Favorite Face Cotton Pads

May 22, 2015

For many years I was a loyal user of Shiseido Face Cotton. Even though it’s more expensive than the cotton pads you find at drug stores, I found it significantly softer in texture, relatively thick and dense and didn’t disintegrate with makeup remover. I like to use it on the face to remove makeup or for skin toners. For nail polishes I mainly use drug store rounds from Rite Aid although quality isn’t consistent among all the options, many leave tiny bits of fibers on the face, so I save them for polish removal. Out of curiosity and raves from friends, I started exploring more options over the past few years. Today I have a roundup of the five cotton pads I like to rotate between. I’ve stocked up on several since I go through these quickly.


Chanel Le Coton ($20 for 100 pads) are the largest cotton pads I’ve bought. I purchased a box of the Chanel at a makeover event to qualify for the gift with purchase they were offering and fell head over heels in love. The Chanel is larger and thicker in size compared to the Shiseido. I find it sturdier but still very gentle on the skin. The square is large enough that I can use one half for my dual-phase eye makeup removers and the other half for cleansing water for the rest of my face. Just when I found my holy grail of luxury cottons, Chanel discontinued it for a while which broke my heart. Thank goodness they brought it back. The thickness allows for just the right amount of toner or makeup remover to be absorbed and apply to the skin. This is by far my favorite. These come in a white box which helps keep the shape in tact and protects the cotton from getting smashed.


A few friends told me to try the face cotton from Clé de Peau Beauté ($20 for 120 pads) stating it was the best thing they’ve ever used. A couple readers had e-mailed me too saying they thought I should try it so I did. It’s really quite amazing. It’s the thickest of all the cotton pads I’ve tried but still has a relatively tight weave making it sturdy. In terms of size it’s larger than Shiseido but smaller than Chanel. I like that these come in a box so they keep the shape.


Shiseido Facial Cotton ($9.50 for 165 pads) is a classic staple. It’s soft but firm and won’t fall apart easily. One pad is sufficient for the entire face. It is thinner than Chanel or Cle de Peau Beaute though. These come in a soft plastic casing without any support so make sure you store them away from things that can smash the package or else they will become smushed.


Rite Aid and CVS have cotton pads that I buy frequently. Below are the Premium Cotton Rounds from Rite Aid. I prefer the ones with a vertical line weave at the top versus the honeycomb because I find those softer in texture and they also don’t leave any fibers on the face but I can’t always find those specific ones. These run around $3-$4 depending on the store and what sales they have going on.


Sephora Collection Soft Touch Cotton Pads ($4 for 70 rounds) are softer than most drug store brands. Since they are smaller and thinner I usually need 2-3 rounds to remove my makeup entirely. For the price if you can get away with one pad these are really good although they are significantly thinner and not as plush as the Chanel, Shiseido or Cle de Peau. I had hoped these would be the same as the other luxury cotton rectangles at a cheaper price. They just aren’t the same.


In summary, my top two picks are Chanel and Cle de Peau Beaute – it’s impossible for me to pick between the two. Shiseido is the next best option but still not as thick or plush and the smaller size means I have to use 2 pads on occasion. A quick reference on pricing and availability of each. You can find the cotton at a number of retailers, I’ll list places I’ve bought mine before:

Do you have a favorite facial cotton? What have you tried, liked or didn’t like?

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  • Although it seems ridiculous to shell out $20 for cotton pads, I like how you've broken it down so its only .20 cents for each one — not bad!


  • I used to work for Shiseido stores where they also sold cle de peau and my boss told me some customers cut the pads in half to save money XD

  • Jillian

    While I am a loyal user of the CVS premium hypoallergenic cotton pads, I do enjoy the indulgence of the Cle de Peau pads. As mentioned above, I cut them in half since they're so generous in size (and price, for that matter). 🙂

  • Some of these sound really nice! I've been using washable cotton rounds I found on etsy. Thanks for the review of these products.

  • Anonymous

    FYI: the Shiseido cotton has 165 pads, not 100. The cost is slightly less than 6 cents a piece, making it the same as the Sephora pad.
    Also, thicker pads are not better for all applications, they tend to waste product. You don't want your cotton pad to soak up the toner, but your skin.

    • Thanks! Just updated it! The Chanel/CdP actually work better for me, they soak up just the right amount of product at least for me 🙂

  • Anonymous

    First comment, love the blog!

    You should check out Muji's cotton pads. They have a few different sizes and are very inexpensive.

  • I swear by 10cm * 10cm cotton swabs that are routinely used in surgery to mop up bodily fluid.?
    I was given them on prescription after I had an operation to use while cleaning a surgical wound and one day tried them for my face and nails. Awesome results. They pick up enough product so as not to waste it, I don't get lint stuck in my eyelashes and round my nails from cotton wool and they are very slightly abrasive so they act like a gentle exfoliant as they are cleansing. I trust them so much that even though I no longer need them medically I pay for them. I'm sure some beauty editors would throw their hands up in horror at the thought but they have been one of my beauty secrets for over ten years now.

  • Jo

    I've gotten some of the CdP with GWPs from Neiman's but I don't like them very much, they are too thick and absorb too much product. My favorites are Shiseido and Muji which are pretty much the same. Muji's are less expensive though. I recommend you try them if you have not.

  • Anonymous

    Even after trying all the expensive cotton (Shiseido, CdP, Chanel), all of Muji's offerings, and several different brands from Japanese supermarkets (the different flavors of Eture cotton)… my hands down favorite is still Daiso's pink box cotton. Go figure.

