“Little Miss Makeup, my mascara flakes and smudges!”

September 29th, 2011

Dear LMM,

Oh, the woes I have had with finding a mascara that doesn’t blink down! I am very busy during the day – often too busy to catch a glimpse in the mirror, and it’s not until I’m finally home in the evening that I notice I have black smudges and flakes of mascara beneath my eyes – a fantastic look. Not! I have started to rub under my eyes during the day to clean up the offending matter, but am wary about pulling and stretching the skin! I don’t want to encourage premature lines and wrinkles. How I would love a mascara that stays put! I have tried many (some make my eyes itch – a gripe for another day!), but I’m yet to find one that doesn’t end up below my eyes.

Thanks LMM, I look forward to your help!!! Fiona.

Dear Fiona,

You are not alone! Panda eyes are a common phenomenon, but unfortunately there is not a one-size-fits-all answer. There are many reasons why mascara can flake and smudge. The quality of the product and the formulation are factors to consider, but often what works for one person doesn’t for another, so it can also be somewhat personal (with things like eye shape and lash size playing a part). For the basics on mascara malfunctions and some handy tips and tricks, read on.


An oily eye area is a common reason why mascara smudges. Basically, the oil dissolves the mascara (which is typically made of wax and pigment), causing it to smear and leave behind those characteristic black blotches. An oily eye area can be caused by natural oils in the skin, or product residue that has been left behind after cleansing or moisturising, for example.

A tell-tale sign that oil could be the issue is your eyelids getting shiny throughout the day. To keep the oil at bay and help your mascara last all day, oil-proof your eye area (both top and bottom lids) with a layer of matte eyeshadow, matte loose powder or eye primer. Also, think about the products you are applying in and around the eye area that could be contributing to your mascara’s demise. Eye cream, foundation, sunscreen, etc. could all be culprits, and the reason your mascara is sliding off your lashes. To help your mascara keep a strong hold, avoid getting these products on the lashes, try applying them more sparingly (particularly around the eyes), or set them in place with a sweep of matte loose powder before you apply your eye makeup.


If your mascara is flaking, the first thing to check is its age. Mascaras that are past their use-by date often dry out, which increases their tendency to flake. The general life expectancy of a mascara is 3 to 6 months (depending on how often you use it). If age isn’t the issue, it could be the amount you are applying. Always wipe the brush off on the neck of the tube or a tissue before you apply it to your lashes. If you apply too much, the excess drops off once it dries … leaving flecks on your face. Another thing to make sure of is that you are removing your mascara properly at the end of each day. If you’re not, any remnants left on the lashes will cause future applications to clump, flake and fall.

Best mascara

Bottom lash blues.

Most people claim that their upper lashes are the main offenders when it comes to mascara misadventures, but the lower lashes are also prone to fallout. The main reason mascara mishaps occur along the bottom lash line is because a standard mascara wand was built for the longer, denser top lashes, not the smaller, sparser lower ones. Basically, the brush is too big for the lower lash line and invariably too much product is deposited on the lashes. This excess either ends up smudging when it’s still wet, or dries and falls off, taking up residence beneath the eye. If you are struggling with getting your mascara to stay on your lower lashes, Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara could be the answer to your prayers. The brush and formulation have been designed with exactly this issue in mind. Read my review for the lowdown: The latest hit in my kit: Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara.

Make a great mascara even better!

If you are absolutely in love with your current mascara and think it’s perfect in every way, apart from the odd smear and flake here and there, you might want to consider Clarins Double Fix Mascara. This product is a clear lash sealant which makes any mascara flake-free and smudge-resistant in less than a minute. Bear in mind though, that it is a waterproofing agent so you will need a good eye makeup remover to take it off. To see whether it might be a suitable option for you, read my review: Clarins Double Fix Mascara.

Having said all that, I do have some favorite long-wearing mascaras that I would love to introduce you to.

Diorshow Waterproof Mascara.

Best waterproof mascara

Sometimes waterproof mascaras are a good option for people who have trouble with mascara smudging, and those who live at the gym or in hot or humid climates. Diorshow Waterproof Mascara not only makes the lashes longer, thicker and curvier, but smudge- and swim-proof too. Due to its waterproof nature it’s more difficult to remove than the regular version (which I also adore), but a good makeup remover will dissolve it in next to no time. This mascara has an oversized brush with millions of bristles, which allows you to reach every single lash no matter how long or short. Maneuvering it can take a bit of practice, but once you’ve got it down you won’t look back. When you’re learning to use this wonderful wand there is a tendency to apply too much, but it’s nothing a few strokes with a lash comb can’t fix.

Buy Diorshow Waterproof Mascara online at: Sephora.com and Selfridges.com.

Best mascara 2011

Clinique Lash Power Long-wearing Mascara and Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero-smudge Curling Mascara.

