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Which cotton pad is best?

Cotton pads are versatile cosmetic tools that are integral to removing nail polish, eye makeup or for applying skin care products like astringents, lotions and toners. While using a cotton pad is fairly straightforward, choosing the right one requires some consideration.

There are reusable cotton pads and disposable ones. You can find cotton pads shaped in rounds, squares, rectangles, ovals and sheets. There are organic options as well as textured ones. If you’re looking for extra-absorbent cotton rounds, Cliganic Premium Cotton Rounds are the top choice.  

What to know before you buy a cotton pad 


The most common shape of cotton pads is a flat, circular shape, also called cotton rounds. Larger rounds can come in an oval shape. Cotton pads also come in square and rectangular shapes. All these shapes work well for applying facial toners. Cotton pad sheets are less common and can be used for DIY face masks. They can also be cut into smaller sizes for more economical cotton pads. 


Cotton rounds are typically 2.15 to 2.25 inches in diameter. Larger ones, including oval-shaped rounds, can have diameters up to 3 inches. Square cotton pads can have dimensions of 2 by 2 inches to 3.5 by 3.5 inches, and rectangular cotton pads can be up to 3.5 by 4.5 inches. Cotton pad sheets are typically 6 by 4 inches or larger. 

Disposable vs. reusable

The cotton pads that most consumers think of are disposable and have a single-use function. Though made from natural cotton, disposable cotton pads are typically not biodegradable. If landfill waste is a concern for you, opt for eco-friendly reusable cotton rounds that can be easily laundered and reused. They come in counts of up to 24 pads, often with a mesh laundry bag or a holder.


Cotton pads are generally made from 100% cotton. It’s best to check the label to be sure the pads contain no synthetic fibers, such as viscose or rayon, which can be irritating to the skin. Many reusable cotton pads are blended with bamboo or made from 100% bamboo, an eco-friendly plant fiber that’s highly absorbent and hypoallergenic. 


Disposable cotton pads come in multipacks ranging from 70-150 pads per package. It’s more convenient to buy pads that come in a resealable bag for tidy storage. 


An important consideration is a pad’s texture. Some people prefer a smooth texture for removing makeup around the sensitive eye area. Textured cotton pads, either quilted or raised, are preferable for applying astringents, toners or exfoliating acids. Embossed surfaces are often marketed as “exfoliating” and provide mild exfoliation. For some, textured pads can feel too scratchy. 


The thicker the pad, the more absorbent it tends to be. This means that you’ll need to apply less product to the cotton material for more of it to transfer to your skin. Textured pads also tend to be more absorbent than smooth ones.  


Low-quality cotton pads fall apart easily. Because most disposable pads are constructed from thin layers of cotton, these layers carry the risk of separating. They can also shed, pill and shred. Consider investing in high-quality, durable cotton pads to ensure they’re up to task. 

What to look for in a quality cotton pad 


If you want both a textured and a smooth cotton pad, select a double-sided pad that features both surfaces in one. You can use the soft side for more delicate areas of the face and the textured side to remove stubborn nail polish or for exfoliation.  


Because cotton is a crop that’s highly treated with pesticides and other agrochemicals, many consumers opt for organic cotton pads that are free from chemicals. You can find both disposable and reusable pads made from organic cotton. 


If you have sensitive skin, opt for a hypoallergenic cotton pad that’s free of fragrance, alcohol or chemicals. Not all hypoallergenic cotton pads are organic and they can still be bleached or treated with dyes. If you’re very sensitive, look for pads that are free from chlorine and are organic.  


Disposable cotton pads that are marketed as lint-free means they won’t shed onto your skin when used. However, just because a product claims to be lint-free, it’s best to double-check to be sure the pad won’t actually shed or pill. 

How much you can expect to spend on a cotton pad

A pack of 100 disposable cotton pads ranges from $1.75-$3. For a 20-count of reusable cotton pads, expect to pay between $8-$13. 

Cotton pad FAQ

I’ve heard using cotton pads to remove eye makeup can cause wrinkles. Is this true? 

A. When used with an effective eye makeup remover, smooth-textured cotton pads shouldn’t cause wrinkles. Use them gently around your eye area; don’t scrub or pull at the skin, which can contribute to wrinkles. 

What’s the difference between using cotton pads and cotton balls? 

A. Due to their higher absorbency, cotton pads allow you to use less product than cotton balls. They also don’t shed or come apart as easily, which makes them better for skin care uses. 

What’s the best cotton pad to buy?

Top cotton pad 

Cliganic Premium Cotton Rounds for the Face

Cliganic Premium Cotton Rounds

What you need to know: These soft rounds are gentle yet effective and are ideal for removing eye makeup. 

What you’ll love: These lint-free rounds won’t shed during facial cleansing with micellar water. They also come in an organic option. They’re soft and hypoallergenic for sensitive skin. 

What you should consider: The pads are very thin — some users find that they need to double up. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cotton pad for the money

Swisspers Premium Exfoliating Rounds

Swisspers Premium Exfoliating Rounds

What you need to know: This option from Swisspers is a low-cost exfoliating cotton round that’s double-sided and durable. 

What you’ll love: These premium rounds feature a smooth side and an embossed side, the latter of which provides serious exfoliation. They don’t tear, even with vigorous rubbing. 

What you should consider: If you have sensitive skin, these pads will be too abrasive unless you only use the smooth side. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Rounds

Organyc 100% Organic Cotton Rounds 

What you need to know: Made from biodegradable organic cotton, these dual-sided rounds are bestsellers for good reason. 

What you’ll love: These single-use rounds are certified organic and free of chlorine, perfumes and dyes. One side is textured and the other is soft and smooth. The texture is mild, making these rounds perfect for daily exfoliation. 

What you should consider: The cotton can soak up a lot of product, causing some people to feel that they waste product. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Ana Sanchez writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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