How to Remove Waterproof Mascara | 3 Easy Ways Plus Aftercare Tips

Let’s get real. Every girl needs at least one tube of waterproof mascara in her makeup kit because you never know when those tears are going to flow!

But when it comes to taking off your makeup, how to remove waterproof mascara can get kind of messy.

It smears, it tugs, it pulls, and generally does not want to come off easily. And, if you’re not careful, it can damage your lashes or give you an eye infection.

My favorite way to remove waterproof mascara is with old-fashioned cotton pads and micellar water. But there’s more than one way to remove stubborn mascara and your technique does make a difference.

In this post, I’ll go over several ways to remove waterproof mascara, including what products get the job done and how to use them, plus essential aftercare tips!

What is waterproof mascara?

Waterproof mascara is pretty much what it sounds like, mascara that’s formulated to resist water and moisture, allowing it to stay intact on your lashes whether you’re swimming at the beach or crying your eyes out at a wedding.

Its formulation includes ingredients like waxes and silicones that create a protective barrier around the lashes. These hydrophobic (water-repelling) ingredients make waterproof mascara resistant to water.

Note: Waterproof mascara is completely resistant to water. Meaning you can submerge your head fully under water and your mascara won’t budge. Water-resistant mascara is not. It will start running if you submerge your head in water. Water-resistant mascara is best for use in a humid climate where there are higher levels of humidity in the air but not at an event where you know you’ll shed tears.

Why it’s important to properly remove waterproof mascara

Waterproof mascara contains waxes and silicones that adhere firmly to the lashes, making removing difficult without the proper techniques and products.

The most common waxes you’ll find in waterproof mascara are carnauba, beeswax, and paraffin wax. If the formula is silicone based you’ll likely find some type of Cyclomethicone.

If you’re not carefully removing waterproof mascara, you could lose or damage your lashes over time. Residue can also contact your eyes, causing discomfort and even severe infections.

Choosing the right makeup remover

When removing waterproof mascara, picking out the right makeup remover is key to avoid damaging your natural lashes or tugging loose your extensions. There are several different types available:

  • Oil-based cleaners
  • Micellar water or wipes
  • Reusable makeup remover pads
  • Cotton balls or pads
  • Eyelash extension cleanser (choose this if you’ve applied waterproof mascara to your lash extensions)

Trying different products can help determine which method best meets your needs.

How to remove waterproof mascare

How to remove waterproof mascara

You can use cotton pads or balls, oil-based removers, or micellar water to remove waterproof mascara.

Apply your favorite makeup remover gently in circular motions using a different place for each eye; start from the outer corner and work inward to avoid pulling on the lashes.

Pro Tip: If you’ve applied waterproof mascara to your lash extensions, by the way, this is not recommended, you’ll want to use a lash extension shampoo to remove the mascara so you do not accidentally loosen the extension glue and lose your lashes prematurely. For how to do this, check out our article on “How to Clean Eyelash Extensions the Right Way.

Using cotton pads or balls

My favorite way to remove waterproof mascara is using lots of cotton pads and micellar water.

First, soak the cotton pad with an oil-based makeup remover or micellar water to loosen the grip. Press the soaked pad onto your closed eyelid and hold it in place for a few seconds. Swipe downwards to lift the product away from your eyes.

You can also use cotton balls but I prefer pads because they have a woven texture that is smoother and not as likely to catch in your lashes.

Using oil-based removers

While oil might conjure up images of clogged pores, olive, baby, and coconut oils are actually great at helping to break down makeup without causing irritation. 

Saturate a cotton pad and gently press it against your eyelashes. Hold the pad in place for a few seconds before wiping away the mascara in a gentle motion.

This method can leave behind a residue, if that bothers you use a fresh cotton pad and use it to wipe up any excess oil left on your skin.

Using micellar water

Micellar water is a gentle, effective way to remove waterproof mascara, making it perfect for those with sensitive skin or contact lenses.

It contains tiny lipid-lifting micelles that attract and break down dirt, oil, and makeup without stripping natural oils.

Soak a cotton round in the micellar water and gently press it against your closed eyelid for several seconds before wiping it away.

Step-by-step waterproof mascara removal

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s dive into removing waterproof mascara correctly.

1. Start at the outer corner of the eye and move inward

By working from the outside, you can avoid rubbing or pulling at your lashes, which can lead to lash loss or irritation. Use gentle downward motions with a cotton pad soaked in your chosen makeup remover for a practical removal process.

