Diary / Beauty / May 16, 2023
How to Keep Your Mascara from Smudging: 5 Easy Tips
Written by: Piper Gray
Photography by: Ben Ritter & Jon Paterson
Mascara is one of the easiest products to apply, and one of the simplest ways to transform your look. Just one coat can profoundly define your eyes and awaken your face. And even though it doesn’t require much expertise to build into your routine, mascara smudging can happen at any time—even to professional makeup artists. Once you understand the common culprits, there are simple steps you can take to prevent annoying smudges, smears, and running.
Understanding Why Mascara Smudges
The Oils in Your Skin
Anyone with oily skin knows how easily makeup can smear or smudge, no matter how precisely every product was applied and if you used just the right amount. But even if you’re experiencing dramatically dry skin, your skin still has naturally occurring oils. And eyelids, no matter your skin type, might be naturally oily. Too much oil will almost always sabotage makeup, despite our best efforts.
Heat, Moisture, and Sweat
Commuting on a packed subway in the summer, working out before fully removing the day’s makeup, or getting caught in the rain—it's almost inevitable that you'll experience smudged mascara thanks to heat and sweating. You can’t always avoid these circumstances, but it’s possible your skincare is contributing to the issue.
You should always moisturize before applying your makeup to prime your skin, but excess product—especially if it hasn’t had enough time to fully absorb—can lead to smears. And when coupled with an already moist environment, your favorite mascara is no match for too much of your preferred balm, cream, or serum.
Rubbing your eyes will almost always keep your mascara from staying put. If this is a common habit, this may be a sign that you’re having a reaction to the particular mascara you’re using or the formula is flaking into your eyes. Or perhaps seasonal allergies are to blame.
Daily mascara smudges might indicate that you should use a different mascara wand and bristles for your preferred application. For example, if you are applying mascara to your bottom lash with bristles that are full and long, a mascara wand specifically constructed for those shorter hairs is less likely to transfer the color. We love our inky offering, The Mascara, as its wand is curved to delicately coat similarly short inner lashes as well as lengthen outer lashes.
Tips to Help Prevent Your Mascara From Smudging
Start with clean lashes
Even if you dutifully removed all leftover mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow before bed the evening before, start every morning by making sure your face is clean before applying makeup; that means suitably cleaning any moisturizers, serums, or topical medications you put on before bed. Applying today’s makeup over yesterday’s, or last evening’s, products is practically a guarantee that your eyes will experience some sort of smudging or smearing.
This step is also especially important if you used an oil-based cleanser to dissolve your makeup. Removing makeup with a product like our Cleansing Stick will clear away the longest-lasting products in your routine, but it’s important to follow up with a different water-based cleanser. That will fully sweep away any flakes or pigment that the oil may have nudged into your lashes along with any oiliness inadvertently left behind. (You may have heard this routine referred to as double-cleansing.)
Take your time and moisturize
We know that moisturizing daily is key, and if this is already part of your routine, it can be easy to quickly rush through this step before applying your makeup in the morning. But when it comes to eye makeup, it’s especially important to make sure your moisturizer has time to settle in sufficiently. And even though you’re not applying moisturizer directly to your eyelids, of course, your favorite balm or lotion can migrate, particularly if you’re slapping on your favorite product in a rush. (Smudges? Almost guaranteed.) Plus, if you’re using an eye cream to hydrate underneath your bottom lash, give it an extra moment to fully absorb so you’re less likely to see the signs of mascara transfer.
Also consider dusting a powder below your bottom lashes before you swipe on your first coat of mascara. Our Tinted Face Powder blends into your skin for a natural-looking finish and brightens your eye area—but even better, if mascara strays, you can gently and simply wipe away the powder to remove the smudges.
Prep your lashes
Curling your lashes doesn’t just freshen up your look, but this will also boost your lashes at the base so you’re less likely to experience smudging or flaking underneath the eyes. Once you’ve used your curler, pause before applying mascara all the way to the very ends. Now that the tips of your lashes are lifted, color applied to the ends could transfer to right below your browline.
Consider how you’re applying
We’ve mentioned that switching to a different mascara wand with different bristles may help if your mascara continues to transfer. This is a good solution if the areas under your eyes continue to experience smudges, but it may be even simpler to forgo applying mascara on the bottom lashes altogether. Given the hairs’ closeness to the undereye area, which tends to crinkle when you smile, sometimes mascara applied to bottom lashes more easily rubs off. And if you deal with undereye circles, no matter how expertly you’ve corrected that discoloration (especially with something as foolproof as The Face Pencil), the last thing you want is unwanted darkness.
Applying multiple coats of mascara adds volume and dimension but take care to make sure you’re not adding color to the backside of your top lashes. That will almost certainly lead to smudging above the eye.
Think about waterproof mascara
When you find yourself in a humid climate and other moisture-filled situations (like if you’re spending the day at the pool), these moments might call for waterproof mascara. Its formula is less likely to budge or run off when you’re sweating or tearing up.
The Bottom Line
Smudges and smears from mascara happen to even the best of us, but learning how to master a few methods to make sure it doesn’t transfer or run off is simple.