How Do You Keep Your Mascara From Smudging?

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To


Hey, girls. Raise your hands if you’ve ever had trubs with mascara smudging at the end of the night. Yes, I’ve been there, done that, too. MBB Babe Amanda recently sent an email asking what she could do to avoid the dreaded end-of-the-night (or day) mascara smudge, and I thought ya’ll might be able to help.


Amanda would like to know…

Mascara application seems to be easy, but at the end of the night (after the party), I can see smudges below my eye (right on the eye circles). I believe these are mascara smudges because they’re black … and they don’t look really pretty. ๐Ÿ™

Can you give me advice and some techniques on how to apply mascara PROPERLY, so I can avoid these smudges in the future?

Heya, Amanda. I’ve noticed three things when it comes to avoiding the dreaded mascara smudge at the end of the night.

First, waterproof doesn’t necessarily mean smudge-proof. Maybelline Great Lash Waterproof Mascara, for example, tends to smudge on me, so it’s not a given that waterproof products won’t ever smudge.

Second, I always make sure I’ve removed any excess mascara from the wand before I use it. Before I apply mascara, I’ll gently swipe the brush head against a clean paper towel. Just one quick swipe is fine. It removes any extra mascara from the brush and seems to make a big difference in terms of reducing smudging for me.


Third, no two mascaras are alike when it comes to smudging. You might need to try a few before you find one that won’t smudge on you, but two mascaras I DON’T recommend are Maybelline Great Lash ($5) and Givenchy Phenom Eyes ($28). They tend to smudge like mad on me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll smudge on you. To a degree, it boils down to trial and error and personal preference.

Here are a few mascaras that I’ve had good luck with: Stila Lash Visor ($12.50), Clinique High Impact Curling Mascara ($14), Chanel Exceptionnel Mascara ($30), MAC Mascara X ($12.50) and L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black ($8).

If you end up trying any of these, purchase your tube from a store with a good return policy (like Sephora or Rite Aid), and save your receipt. That way, you can return it if it doesn’t work out. ๐Ÿ™‚

MBB gals, do you have any other advice for Amanda? Are you, too, plagued by smudgy mascara?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Kate & Zena says:

    Hm, I haven’t been plagued with smudgy mascara since I switched over to Almay Triple Effect Mascara. I don’t suggest going to the waterproof unless you’re really going to be sweating it out as it normally takes me TWO cotton balls to remove the waterproof formula.

    What’s really kinda nifty about the regular formula of the Almay Triple Effect mascara is that it’s waterproof yet easy to remove. I wore this mascara ironically when my old dog passed away. I cried for hours on end yet before I took my shower I looked in the mirror and noticed that that mascara was still stuck on my lashes. I’ve worn the non-waterproof through rain, sleet, snow and tears and it still stays on! It’s even infused with aloe and B vitamins to keep your lashes healthy!

    If you want to know how it works, julieg713 has a review on the waterproof version here->

  2. xtina says:

    YES! I have Chanel Inimitable Mascara in Waterproof and it smudges like mad, and then I can’t get it off! Advice PUHLEASE. I can’t bear to throw this stuff out.

  3. cloudburst says:

    Hi Karen

    Great Lash Waterproof never smudges on me except if I rub my eyes with hot water! I find that my mascara & eye makeup in general smudges less when I make sure to powder the eye area well before I put anything on (but after concealer/foundation).

  4. joanne says:

    I’m really big on the “tube” mascaras. Currently, I’m all about L’Oreal “beauty tubes” in blackest black. I can rub my eyes all I want and it won’t move. However, if you cry a lot, then it will come off (but in flakes, so still no racooning).

  5. Chrissa says:

    Even waterproof mascaras can smudge on the lower lashes, as primarily skin oils dissolve the mascara. (Which is why oil based makeup removers are used to remove waterproof mascaras. Skin oils act the same way.)

    Avon Wash Off Waterproof gets really high ratings on MUA (4.1 and 81% rebuy with almost 200 reviews).

  6. Briana says:

    I’ve been using Maybelline Full and Soft, and its been really good for not smudging. I was using the maybelline on in the green tube before, I can’t remember what its called, but it was pretty good for not smudging too.

    Briana´s last blog post..Flames Game!

  7. Citrine says:

    I like to use those fibrous ones, like Anna Sui lengthening mascara, since the mascara are adhering on the fibers rather than directly to your lashes…so it seems to have a better staying power

    I’ve tried maybeline great lash, unstoppable, xxl…they are turned me into a racoon…(Boo!)

