7 Tips to Keep Your Mascara From Smudging

November 08, 2023
By: Ariel Wodarcyk | Makeup.com by L'Oréal

There are plenty of ways to keep your complexion makeup locked in all day, from finishing your face with a setting spray to priming and setting with powder. But when it comes to mascara, it can be tough to fight smudges, even if you opt for a long-wearing formula. 

Whether your mascara starts to smudge by mid-day or you find yourself accidentally getting smudges on your lids during application, we’re here to help. Below, we turned to celebrity makeup artists Sarah Egan and Andrea DiSabatino to find out their tips for keeping your lashes smudge-free and defined all day. 

What Causes Mascara To Smudge?

Unfortunately, according to Egan, “the biggest culprit for mascara smudging is our eyelids themselves.” Our skin’s natural oils can mix with the mascara, creating inadvertent smudges and smears. “Smudges can also be caused by your makeup application as well — a small piece of mascara may flake onto the upper lid, which then gets smudged around with an eyeshadow brush,” Egan adds. “Or you blink when the formula is wet, and you get a swipe of mascara right on the upper lid.” 

Certain mascara formulas are also more prone to smudging than others — both makeup artists we spoke to recommend looking for formulas with claims like “smudge-resistant,” “waterproof,” “long-wearing” and “water-resistant” on the packaging. 

How to Stop Your Mascara From Smudging

Tip 1: Use a Waterproof or Water-Resistant Mascara

Waterproof mascaras are less likely to smudge and tend to have a quicker drying time, which minimizes the risk of smudging during application.

Tip 2: Let Your Mascara Dry Between Each Coat

Instead of piling on mascara all at once, allow each coat to dry before moving on to the next layer. “It adds about a minute of time to the overall process, but it’s worth it,” says Egan. “Apply a coat to both eyes and count to 15 without blinking. Then do your next coat with the same process.” 

Tip 3: Apply Carefully

“Apply mascara carefully, avoiding excess product on the lashes, and allow it to dry before blinking or touching your eyes,” adds DiSabatino. You can wipe excess mascara off on the side of the product’s tube, or comb through your lashes with a clean, disposable spoolie brush in between coats.

Tip 4: Use an Eyeshadow Primer

“Applying an eyelid primer can help control oil on your eyelids and create a smudge-proof base for mascara,” even if you’re not wearing any other eye makeup, says DiSabatino. For a long-lasting finish, try the Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion.

Tip 5: Let Your Eye Cream Dry Down

If you use an eye cream, Egan suggests waiting at least 30 minutes after application to start your eye makeup. “Many eye creams include oils or oil-like ingredients that can increase the risk of mascara smudging, so allowing the product to fully absorb into the skin will reduce the risk,” she explains.

Tip 6: Set Your Under-Eye Area With Powder

Once you’ve finished your face makeup, Egan recommends setting your under-eyes with a translucent powder. If your skin is on the oily side, you’ll likely need to reapply your powder throughout the day. For easy touch-ups, we recommend using a product with a built-in puff, like the HUDA BEAUTY Mini Easy Bake Loose Baking & Setting Powder

Tip 7: Keep Blotting Tools on Hand

Have teary eyes? Keep cotton swabs and/or blotting papers on-hand to help minimize and erase small smudges, says DiSabatino. The NYX Professional Makeup Blotting Papers are the perfect size for stowing in your bag. 

The Best Smudge-Proof Mascaras

Maybelline New York The Falsies Surreal Extensions Waterproof Mascara

Reach for this mascara for plush, voluminous lashes that remain smudge-free all day. The helix-shaped wand and extended bristles extend your lashes’ length and offer up to 10 times more volume — with 24 hours of wear. It’s also opthamologist-tested and infused with caring oils to keep your lashes soft and clump-free. We can vouch for the non-waterproof version of this mascara, too — it holds up through humidity and rain alike without a smudge in sight.

L'Oréal Paris Telescopic Instant Lift Waterproof Mascara

Fake the look of a lash lift and extensions with just a swipe of this lengthening and defining mascara. Double-hook bristles capture every lash and provide an upturned effect that’s especially effective on short, straight eyelashes.

Lancôme Lash Idôle Mascara

This mascara dries down quickly between each coat, thanks to its lightweight gel consistency. The white tea-infused formula simultaneously helps to condition, lengthen, volumize and lift your lashes, creating a full, fanned-out effect. You can wear it all day without experiencing clumping, flaking, or smudging.

Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Sky High Waterproof Mascara

Get your longest lashes yet with this drugstore-staple mascara. The waterproof formula builds skyscraping length without smudges or clumps, leaving you with lashes that appear separated and defined. For even more lasting power and length, try layering this pick on top of the corresponding Lash Sensational Sky High Tinted Mascara Primer.

IT Cosmetics Superhero Volumizing Waterproof Mascara

Dubbed a “life-proof” mascara, this pick resists smudging, sweat, flaking and humidity, with up to 24 hours of wear. It wraps lashes in a conditioning formula of biotin, peptides and pro-vitamin B5, leaving them with impressive volume and length, without a stiff or crunchy feel. Plus, with the help of an oil-based cleanser or makeup remover, it’s surprisingly easy to take off at the end of the day.

Lancôme Monsieur Big Waterproof Volume Mascara

Waterproof and sweat-proof, this mascara delivers bold volume without leaving a single smudge behind. Made up of soft, wavy fibers and an ultra-creamy formula, it softens and thickens each lash for up to 12 times more volume that lasts all day. Reviewers deem it the “best waterproof mascara” they’ve tried, with one claiming that she even wore it successfully under a waterfall. 

L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara

You don’t need to spend a lot of money for a mascara that stays on and won’t smudge throughout the day. This waterproof option rings up at under $15, but offers luxury results. It lengthens, thickens and holds a curl, with over 200 bristles that help capture and uplift each lash. The gentle formula is ophthalmologist-tested and suitable for sensitive eyes.

Hi Beautiful You BE YOU MASCARA | Lash Extension Treatment Mascara 

This mascara comes recommended by Egan for its long-wearing, water-resistant formula. “It’s a buildable formula that dries quickly and doesn’t flake or smudge — it beautifully primes, darkens, lengthens and even strengthens lashes with a gorgeous glossy black velvet finish,” she raves.

caliray Come Hell or High Water Volumizing Tubing Mascara

Our editor, Alexis Gaskin, swears by this mascara for keeping her naturally watery eyes smudge- and flake-free all day. It’s a tubing mascara, meaning it creates tiny, lengthening and thickening tubes around each lash, which wipe away easily when you massage them with a little warm water. Plus, the pink and blue tube is made from 100% recycled ocean plastic. 

(Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn,
Visual Designer: Juliana Campisi )