How to Remove Excess Mascara from Your Eyelids Without Messing Up Your Makeup

Published in: Makeup Tips/How To

Don’t you hate it when you finish your eye makeup and then go to put on your mascara and accidentally swipe the brush against your lids or your lower lash line?



Maybe it’s just because I’m uncoordinated and always in a hurry, but I do it all the time. To clean up the extra bits and bobs of mascara along my lower lash lines and lids that these mascara mishaps cause, I used to lightly dab a Q-tip moistened with makeup remover on the trouble spot(s), but I was never in love with that method. It was unprecise (like wielding a club in my clumsy hands), and whenever I used it I usually ended up also disrupting my eyeshadow, primer and concealer, too.


Yesterday I tried a new technique, and so far I love the results! Thankfully, it only took, oh, 22 years of wearing makeup to figure this out. Better late than never, I suppose. πŸ™‚

Now, I dampen a thin concealer brush with eye makeup remover (you could even moisten the brush with a makeup remover wipe), and then carefully use the brush to precisely apply makeup remover to the problem areas. Then, using a pointed eyeshadow eye brush like the MAC 219, I lift away any excess product now loosened up by the remover.

The process is just delicate enough, although a tad time consuming, not to disturb the makeup beneath it, but it takes me less time than repairing my makeup after a Q-tip’s been involved.

I bet that other thin, skinny concealer-like brushes would also work great, like an old lip brush you might have laying around, or maybe even something like a Sonia Kashuk Bent Brush. Just as long as it’s thin and precise, it should fare better than a Q-tip.

Since we’re on the topic of touchups, do you have any tips or advice? How do you clean up minor makeup mishaps without disturbing your overall look?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Vonvon says:

    There is this product called Swabplus(the brand), that has remover pre-packed into the tube of the Q-tips. You just need to break the tip at one end, and the remover liquid will flow into the cotton on the other end, and you can use it to clear up mascara, and mascara smudges. They have other products in the range too, like lipstick remover, eye makeup remover, nail polish corrector. Hmmm… I think I should review this in my blog soon. πŸ™‚
    Vonvon recently posted … A-Blush-A-Day- No 16- Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream 5 – Swatches &amp Review

  2. Good tutorial, and this first photo is so… dark! In a very good way.

  3. raisa says:

    I actually apply mascara before any other eye makeup so I can swab my smudges away- because I always smudge! It might take getting used to applying eyeshadow after mascara, but after a bit of practice, I have no problems πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Hi Raisa,

      Do you wear eyeshadow as well? What do you when little bits of shadow get on your lashes?

      • raisa says:

        I do wear primer, eyeshadow, liquid liner- the works! I’m usually quite careful about patting on eyeshadow, but the couple of times I have had shadow get stuck on my lashes, I’ve just had to veeery carefully apply another coat of mascara- that’s where your tips will definitely come in handy!
        But you do get used to it after a while πŸ™‚

  4. Beatrice says:

    another trick that I learned somewhere along the line is when you get mascara on you lids, just wait for the mascara to dry (even though it kills me not to quickly fix it every time! lol) and then with a dry cotton swab, lightly brush it away. It honestly works and my makeup stays in perfect place πŸ™‚
    Beatrice recently posted … Fairytale Inspired Tutorial- The Princess And The Pea

  5. Kim says:

    See? And this is why your makeup always looks so perfect! πŸ™‚ I’m actually much lazier. I put liner on first, then mascara. Then after the mascara dries (and I’ve wiped off any spots with a damp Qtip, that I actually just lick), I put on my shadow. I can see where this method might not be very good for smokey eyes or when using shadows with a lot of fallout. But for my everyday looks, it works well. πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Hi Kim!

      So, kinda off topic, but I need — NEED! — to talk to someone about Game of Thrones. I’m all caught up in the series now and all I have to say is holy crap, did that guy really chop off that horse head?!? And was that kid nursing from his mum, like, eight?!? And did Ned really get stabbed in the calf? I mean, seriously. I can see why the books kept you up late.

      • Kim says:

        HAHA! I love the off-topic! I usually know more about that than makeup. πŸ™‚

        OK, yes! The Mountain (Gregor Clegane, the Hound’s brother) is a monster. He held the Hound’s face in burning coals for playing with his knight doll, which he didn’t even care about, when the Hound was like 6 years old. If Gregor has a redeeming quality, the books have yet to reveal it!

        Lysa is a total freak and, yes, her son is like 8! They’re skimming in the show for time purposes but, trust me, she is not raising a well-adjusted child!

