Top Reasons Why Your Mascara Smudges On You

We’ve all been there. Working through our day, sitting through meetings, talking with co-workers, only to catch a glimpse of ourselves in the bathroom mirror at lunch time to discover that the expensive lengthening, volumizing mascara we applied that morning has left smudges and flakes beneath our eyes. While we try to tell ourselves that no one mentioned it to us because no one noticed, we have a sinking feeling that this is not true. The truth is, no one likes to tell someone else that their mascara has smeared.

To top off the aggravation, when we remove the mascara smudges beneath our eyes, it also means inadvertently removing our carefully applied under-eye concealer as well.

So why does this embarrassing makeup mishap keep occurring, and is there anything we can do to avoid it?

Factor in the Formula

It’s important to remember that mascara begins as a liquid or gel inside the tube. Exposure to air dries it fairly quickly, but most products will eventually return to their original composition, especially when exposed to heat and moisture. This means that even if there is no rain, your mascara may eventually react to the warm temperature of your body and return to a liquid or gel state. That means it will easily smudge, smear, and migrate beneath the eyes. Even the best waterproof mascara begins as a liquid, so while it may be highly resistant to smudging and can last through rain and tears, it is formulated to be removed with oils, so contact with natural oils may cause even great waterproof mascara to smear.

Look, Don’t Touch

It may seem like a no-brainer, but one of the most common causes of mascara smudging is simply that we rub our eyes or scratch our eyelids. No matter how careful we are, in the midst of our typically busy days, we may not even realize that we are doing this. If we are tired, rubbing our eyes comes naturally, and we have to try to be hyper-aware of our carefully applied mascara and eye makeup to avoid the relieving rub. The only other option is to get more sleep, and we all know how difficult it is to make that happen.

A Little Flakey 

If the smudges you are seeing beneath your eyes appear to have flakes in them, it may be time for a new mascara. Many people don’t realize that mascara products come with an expiration date. Mascara should be tossed out and replaced after three months of use. Using mascara past this time period means you are probably applying mascara that’s dried out, and dry mascara tends to flake.

While the best lengthening mascara works miracles to lengthen even the skimpiest lashes, it’s more important than ever to replace your lengthening mascara after three months of use. The tiny polymer fibers that work so well to lengthen your lashes, may increase the amount of flaking and smudging that appears beneath your eyes if you are using it past its expiration date.

Blot the Oil Away

Most mascara formulas are made to be removed with makeup removers which typically contain oils and emollients. Those oils are intended to dissolve mascara back into its liquid form in order to remove it. This is especially true of waterproof mascara which requires an oil to be fully cleaned away from the eyelashes. The unfortunate flaw in this scenario is the fact that our skin produces oils on its own. If you have naturally oily skin you may find yourself dealing with mascara smudges more often than most.

One way to avoid this, is to carefully blot the eye and under-eye area with oil absorbent tissue, cloth, or blotting paper before applying your mascara. Removing the excess oil from around the eyes will help to keep your mascara intact throughout the day.

Skip the Moisturizer

While moisturizing is essential, you can minimize mascara smudging by saving your intense eye creams and deep moisturizing lotions for the evening, after you’ve removed your makeup. Applying more moisture and oils to the area around your eyes in the morning is inviting mascara smudges. If you do feel that you need a morning eye cream or daily moisturizer, be sure you are allowing 15 to 20 minutes of drying time before applying your mascara. You can also try lightly powdering the area around your eyes with a translucent face powder before applying your mascara.

Avoid the Overcoat

Piling on the product is another major cause of mascara smudging. Mascara is formulated to stick to the rough surface of your natural eyelashes. If you apply more than two coats, you will be asking your mascara to stick to the smooth, waxy surface of the previous mascara coat. Mascara doesn’t adhere to this smooth surface as well as it does to your natural lashes, and this is inviting smears and smudges.

Over applying also weighs your lashes down, making them more likely to brush against your skin, where they pick up your natural oils and result in smudging.

If you really want to layer on the mascara for a super-plump lash look, try using waterproof mascara. Waterproof mascara is less likely to smudge, but may be harsh on the eyelashes and shouldn’t be used on a daily basis.

Lower Lash Lighten-Up

Going light on the mascara on your bottom lashes may help to avoid mascara smudges. You may notice that the bottom lashes curl against your skin, whereas the top lashes curl up, out, and away from your face. This means that gravity may encourage more mascara migration from the bottom lashes onto your under-eye area. Going very lightly when applying mascara to the lower lashes will help to keep your mascara in place.

Mascara is a must-have in every makeup bag. No makeup look is complete without it. Understanding what causes the mortifying mascara smudge will help you to avoid it in the future and get the most out of your favorite mascara.

Resources— Marie Claire,, 

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