    Citrine´s last blog post..MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner in Popster

  8. lesley says:

    I enjoy the tubing mascaras, most especially Clinique’s line, either Lash Power or High Impact Curling. They last all day, easy to apply, and easy to remove ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m not so much a fan of waterproof mascaras since I found that they dry my lashes and I get more lash fallout. That said, I like using Clinique’s Lash Primer before applying my volumizing mascaras such as Benefit BadGal (especially with Plum to play up the colour more) and DiorShow Blackout. From my experience of trial and error, Clinique’s Lash Primer gives enough volume and length in addition to helping my mascaras go a whole day smudge free. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Stephie says:

    Ooo. I agree about Clinique’s Lash primer. It does help add the extra volume and makes it easier for mascara to stick to my skinny lashes, in my opinion. I need to use less mascara which I think helps w/ the smudging b/c w/o it I pack that mascara ON.

    Btw, Guess what Karen? The new costco by my house had Bobbi Brown’s Pink Shimmer Brick for 21.99!! and her mini brush set for 34, and Mac Handwritten shadow for $11. I was about to grab that shimmer brick up but I know my mom woulda given me that ‘you should just buy makeup from avon look’ ๐Ÿ˜›

  10. M says:

    After I put on mascara I then coat my lashes with Benefit’s SheLaq. It works pretty well.

  11. Sheila says:

    Clarins has an amazing mascara “raincoat” its a clear gel that you put over your lashes after mascara and it makes it completely waterproof and smudgeproof. Its really good in that you don’t have to sacrifice your favourite mascara formula for something that doesn’t perform as well but is smudge proof. Its in a white tube and I think around $20-25.

  12. charlene says:

    maybe you could try applying some form of powder under your eyes esp if you wear concealer etc to set everything including your eyeliner…sometimes that smudges and not the mascara….but try the powder thing, usually what causes smudging is oils from the skin against the product…so try powder to set the stage to prevent smudging. hope this helps!

  13. Vicky says:

    I love love love Clinique’s Lash Power Mascara. It does not smudge at all. And the best part is, it’s so easy to remove. =D

    And I think I did a review on it a while ago.

  14. jojoba says:

    girl, you have to try out Clarins Double Fix’ Mascara (Waterproofing Seal Lashes & Eyebrows)!!! it keeps all mascara staying put!!! I meant it! it saved me wasting so much money. now i can use any mascara, seriously.

    jojoba´s last blog post..Review/Swatch: Chanel Levres Scintillantes (129 Cosmo, 134 Jupiter), Lumieres Celestes Collection, Summer 2009 & Some Rouge Allure Swatches

  15. Kalyn says:

    I’ve only used one mascara so far and it has never smudged on me. It’s CoverGirl’s LashBlast Luxe Mascara. You get it tinted in subtle colors that do not turn your lash red, green, or silver like some people think. It’s just a hint that shows off in the sun for a subtle effect. I think it works extremely well for the price you pay. ($6-8) But you’ll get it half price if you catch a drugstore sale. Also, if you need waterproof they have a version of that too.

  16. Sylvie says:

    Dior Iconic doesn’t smudge but it’s really difficult to remove. Using a base like Shu Uemura’s Lash Repair or MAC’s Prep and Prime Lash will really help extend the wear time of the mascara. Even for a mascara like Zoom lash that smudges on me just a few hours after application, Prep and Prime lash has prevented it from smudging.

  17. mary says:

    The only mascara that doesn’t smudge on me is Imju Fiberwig from Sephora. It’s apparently really popular in Japan. It doesn’t smudge or flake and it comes off at night with hot water. I’ve cried and it still stayed put on my lashes.

  18. Glosslizard says:

    I have trouble with using powders under my eyes (it dries out the skin and makes it look crepey! Boo!), but sometimes I lightly dust a little translucent powder at the outside corner, right next to the lashes. It seems to cut down on mascara migration! A bonus is that using a powder with a little light reflecting action brightens up the eye area as well!