        The Ned stabbing is actually a little better than the book, where his leg injury is more gruesome. I’m really, really excited to see how they treat it all in the HBO series. So far, the only real changes have been for time reasons but the plot has been consistent, with the exception of one major thing which may be timing or may be a huge plot change. Oh, and the Loras/Renly plot line was suggested much later in the books but never spelled out like in the show. I’m eager for next week! πŸ™‚ Lastly, sorry it’s so long, but if you start reading the books, the first 4 are in paperback and the 5th comes out in mid-July in hardcover. I hate waiting years between books so this was the ideal time for me to start reading (obsessively).

  6. Nina says:

    My skin and my lids are naturally oily so when I smudge the mascara accidentally I just use a Q-Tip and the smudges come right off (gross, isn’t it?) That’s when I don’t wear any shadows. If I’m wearing shadow, then I just wait for it to dry and then lift it up with a Q-Tip again, it never resists or damage my eye make up.

  7. S says:

    This comes in a timely manner as I sneezed wet mascara *everywhere* this morning….. Ugh. Luckily there was no eyeshadow to get messed up with the q-tip method. Still, though, the mascara always gets junky when I rub my eyelids since the q-tip is huge and smashes my lashes together. I’ve got a few little brushes lying around collecting dust, maybe I’ll try them next time. And there will be a next time….I *always*, without fail, get mascara on my lids every single time.

  8. Larie says:

    Haha, I’m far too lazy for cool tips like this. I’m more prone to getting mascara on my contact lens than on my eyelid, though – ugh!
    Larie recently posted … Target- Xhilaration Wedge Sandals

  9. Nina says:

    im impatient and tend to blink soon after i put on mascara. that means i always have smudges in my lower eye area.

    i just dab it w/ a qtip that i very sparingly dip into makeup remover. it works but not always. πŸ™‚

    when that happens, i wait til the specks of mascara are dry and then genly run a spoolie brush over the area. πŸ™‚

  10. Essy says:

    Such simple, easy, “why didn’t I think of that” tips. No more q-tips for me!
    Essy recently posted … New England Rain custom blend

  11. Trisha says:

    Ugh, this happens to me all the time. The curse of naturally curly, long lashes. πŸ˜‰ Usually I just dab it away with my finger, which usually works if the mascara’s still wet. And it doesn’t take any of the eye shadow away. That I’ve noticed, anyway.
    Trisha recently posted … Face of the Day- Blue Drama

  12. gio says:

    What a useful tip, thanks for sharing.
    gio recently posted … Looks- Birthday Girl

  13. Anyone know of a way to prevent getting the mascara all over your lids in the first place??? No matter how careful I am, I always end up splattered!
    productdoctor recently posted … Giorgio Armani Gloss dArmani

    • Karen says:

      You can try placing a business card behind your lashes before applying mascara (it works kinda like a shield). I’ve tried it before, but I’m a creature of habit, and it’s faster for me to just apply and then clean up.

    • Amanda says:

      They sell those mascara shield things, too – just do a quick google!

  14. Chris25 says:

    Credit cards can work in place of business cards. Accepted anywhere mascara is applied. πŸ™‚ I swipe the mascara brush against the inside of the tube after applying. Then I use the less mascara-ed brush to comb out any excess.

  15. Ariana says:

    very innovative and smart, I like!

  16. sara says:

    YOU ARE A GENIUS I LOVE YOU. def trying this out soon, karen!

  17. karo says:

    No more Q-tips for me!
    Thanks Karen!
    You are great!
    karo recently posted … Tages Make Up – Wednesday

  18. Instant Karma says:

    Ooh, this is such a good idea! I have to clean up with q-tips all the time. I got tired of needing to touch up my eye shadow, so I’ve started applying mascara after my eyeliner, but before any shadow. However, this means I have to be really careful to make sure I don’t end up with, say, gold eyelashes, lol.

  19. Amanda says:

    I always feel like I’ve filled in my brows just a little TOO much. I usually take a q-tip (sometimes dipped in make up remover, depending on how much of a rush I’m in) and run it just under my arches to clean them up and really give my brows some definition.

  20. Soo says:

    this sounds so helpful! I’ve actually always gotten frustrated with applying mascara and getting it on my lids (even with a mascara guard). I’m definitely going to try this out next time I apply makeup. thanks Karen~
    Soo recently posted … Stila Color Wheel Eye Shadow Palette Product Shots

  21. I use the q-tip trick too. It’s totally annoying when your concealer comes off too but I find less wipes off if you do water instead of actual eye makeup remover and it also helps until the mascara is actually dry. The worst for me is having to start your eyeshadow over because then, you might as well start from square 1!
    M @StyleSizzle recently posted … 5 essentials for poolside glamour

  22. Pat says:

    Use the Somaluxe Face Wash – thats the only thing that is able to remove mascara without having to be rough on my eyes. I have been using Somaluxe for 2 months now, and my skin is the happiest in years. . .

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