 2020 - 3:17 pm

Hii, i would like to ask question, is cleansing lotion help in removing sunscreen?? My sunscreen only contain titanium oxide and a few chemical uv filter.. do cleansing lotion is enough to remove this type of sunscreen or do i need to do double cleansing?

Pastelita September 2, 2015 - 9:13 pm

Hi Gio,
LTNC, how are you? xxx
I confirm oils or balms remove sunscreen very well! I’m currently using RE:CIPE cleansing oil (green tea version) and it effortlessly removes all that gunk so effectively, yet it’s very gentle.
However, I prefer balms for travelling. Have you tried DeNovo Oleo gelee? I’m not a specialist but reading the formula, it looks promising! I havent tried the Clinique one, which has been praised a lot and purchased instead the cheaper Banila & Co. Zero Purity balm. It’s excellent but I cant get past that weird scent 🙁
Since I’m wearing sunscreen everyday, I prefer to double-cleanse whether I’m wearing makeup or not. The legendary Su:m 37° Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick (MRCS) really lives up to its claims for this purpose 😉
Still I quite dont understand the science behind all that. Ok, fair enough, like attracts like but oxydes being minerals, how can an oily type cleanser dissolve them? Unless oil actually melts the bulking agents/ carrier?
So far it’s efficient but it’s always nice to learn!
Un abrazo xxx

Gio September 4, 2015 - 12:47 pm

Pastelita, hi. I’m fine, thanks. Hope you are too. So good to see you here again. 🙂

I agree. I love my oils, but balms are a lot more convenient for travelling. I haven’t tried DeNovo yet, and I couldn’t find a list of ingredients online, unfortunately. Do you have one? But I tried Clinique and was impressed. Overpriced, maybe, but it works.

Oxides are oil-soluble, but not water-soluble. That’s why they dissolve well in oil, but not so well in water. Of course, if you swim or something, some sunscreen will come off, but oil does a better job at cleansing skin. 🙂

Jess June 19, 2020 - 6:52 pm

Once you try the Heimish cleansing balm, you’ll never go back.

Shelby September 4, 2015 - 7:14 pm

Give the TapaReef Sunscreen Remover Wipes a try. They can take off most zinc oxide and waterproof sunscreens and also treat skin for sun exposure.

Gio September 6, 2015 - 8:19 am

Shelby, they sound great! I’ll check them out, thanks!

Liz April 18, 2016 - 8:51 pm

What oils work better? Right now Im using sunflower oil that I wipe off with a damp tissue before using face wash. At the end I can still see some white in the crevices of my nose where there is STILL sunscreen! Is mineral oil better or jojoba, or olive oil? Ive tried oil cleansers that are soluble in water but those dry out my skin SO BAD, specially if I have to follow with another cleanser.

Gio April 25, 2016 - 10:38 pm

Liz, I find that a mixture of castor oil and olive oil works best. If you have oily skin, use 2/3 castor and 1/3 olive, while if you have dry skin, do the opposite. Hope this helps.

leelee May 2, 2016 - 2:14 pm

I used mineral oil(Baby Oil) to remove sunscreen off my body. Will it cause any harm? Since you’re using olive oil .

Gio May 3, 2016 - 8:33 am

Leelee, no, it won’t. Mineral oil is safe and effective too. 🙂

zaaacdy July 2, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Isn’t oil comedogenic and can block pores?

Gio July 17, 2016 - 11:40 pm

Zaaacdy, it really depends on the type of oil and your skin type. Some oils can clog pores for some skin types, especially oily, while others are safe. You ned to experiment to find out what works for you.

vania vambi July 25, 2016 - 7:03 am

i read t hat re applying sunscreens is really filling your body with unfriendly products the ones that damage the dna…more safe info is needed and more health perspectives should be the main concern

Gio July 31, 2016 - 7:08 pm

Vania, where did you hear that? Sunscreens are safe. The sun isn’t. Studies have confirmed you may get cancer if you don’t reapply sunscreen. There isn’t one that says that sunscreens are harmful. Use sunscreen, please.

Jenna November 29, 2018 - 6:38 am

Vania is right, but that is only true for chemical sunscreens.