2. Avoid rubbing or pulling at your eyelashes

Rubbing or pulling at your eyelashes increases the risk of lash breakage and thinning over time. Even if doing so doesn’t cause long-term damage, you could still develop redness around the eyes. That may lead to lash breakage and thinning over time, which could impact lash volume and health.

Instead of tugging, apply your chosen makeup remover with a cotton pad and use gentle circular motions. Take your time to ensure all the mascara is removed.

3. Use a small amount of makeup remover

Always use a small amount of makeup remover when removing mascara to avoid any irritation. This helps to effectively break down the mascara without harming your eyes.

Use a cotton pad or ball with just enough product to saturate it. Gently glide the pad over your eyelashes using circular motions from the outer corner toward the inner corner.

4. Use gentle, circular motions

To effectively remove waterproof mascara, use a gentle, circular motion. That means avoiding harsh rubbing or pulling at your lashes, which can cause breakage and irritation. As you do so, apply gentle pressure.

5. Use a separate cotton pad for each eye

To avoid the spread of bacteria and eye infections, use a separate cotton pad for each eye.

Waterproof mascara removal aftercare

Once you have removed your waterproof mascara, following up with aftercare can further clean your eyes and cleanse the skin.

Use a gentle cleanser

A gentle cleanser will help remove any remaining traces of makeup and ensure the skin is thoroughly cleaned, preventing irritation and skin stinging.

A mild, non-irritating facial cleanser like CeraVe Hydrating Skin Cleanser is an effective option, and suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

I’m also a big fan of using an oil cleanser to avoid stripping any precious natural oils from my skin and keeping it hydrated.

Rinse your face with cool water

Rinsing the face with cool water will help remove any remaining traces of makeup and soothe the delicate skin around the eyes. Avoid using hot water as this can be too harsh and drying; use lukewarm or cool water to gently splash over the face.

Apply a moisturizer

Mascara removal can be drying if you use a foaming makeup remover. Using a moisturizer afterward can help keep your skin healthy and glowing.

A cold cream is also an excellent option. Massage a small amount around your eyes to remove any remaining traces of mascara. Not only does this add moisture back into the skin, but it leaves the eye area feeling refreshed.

how to remove waterproof mascara

Waterproof Mascara FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about removing waterproof mascara.

How do I remove waterproof mascara without damaging my eyelashes?

Always choose soft cotton pads that won’t irritate your eyes, and rinse thoroughly.

Do I need a special makeup remover for waterproof mascara?

No, but water alone may not be strong enough to break down the mascara formula.

Can I use regular soap and water to remove waterproof mascara?

No, as waterproof mascara is specially formulated to be long-lasting, requiring a makeup remover that can break down its formula.

Regular soap is also extremely drying and not recommended for use anywhere on your skin because of how it strips natural oils.

Can I use a makeup wipe to remove waterproof mascara?

While it is possible to use a makeup wipe to remove waterproof mascara, it may not be as effective. Makeup wipes can be too harsh for the skin around the eyes and tug at both your skin and eyelashes.

Is it safe to use oil-based removers to remove waterproof mascara?

Oil-based removers are generally safe and effective for removing waterproof mascara. They break down the waxy formula, making it easier to wipe away.

How long should I let the makeup remover sit on my eyelashes before wiping it off?

Let it sit for a few seconds, 5-10 seconds usually does the trick. f you’ve applied multiple coats of waterproof mascara, you may need to repeat the removal process a couple of times.

What is the proper technique for removing waterproof mascara without causing irritation?

When removing waterproof mascara, the proper technique can make all the difference. This includes:

  • Choosing a gentle eye makeup remover
  • Saturating a cotton pad and gently pressing it against your eyes
  • Holding the pad for a few seconds before wiping
  • Following up with a cleanser and moisturizer to remove any remaining residue

How do I avoid smudging my waterproof mascara?

Try using a lash primer before applying mascara to create a smoother surface. You can also opt for water-based mascaras or ones compatible with extension tape.

What should I do if I accidentally get waterproof mascara in my eyes while removing it?

Don’t panic! Rinse your eyes with clean water immediately.

Can I wear contact lenses while removing waterproof mascara?

Yes, but caution is a must. If the mascara comes into contact with the lenses, they should be immediately removed and rinsed thoroughly with saline solution or contact lens cleaner.


Removing waterproof mascara doesn’t have to be a chore that risks the health of your lashes. Use a makeup remover suitable for your skin type and always follow up with a proper aftercare routine. With the right approach, you’ll never have to worry about stubborn waterproof mascara again.