How to (Safely) Remove Waterproof Mascara

Woman removing eye makeup with a cotton round.

Aleksandra Jankovic / Stocksy / Byrdie

After spending 30 minutes (or more) on our eye makeup, the last thing we want is for it to run down our face. To ensure that our smoky eye doesn't become a smudgy one (unless it's done purposely, that is), we turn to budge-proof eye makeup products, namely, waterproof mascara. Formulated with waxes and silicones, it works by gripping onto lashes and staying there. It's good at its job, real good, maybe even a little too good; meaning, removing waterproof mascara is no easy feat.

Fortunately, celebrity makeup artists Suzy Gerstein and Nydia Figueroa, let us in on the correct way to get the clingy ink to come off, so you need not sleep in your makeup (as tempting as that might be). Instead, try out their tried-and-true tricks for removing the most stubborn eye makeup—without scrubbing, rubbing, or pulling out lashes.

Meet the Expert

  • Suzy Gerstein is a celebrity and editorial makeup artist based in New York City. Her clientele includes Christy Turlington Burns, Christine Taylor, and Gloria Steinem.
  • Nydia Figueroa is a professional makeup artist and VaultBeauty member. She currently serves as beauty director for Fashion GXD magazine and the New Jersey International Pageant.

Keep reading for 10 makeup artist-approved ways to remove waterproof mascara.

01 of 10

Condition the Lashes

Prepping the lashes is essential for keeping them healthy no matter what type of mascara you're wearing. "I would recommend a lash primer/conditioner. It works as a double-sided tape to lock on the mascara while protecting the lashes from breakage," says Figueroa. Her favorite is the Jane Iredale PureLash Lash Extender & Conditioner ($26) with lash-loving ingredients like beeswax, algae extract, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.

02 of 10

Apply a Base Coat

Gerstein's go-to trick for easy mascara removal starts with the application. Before applying waterproof mascara, Gerstein says to protect your lashes with a base coat of regular mascara. Once applied, she says to go over your base coat with waterproof mascara for longer, smudge-proof wear.

03 of 10

Choose the Right Formula

Aside from the base coat, great mascara application also starts with, well, a great mascara. Figueroa loves Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Waterproof Mascara ($13), which is both effective and gentle. "This mascara is amazing for extending the lashes and creating super volume. It is waterproof, great for sensitive eyes, and suitable for people who wear contacts." She also likes Lancôme's Hypnose Waterproof Custom Volume Mascara ($29).

04 of 10

Always Brush Lashes With a Dry Spoolie

Removing makeup is easier when there's less of it to remove—it's as simple as that. So when you're applying waterproof mascara, use a clean, dry spoolie, wiggling a bit along your lashes to maximize thickness. Not only will this technique remove gunky mascara, making for easier cleanup, but it will also ensure even coats and distribution (read: no spider lashes here).

05 of 10

Use a Good Remover

The key to taking off eye makeup is a good remover. If you are removing your makeup as a means to change beauty looks, Gerstein recommends NARS Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover ($25), as it doesn't leave behind a residue of any kind. Simply apply the solution to a cotton round, hold for a few seconds over your lashes, and voilà! You'll wipe away to an ink-free flutter. It promises to wipe away hard-to-remove makeup, while also hydrating the delicate eye area and promoting healthier lashes.

Another gentle option, endorsed by Figueroa, is Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water ($13). The version with the blue cap is specifically meant for waterproof makeup and "is amazing in removing makeup without any oily residue. It is a no-rinse formula, and it cleanses the skin," says Figueroa. Make Up For Ever Sens'Eyes Waterproof Sensitive Eye Cleanser ($25) is another great pick for sensitive eyes.

06 of 10

Take Your Time

A drop of makeup remover will not do the trick. Gerstein recommends soaking two cotton pads with your makeup remover of choice and gently pressing the pads onto your lashes. Hold there for at least 30 seconds, and if need be, lightly massage the area for no more than 15 seconds. Wipe off the excess remover with a clean pad and/or water, and your waterproof mascara should no longer be visible.

Do not continue to use the same side of a cotton pad once it's been sullied; doing so will only redeposit the makeup you just removed. To get the most use out of your cotton pad—and not go through an entire stack—fold the unused section over with each dab.

07 of 10

Clean Up With Q-Tips

If your mascara tends to settle along your lash line, use a Q-tip to gently clean up the area. Remember to let the mascara dry before you go in with the cotton swab to prevent it from smearing and messing up your eyeshadow.

08 of 10

Cleanse With Olive Oil

Sometimes you need not head to the drugstore when seeking out a makeup removal solution, but rather, your kitchen. Olive oil is purported to be a natural makeup remover that will cleanse your eye area without the use of harsh chemicals or ingredients. To use, saturate a reusable makeup remover pad with oil and gently press, hold, and wipe against your lashes. Then rinse with warm water or double cleanse with a water-based cleanser like Re:erth Clarifying Cleanser ($55) to remove any excess oil.

09 of 10

Treat with Coconut Oil

Lash care doesn't end after you've washed your face. "A great way to take care of your lashes when you are not wearing makeup is by applying coconut oil," says Figueroa. "It reduces the protein loss in your hair, which can help your lashes become stronger and more full." Massage a small amount of coconut oil or brush a spoolie dipped in the oil through your lashes once you've removed your makeup at night.

Coconut oil may clog pores, so those with acne-prone skin who are interested in using it to remove mascara or treat lashes should exercise caution. Don't overdo it and only use coconut oil that is organic, unrefined, and cold-pressed to try to avoid a breakout.

10 of 10

Try a Cold Cream

While it may not be as fancy as, say, Sisley Paris Eye and Lip Gel Make-Up Remover ($105), Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser is an iconic drugstore product that makes removing waterproof mascara a breeze. Simply apply a thin layer onto eyelids and gently wipe away with a soft washcloth.

  • Is waterproof mascara bad for your lashes?

    Waterproof mascara may dry out your lashes and requires a bit more effort to remove. While it's not bad for your eyelashes per se, overusing and incorrectly removing waterproof formulas could harm delicate lashes, even making them prone to falling out if you irritate them.

  • Can I wear waterproof mascara every day?

    While waterproof mascara is convenient, wearing it every day is not encouraged since it may irritate lashes and increases eyelash loss.

  • Why do I lose eyelashes when removing mascara?

    If you're losing eyelashes when removing mascara, you'll need to re-evaluate your eye makeup removal technique. You should not be aggressively rubbing mascara off, but instead, gently press, dab, and wipe lashes with a cotton pad soaked in makeup remover.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kadri R, Achar A, Tantry TP, Parameshwar D, Kudva A, Hegde S. Mascara induced milphosis, an etiological evaluationInt J Trichology. 2013;5(3):144-147. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.125611

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