We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished washing your face, gently dab away the excess moisture with a clean towel, and then look up in the mirror to see a pair of raccoon eyes staring right back at you. Needless to say, removing waterproof mascara can get a little bit tricky. After all, it’s waterproof!
If you’re here to learn how to remove waterproof mascara—without tugging on your delicate eye area or waking up to leftover marks on your pillow—we’re here to help. Just follow these easy steps.
Step 1: Apply an Oil-Based Cleanser to Dry Skin
It might seem counterintuitive, but oil-based cleansers—including cleansing balms—should be applied to dry skin using dry hands. Using an oil-based cleanser on wet skin won’t allow the product to work as efficiently. Essentially, the oils in the cleanser attract the oils on your skin and break down the waterproof mascara and other makeup. Simply apply a dime-sized amount to a clean cotton pad and apply it to the eye area that way.
Try IT: Bye Bye Makeup Cleansing Balm
Our best makeup remover for waterproof mascara is Bye Bye Makeup Cleansing Balm, a 3-in-1, sulfate-free cleansing balm that gently melts away all traces of makeup—even waterproof mascara and eye makeup—without irritating or drying skin.
“This is a great make-up remover. It takes off all my make-up including waterproof mascara. It melts into my skin and it leaves my skin feeling soft,” says one reviewer on itcosmetics.com. Another says, “It melts the makeup off and leaves my skin nice and soft. So many cleansers don’t get it all but this does. I love it!”
Step 2: Massage for About a Minute
Gently massage the cleansing balm or oil around the eye area using a circular motion. You can use your fingertips to help break down stubborn, waterproof mascara and makeup on your lashes and around your eyes.
Pro Tip: For a deeper clean and an extra boost of hydration, allow the cleansing balm to set for about a minute.
Step 3: Rinse With Warm Water
Once you’ve adequately broken down the product on your face, you can rinse with lukewarm water. The water shouldn’t be hot since that can be drying, and it shouldn’t be cold since that can make it more difficult to remove the oil.
As an alternative, some people like to simply remove the cleansing balm or oil with a clean cloth (damp or dry). This technique works if you weren’t wearing a lot of makeup, or if you have dry skin and prefer the extra moisture.
Step 4: Gently Pat Dry
Once you’ve finished rinsing the cleansing balm from your skin, use a clean, dry towel to gently pat dry. Try not to rub or scrape your skin since this can be irritating.
Pro Tip: Because waterproof mascara can sometimes be more drying on your lashes than non-waterproof, we recommend giving your delicate lashes some extra TLC. Our favorite is Tightline™ Waterproof 3-in-1 Mascara, which is a conditioning primer, eyeliner, and mascara all in one! Infused with peptides, hydrolyzed collagen, proteins and antioxidants, the innovative formula helps to keep your lashes beautiful, healthy and lush.
Step 5: Touch Up With Micellar Water (if Necessary)
Any residual mascara should be very minimal, but sometimes it’s hard to remove every last bit from your lashes. If you notice some waterproof mascara lingering, simply soak a cotton swab or pad in micellar water and use it to gently remove whatever’s left. No need to rinse!
Try IT: Miracle Water 3-in-1 Micellar Cleanser
This game-changing tonic magically removes makeup in one simple swipe. Miracle Water 3-in-1 Micellar Cleanser works by attracting, trapping, and removing makeup, dirt, and impurities from your skin. It’s also formulated with a potent Anti-Aging Treatment Essence to help diffuse the look of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as a Skin-Brightening Radiance Booster to help visibly purify, balance, and brighten.
“[It] really takes any extra makeup off. I have tried many other products and this one really does the trick and agrees with my skin,” writes one reviewer on itcosmetics.com. Another says, “I've been using this for quite a while. I love it especially when I'm in a hurry and just need to remove all traces of makeup. And it leaves my skin feeling clean and not dry!”
Pro Tip: Micellar water is also an incredible product for fixing mistakes! For example, a little bit on the end of a cotton swab can fix a cat-eye gone wrong, or a saturated cotton pad can remove eyeshadow if you want to start over.
And now you know how to remove waterproof mascara like a pro! Don’t forget to moisturize your skin after you’ve finished cleansing. If you’re not sure which moisturizer is best for your skin type, check out our overview on 8 Different Types of Moisturizer To Know and Try.