How to remove waterproof mascara and keep your natural lashes healthy

These makeup-artist tips reveal how to remove waterproof mascara without tugging or rubbing your lashes

woman removing makeup with cotton pad
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Waterproof mascara is notorious for being that bit trickier to take off than the regular stuff – it is designed to withstand water, after all. But knowing how to remove waterproof mascara properly, and carefully, is essential to the health of both your lashes and skin.

You’re no doubt familiar with the classic beauty conundrum: removing all of your makeup only to notice that some of your waterproof mascara is stubbornly hanging around. The temptation to frantically rub at your eyes is real, but being too rough with your natural lashes can cause them to come loose. 

Well, fear not, as it is possible to remove even the best mascara for all-day wear in a gentle manner. To help you become a master of removing waterproof mascara, we’ve quizzed two top makeup artists and beauty experts for a comprehensive guide on how to do it right. Your eyelashes will thank you for it. 

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

1. Choose a dedicated remover

While some of the best cleansers may be able to dissolve certain waterproof formulas, by far and away the easiest and quickest way to take these types of mascaras off is to use a dedicated eye makeup remover. The packaging or product description will tell you if its capable of removing waterproof mascara.

“I love a bi-phase remover,” says makeup artist and podcast host Rose Gallagher. "They are really good to soak in a reusable cotton round. The original is the Lancôme Bi-Facil, or for sensitive eyes, the Bioderma one is fantastic, it can’t be beaten."

Our beauty editor recommends...


Bioderma Sensibio H2O Eye Biphase Makeup Remover | RRP: £12 (UK only)

A purse-friendly option from French pharmacy name, Bioderma, this formula dissolves waterproof mascara with impressive ease and is nice and gentle. 


La Roche-Posay Respectissime Eye Makeup Remover | $20.99/£11.50

Great for sensitive eyes and from a brand that's loved by dermatologists all over the world, Respectissime remover is another great bi-phase formula. 


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

Widely considered the go-to luxury makeup remover (with a luxurious price tag to match), Lancôme's Bi-Facil makes light work of even waterproof mascaras. 

2. Apply to a cotton pad

The next bit of kit you'll need is some cotton wool pads. Regular ones will of course work, but buying reusable ones is a mascara tip worth following for multiple reasons. "You can get so many reusable cotton rounds now; I would get some of those pads and keep them in your bathroom," Gallagher says. "By the time you’ve invested in those once it’s going to work out much more cost-effective than constantly having to buy cotton pads, plus it’s more environmentally friendly."

Our beauty editor recommends...


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

Made from recycled cotton and bamboo, making them extra eco-friendly, these pads come in a nice zip-up bag to keep them all together. 


Sephora Collection Reusable Cotton Pads | RRP: $10/£12.99

Available in a set of seven, these reusable cotton rounds also come with a handy drawstring bag that's useful both for storing and washing your pads.

3. Hold over the eye

Tackling one eye at a time, once you’ve doused a generous amount of waterproof eye makeup remover onto your reusable cotton pad (enough to cover your lashes), place it over your closed eye and hold it there for longer than you normally would. "Gently press it onto your eyelids and leave it on there for a couple of minutes to allow the formula to loosen up the mascara," advises Aimee Connolly, makeup artist and founder of Sculpted by Aimee. "It should then be easier to remove fully."

4. Gently wipe away

This is where it’s important to be very careful – don’t rub at your eyes as you may dislodge your natural lashes, and stretch the skin of your lids, which is very delicate. Once you’ve held the soaked pad in place for a while, very gently and slowly wipe your pad away from the eye to remove the mascara. This should remove most of it from your lashes, but you can repeat the process if necessary, or dip a cotton bud into your eye makeup remover and try to spot remove it from any tricky areas. 

5. Remove the rest of your makeup

Once all of your waterproof mascara is out of the way and you have nice clean lashes, it’s time to take off the rest of your makeup before applying the remaining steps of your skincare routine. If you’ve got a full face of makeup it’s smart to follow the double cleansing method, starting with one of the best oil cleansers or balms then following with a lighter option. 

Our beauty editor recommends...


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. 


Medik8 Lipid-Balance Cleansing Oil | RRP: $38/£29

We love a research-backed brand like Medik8, and this particular buy is a lovely cleansing oil formula that breaks down makeup with ease and emulsifiers nicely.


CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser | RRP: $16.99/£10

A lightweight and fuss-free formula that's packed with ceramides and hyaluronic acid and that makes a great second cleanse, CeraVe comes with the approval of dermatologists all over the world – as well as being very purse-friendly. 

Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for titles including Marie Claire, Glamour and OK!, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare advice to beauty trends and reviews of the latest products. During her career she regularly speaks to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists, has covered backstage at London Fashion Week and interviewed many a celeb about their beauty routine.