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How To Remove Stubborn Eyeliner Without Irritating Your Eyes

For most makeup lovers, eyeliner is an everyday staple. Whether you want to go bold and dramatic or add a little definition for a natural look, eyeliners bring on all the color and fun. What’s probably not so fun, though, is having to take it off before you go to bed.

You know the importance of taking off all your makeup at the end of the day. (If you don’t, just know a whole bunch of skin concerns like eye irritation and unwanted breakouts can occur when sleeping with your makeup on.) So while it may be tempting to skip out on it, it is beyond worth doing — for your skin’s sake.

You’ll want to keep this guide handy the next time you wake up with remnants of yesterday’s eyeliner smudged on your face. Here, global senior artist at M.A.C. Cosmetics Michelle Clark breaks down the four best ways to remove stubborn eyeliner.

Clark says the best way to remove eyeliner is to dissolve it with either micellar water or oil. For non-waterproof liner, she says using micellar water should do the trick. This is especially great for those with sensitive eyes as it’s a very gentle remover.

It’s pretty simple to use. She recommends wrapping a makeup-removing micellar water wipe, like M.A.C. Cosmetics Gently Off Wipes + Micellar Water, around a cotton swab and gliding it along the lash line. After that, you can then remove the wipe from the cotton swab and use it to remove any residue.

She also likes using a micellar water-based product for waterline liner removal. “It’s gentle and it won’t get into your eyes and leave a film as oil can,” she says. For this you’ll want to dip a cotton swab in micellar water. Then, gently press down just below the waterline and slowly glide it along to remove.

For waterproof eyeliner, oil is the way to go for removal. “[The oil] will break it down the fastest and it will minimize the amount of scrubbing or repeated applications you will need to do,” Clark says.

She likes to soak a cotton bud or cotton pad in remover and gently rest it on the eye for 20-30 seconds. She explains that this will give oil enough time to dissolve product, allowing you to wipe it away in only one or two swipes. She then recommends using micellar water after to remove any oily residue.

In general, you should never scrub your skin too hard. But scrubbing the eye area especially is something you want to avoid. Clark explains that scrubbing the eye too hard will damage the skin and cause eyelashes to fall out.

This may sound obvious but one of the best ways to make eyeliner easy to remove is to not put as much of it on. If you really want to make your eyeliner pop, opt for highly-pigmented and bold colors. “Work smarter not harder,” says Clark. “Your eyes will thank you.”