    Finding a good formula is also key, I’ve had good luck with Chanel Exceptionnel and Tarte Lights Camera Lashes (non-waterproof, the waterproof version smudged like crazy)! I want to try Lash Visor next! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. tanya says:

    great tips, Karen! I actually don’t use mascara as much bc I’m always so paranoid about the smudging. I do find that Diorshow also works reasonably well. This summer I’ll be in the south though so it will be a true test of non-smudginess (uh huh, a made-up word) ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. meimei says:

    I’ve found that what works for me doesn’t always work for everyone. The last few mascaras that I’ve tried (Maybelline Colossal Volume and CG Lash Blast in particular) have not smudged on me at all… yet I am aware that they have smudged on other people! ๐Ÿ™

    Regardless, my trick to keep the stuff from smudging is to not put too much of it on in the first place. Most times I just take a piece of tissue paper and wipe just the end of the brush on it, which takes care of those extra drops of mascara that tend to gunk up on the lashes. No need to wipe down the whole brush; just take care of the bristle ends and the tip.

  21. bj says:

    I’m not big into waterproof formulas alone, but as a topcoat i find it helps keep my lashes from smudging. I use diorshow or l’oreal voluminous, then stila lash visor or volume exact waterproof and it seals the deal for me.

  22. My mascara always ends up smudging on the lower lashes, so that, if someone is close to me, I have that raccoon thing going on. So unpleasant. I attribute it to a lack of talent in the mascara-applying department.

    Cafe Fashionista´s last blog post..Princess for a Day

  23. Leeng says:

    I find that all mascaras tend to smear when I use them on my lower lashes (I’ve tried all brands – from the drugstores to the department stores). What I do now is simply leave my lower lash line free of mascara but I still use eyeliner on both my water line and lower lid.

  24. Kate & Zena says:

    Thanks, Karen. She passed away almost two years ago but it still hurts. We have Zena now but I still have my bad days.

  25. penelope says:

    just use clear mascara on top of your regular mascara

  26. Gigi says:

    I’m the self-proclaimed queen of finding mascaras that don’t smudge on me. It’s my biggest pet peeve for makeup, HANDS DOWN! If you can get your hands on it, try out Japanese mascaras as they tend to be VERY long-wearing. SANA’s Extra Large mascara is one of my faves – I could probably wear if for days and it wouldn’t smudge. Ever.

    The only other non-tubing, “regular” mascara that I’ve tried that doesn’t smudge is L’Oreal Voluminous Waterproof. It smudges just a tiiiiiiny bit at the end of the day but I can live with that.

    Apart from those though, definitely try tubing mascaras. I like Imju Fiberwig, Clinique Lash Power, and have yet to try L’Oreal Double Extend Beauty Tubes – I’ll try it out when my Voluminous goes wonky ๐Ÿ˜€

  27. Amanda says:

    mine doesn’t smudge on bottom, but sometimes on top….when i’m applying I will somehow get black in my creases. I don’t know how I do this!

    But what I want to know is what mascaras are these beauties in your photo?

  28. Karen says:

    Hi Leeng,

    I do that a lot, too. Sometime I bust out the Tarte bottoms up when I’m in the mood for mascara on my lower lash line, though. Have you heard of it? It’s a special mascara designed just for the lower lash line.

  29. Sheila says:

    Lately the only ones that don’t smudge on me are Maybelline’s Lash Stiletto and Mirenesse’s Secret Weapon. They are both easy to take off and don’t flake off onto my contacts.

  30. naira says:

    i second the almay triple effect mascara, big time! bcs the weather here is always humid, mascara smudging is almost a given. the almay works well- I just make sure to swipe it once w/a paper towel bcs it’s a little “wet” out of the tube. bonus: it’s cheap!

  31. Jay says:

    I have the same smudging problem too. I found a tip online that worked really well for me. Use blotting paper to absorb the oil under your eyes then add some powder. Normally, my mascara smudge after 3 hours, but this method kept my eyes smudge free until 6 hours. But then there’s only a tiny bit of smudging, barely noticeable. After 10 hours, I notice a little bit more smudging. But not a black ring on my bottom lash line like before.

  32. Kathleen says:

    I swipe a qtip back and forth along my lashes after I have applied my mascara to get rid of any excess. I rarely ever have lush smudgies and I use a lot of mascara!

  33. Chantale says:

    Hi! After watching many YouTube reviews on different mascaras, I chose Lรขโ‚ฌโ„ขOreal Voluminous Carbon Black. I was tired of smudging mascaras. Guess what? This L’Oreal mascara is the worst of all on me… The one that was the best for me, and I’m thinking about going buy one right away, is the Sephora Bare Escentuals. This one isn’t smudging at all on me. I won’t throw the l’Oreal’s at the waste basket! I’ll use it only for upper lashes and save the Sephora’s for the lower ones.

