How to stop mascara smudging, according to a make-up artist

A celebrity MUA tells us how to stop mascara smudging and sliding down your face. Say bye bye to panda eyes with this easy-to-follow guide

A close in shot of a woman applying mascara to show how to stop mascara smudging
(Image credit: Getty images)

Had another mascara disaster and wondering how to stop mascara smudging? You've come to the right place.

Even when you know how to apply mascara, you can still find a panda staring back at you back in the mirror. There's nothing worse than spending time layering on your best mascara, only for it to smear all over your eyes. Especially if you get caught out while you're out and about, without a good mirror and your make-up remover on hand to set things right. 

But what causes it to smudge in the first place? According to celebrity makeup artist Brooke Simons, it could be a mix of factors. "Oil, heat, and sweat can cause even your favorite, fail-safe mascara to smudge or transfer," she explains. "Even people with drier skin types can experience smudging on a warm day." 

So, with summer on the way, how can you counteract all of these potential obstacles? Here, Simons shares her expert advice on how to stop mascara smudging with her fail-safe routine. 

How to stop mascara smudging, accoring to a makeup artist

1. Keep your lashes clean and dry

One of the main reasons why your mascara might smudge is actually to do with the products you use in your skincare routine before you've even begun applying your eye makeup. 

"Make sure your skincare products such as moisturizers, primers, or serums don’t hit the lashes at all," Simmons advises. "Making sure that your lashes are clean and dry before applying the mascara is vital  - this will help to keep it in place for longer." 

Keeping your lashes totally dry will prevent any oils mixing with your mascara's formula, which can then cause it to smudge or smear.

2. Prep like a pro

As with any good makeup routine, if you prepare well, it'll ensure your products are as effective as possible. Picking the right skincare products for the eye area is key to preventing your mascara from smudging throughout the day.

"If you use an eye cream within your skincare routine, make sure it’s oil-free as this can break down mascara over time" Simmons recommends. 

"Your focus should be on prepping the eyes and the skin around the area," she explains. "For people with oilier skin types, I’d suggest using a mattifying primer for under and above the lash line"

When it comes to eyeshadow looks, the finish of your formula matters for that too. "Use an eye base that will set well," she recommends. "I love using eye pencils to prep underneath and above the eye and then set the areas again with a little powder."

Our beauty editor recommends...


La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Eye Serum | RRP: $39.99/£32

Instead of a rich eye cream, swap it for a lighter eye serum. This will quench and plump up crow's feet, while sitting beautifully under makeup and mascara. I also love the cooling rollerball applicator, which feels like a treat for tired eyes.


Milk Makeup Pore Eclipse | RRP: $38/£35

I'm a huge fan of Milk's hydrogrip primer, which clings make-up to my skin. This is a better option for oily skin types, which will mattify skin and leave it perfectly prepped for your full beauty routine. 


Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder | RRP: $43/£36.50

Much loved by makeup artists and beauty editors, this is a global bestseller for a good reason - it just works. You can pick other shades if you prefer a brightening effect, but I like using the translucent just for its versatility. 

3. Swap to a waterproof formula

The best waterproof mascara is much less likely to smudge during the day than any other mascara, so it's worth considering investing in a mascara with a more durable formula if you don't have one already. 

"Waterproof mascara will always last longer," our MUA explained. "It's a great way to avoid it smudging throughout the day, although inevitably it will still loosen with oil, so make sure you stick to the prep tips in steps one and two to prevent any oil mixing with the formula."

According to Simons, preventing mascara from smudging is less about the application and more about the prep. "You could focus on applying the mascara more at the root and less at the tips, but for me, this is slightly counterintuitive as you won’t see the full effect from your mascara." Hard agree. If you're using the best volumizing mascara, you want to use it for all of its benefits, and not just a meek little application just in case it smudges. If you've done all of the prep, it should say in place - especially if it's waterproof. 

Our beauty editor recommends...


Maybelline Lash Sensational Sky High Waterproof Mascara | RRP: $12.99/£11.99

I'm a firm believer that you don't have to spend a lot of money on mascara - some of my all-time favorites are the affordable ones. Take this, for example - not only is it one of the best drugstore mascaras, it's also the best lengthening mascara for any money. It provides impressive length in seconds, to even the stubbiest of lashes.

4. Lock it in place

The final step for how to stop mascara smudging is akin to using a good setting spray - lock it in. "Apply a layer of the best clear mascara over the top," says Simons. "This will help to cinch the darkness of the black mascara, and also creates a coating over the lashes so they are less likely to transfer."

When it comes to applying mascara on bottom lashes, this could cause slightly more smudging, but Simons says it's no reason to skip it. "Using mascara on bottom lashes is the key to tying your whole look together," she says. "If you prep the eye area with the steps above, you shouldn’t have a problem with smudging."

Our beauty editor recommends...


Essence Lash & Brow Gel Mascara | RRP: $3.99/£1.99

This is your secret weapon when it comes to how to stop mascara smudging. For this purpose, pick one without any 'conditioning' benefits (they're usually oil-based). This is cheap, cheerful, and will work like a charm to lock your lash look in place without smudging.

Rhiannon Derbyshire
Senior Beauty Editor

Rhiannon Derbyshire is the Senior Beauty Editor for Woman & Home and other publications. 

She started interning for glossy magazines while working alongside her Fashion Journalism degree. There, she was lured to the beauty desk, seduced by matte lipsticks, posh shampoos, and every skincare product imaginable. 10+ years into her career, she can confidently tell you why the best mascaras are always high street, and why SPF is a non-negotiable all year round. Ask her about her curly hair routine, skincare minimalism, and how to find the exact right red lipstick