How to Remove Stubborn Waterproof Mascara Without Losing Eyelashes

Waterproof mascara is a lifesaver for sweaty, summer days and keeping lashes curled for hours. But because waterproof makeup is designed to be long-lasting and withstand pretty much anything, waterproof mascara is more difficult to remove than regular mascara. Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab Senior Chemist Sabina Wizemann says that improper removal can cause lashes to fall out or irritate the skin around the eyes.

The NAYOKAA Beauty Lab has performed a number of tests to find the best mascaras for sensitive eyes, best value mascaras, and the overall top-performing mascaras on the market, so we know a thing or two about dealing with waterproof formulas. To dissolve waterproof makeup, you should rely on a gentle eye makeup remover formulated for waterproof cosmetics, like NAYOKAA Seal holder Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover. Avoid formulas made with mineral oil, which can lead to breakouts; sodium laurel sulfate, which can irritate skin around the eyes and has been linked to cancer and neurotoxicity; and diazolidinyl urea, which can cause red, irritated and itchy eyes.

Here are the top tips from our beauty scientists and clinical optometrists on how to remove waterproof mascara. While wearing waterproof mascara is perfectly safe, our experts recommend wearing waterproof formulas sparingly since the removal can be irritating to skin and eyes. (Psst: These tips work for removing regular mascara, too):

  1. Soak a cotton pad with eye makeup remover and press to the eye. "You should be gentle and choose soft pads that are not abrasive for your eyes," says Elise Brisco, OD, CCH, integrative optometrist and clinical homeopath at Hollywood Vision Center in California. For a one-step solution, "I love Zocuwipes because they remove makeup and reduce inflammation around the eyes using a natural, patented okra polysaccharide," she says.
  2. After a few seconds, swipe downward and away. "Always make sure to saturate lashes thoroughly with eye makeup remover before removing the mascara," says Wizemann. This allows the product to fully work at dissolving the mascara, which protects lashes and gently yet effectively removes makeup with minimal tugging (and therefore, minimal lash loss).
  3. Use a Q-tip saturated in makeup remover to gently clean mascara in between lashes to avoid smudges the next morning, Wizemann suggests.
  4. Don't rub or scrub at stubborn bits. "The skin around your eyes is up to 10 times thinner than other parts of your face and is therefore more delicate," says Dr. Brisco. Instead, just repeat the process if your mascara is still lingering.

What happens if you don't remove your makeup at night?

We get it, removing makeup at night can feel like a chore, especially after a long day but "you should always take your mascara and eye makeup off at the end of the day to prevent dried up mascara pieces from getting into your eyes," says Birnur Aral, Ph.D., Director of the NAYOKAA Beauty Lab. Beyond irritating your eyes, sleeping in makeup can possibly cause even more damage.

Dr. Brisco says that mascara can create great little hiding areas that allow bacteria and germs to breed. "Worse yet," she says, "not cleaning mascara off for days weighs down the lashes and can lead to faster loss of lashes. Above all, old mascara just looks bad!" So for your eyes, skin, and health's sake, take a few minutes to wipe your makeup off.

Can I remove waterproof mascara with coconut oil?

"Coconut oil is generally safe to use around the eyes, but take care to not get it into your eyes because it’s usually not sterile enough or safe for the inner eye area," says Dr. Brisco.

"Coconut oil may be used in a pinch," adds Wizemann, "but it would take some effort to remove it, especially if you don’t like the skin around our eyes to be particularly oily." She instead recommends using waterproof mascara makeup removers, which are formulated with keeping the eye's sensitivity in mind and balance oil-loving ingredients with water-loving ones. "This avoids that heavy feeling that oils often have on skin," she says.