  • I'm a fan of the Swisspers hypo-allergenic organic cotton rounds from Costco. 900 rounds for about $13! One side is textured while the other is smooth, and the fibers never shed. So ideal for removing nail polish while also gentle enough for facial use! For toner, I use one side for my face and the other for my neck. Definitely recommend!

    • michelle

      I was a Shiseido fan (and still working through my last 2 bags:) but picked up these Swisspers at Costco & agree they are fabulous and cheap–I've been converted! I use them same way as you. I do still use cheap cotton balls for nail polish removal because i use Deborah Lippmanns method for polish removal and have never gone vack to any other way. Game changer:)

  • This is an excellent post because i've never really put much thought into cotton pads. Usually i'd just grab whatever is on the shelves without much thought. I didn't even know Chanel did cotton pads! Would love to try them now. Holly x

  • I use Shiseido and Clé de Peau on my face and Swispers on my nails. I cut my Shiseido pads in half to use with my Chanel eye makeup remover because I like to let the pads set on my lids for about 30 seconds to soften the mascara before swiping them across my lids. I then go over my entire face with my Tatcha cleansing oil. For daily application of after cleansing toners, one whole Shiseido pad does my face, neck, and décolletage without falling apart. As for my Clé de Peau pads, I use them full size as toner masks. One pad gets soaked in Japanese toner lotion for dry skin, separated into several layers, then the layers are applied all over my face. I kick back for about 15-20 minutes and relax while listening to some soothing classical music. Aaaaah! It's an awesome hydrating treat before an important night out 🙂 A lot of people love Swispers, but I find them entirely too harsh for my face. They're great; however, at removing polish because they do have a slightly abrasive side. The soft side is just like any old cotton pad–it easily pulls apart and loses shape.

  • I would personally not spend that much on cotton pads

    Lots of love xxx
    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  • Anonymous

    Once I started using my Hitachi Hada Crie (a facial ionic cleaner/ moisturizing tool) I went on the quest for the perfect cotton pad. I found the Naruko facial white illuminating cotton pads and they are perfect! They are large and have approx 5-6 thin layers that you can leave together or separate apart for different steps. one side is ever so slightly exfoliating (the cleansing step), the other is soft (for the moisturizing step). I highly recommend (both the HadaCrie and the cotton pads)!

  • Anonymous

    My absolutely favorite is Cle De Peau! I do separate them, that's my little trick, so this way they absorb minimal amount of product and I get double amount of pads as well! If not separate them, they are way to thick and I will run out of my favorite Sisley Floral Toner much much faster. I also love to use them when I remove my Cle de peau Mascara with Cle de Peau Eye makeup remover. And this is THE ONLY time when I do not separate them and just indulge myself in complete luxury. But as far as using my really expensive toners like: Sisley, Valmont and Cle de Peau, by separating Cle de Peau cotton really helps to use my toners at least twice as long as if I use any other pads.

  • Lexi

    I like Japanese cotton pads from Daisan or Selena for eye makeup removal. For toner I like the cotton labo 5-layer pads. I pull them apart for toner.

  • This post is very interesting even though it is about cotton wool pads 🙂 !

  • This made me giggle. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has an obsession with cotton pads!


  • I love muji cotton, but I also like the body shop ones.

  • You have to try the Muji cotton pads. They are Japanese and are super cheap. They have 3 types. Ones that are like the Shiseido ones bleached and unbleached and some other one that are very big and thick.

  • What A great post – I love finding out about new cotton pads! I always go for the Quo Luxury Cotton Pads.


  • Naruko's cotton pads are my fave ones. They are always sold out but when I see them I try and buy as many boxes as I can. They are great for usage as masks as well and have an exfoliating side and smooth side.

  • Definitely trying Shisheido ones!!
    Lots of love, xx


  • What a timely post, as I bought the shiseido pads this week (my first luxury cottons). So far loving them. Because of the packaging being soft sided, I am going to look for a lovely container to keep them in on my counter.

    After these I will try the Chanel, just to compare.

  • ame

    I love the Shiseido, but Muji's are identical and less expensive. Since I can easily get Shiseido here, I often just get those, but if I plan better, I order Muji online (we don't have a Muji here in middle america!)

  • I buy DHC Cotton Squares and use those mostly. I like the Shiseido ones a lot and always have a package at home. Drugstore ones just don't cut it.

  • The Chanel cotton pads sound wonderful! I really don't want to pay $20 for them but if they're thicker, bigger AND better than Shiseido they may be worth the splurge.

    Follow me to Fancieland

  • Hi Sabrina:
    Thanks for your review on the facial cotton. I like the Shiseido facial cotton, but I also use the Ulta facial cotton which are little soft pillows and come 100 count and are $5.00. Also, what do you think of the Koh Gen Do facial cotton? Have you tried it yet? Thanks.

  • wow these sure do look plush and luxurious!

    However, I tend to go for the high end from the cheap ranges, otherwise my budget would only go into cotton pads!

    I see that some of your readers recommend the muji ones. I will have to remember that!

  • I tried a few of the Cle de Peau when i got a small pack of them from somewhere. (Barney's gwp, perhaps?) I actually preferred the shiseido, i think mostly because of the size. I didn't love the Sephora ones, and I gave up on drugstore ones after a package of them was so scratchy it was uncomfortable. At any rate, this was a great post!

  • i havent tried any of these makeup cottons but ive been using the muji cottons for a while and i think you should try them! i dont know if they are similiar but they are 100% cotton and feels really soft on the skin :D!
    i recommend them 😀

  • Anonymous

    What do you keep the larger ones in if you're travelling? I'm very tempted by the Chanel ones but I travel a lot and they only have that huge box haha