Why Your Mascara Keeps Sliding and Slipping — and How to Stop It

Surprise: It's easy to prevent.

(Image credit: Getty)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by your mascara. Okay, every single makeup-wearing human in the world can put their hands down now, because I know you’ve all been there. I know you’ve all looked in the mirror at noon and seen faint black streaks on your upper lids from blinking, or had to wipe away black smudges from beneath your eyes at the end of the day.

It's annoying, I know, but it's also totally preventable. We spoke to Miley Cyrus' makeup artist, Janice Daoud, to get her recommendations on how to stop your mascara from smudging and slipping and sliding, once and for all. It might take one or more of these options below, but be prepared to prime, blot, and get a specific product that will become your most beloved friend from now on. (Also, you won't have to get rid of your favorite mascara either—unless it's expired, then definitely toss it out.)

Keep Oiliness at Bay

Sorry, but your lids may just be a bit oilier than the rest of your face (yes, even if your complexion is drier than the Sahara). And because oil inherently melts and dissolves the bonds in makeup—including your mascara—you need to soak up any and all excess oil at the start of your makeup routine.

My favorite trick? After cleansing and moisturizing my face in the morning, I’ll take a powder-laced blotting sheet (the Palladio Rice Papers is my go-to) and gently press it over my eyelids and under-eyes to completely mattify my lids. Then, for good measure, I’ll do one more pass with the paper after applying my liner and eyeshadow, just in case any residual oils from my brushes or beauty blender have made their way onto my lids. (Oh, and please avoid using excess creams or moisturizers around your eyes during your morning routine.)

Daoud also recommends using a translucent powder to mattify the eye area: "The best way to prevent mascara from transferring onto your eyelids is by using translucent powder," she says. "It's perfect for setting under your eyes which will help avoid mascara transfer." She adds that you can add the powder directly to your eyelashes for maximum effect.

Prime Your Eyes

While they may seem like an unnecessary step in a routine, eye primers are just as important as priming your face before foundation or priming your lashes before mascara. Designated eye primers are a perfect way to control oil before putting on your eyeshadow. Most primers—like the cult-favorite Urban Decay Primer Potion or the drugstore favorite E.l.f. Shadow Lock—work to mattify your lids. 

Daoud is all for eyeshadow primer: "Priming your eyes and lids is key. Don’t use a concealer or foundation—use an eyeshadow primer as it provides the perfect base and, most importantly, anchors your eye makeup in place."

Not only will the primer keep your shadows and liners bright and pigmented, but it'll also prevent your eye makeup creasing and sliding off. And yes—it'll also help prevent your mascara from leaving marks after a few hours.

Use Waterproof Mascara

Not everyone is a fan of using waterproof mascara, and we totally get that. The downside of a waterproof option is that the potential damage to your lashes might not be worth the smear-proof effect. However. If you use the proper mascara and primer combo, you can keep your lashes nourished while using a waterproof formula. Most priming mascara formulas are made to soften eyelashes while also creating a barrier that allows for brighter and bolder pigment.

Use False Lashes

I do not consider this cheating, but more of a practical loophole to the whole “smudging” drama of mascara. False lashes are a fun mainstay in the beauty world and while they may be difficult at first to apply, this temporary option is the perfect choice for a finished look without the hassle of sitting for extensions or dealing with melting makeup.

Just make sure to be extra careful with the eyelash removal process and always use a designated remover. Now that you’ve got all these options, go forth and live your best mascara smudge-free life! 

Chloe Metzger
Beauty Editor

Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in AllureHealthFitnessMarie ClaireStyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.