Best Cleansing Milk

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
56 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cleansing milk

Last Updated September 2020

Washing your face is an important part of your daily skincare routine. Some cleansers are harsher than others, especially when they’re used frequently. To give your face a break, and to gently remove makeup or dirt, consider using a cleansing milk.

Cleansing milk offers an irritation-free way of removing impurities. It’s a popular choice for those with sensitive or dry skin, and, depending on the formula, it can work wonders for those with oily or combination skin. Unlike soap, cleansing milk doesn’t suds up and then strip natural oils from your face when rinsed off. Instead, it has a milky, lotion-like consistency that gently dislodges buildup and makeup and rinses off with ease. 

If you’re in the market for gentler skincare products, look no further than cleansing milk. With so many formulas available, we’re helping you narrow your choices with this buying guide. Keep reading to find out more about cleansing milk’s benefits, see our top choices, and pick up a few skincare routine tips along the way.

You can use cleansing milk in the morning to gently remove overnight creams or masks, especially those infused with serum.

Key considerations

Skin type

Cleansing milk is often used by those with dry or sensitive skin, because the product leaves out harsh ingredients that can cause irritation. Cleansing milk is also infused with moisturizers, so even when it’s rinsed off, your skin is left feeling refreshed and softer. This also helps minimize the use of heavier moisturizers later in your skincare routine, which can clog pores, resulting in breakouts. 

Facial soap vs. cleansing milk

Facial soap isn’t necessarily bad for your skin, and if you choose the right formula, you’ll find much success with it. Like any skincare product, though, frequent use can result in irritation or overdrying. Most facial soaps aren’t designed to remove eye makeup, however, and could irritate your eyes.

Rather than replacing your facial soap altogether, it’s better to simply incorporate cleansing milk into your routine. After all, achieving maximum results in your skincare routine often comes down to effective product pairing, and facial soap and cleansing milk can certainly work together.

Many varieties of cleansing milk can be used to remove eye makeup, too. It’s important to confirm with the manufacturer that the product you choose is safe for use around the eyes. Those that can be used are invaluable tools in removing stubborn or waterproof makeup, including heavy mascara and dark eyeliner. 

While you’ll probably need waterproof makeup remover anyway, you can remove its characteristic residue with cleansing milk. You won’t need to rub or tug at your eyes, plus you’ll also soothe and moisturize the delicate skin around your eyes.

Application

Apply without water. Unlike soap, cleansing milk doesn’t require water to activate. Water will actually dilute the formula, making it less effective at removing impurities from the skin. In fact, it’s best to use it directly on dry skin, and yes, right on top of any makeup you’re wearing. 

Massage into face and neck. Simply add a couple pumps of cleansing milk onto your hands and massage it into your face and neck. As you rub it into your skin, you’ll notice that makeup begins to loosen and dissolve. After around 30 seconds of massaging, rinse off the cleansing milk. You can also use soft cotton pads to wipe away any residue. 

Follow up with the right products. There are a few choices when it comes to the next step. Some people follow cleansing milk with facial soap for a deeper cleaning, especially if they wear heavy stick or liquid foundation that isn’t completely dislodged by cleansing milk. Others recommend following cleansing milk with an alcohol-free toner or micellar water for a final phase of cleaning.

Ingredients

If you’re wondering what’s in cleansing milk, you might be surprised to learn that milk, namely animal milk, isn’t an ingredient. If anything, you might find coconut milk or milkweed extract in the formula. “Milk” actually refers to the milky, lotion-like consistency of the product. As for everything else that might be present in cleansing milk, here are some common ingredients you’ll find. 

Water: Most cleansing milk is water-based, so you’ll see water as one of the first few ingredients. This boosts hydration directly to skin. Using this type of formula, water nourishes skin instead of sealing it with a heavy moisturizer, which can result in clogged pores. Water is also what gives cleansing milk its thin, milky consistency. 

Moisturizer: This isn’t the main ingredient in cleansing milk. Formulas often include natural or plant-derived moisturizers like cactus fruit, bamboo leaf, or green tea extract. They can also include hyaluronic acid, which aids in hydration and water retention, as well as glycerine, which helps draw superficial moisture into deeper layers of the skin.

