How to remove mascara properly while caring for your eyes and lashes

Removal is a golden rule of makeup, so we've broken down how to remove mascara with help from pro makeup artists

woman removing mascara with two cotton pads after learning how to remove mascara properly
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You’re probably well aware that one of the golden rules of mascara is taking it off before you go to bed. Knowing how to remove mascara properly is of utmost importance – no matter how tired you are – for multiple reasons.

Most makeup fans have one beloved buy that they deem the best mascara, but it doesn’t matter if your formula-of-choice costs two bucks or 250, or if you've absolutely nailed how to apply mascara like a professional; sleeping in it is a no-no, both for the health of your natural lashes and your eyes. Not only that but, on a more fundamental level, you’ll probably resemble a raccoon the following morning.

We won’t labor the point too much more, but to get you up to speed on the subject we asked a couple of makeup experts for their mascara tips so that you know how to remove it properly, and gently, from now on. Consider this your need-to-know guide on taking it all off.  

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

1. Choose a dedicated remover

Lots of the best cleansers break down mascara well, provided they're suitable for use on the eye area (note that some formulas specify not being eye-safe), but using a dedicated remover makes this step of your skincare routine less messy. Good eye makeup removers will also have been tested to be eye- and lash-safe.

“Personally, I like to get my eyes off first with separate remover,” says makeup artist and podcast host Rose Gallagher. “I would use an oil-based bi-phase remover to get your eye makeup off, or micellar water, whichever one you prefer. There are plenty of makeup removers you can use all over your face – and, don’t get me wrong, if I’m having a quick cleanse I will do that – but you then have your mascara all over the cloth, or all over your face when you rub it in everywhere."

Aimee Connolly, makeup artist and founder of Sculpted by Aimee, agrees: "I always recommend using an oil-based cleanser to remove mascara. The skin around our eyes is quite sensitive, so make sure you’re using something without alcohol or anything harsh. Our Fresh Faced cleanser is a great one – it’s like your favorite micellar water but more hydrating, so it’s extra-gentle on the delicate skin around the eyes."

Our beauty editor recommends...


Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water | RRP: $10.49/£5.99

Easily one of the most popular micellar waters on the market, Garnier's pink-capped micellar water is suitable for sensitive skin. 


Lancome Bi-Facil Makeup Remover | RRP: $38/£25

A cult classic, this luxurious option from Lancôme is the formula that comes to mind when one thinks of bi-phase makeup removers. 


Sculpted by Aimee Fresh Faced Makeup Remover | RRP: £15 (UK only)

Recommended by Connolly from her own brand, this formula contains vitamin E, niacinamide, and soothing Centella Asiatica and whisks away makeup without stripping the skin. 

2. Grab some reusable cotton rounds

Regular cotton wool pads of course work here, but reusable ones are worth investing in. “You can get so many [different] reusable cotton rounds now,” Gallagher confirms. “Get some of those pads and keep them in your bathroom – by the time you’ve invested in those once, it’s going to work out as much more cost-effective than constantly having to get cotton pads, plus it’s more environmentally friendly."

This method will also prevent you from having to get hard-to-remove stains out of any lovely facecloths you might own. "If you just use these little pads separately, you can get your eye makeup off first. Then you’re not getting any of that mess on your cloths, so when you throw them in the wash they honestly come up cleaner so much more quickly than if they’re also smothered in mascara," Gallagher adds. 

Our beauty editor recommends...


Garnier Skin Active | RRP: $10.49/$8.99

A 3-pack of Garnier's super soft and fluffy reusable pads, which will make light work of taking off your mascara. 


EcoTools Reusable Cotton Pads | RRP: $9.99/£9.99 

Made from recycled cotton and bamboo, these pads come with a little storage bag in which the pads can also be washed. Win-win.

3. Douse your pad with remover

The next step is to apply your dedicated remover to your reusable pad. If you're using a bi-phase remover, give it a very gentle shake to mix the two elements of the formula, then squeeze a little onto a clean pad. Depending on how much comes out of the bottle, two to three douses of the stuff should be plenty – it just has to be enough to cover your mascara-coated lashes. 

4. Place over your eye, hold, then wipe

It’s imperative here that you don’t frantically rub at your mascara to take it off. Not only will your natural lashes take a hit, but this area of skin is very delicate. “Place it over the eye, give it just a minute to sit on top and you’d be amazed at how much product it’ll break down just by sitting there,” says Gallagher. “Then give it a soft little wipe, wipe everything away and remove the rest of your makeup as normal.” 

5. Alternatively, remove mascara with an all-over cleanser

Of course, if you're a fan of double cleansing with two cleansers and a cloth, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. To remove mascara, apply your cleanser all over your face and very gently massage your balm or oil cleanser over closed eyes. Try not to pull or drag, as this area of skin is very delicate. Then, emulsify with water and remove using a warm flannel or cloth. 

Our beauty editor recommends...


The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter | RRP: £12 (UK only)

An affordable, gentle balm cleanser that gets makeup off seriously easily, housed in a satisfying tin. One of the many reasons The Body Shop is such a trusted household name. 


Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm | RRP: $66/£46

Arguably one of the best cleansing balms (and best-loved options) on the market, Elemis' cult classic is both effective and gorgeous in texture. 


Byoma Milky Oil Cleanser | RRP: $12.99/£13.99

One of the newest additions to the skin barrier-loving Byoma line-up is this non-comedogenic oil cleanser, containing squalane plus olive fruit and moringa seed oils. Did we mention it smells divine? 

6. Remove the rest of your makeup

Once your mascara is out of the way, it's time to remove the rest of your makeup - either by double cleansing your skin, or using your second cleanser if you opted for the above method. As we've touched on, the best oil cleansers or balms are great first cleansers to get rid of makeup, while most people opt for lighter textures like creams or gels for their second cleanser.

Et voilà – once you've got clean, mascara-free skin, all that's left to do is apply the rest of your skincare routine and head for bed!

Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for the likes of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, OK!, Women's Health and more, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare tips to the latest product launches and the show-stopping beauty looks spotted backstage at London Fashion Week. During her career she's interviewed some seriously famous faces, from Little Mix to Drag Race royalty The Vivienne, as well as chatting to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists.