The Scientist: YouBeauty Cosmetic Chemistry Expert, Ni’Kita Wilson

The Answer: The cause of your problem, like so many that we women face, is probably gravity. What you’re seeing is not flaking, which is a common problem when the polymers that form a film around your eyelashes breaks down and flakes off onto your cheeks. It’s also not the same as smudging, which is, well, usually your own fault. You rub your eyes and move the mascara from on your lashes to…not on them. This is more likely an example of migration; you didn’t touch it, it’s not breaking off in pieces, it’s just slowly, slowly slipping off the lash and onto your skin.

This is a pretty natural process, and it makes sense, though realistically, a decent mascara formulation should hold onto the lash until you’re ready to clean it off. A waterproof mascara, for instance, has film formers that stick to your lashes, with ingredients that are meant to prevent sweat from running the color down your face. If you’re fond of volumizing types, however, you might notice that raccoon look a little more, because these mascaras are heavy and weigh the lashes down.

Picture your top lashes. They curl up a bit, must mostly stick outward. Now picture your lower lashes. They curl down, toward your under-eye area. And they’re quite close to the skin there. As gravity pulls down on the lashes, it also pulls down on the makeup that’s coating them, which drags the pigment down onto your lower lid, where it contrasts against your skin, making the migration pretty noticeable. Compare that to what’s going on with your upper lashes. Gravity is just as strong up there, but it’s dragging the mascara away from the skin on your lid—and landing it either along the lash line, where it might look like liner, or right into your eye.

Your best bet for prevention is probably to use less product. Stick to one or two coats max. This way, your lashes will be weighed down less. Plus, mascara is cohesive at one or two coats, meaning it sticks well to the lashes, but the more you layer, the less the mascara can hold itself in place. If that doesn’t help—or if you just can’t stop yourself from building for a dramatic effect—try a good waterproof formula and see if that does the trick. Otherwise, try to enjoy the perfectly imperfect smokey-smudgy look and rock it like you meant it.

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