These are both known as tubing mascaras and are formulated from flexible polymers. They go on slightly wetter than their traditional counterparts; but upon drying, the lacquer adheres tightly to the lash and forms an almost rubber-like tube. These mascaras tend to be great length-builders but don’t dramatically increase volume, so if you want long, defined lashes, great. However, if show-girl is more your gig, then maybe not. The other fabulous thing about their composition is that they are soluble in warm water. So, while they withstand sweat, tears and the wrath of chronic eye-rubbers during the day, they can be easily rinsed off with ample quantities of heated H2O at night. This is welcome news for those who suffer from easily irritated eyes and fragile lashes. Admittedly, this formulation can take some getting used to. The first time I used it and saw all the lash-shaped tubes floating down the sink, I thought my lashes were falling out. Clearly this wasn’t the case, but for a minute or two I was seriously concerned.

If you like long, pretty-looking lashes that last, try Clinique’s Lash Power. The brush is just the right size, and allows you to get into the base of the lashes and plant pigmentation right where you need it. Many people just focus on the tips of the eyelashes, but for optimal length you must deposit mascara near the roots too.

Buy Clinique Lash Power online at: Clinique.comClinique.co.uk and Clinique.com.au.

If you have trouble with standard formulations weighing down your curl, try Estée Lauder Double Wear Curling Mascara. The brush is slightly curved to fit the shape of the eye, which allows you to access the roots of each lash and wiggle the wand through to the ends with ease. This long-lasting, lightweight formula leaves the lashes looking sleek, glossy and undeniably curvaceous.

Buy Estée Lauder Double Wear Curling Mascara online at: Estee Lauder.co.uk.

Best mascaras

A miscellaneous mascara tip!

For added length and curve (that even Beyoncé would envy!), curl your lashes with eyelash curlers before you apply your mascara. Want a recommendation? The Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler is my favorite, hands down!

Sometimes there will be instances where no matter how you try to troubleshoot, your mascara won’t play ball. Don’t take it to heart – you and it were just never meant to be. Toss it in the trash and continue on your mascara-finding mission. There will be a match for you out there somewhere. Remember, there are always other options too. For example, false lashes or lash tinting could prove to be more suitable.

Hope this is helpful!

Love lots with pink polka dots, Little Miss Makeup.

Note: I sent Fiona my three favorite long-wearing mascaras, and she road-tested each of them for a month. Keep reading to find out which one she crowned “Best Mascara 2011”.

Fiona’s verdict!

Diorshow Waterproof Mascara.

Unfortunately this mascara wasn’t for me – it was my least preferred of the three. By the end of the day, it left a greasy kind of residue under my eye.

Clinique Lash Power Long-wearing Mascara.

This was my stand-out favorite! I loved the small brush and its liquid consistency. It didn’t smudge or flake, and with two coats my lashes were transformed from drab to fab!!! This mascara was easy to apply, and each coat seemed to just glide on. The brush was easy to control and made touching up the longer lashes at the outer corner of the eye a breeze. I will be purchasing this one from now on. Thank you, LMM!

 Estée Lauder Double Wear Zero-smudge Curling Mascara.

This mascara was my second choice. I loved the fact there was no smudging, but I struggled with the size of the brush. It made me blink a lot, and I kept bumping the wand into the side of my nose! A great product though, and the fact it washes away easily is a bonus. Initially my eyes were a bit sensitive to it, but that could have been more about my application technique than the formulation itself!

Do you have a makeup issue that I might be able to help you with?Dear LMM . . . ” is a new series I am running, but you must be a member of Little Miss Makeup Club to participate. Join today by subscribing on the homepage!

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8 Responses to ““Little Miss Makeup, my mascara flakes and smudges!””

  1. Corina says:

    Great advice and great idea with this series, congrats!

    Most of us have this problem with mascara (or with eyeliner smudging along the lower lash line, for that matter) so I would also suggest using eye primer under the eye, to keep the liner in place and the oil away from that area. Also, for someone who has make-up on for more than 6 hours I would insist on using waterproof mascara. Even if you need a little bit more time to take it off, it stays on longer, doesn’t smudge so much and also keeps the lashes curled for longer (for those who curl them).

  2. Little Miss Makeup says:

    Thanks, Corina. Your suggestions are good ones. Eye primers and waterproof mascaras can definitely help in some cases. It’s just a matter of finding out what works for you. Happy weekend!

    LMM x

  3. Emily says:

    Great series. Love a good beauty review and this one is so comprehensive!! :)

    Mascara is my must-have/can’t-live-without beauty product – going to have to try a few of the suggestions here.

    Thanks for the ideas.

  4. Little Miss Makeup says:

    You’re welcome, Emily. Thanks for visiting!

    LMM x

  5. Joy says:

    Great tips! This is brill because I usually use one brand and knowing that another one works better is fab.
    Have a wonderful week.
    Joy xx

  6. Little Miss Makeup says:

    Thank you, Joy. I’m pleased you found it helpful. Happy Wednesday!

    LMM x

  7. Lyddi says:

    If you want to thicken your lashes and use less (flaky) mascara, try Neulash. You can read up on it at http://www.skinresearchlabs.com. I’ve always had thin lashes, but I tried Neulash and love it. No extra mascara needed!

  8. Great suggestions! I’ve been looking for a mascara which is also safe on eyelash extensions, something to just apply at the tips to give that extra boost.

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