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How to prevent dreaded mascara bleeding

Your makeup looks perfect before you leave home in the morning, but before you know it, your mascara is smudging or running down your face.

Woman applying mascara

Whether you are active, take a catnap on your lunch hour or rub your eyes too often, you can find yourself with dreaded mascara bleeding. Follow these tips to get rid of your messy makeup and look beautiful again.

Pick the right formula

The key to avoiding bleeding mascara is to start with the right formula. Waterproof mascara is a good place to start but it isn’t the end-all. Sometimes it’s not water that causes your mascara to run — it’s the oils in your face. Look for a mascara that is smudge proof and budge proof. Experiment with different products to find the one that is right for you. Remember that more expensive doesn’t necessarily equal better. Try these drugstore mascaras to get the best beauty bang for your buck.

Use a primer

Primer will add an additional step in your makeup routine, but it’s well worth the cost and time. Primer serves as a foundation to hold your mascara in place, reducing the chance for bleeding and running. When you use primer, wait for it to dry before applying your mascara to get more staying power.

Wait between coats

Speaking of waiting, one of the biggest mistakes when applying mascara is not waiting between coats. Apply your first coat of mascara, wait for it to fully dry and then use a lash comb to separate your lashes before applying the next coat. You don’t need more than two coats — too many coats of mascara can be the cause of bleeding. Two coats will provide enough color, length and volume without resulting in clumpy, messy lashes.

Avoid mascara on lower lashes

You can drastically reduce the chances your mascara will run or bleed by avoiding using it on your lower lashes. Because your lower lashes are close to your skin, there’s a much greater chance of your skin’s oils causing your mascara to bleed under your eyes. Try applying your mascara to your upper lashes only, and see if you like the look. It might take some getting used to, but it looks more natural.

Carry an emergency kit

Be sure to include cotton swabs, concealer and mascara in your makeup bag wherever you go. This way you can make on-the-spot touch-ups before your bleeding mascara gets out of hand. Check out our choices for the 10 best mascaras of all-time.

Fake it

If you rub your eyes often, are extremely active or are just prone to smudging, you might consider another alternative to mascara. There’s no shame in going without mascara altogether. With an eyelash curler and some eyeliner, your eyes can still look fabulous. Quick tip: Also consider false lashes — they are much easier to apply these days than in decades gone by. They come in full strips or individual lashes, and can look very natural.

If you really like the look of mascara, head to your local salon and talk to a professional about getting eyelash extensions or having your lashes dyed. This allows you to avoid mascara altogether with amazing results.

Watch: Eyelash extension application

This semi-permanent technique involves attaching a single synthetic fiber to a natural eyelash using a bonding agent.

More makeup tips

How to make your makeup last all day
Day-to-night makeup tips

Makeup tips for your eye color, hair color and face shape

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