3 Ways to Remove Waterproof Mascara Without Losing Lashes

Three super-effective techniques vetted by makeup pros.


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Whether you’re a makeup minimalist or routinely go full glam, mascara is often one of the non-negotiable makeup items that help bring any look to completion. While this miracle-working stuff makes lashes look long and thick, it does come with a rude caveat: It’s a beast to remove no matter the formula. This leads to scrubbing, rubbing, pulling, and wiping—all of which put your lashes at risk, irritate your delicate skin, and still leave you with residual mascara everywhere. 

“You [can cause you to] lose lashes immediately—they will literally fall out into your cotton pad. You can also make your lashes thinner and they will not be as strong,” warns Maria Hatzistefanis, beauty expert and co-founder of Rodial. “The skin around your eyes will also be irritated. This skin is really delicate and needs to be protected.” 

So how do you remove stubborn mascara without damaging lashes or making your skin angry? We’ve got three foolproof options that’ll put this beauty dilemma in your rear window for good. 

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Use a Cleansing Balm or Oil

No mascara stands a chance against a cleansing balm or oil, even if it’s a super stubborn waterproof formula. Also known as “dry cleansing,” these oil-based products are directly massaged onto dry skin and lashes. “You will see mascara and eye makeup literally melt off,” Hatzistefanis says. 

It’ll also gently remove foundation, other makeup, skincare products, dirt, and oil. After massaging, simply rinse with water and watch everything go down the sink. You can spend some extra time gently massaging your lashes, and if necessary go in for a double cleanse by repeating the process or following up with a secondary cleanser. As a bonus, cleansing balms and oils help condition and moisturize. 

Shop: Then I Met You Cleansing Balm ($38), Rodial Bee Venom Cleansing Balm ($55), or Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm ($18). 

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Try Micellar Water

You can thank the French for this incredible skincare invention, which leverages science to give you an incredibly gentle, effective cleanse. In a nutshell, tiny micelles latch onto makeup and debris to break them down for easier removal. Celebrity makeup artist Sara Talias says this is her preferred method for gently removing mascara from lashes. 

“I saturate a round cotton pad with Bioderma Micellar Water and hold the cotton pad over my eyes for at least 30 seconds,” she explains. “Then I gently wipe the mascara away and take off the rest of my makeup.” 

If you notice residual mascara, you can repeat this process as necessary and/or follow up with a second cleanser. An oil-based cleanser or traditional cleanser are good follow up options if you’re wearing a lot of other makeup or skincare products and want a nice, deep clean.

Shop: Along with Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water Makeup Remover ($13), check out Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water ($10), or Drunk Elephant E-Rase Milki Micellar Water ($28). 

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Spritz a Making Melting Spray

The above methods for removing mascara without losing lashes are easy peasy, but if you’re looking for an even simpler “lazy girl” solution then opt for a spray-on product. 

“I spray this all over my face and my makeup immediately starts to melt off,” says Allison Kaye, celebrity makeup artist, who notes that her favorite option is The Makeup Remover Spray from Skindinavia ($29). “After [waiting a few seconds], I will take a makeup wipe and begin to gently remove my makeup with long gentle strokes—not rubbing.”

Repeat this process if you notice any lingering mascara, or go for a double cleanse with micellar water, a cleansing balm, or traditional cleanser. 

Shop: Kaye’s favorite option is a good one, but we also like Go Off Makeup Dissolving Mist from One/Size by Patrick Starrr ($24) and Charlotte Tilbury Take It All Off Bi-Phase Longwear Makeup Remover For Eyes, Lashes & Lips ($32).

After cleansing, make sure to follow up with your skincare routine. If your lashes need some TLC after all those times you did go at them, try a lash conditioner or growth serum. Either way, it’ll help your lash line look full, glossy, and healthy. 

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