Waterproof mascara is mighty stubborn. It is purposefully designed to withstand water - from shower water, pool water and seawater to watery eyes and floods of tears - it’s got your back.


When it comes to removing waterproof mascara, however, any old makeup remover simply won’t cut it. You’ll need a remover specifically formulated to target waterproof products, and that’s where we come in.

At The Recommended, we’ve looked into how to properly remove waterproof mascara and included some of the best products to invest in to tackle your made-up lashes. We’ve also got some top tips from eye and skincare experts to help you along the way.

Why choose waterproof mascara?

Woman applying mascara

There are tons of mascaras out there - they come in different shades, with different wand styles, different thicknesses and different lengths. And many are waterproof. But why choose waterproof mascara? We’ve rounded up just some of the reasons and benefits of choosing a waterproof mascara:

  • Water resistant: The most obvious advantage! Whether raining, poolside, or a little teary-eyed, waterproof mascara will stay on in all conditions thanks to its water-resistance properties.
  • Durable: Waterproof mascara will last all day. It is specially formulated to stay put without smudging or running, keeping your eyes looking defined and fresh for long periods of time, even during physical activity and in humid environments.
  • Strong hold: The durable formula of waterproof mascara can also help hold the shape of your lashes. It can keep them lifted and curled, enhancing their overall appearance.
  • Suitable for oily skin: Waterproof mascara is a great option for those with oily skin or eyelids, as it prevents the excess grease from causing the mascara to smudge or smear.

Why is it so important to remove mascara?

Woman is removing mascara from lashes

Removing mascara at the end of the day is an important step in your skincare routine to keep your lashes, eyes and surrounding skin in the best condition. Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct, explains one reason why: ‘trapped makeup particles can irritate the surface of the eye and cause a foreign body sensation, which is having the feeling like you’ve got something in your eye.’ Here are three main reasons why it is important to remove mascara pre-bed:

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  1. Prevents lash damage: Keeping mascara on overnight can cause lashes to become dried out and prone to damage. Removing it increases the breathability of your lashes, allowing them to stay strong and healthy.
  2. Prevents eye infections: Removing mascara can reduce the risk of bacterial infections in the eyes. Throughout the day, mascara can attract microorganisms and, if not removed, can cause damage to your eyes.
  3. Prevents clogged pores: Leftover mascara on your lashes can transfer onto the surrounding skin overnight. This can lead to unnecessary clogged-up pores, creating skin irritation and breakouts. Removing all mascara will ensure your eye area and skin are left clear and clean.

Waterproof mascara: what makes it so difficult to remove?

Waterproof mascara is designed to withstand water and stay on, so removing it can often feel like a losing battle. What makes it so difficult to remove? The main reason is its formula. Waterproof mascara generally has a thicker consistency and is always water resistant. This means it requires a tougher product to remove it from your eyes. Also, due to its longevity and long-lasting formula, which can hold out against all sorts of conditions, removal can be tougher than regular mascara.

Different types of makeup removers to remove waterproof mascara

Makeup products

When it comes to removing waterproof mascara, there are several different options. We’ve looked into them here:

  • Oil-based makeup remover: Award-winning skincare expert Sasha Core explains that oil-based makeup removers, formulated with oils such as coconut oil and jojoba oil, can ‘work wonders in breaking down and removing waterproof mascara, dissolving the mascara while nourishing your lashes and skin at the same time.’ She recommends choosing an oil that is lightweight and non-comedogenic, so it won't clog your pores.
  • Micellar water: A lightweight, water-based formula, micellar water is great for removing waterproof mascaras without leaving a greasy residue. According to leading skincare brand L’Oreal, micellar water ‘removes mascara, including waterproof formulas, cleans dirt and impurities, and intensely purifies - no rinsing or rubbing required!’
  • Dual-phase makeup remover: This type of remover has an oil phase (which dissolves the mascara) and a water phase (which washes it away). Always shake before using.

How to remove waterproof mascara: a step-by-step guide

Woman taking off makeup with micellar water and a reusable cotton pad

Once you’ve chosen your type of makeup remover to use, whether oil-based or micellar water, follow this step-by-step guide to ensure all waterproof mascara is removed. We also spoke to Nimmi Mistry, a professional services optician at Vision Direct, and Sasha Core, an award-winning skincare expert and included their recommendations.

  1. Wash your hands: Eye expert Nimmi stresses the importance of washing your hands before removing makeup, as they carry a lot of bacteria. It’s best to start in a fresh and hygienic manner.
  2. Apply remover onto a cotton pad or makeup cloth: Apply a small amount of your chosen makeup remover (be sure to shake it before use) onto a cotton pad or makeup cloth and press against your eyes, one at a time, for approximately 10-15 seconds.
  3. Wipe away mascara: Gently wipe away from your eye with downward strokes to fully remove the mascara. Skincare expert Sasha emphasises that you should ‘avoid unnecessary rubbing or tugging that can lead to a loss of lashes as well as lead to the formation of wrinkles and puffiness around the eyes.’
  4. Finish with an eye cream: Both experts recommend finishing with a nourishing eye cream or ‘eye-appropriate’ moisturiser. Sasha explains that this will ‘keep the delicate skin around your eyes hydrated and happy, as removing waterproof mascara can zap your skin of moisture.’

The best makeup removers for waterproof mascara

Best waterproof mascaras

We’ve rounded up some of the best makeup removers on the market to target the most stubborn of waterproof mascaras, from micellar waters to makeup wipes.

Common mistakes: dos and don’ts when removing waterproof mascara

Woman washing face

Follow these dos and don'ts to ensure you are removing your waterproof mascara in the most efficient way and protecting your eyes along the way…

  • Do be gentle: Ensure you are light-fingered when removing your mascara, and use gentle downward strokes to wipe it away. Over-rubbing and pulling on your lashes will cause irritation and breakage - don’t use excessive force.
  • Do use a quality make-up remover: Choose a makeup remover that has been specifically formulated for waterproof mascara - this will ensure the makeup is removed effectively and without irritation.
  • Do be patient: Allow some time for the remover to work into the mascara before wiping it away - being patient will speed up the process in the long run.
  • Don’t use rough materials: Avoid harsh textured towels or tissues on your eyes, as this can cause irritation and damage to your eye area. Make sure you use soft makeup remover cloths and pads to reduce sensitivities.
  • Don’t forget to cleanse and nourish your lashes afterwards: Once you’ve removed your mascara, it’s important to follow up with a cleanser to ensure all product is removed, then apply a moisturising eye cream to hydrate your lashes and the surrounding skin. These steps will help keep your eyes and the surrounding eye area in their optimum condition.

Want to read more expert-recommended beauty round-ups? Check out our cosmetics page for a full list of recommendations, including the best mascaras, best foundations, best concealers and best eyeshadow palettes – all recommended by expert make-up artists.


Cordelia AspinallDigital Writer

Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.