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 • Makeup  • Makeup Guides  • 9 Hacks To Stop Your Mascara From Smudging, According to the Pros

9 Hacks To Stop Your Mascara From Smudging, According to the Pros

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You’ve expertly applied your eyeshadow, drawn on your eyeliner like a pro and coated your lashes in your favourite mascara. Lookin’ fly!

But have you ever caught sight of yourself in the mirror halfway through the morning and noticed your mascara has already smudged? Argh! Whether it’s transferred onto your eyelid or there’s an unsightly patch under your eye, it’s a makeup inconvenience we could all do without. 

But don’t worry, it’s totally normal, preventable and easily fixed! I spoke to makeup artists Laura Kay, Ashley Nichole Gibson and Azesha Ramcharan to find out how to stop those pesky smudges and keep mascara looking perfectly polished all day long.


Image – Prostock-studio/Adobe


9 ways to stop the smudge

Image – Vladimirfloyd/Adobe

1. Prep your skin

Make sure your eye area is primed for makeup. “Start with a freshly cleaned face and eye area that has been prepped with an oil-free eye cream or gel,” says Ramcharan

Specific eye primers can create a matte surface which help prevent product transfer onto your skin.


2. Let your skincare absorb

Let your skincare sink in. “Natural oils from your skin or eye creams can break down the mascara’s formula, making it more likely to transfer onto the skin,” explains Gibson.

“Allow your skincare to absorb into the skin before mascara application,” to help prevent those oils from making contact with your mascara. 


3. Curl your lashes

By lifting your lashes using a curler, they’re less likely to make contact with your under eye; reducing the risk of smudging. Voila!


4. Don’t rub

Don’t rub your eyes. “Touching or rubbing your eyes during the day can cause mascara to smudge,” warns Gibson. “This is especially true if your hands or fingers are oily or sweaty.”


5. Don’t over-apply

Go easy on application. “Don’t over apply mascara as it will transfer,” says Kay.


6. Use setting powder

I’ve personally found that a light dusting of setting powder under your eyes with a small brush helps prevent oil from my under eye making contact with my mascara, resulting in a smudge.

Gibson agrees. “Lightly dust translucent powder on your under-eye area to absorb excess oils and reduce smudging for oily skin types,” she explains


7. Go waterproof

Choose a water-friendly formula. “Wear a waterproof product to help it hold out against the daily elements that can cause mascara to run or smudge [like sweat, tears and humidity],” Kay explains.  Even one coat of waterproof mascara over your regular product will help prevent smudging.

My absolute favourite waterproof mascara is Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Waterproof Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara (£30 from Estee Lauder UK /$32 from Estee Lauder US) because it just doesn’t budge. 

You can also go for a tubing mascara– a type of mascara that forms little tubes around each lash- which is renowned for never smudging.  The downside to tubing mascaras?  You’re unlikely to get the same lift as with a regular one.


8. Ditch older products

Look at your mascara’s shelf-life. “Using old or clumpy mascara, or not allowing the mascara to dry can increase the likelihood of smudging,” Gibson warns.

“The shelf life of mascara once it’s opened is typically 90 days, no matter how many times you’ve used it. After this period, the mascara can dry out, become less effective, and be more prone to harboring bacteria.”


9. Remove mascara properly

Ensure you take it off properly. “Not completely removing mascara before bed can lead to smudging and flaking the next day,” adds Gibson. “Remove mascara properly at the end of the day to avoid residue that could smudge the following day.”

I use La Roche Posay Respectissime Eye Makeup Remover (£12.50 from Boots UK /$20.99 from Ulta Beauty US) for its ease of use and gentleness on my skin.


With these tips from the experts, you should find you can prevent your mascara smudging for good.  Having said that, I’ve found that some mascara formulas are just more prone to smudging than others, so if you’ve found that none of the above tips are helping it may be worth considering simply changing your mascara.


How to fix smudged mascara

Image – Deniskomarov/Adobe


Ok, but what if your mascara has already smudged?  We’ve got you.

  • Use micellar water:

If you’ve smudged it while it’s still wet, don’t panic. Dip a small concealer brush or cotton bud into some micellar water and gently dab away the mistakes.

  • Use a clean spoolie:

If you have time to wait for it to dry, or if you’ve found dry residue during the day, use a clean spoolie to gently scrape it off your skin. It should flake off easily with one of these.

Keep a packet of them in your handbag at all times for on-the-go de-smudging! Konamo Disposable Eyelash Brushes (from Amazon) come in a pack of 50 and have planet-friendly bamboo handles. 

The micellar water trick will work well here too but if you’ve already done your makeup base and/or eyeshadow (depending on where your smudges are), the micellar might remove it meaning you will have to touch that up too. 


PRO TIP: Try not to use saliva on your finger or plain water to remove smudged mascara, especially when it’s dry. This will tug too vigorously on the delicate skin around the eye area. It won’t be half as efficient at removing the smudge anyway as it lacks the amount of oils needed to really break down a mascara smudge.


The takeaway

So you see, a little mascara smudge happens to the best of us and is easy to mend (and avoid).  

Three key things to remember if you experience smudges on the daily. Keep some spoolies on you at all times for a quick fix, choose a waterproof mascara formula for extra security and keep your hands away from your eyes. 


Meet the experts

Ashley Nichole Gibson is a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist who owns Paraposh, which provides on-site makeup services. Specialising in bridal makeup, her experience also extends to training and education for cosmetic brands, conducting master classes at Ulta, and working as a makeup artist at QVC for beauty brands.


Laura Kay is a leading permanent makeup expert and the founder of Laura Kay London. With over 20 years of experience in the cosmetic industry, Laura opened her academy training programme in 2015, teaching her world-class skills to the next generation of permanent makeup artists.


Azesha Ramcharan is a makeup artist based in NY’s Hudson Valley region. Clients have included NBC, The Juilliard School, Hessel Museum of Art, Craftsy, and VOZ.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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