Oil: If you can tolerate oil in skincare products, you can enjoy cleansing milk that is infused with essential oil. This is included to soothe and nourish skin and often gives the product a light, pleasant fragrance. It’s most common to see lavender, eucalyptus, coconut, or olive oil in cleansing milk, however some formulas use more complex blends of extracts.

Shea butter: Part of the reason cleansing milk is so gentle on skin can be attributed to the inclusion of calming ingredients. Shea butter, for example, is often present because its anti-inflammatory properties can keep redness and irritation at bay. If you’re prone to acne, however, shea butter might cause breakouts. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Cleansing milk is usually packaged in a squeeze tube or pump bottle. This makes it easy to dispense some into TSA-approved travel containers for trips.

Accessories

Makeup remover pads: Cliganic Cotton Rounds
Gently remove cleansing milk with help from soft cotton rounds. We like these hypoallergenic ones from Cliganic, which are lint-free and made from 100% pure, premium cotton. 

Micellar water: Yes To Cucumbers Micellar Cleansing Water
To remove any remaining makeup or product after using cleansing milk, use micellar water. Equally gentle and effective, this formula soothes skin with cucumber extract. It’s also free of parabens, SLS, and silicone.

EXPERT TIP

Because cleansing milk has moisturizing properties, you might be able to dial back the use of a heavier moisturizer. Try a lightweight water- or gel-based moisturizer or one that is oil-free.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

After waxing, your face might be ultra-sensitive for a couple days. In lieu of using your regular soap, which could aggravate burning or sensitive skin, stick to cleansing milk for the time being.


Staff  | BestReviews

Cleansing milk prices

Cleansing milk, like most beauty products, is available at a variety of price points to accommodate virtually every budget. Formula quality, as well as the brand reputation, play major roles in the price, which ranges from $6 to $100. 

Inexpensive: Budget-friendly cleansing milk varieties include drugstore brands priced between $6 and $14. While effective, many (but not all) of these formulas contain alcohol and synthetic ingredients.

Mid-range: These varieties of cleansing milk cost $20 to $40 and are produced by leading names in skincare. They are specially formulated with premium ingredients to maximize efficacy without causing irritation. 

Expensive: Speciality formulas from luxury beauty brands and boutique skincare companies cost $50 to $100. This cleansing milk is infused with extracts and nourishing ingredients that often target particular skin conditions. Many formulas in this bracket are made for those with rosacea or cystic acne. 

Tips

  • Try more than one formula. With so many formulas of cleansing milk out there, you’ll have a unique experience with each one. Be open to trying different varieties, especially those with new ingredients or formulations.

  • Use cleansing milk to remove eyebrow products. If you make a mistake with your eyebrow pencil, gel, or powder. Simply apply a little cleansing milk to a cotton swab to make a correction. Skin won’t become red, and the color comes off easily.

  • Choose a formula based on your skin type. Some brands offer several varieties of cleansing milk based on skin type. While the formulas are similar, each is tweaked to suit your skin’s needs.

When using cleansing milk, remember to massage beneath your chin as well as on your neck. These areas are susceptible to product buildup, particularly if you spread foundation over them.

FAQ

Q. Can I use cleansing milk to remove long-wear lipstick?
A. Yes, and it’s one of the gentlest products that is effective at removing long-lasting lipstick. Cleansing milk can remove a considerable amount of lipstick without peeling away layers of skin. Follow it with a few swipes of makeup or lipstick remover and you’ll be good to go with clean, bare lips.
 

Q. Does cleansing milk target acne?
A. While gentle and nonirritating cleansing milk might help keep breakouts at bay, treating acne is not the main goal. There are some varieties that have salicylic acid in the formula, which will help control acne. Keep in mind that these products probably aren’t ideal for use around the eyes, especially to remove eye makeup, as the salicylic acid will definitely burn. 
 

Q. Do I have to use cleansing milk from the same beauty brand as my other skincare products?
A. While product pairing is a high priority, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to stay within the same product line. If you’re loyal to a skincare system because of its results, you might find success by using the line’s cleansing milk. On the other hand, you may wish to splurge on cleansing milk and invest in a premium variety as a departure from the budget-friendly products you normally use.

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