Just about a year ago, I got Bell’s palsy, a neurological condition that results in paralysis on one side of the face. I was pregnant with twins when suddenly the right side of my face became completely paralyzed—it was dramatic (not to mention traumatic) but my boys were born healthy and perfect, and the Bell’s palsy of it all is a story for another time. My face has improved significantly in the intervening months, but there are lasting effects of the paralysis that I am regularly trying to troubleshoot—one of those being a perpetually watering right eye.
For a few months, my watering eye stopped me from wearing makeup completely—anytime I tried I’d end up with streaks of bronzer and blush down my face and mascara everywhere—but I love makeup and when I realized these Bell’s palsy side effects weren’t going away with any predictability, I decided to figure out a new makeup routine. Watering eye and all.
To that end, I’ve been on a mission to find mascaras that can withstand a truly constant tearing eye (and the eye wiping that goes with it). Low and behold, there are a lot of excellent options out there and many subtle nuances when it comes to application. I turned to an expert who could explain what to look for in a good mascara. “With all mascaras, your brush preference plays an important part,” shares celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon. “Most have personal preference: Fatter, fluffy brushes are usually better for volume, comb style wands for length, etc.”
Aharon let me know that it’s also essential to remove your waterproof mascara at the end of the day, because keeping it on (while tempting) will result in damaged, broken lashes. “Oil cleansers will help to easily break down the product while nourishing your lashes,” she adds.
Of course, Bell’s palsy is not a pre-requisite for these waterproof mascaras—these suggestions work just as well for beach days or sweaty runs or sad movies or…anything really, though Aharon cautions against making waterproof mascara a daily staple because of how tough removal can be on skin and lashes: “Limit use to when it’s really necessary, like for teary weddings or sweaty performances.”
All that said, I tried a lot of “waterproof” mascaras as I assembled this list and many of them just didn’t do the job; lots of streaks and mascara dust on my cheeks, and smudges when I forgot I was wearing makeup and touched my eyes. These are the mascaras that made it through a day (at least) with me and aren’t too terrible for you (according to my clean living holy grail EWG). May my research make your mascara purchasing far simpler and much more waterproof.
7 waterproof mascaras that hold up against eye-watering
This one was worn to work where I was on my feet all day setting up for a cocktail party, and then to said cocktail party after that. A lot of eating and drinking and hobnobbing ensued. I was impressed that even with a busy (occasionally sweaty) 12-hour day the Lash Stiletto stayed put. The wand is super straight which some might not love, as application then feels a little less gentle—I found curved wands felt a little smoother when I applied. Still, the Lash Stiletto is getting a spot on my vanity. It did the job with aplomb.
This one was recommended by a friend who is a marathon runner; Maneater hit the top of her list when even after 26.2 sweaty miles, the makeup didn’t budge. The brush is straight and the comb has 500+ bristles so each and every lash gets properly coated. The ingredients list also includes avocado oil and camellia seed oil which prevents dryness and helps keep lashes nourished and hydrated.
This one claims to have 36 hours of life in it, and while I did not give it that long of a test (I followed Aharon’s advice and removed it at the end of the day) it held up beautifully for a work day and an evening at home. The brush is straight and the formula is something Maybelline calls “volume lock,” which means that with each coat comes increased volume and thickness.
A barely-there option, I loved this mascara as a no-makeup makeup alternative. It felt similar to how skin looks smoother with tinted moisturizer, or lips look more luscious with a tiny bit of tint. The straight wand adds subtle volume that lasted an entire smudge-free day. The mascara comes in two shades: Black Brown and Very Black. I opted for Very Black and found it dark without being overly done.
I love that this option is both vegan and cruelty free, and that it is made with hemp-derived cannabis seed oil which kept my lashes feeling hydrated and not too brittle. The bristles on the brush are designed so you can get the mascara as close to the root of the lashes as possible, which adds a super lengthened look. And the look lasted all day! Exactly what I was looking for.
This mascara sold out four times on Ulta’s site and it’s easy to see why. Both affordable and extremely effective, it separated and coated my lashes—and then stayed perfectly put over the course of my work day. The “flex tower brush” truly does get mascara on all the teeniest lashes, as promised, and the wand is both flexible and easy to manipulate. This one also makes its way onto makeup artist Aharon’s favorite waterproof mascara list, which helped it find its way onto mine.
This has become my go-to mascara for any special event. The wand is straight, the brush extremely fluffy, and it seems to coat every single one of my lashes making my eyes pop in a way I thought only eyeliner could do. It also does not budge—and has been tested at tearful weddings and on sweaty dance floors. Available in Catwalk Black and Catwalk Brown the black shade adds some very nice, waterproof glamour.
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