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The Tracks of Your Tears: How to Repair Your Makeup After Crying

By Amalah

How to Repair Your Makeup After Crying
Hi Amy,
I have a somewhat strange question to ask. I am about to go through a number of events (an IVF cycle, a close friend’s wedding, sister’s graduation) where I will definitely be crying, but still need to look presentable. What kinds of make up products or creams or anything else you can think of, should I be keeping in my purse to help me get rid of the red/pouffy eyes and splotchy skin that comes with all the crying I’m expecting in the next few months? I’ve kind of given up on mascara and my normal foundation doesn’t seem to be up to the job of covering the redness. I use an Almay waterproof mascara and Smashbox foundation (which I generally love).
Thank you in advance.
Trying to get the red out

Focus on Repair Tools
tissues.jpgThere aren’t really any cosmetics out there that are 100% guaranteed to withstand crying, so I’d probably focus on making sure you have the proper repair tools for afterwards, rather than stocking up on stage pancake makeup and ultra-waterproof mascara. That emotional redness is going to show through just about every foundation known to man, and eye makeup is going to run, but with proper handbag stocking you can get back to presentable-looking pretty easily.
As someone very prone to tearing up in public, this is the routine I use. Often. (I can’t make it through movie trailers these days without crying, and the last movie I saw in the theater was Horton Hears a Who, so you can only imagine how easy it is to set me off.)
Do Not Rub Your Eyes
The first rule of crying in your makeup is to NOT RUB YOUR EYES. Don’t frantically press a tissue over your eyelid or blindly wipe under your eyes with your fingers. To stem the flow of tears and mascara lines when you’re not in front of a mirror, simply fold a tissue several times and gently blot your face below your lash line, particularly in that leaky inner corner. Again, no rubbing — you aren’t trying to remove makeup here, just trying to catch what you can before the black streaks reach your chin. And finally, don’t hunch over, but tilt your head back and let your tears and makeup roll back into your tear ducts. (Don’t worry, we’ll fix any eyeball irritation in a sec.)
Blot with Tissue
Now it’s time to haul ass to the ladies and fix the damage. Obviously you can’t just wash your face and start from scratch, so we’re just going to Macguyver our way through this. Blot with that folded dry tissue some more, lifting and lightening the eye makeup as much as you can. Now wet another folded tissue (no. paper. towels. or one-ply commercial toilet paper. bring a pocket pack of soft tissue.) with a little bit of tap water and blot again. The fold is important so you can have a nice firm corner to absorb more from right under your lash line.
Use Non-Waterproof Mascara. You read correctly.
Personally, and this may sound off-the-wall to a lot of you, I prefer non-waterproof mascara, PARTICULARLY when I know there’s going to be some waterworks. I’ve never found a waterproof mascara that holds up beyond a small drizzle of tears, and they are a BITCH to get off your face and eyes afterwards. Unless you can bring some cotton balls and eye-makeup solvent, I feel better with something I can wipe away with tissue and tap water.
Use Eye Drops
Next, apply some eye drops to take care of the red eyes and immediate puffiness. Nothing gives you away faster than bloodshot eyeballs, so good old Visine will mask this sign of crying AND will help cool your eyes and ducts down. My eyes always get hot and sensitive when I cry, which is why I sometimes have a problem stopping the tears even after I’ve calmed down. Eye drops help. (So do wet tea bags or cucumber slices from the reception’s crudite platter, but I suppose these solutions might be a little…WEIRD to some people in your average public restroom.)
Tricks for Blotchy Skin
Now, for the blotchy redness on your face…there are a few tricks I know of. One, obviously, is deep breaths and firmly applying a warm (NOT cold) paper towel to your cheeks and neck. Pressing your fingertips around your face can also help prompt your skin to snap back to a normal circulation pattern. (Give yourself some TIME too — don’t get even more flushed by cursing at yourself to get it together already.)
Re-apply Make-up
Re-applying a very light layer of moisturizer (particularly one with cooling ingredients like cucumber or aloe, or one with a little tint), can help calm things down too. (I know, moisturizer over foundation = clog city, but if we’re talking WEDDING PHOTOS here, you gotta do what you’ve gotta do. Then you gotta treat yourself to regular facials during your IVF cycle.)
If your skin tends to get a little shiny, blotting papers are a good thing to have handy. Mine is usually oily, but crying always brings out the dry tightness, so I opt to go with a sample size of oil-free moisturizer instead. I’ve tried using my eye cream, but found that even the gentlest of applications just made things worse after all the blotting and dabbing, plus it’s just another damn thing to pack, so now I opt to just leave them alone, save for maybe a tiny touch of moisturizer to smooth out creased or shiny eyeshadow.
P201441_hero.jpgAnd now it’s time to rebuild. Apply a green-tinted concealer or make-up base to any remaining redness on your nose and face, and use a white or cream-colored eye pencil to the inner corners of your eyes. Blot some pressed powder on your eyelids and over the green concealer to blend. DON’T bother re-applying mascara — you’ll look spider-y and clump-y. Instead, use eyeliner to redefine your lash line. (Provided you don’t think there will be any more crying fits.) (And I hope it goes without saying that the eyeliner pencil should start the day in your bag, NOT on your face. That’s just another eye mess you don’t need.) The eyeliner will also keep you from looking too make-up-less afterwards, i.e. like you DIDN’T just spend 15 minutes in the ladies’ room cleaning up tarantula tracks off your face.