Catherine June 29, 2020 - 9:05 am

Not quite. Studies in rats have shown that one ingredient in chemimal sunscreens (but also many other skincare products) named oxibezone can disrupt hormones and affect reproduction processes, but only if used in extremely large quantities. You’d have to use a chemical sunscreen with the highest possible content of this ingredient over your whole body, everyday, for at least 69 years to have any measurable (not negative) effect. With regular use (daily on arms, chest and face) it would take 277 years to get a measurable effect.

Heba August 25, 2016 - 12:30 am

Its nice info for me i like to knw is coconut or jojoba oil is good for oily skin

Gio August 29, 2016 - 7:38 pm

Heba, coconut oil is comedogenic. I wouldn’t use it on oily skin. But jojoba oil is fine.

Shreya June 4, 2017 - 4:19 pm

sooooo late to this article, but I love using Lipidol’s range of oils to remove sunscreen! they’re really affordable and I don’t like how they feel on my face (leave a bit of a residue) but for my body it doesn’t really matter hehe

Gio June 11, 2017 - 2:38 pm

Shreya, so glad you’ve found something that works well for you. Thanks for the recommendation.

Emily Powell July 19, 2017 - 2:13 am

What about removing suncreen from fabric? Oil wouldnt help the situation? My clothes and furniture and getting blobs of white minerals from my sunscreened kids!

Gio July 21, 2017 - 11:44 am

Emily, how annoying! But at least they’re well protected. 🙂

Try this: http://www.kidspot.com.au/lifestyle/home/home-solutions/how-to-remove-sunscreen-stains

M. Theisen August 11, 2017 - 6:48 pm

What do you recommend useing to remove mineral sunscreen from your body when showering? Oils in the shower sound iffy; aren’t they slippery when they reach the shower floor?

Gio August 19, 2017 - 10:11 pm

M, look for a shower gel that’s water based but contains oil. That should do the trick without making the floor slippery.

yheng November 18, 2017 - 7:56 am

i have a question. do we need to remove water-based sunscreen too? or normal cleanser will do it’s job? thanks

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:18 pm

Yheng, it really depends on the formulation. I like to use cleansers that with both oil and water so I know they’ll remove everything.

Nisreen February 24, 2020 - 3:51 am

What’s a good waterbased cleanser that has oil too which can remove sunscreen properly with one step?

Gio March 6, 2020 - 10:23 am

Nisreen, please check the post above. I’ve shared my fave picks in the image widget. 🙂

Jennifer March 4, 2018 - 5:09 am

Hi Gio really happy bumping into your blog. Useful info described in very effective manner 🙂

My sunscreen has both physical (both zinc &titanium included) and the chemical. I read in a website that that particular sunscreen could be removed by any make up remover. I never read this method elsewhere though. What do you think?
Here is the link of the web:
https://www.ratzillacosme.com/sun/biore-uv-perfect-face-milk-4-plus/

And for the combination physical and chemical sunscreen like mine. Which category would it be, physical or chemical? Mine leaves a very visible whitecast.

Cheers
Jen

Gio March 16, 2018 - 2:28 pm

Jennifer, the thing is that these days, most makeup removers contain some form of oils and can, therefore, do the job fine. But I think it’s a good idea to double check yours does, just in case. 🙂

If it contains both, it’s a hybrid. Hope this helps.

,Cindy May 31, 2019 - 1:32 am

Hi Gio, thanks for the above information. I use mineral sunscreen with Zinc Oxide + titanium dioxide. Can you please give you a few names of gentle oil cleansers. I am using Tatar Harper oil cleanser but my skin was slightly hurt before and after I rinse it with water, followed with Cerave hydrating cleanser as a double cleansing . Is this oil cleanser too strong for my skin or I do it a wrong way? I have mature, very dry skin with oily T-zone. Expecting to hear from you!

Gio June 4, 2019 - 6:57 pm

Cindy, a lot of Tata Harper cleansers are loaded with irritants unfortunately. You can check out my fave oil cleansers here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/choose-right-cleanser-skin-type/

Muheeb November 25, 2019 - 7:53 pm

Hi iam a boy I use sunblock while I go for practice or a match but when at night I think to clean up my face from sunblock so I don’t find any natural solution if you could suggest me with a natural remover so that I can use fearlessly please and one more thing is coconut oil good remover? Please

Gio December 20, 2019 - 3:35 pm

Muheeb, coconut oil is good if you have dry skin. if it’s oily, try jojoba.

Rachna April 14, 2020 - 3:33 pm

My sunscreen is not waterproof then how to remove it

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