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Reusable cotton pads

three cotton pads hanging on natural string with wooden pegs
Reusable cotton pads offer an easy way to care for both your skin and the environment. Find out why they’re so environmentally friendly, as well as our top picks and how to make your own.

Back in the day, reusable cotton pads didn’t exist.

Every time you wiped your mascara off your eyes, your foundation off your skin or took your varnish off your nails, all of those used single-use cotton pads wound up in the bin or got flushed down the loo (and then ended up in a landfill).

But now, with widespread environmental awareness of the impact this simple habit alone is having on the planet, plastic-free versions of cottons pads, as well as cotton buds and face wipes are now available. So too are cotton pads, that can be washed and reused time-and-time again.

Why are single-use cotton pads so bad for the environment?

One of the main issues with single-use cotton pads, as well as cotton buds and wipes etc. is that making them is a huge drain on the environment, what with the chemicals, water and deforestation that goes into manufacturing them.1

Then, once they’re used, they don’t biodegrade because of their plastic content, so impact the environment even further, by contributing to one of the biggest environmental issues of all-time, plastic pollution. The issue is worldwide and widespread, and it’s damaging our planet, as well as the so many species of wildlife. To give you an example, an investigation of the River Thames found entire riverbeds that have been created over the years by the build-up of hundreds of thousands of used wipes, and that’s just the Thames.2

Are reusable cotton pads better?

They are indeed. One of the main reasons is because you reuse them as many times as you like, significantly reducing how many soiled pads, wipes and buds etc. you throw in the bin each day. And if you stop to think how many of these things you get through in the average week, and then multiple it by the world’s population, the impact of this one single action is massively significant to say the least.

Every time you use your cotton reusable pads or cloths, or whatever it is you use as part of your skincare routine, rinse it out under the tap or pop it in with your laundry to give it a thorough clean once or twice a week.

What are reusable pads made from?

Reusable makeup pads tend to be made from organic cotton, bamboo or microfibre material. It’s also really easy for you to make your own too, from all sorts of things that you have lying around your house.

For instance, old t-shirts, napkins, handkerchiefs, pretty much any old fabric you have to hand really. And if you’re planning on making pads that have a different texture on each side, then try using these materials.3

To create the:

Rougher side – use course cotton, linen, bark cloth, denim or muslin

Softer side – use flannelette, cotton, cotton lawn, fine corduroy, fine velvet or jersey

How to make your own reusable makeup remover pads

What you’ll need4:

  • Scraps of material
  • Sewing tools – cotton and needle
  • A sewing machine (or you can sew by hand)

How to make them:

1. Cut out several three inch circles from your scraps of fabric.

2. To speed things up, layer your fabric up, so you’re cutting multiple circles at the same time.

3. Place the circle wrong sides together.

4. Sew around the edges, using a zig-zag or serge stitch.

5. Wash the rounds before using them. (Tip – put them in a laundry bag to keep them altogether in your washing machine).

How do you wash reusable cotton pads?

You can pop most reusable makeup pads in your washing machine, but some, depending on how delicate the fabric is, need to be washed by hand.

Always check the manufacturer’s washing instructions to make sure your cotton pads last for as long as possible, and don’t wind up shrinking or getting damaged because of the way you’re cleaning them. If you look after them, they can really last a while.

Take Face Halo’s 3-pack of makeup remover pads, for instance, they can replace up to a total of 1,500 single use wipes. After each use, simply wash them with soap and hang to dry. Then, once a week wash them in your washing machine.

Our reusable makeup pad/product top picks

1. Humble Bamboo Cotton Swabs - White, 100pcs

Lucy11111 says - Great! 

'Awesome product. Recently became conscious on cutting down on single use plastic and found these do the job without feeling guilty.’ 

Cwild says - Helping the environment

'Pleased to remove our old cotton buds which have plastic inside, these are perfect for disposing of in a way that’s safe for our planet.’ 

2. Holland & Barrett Muslin Cloth

Use this 100% organic cotton cloth to apply your favourite cleanser all over your face and down your neck. Rinse the cloth under warm water and squeeze out any excess water. Hold the cloth over your face for 5 seconds, then in gentle circular motions start to remove the cleanser.

Customer rating: 4.8 stars

Turtle3 says - 'Happy'

'Great price and nice quality. They wash well, and I love that they’re plastic packaging free!’ 

3. Face Halo Makeup Remover Single Pack

Customer rating: 4.5 stars

Face Halo is the cult fave beauty product taking the world by storm. Suitable for all skin types, each reusable Face Halo pad uses HaloTech fibres to remove makeup and impurities. This single pack can replace up to a total of 500 single use wipes.

Anon1245 says - Fantastic

‘Fantastic for removing make up quickly! Would recommend as an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton wool pads.’

Cmarshall says – Impressed

‘So impressed with this product, was a bit sceptical at first seeing as you only have to add water, but it works so well! I had a full face of makeup on and it took everything off I was amazed! I have sensitive skin too, so makeup wipes irritate me but this was fine. It’s a great environmentally friendly method of removing makeup. Will defo buy more.’

4. Magnitone WipeOut SuperNaturals Bamboo Microfibre Make-Up Cleansing Cloths

These cloths are designed to remove even the toughest, long-wear and oil-based makeup, with just warm water.

The best alternative to disposable wipes with 100% bamboo cloths.

Customer rating: 4.3 stars

Beren says – Bamboo make-up cleansing cloths

‘These cloths are of great quality and size and the packaging reflects the sustainability aspect of the product.’

5. Holland & Barrett Thin Cotton Pads

These thin cotton pads can be used with micellar water and mimic the aesthetics of a make-up wipe. Once used leave to dry and add to your next load of washing.

Customer rating: 3.8 stars

Gxexm says – I love these!

‘I use coconut oil to remove makeup and when I use this cotton pad I just wash straight after use, with soap - very quick and easy. I then use a clothes peg to hang to dry on my indoor clothes airer in the bedroom ready to use for the following evening.’

Cheyanne says – Great replacement to cotton wool pads

‘Excellent little pads and with an laundry bag too!.’

6. Holland & Barrett Thick Cotton Pads

Customer rating: 4.2 stars

Made from organic cotton, these six cotton pads come with a handy bag perfect for travelling and keeping together when you throw in the wash.

Twopeeps says - Good for the skin and good for the ocean

‘So pleased with my cotton pads. They are far better than using cotton wool. I wet the pad with a micellar product and I am amazed at the amount of grime on the pad. My face looks nice and clean too. Also I like to think that I am helping the ocean to stay clean, as the pads can be washed and used many times. Works out cheaper than buying cotton wool.’

7. Beauty Kitchen Body Cleansing Konjac Sponge 9g

Simple, effective deep cleansing and pure. Beauty Kitchen’s Konjac Sponge is made from bamboo charcoal. It gently cleanses, leaving skin clean, glowing and silky smooth. All sponges are freeze dried so they don't have to use any preservatives.

Customer rating: 3.4 stars

Katieb says – Lovely gentle cleansing

‘I love this for cleaning my face nightly. I always used a muslin cloth before, but find this sponge slightly better. Skin feels very clean after. It's also very gentle.’

A final few words on reusable cotton pads

What’s not to like about reusable facial pads and other reusable make-up removing and skin-cleaning products?! They’re kind to the planet, straightforward to use and easy to clean. And, if you want to go that bit further in doing your bit for the environment, you can even make your own, using your old clothes or other fabric from around the house.

Last updated: 4 March 2021

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