  34. Jill says:

    So far, I haven’t found any mascara that doesn’t smudge on me and I always use a waterproof version. The one mascara that smudged the least and which I felt was the best all around mascara for me was L’Oreal’s Panoramic Curl. Unfortunately, like most of my favorite beauty supplies, they chose to discontinue it. I wish I could still get some of that mascara…it was so great! If anyone knows of a similar formula that might be a good substitue, I’d definitely appreciate it.

  35. Sue says:

    I absolutely LOVE Clinique Lash Power and it comes off with ease!! I am reading the comments hoping to find something cheaper, but if all else fails, I will stick with Clinique!! When I need my lashes to last 24 hours, I use their Lash Primer to help plump my skinny lashes. I’m going to give the Almay Triple Affect a try. Wish me luck!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Nancy says:

    I grew up with Covergirl Professional all-in-one curved brush mascara which doesn’t budge. I’ve been using it since elementary school. My other two faves are Imju fibre wig and Diorshow. Another tip for minimizing smudges, picked up from a bona fide makeup insider, – use a less pigmented mascara. Noir and very intense blacks tend to smudge more because of the formulations. Blackish browns, soft black and charcoals are good choices. If you have black lashes naturally, blackish brown will come up more black than brown because of your natural lashes.

  37. Hannah says:

    I have the same problem and my friend and I, who are both Asian find that mascara tends to smudge on the bottom of the eyes, just below the lash line.
    I’m not sure whether it’s my eyes or whether its the mascara.
    Do you think I should buy a lash primer?
    ~Hannah xx

  38. Jill S. says:

    Because my skin tends to be oily and the topography of my face (deep lids and puffy cheeks) mascara just melts and slides off and within an a few hours I have dark rings under my eyes. I tried all the waterproof mascaras over the years and finally realized that waterproof was not what I needed. I needed something that was specifically smudge proof, something that wouldn’t be dissolved by skin oil, motion and heat I ended up finding Bobbi Brown’s No Smudge Masacara and even though it is terribly pricey I continue to buy it because it works. I wear it all day, over 12 hours with no significant smudging. The trade off is that it only comes in black and that it is not the best mascara if you’re looking for big volume and length in your lashes. That doesn’t bother me however. Now I can wear mascara even on hot humid days and not have it melt off.

  39. Lauren says:

    I just bought a tube of that new gel-mousse mascara (Maybelline Mega Plush Volum’ Express Mascara) and it’s wonderful!! My eyelashes don’t feel hard, there is very little to no smudging, and it removes really easily. I would definitely recommend it. ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Ruth says:

    The ONLY Mascara that ever worked for me was Neutrogena’s no wax formula . . but alas, they stopped making it ๐Ÿ™ Tragedy! I think the “no wax” in the ingredients was the key – but I have been unable to find another no wax mascara anywhere! They usually contain beeswax or something similar.

  41. DizzyBlueBaby says:

    If you’re using an oil based eye makeup remover (I was using baby oil!!)switch to one thatรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs oil free. What apparently was happening was that no matter how well I washed my face, traces of the oil remained on my lashes, allowing even my waterproof mascara to smudge since the oils weren’t letting it adhere to the lash. Since I changed to a completely oil-free makeup remover, I haven’t had the issues with smudging. A pretty simple fix that might work for others as well!

  42. Laurene says:

    I use L’Oreal double extend. It has the primer and then the mascara. It is made from a polymer and creates these little “tubes” on your lashes that stay on like crazy and lengthen as well. You can create longer lashes the more coats you put on but you have to be careful with application because it can stick to other lashes and get clumpy. I notice this especially when the mascara is nearly empty. Then I purchased the new fiber lashes from Amazon. It’s about $30 but it last forever. It’s a two step process and I only use it if I am going out or participating in a ballroom dance competition. The L’Oreal mascara slips off the lashes with a warm wash cloth and does NOT stain your wash cloth! No eye make up remover needed!!! It’s the best I have found for not smudging. It doesn’t at all. I have worn it for 12 hours without a smudge. It was voted best beauty product or 2014!

  43. Meghan says:

    If you have a mascara you really love, other than when it smudges I find that topping your mascara off with a clear mascara works. This is what I do, I have really small eyes and I find every mascara I’ve ever tried does this, waterproof or not.

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