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Here’s Exactly How to Remove Stubborn Waterproof Mascara

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Photo by Stanislav Shkoborev / Getty Images

Whatever goes on must come off, and as much as we love the smudge-free look and long-wear benefits of waterproof mascara, the same can’t be said for the dreaded-yet-predictable situation we find ourselves in at the end of the day: hunched over the bathroom sink and frantically rubbing at the stubborn waterproof makeup we applied hours before.

“Waterproof mascaras are great for anytime you’ll be in intense heat, high humidity, or even close contact with water. Even during times/events where you can anticipate some tears – weddings especially,” says MUS Naseeha Khan.

As much as we love that waterproof formulas won’t budge, it isn’t as simple as swiping a makeup wipe across your face when the time comes to wash it off. This may work for regular mascara but certainly not waterproof! The last thing you want to do is pull at your lashes and risk irritating your skin, or worse (like abandon the task at hand and sleep in your makeup).

Before you ban waterproof eye makeup from your collection of makeup products, try one of these trusted tips for a quick and easy removal process that won’t wreck your lashes.


About The Expert: 

Naseeha Khan is a certified, professional makeup artist and the co-founder of CTZN Cosmetics.

Method #1: Use an Eye Makeup Remover

“Mascara can be made waterproof through added waxes and silicones that make it resilient to water, tears, and sweat. This makes them super long lasting and smudge proof!” says Naseeha.

Since any old makeup remover won’t cut it, you’ll want to reach for a formula specifically designed to remove waterproof mascara, like KLORANE Waterproof Floral Water Make-up Remover with Soothing Cornflower. Ipsters swear by this non-irritating yet effective option. Soothing cornflower nourishes and strengthens lashes and it quickly dissolves long-lasting makeup without leaving behind residue. It’s also safe for sensitive eyes.

“I like to use an oil-free eye makeup remover to help dissolve the mascara. Take a cotton pad or reusable makeup towel and move in slow, circular motions on your eyelashes. Be extra gentle! Waterproof mascara can be tricky to remove and you don’t want to pull out any lashes in the process,” notes Naseeha.Check your progress and repeat using a new cotton round if needed. When you’ve removed the majority of your makeup, immerse a Q-tip in the solution and clean underneath your eyes and lash line.

“My favorite eye makeup remover is the LANCÔME Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover paired with the ORPPHEUS Serum Slip Cleanser to melt off the rest of my makeup,” says Neseeha.

Bonus tip: Always remember–the more generous the soak, the more effective the process. This process can also work with an effective micellar water.

Method #2: Use an Oil

Coconut oil is a versatile ingredient in both our kitchen and our bathroom line-up, and we especially love how it’s tough enough to remove stubborn makeup, yet gentle enough to nourish your skin. This natural makeup remover also boasts antibacterial properties, so you won’t have to stress about leaving pore-clogging residue behind.

Since coconut oil is typically solid, you’ll want to rub it between your hands to soften it. As you’re doing so, you’ll notice the oil will start to liquify. Next, apply the coconut oil to your eyelashes using your fingers, keeping them closed to ensure you don’t get any oil in your eye. Coat your lashes with gentle, soft strokes, going in the direction of your hair growth. Rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry.

No coconut oil? You can use another kitchen staple olive oil to cleanse your eye area with ease. Simply apply the oil to a cotton ball, Q-tip, or cotton pad and apply to your eyelashes like you would an eye makeup remover (see Method #1). Then rinse with warm water to wipe away any excess oil.

Method #3: Use Baby Shampoo

Since baby shampoo (or baby oil) is gentle enough for infants, it’s safe to use on your eye area–and it’s an effective way to remove waterproof mascara. Apply a dime-sized amount on a damp cotton ball and rest it on your lashes when your eyes are closed, as you would with makeup remover. Once you remove the cotton ball, use a wet cloth or cotton pad to wipe away the shampoo and mascara.

To make sure you keep your eyes safe, reach for an ultra-gentle baby shampoo like the ERBAVIVA Baby Shampoo. Its sulfate-free formula is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin.

Method #4: Double Cleanse

When in doubt, double cleanse. Washing your face twice is a nice way to ensure you don’t leave any makeup residue behind, and it also allows you to treat your skin in the process, restoring moisture after you’ve managed to remove your makeup. In order for it to be effective, you’ll have to use two different cleansers. Since the goal is to remove stubborn mascara, you’ll achieve the best results if you opt for an oil-based cleanser (like the FARMACY Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm) for your initial wash. Next, select a soothing, hydrating cleanser (like the SUNDAY RILEY Ceramic Slip Cleanser) to treat your skin and restore balance and moisture.

Method #5: Try a Cold Cream Cleanser

If your regular cleanser just isn’t cutting it, it might be time to try a cold cream. There’s a reason why POND’s Cold Cream Cleanser has been a product women haven’t been able to live without for decades–it really works. Smooth a thin layer on your dry face and eyelids and gently wipe away with a soft wash cloth. Splash cold water on your face to remove any residue that’s still left behind. You can get this at just about any drugstore and it’s another great option for sensitive eyes.

No one has time for raccoon eyes, and removing waterproof mascara shouldn’t have to feel like a major event if you’re armed with the right tools and tricks. Want in on all the Glam Bag fun? Take the Beauty Quiz now to get started. And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

About the author
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Katrina Mitzeliotis Lanza
Katrina is a freelance writer and on-air correspondent with over a decade of experience covering beauty, fashion, and entertainment. When she isn't freelancing, you can catch her on QVC or chasing after her two-year-old son.
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Article Last Updated November 15, 2022 12:00 AM