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Cotton-wool pads? They’re history!

Cotton-wool pads are a bit too rough for sensitive skin, not at all eco-friendly for the planet, and have fallen out of favour when it comes to beauty rituals. Here are a few simple alternatives to help you quit using cotton-wool discs. 

Old habits die hard. 

For years on end, it was drummed into you that you had to remove your make-up, morning and night, and mostly with cotton wool. But for a few years now, the wastefulness involved in this frenzied use of cotton-wool discs has been raising questions. After the solid beauty product revolution and the bombastic arrival of re-useable period underwear… The era of disposable cotton wool seems to be coming to an end. You’ll want to find the accessory and eco-friendly clean beauty habit that suits you as a replacement for standard cotton wool. To do so, try out each method for around 10 days. Because it’s like anything – it won’t necessarily work like a charm the first time around, so keep at it a little longer to get into the new habit.

The major washable cotton-wool trend

They look like standard cotton-wool discs, but are a little less white and slightly bigger. So what’s different about them? They are made from fabric (bamboo, eucalyptus or organic cotton wool) that’s designed to be machine-washed and re-used. To get them to last longer, don’t forget to rinse them thoroughly after each use to get the worst of the make-up off. Re-useable pads can now be found just about everywhere in major chain stores. Personally, we like the ones from Les Tendances d’Emma that come in their own washable nets.

The washable wipe breakthrough 

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Like re-usable pads, washable wipes draw inspiration from standard wipes, but are an updated eco-friendly version of them. Basically, they are fabric wipes designed to be used several times. They are bigger than cotton-wool pads, and also have the merit of offering a wide range of fabric choices

You can find them on Etsy.

This is a nice zero waste version that will brighten up the side of your wash basin. What’s the added bonus? If you’re good at sewing, you can make them yourself out of soft, absorbent fabric (like TencelTM double-sided bamboo towelling).

The return of the humble flannel

The cleansing accessory used by our grandmothers was long frowned upon, but is now back with a vengeance. So what’s the cherry on the cake? Well, it costs little, and is also less of an irritant than cotton wool or wipes. We like the standard cotton ones. They should be rinsed thoroughly after each use and hung out to dry. Or better still, microfibre water-cleansing flannels – more of a beauty accessory – to be used damp without any cleanser. Available to order from Sephora or in Yves Rocher stores.

Silicone flannels are a little more expensive, but every bit as effective. They are a popular choice on account of their double-duty cleansing and exfoliating action (expect a price tag of around €20).

The minimalist version using the fingers 

Oil cleansers, foam cleaners, cleansing milk and micellar water can easily be used without cotton wool, with the fingers (clean, obviously). Better still: 3 in 1 cleansing gel, which turns into cleansing milk on contact with the skin.

Take a little cleanser in the palm of your hand and apply it right to your face to cleanse it. The cleansers’ specially-formulated consistencies lift off stubborn make-up and the impurities accumulated during the day. Rinse off thoroughly. If your skin feels a little tight, spritz on a mist of floral water, spa water or any other kind of water that’s kind to the skin. Note that for waterproof eye make-up it takes several strokes, and thorough eyelash massaging to remove mascara. A clever tip: remove your eye make-up first and complexion make-up last. 

Exotic Konjac sponge 


Straight out of Japan, this odd-looking type of sponge (which is very hard to start with) is made from the konjac plant. To soften it, hold it under water for a short while. Once it’s nice and soft, use it on your face. Japanese women, who know a thing or two about beauty, credit it with a great many virtues: cleansing, revitalising and anti-ageing! Those with dry skin will like the aloe vera version, while those with oily skin will prefer the one with purifying charcoal.

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