Here's How to Remove Waterproof Mascara Without Losing Your Lashes

curly hair model with mascara on
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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 smokey eye doesn't become a smudgy one, we look to budge-proof eye makeup products, namely waterproof mascara, as it almost always ensures a mess-free makeup situation. But, alas, at the end of the night, the clingy ink has got to come off (easier said than done, right?). To learn just how to remove waterproof mascara without scrubbing, rubbing, or pulling out lashes, we reached out to celebrity makeup artists for expertise on the matter.

"I look for a waterproof mascara that helps keep the lashes lifted and curled. I also want to know that it will stay put all day with no smudging or flaking," says MUA Nydia Figueroa. We asked Figueroa and Suzy Gerstein for their tried-and-true tricks for removing the most stubborn eye makeup. For the makeup artist approved–way to remove waterproof mascara, keep on reading.

Meet the Expert

  • Suzy Gerstein is a celebrity and editorial makeup artist based in New York City. She has worked with a wide variety of talent ranging from supermodel Christy Turlington Burns to actress Christine Taylor and journalist and feminist icon 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. Her work has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and in publications such as Nylon and BuzzFeed.

Condition the Lashes

Jane Iredale lash conditioner
Jane Iredale PureLash Lash Extender & Conditioner $23
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Prepping the lashes is essential for keeping them healthy no matter what type of mascara you're wearing. "I would definitely 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 with lash-strengthening ingredients like beeswax, algae extract, and hydrolyzed wheat protein.

Apply A Base Coat

blonde woman with orange eyeshadow


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Suzy 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.

Choose the Right Formula

maybelline sky high mascara
Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Waterproof Mascara $11
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Aside from the base coat, great mascara application also starts with, well, a great mascara. Figueroa loves Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Waterproof Mascara, 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 Lancome Hypnose Waterproof Custom Volume Mascara ($28).

Use a Good Remover

nars gentle oil-free makeup remover
NARS Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover $25
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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's go-to is the NARS Gentle Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, as it doesn't leave behind a residue of any kind. Simply apply the solution to a cotton pad, hold for a few seconds over your lashes and voilà! You'll wipe away to an ink-free flutter. It wipes 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 ($12). 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.

Take Your Time

woman removing makeup with a cotton round


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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.

Clean Up With Q-Tips

q-tips - how to remove waterproof mascara
Q-tips Purse Cotton Swabs $1
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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.

Treat with Coconut Oil

woman with eyes closed and glowy skin


Jonathan Storey / Getty Images

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 can clog pores, so don't overdo it; keep it to your lashes.

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