The Weepy Girl’s Emergency Handbag Repair Kit:

  • Pocket pack of tissues
  • Oil-blotting papers
  • Redness-reducing eye drops
  • Sample- or travel-size oil-free facial moisturizer
  • Travel-sized green or yellow-tinted concealer or primer, such as Smashbox, Clinique or Benefit.
  • Light-colored eye pencil, such as Benefit’s It Stick, Mr. Frosty or Eye Bright
  • Black or brown eyeliner pencil.
  • Oil-free pressed powder, such as Almay or Neutrogena.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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You MUST try Kiss Me Mascara. ( It is cry-proof. But, it comes off with plain water and a little gentle pressure. It is totally unlike any other mascara I’ve ever tried. Instead of painting your lashes, it makes tiny tubes of mascara around them, that look like spider legs in the shower or sink when you take it off. But it’s fabulous, and no more black streaks! I used to always get raccoon eyes when I wore mascara, because I have deep set eyes and poofy cheeks. No more! Try it, and thank me later. Regards, Amy Another Cryer… Read more »


Just wanted to share that I have found that Lancome waterproof mascara REALLY MEANS WATERPROOF. I kid you not, I go swimming in this mascara. At water parks. Pro: It’s not smearing or running or dripping ANYWHERE, even if you go swimming for 6 hours, even if you are like me and rub your eyes everytime you get out of the water. Con: you will need mineral oil to remove it, and the mineral oil gets in your eyes really easily, and you can end up with greasy, blurry vision (especially if you wear contacts like me)for a few minutes.


This may be the most helpful piece of advice EVER. I cry at the drop of a hat, including when I am frustrated (so all the time).


I exclusively use waterproof mascara, and I use lotion on a Q-Tip to remove it. Works like magic. I always manage to smoosh it all around my eyes during application, and a tiny bit of Curel (or whatever) cleans me up in no time. With the exception of the new Covergirl waterproof mascara (the orange one), as that stuff is made in Hell with extract of superglue.


Great advice! I had two jobs that made me cry ALL THE FROCK TIME. I perfected the art of crying in the bathroom, letting the tears drop to the floor and thus saving my eye makeup. Sad, I know.


I have the moisturizing version of these Almay makeup remover pads and I’d imagine they’d be a good portable option to carry in your emergency repair kit:


I use L’Oreal Original Voluminous waterproof mascara and I never ever have any smudging. I am into extreme sports and I even wore it white water rafting.
(Thanks for the advise on the splotchy. Crying never comes at convenient times)


This is amazingly comprehensive and helpful. Adding certain products to “emergency work makeup kit” tomorrow.


As someone who cries at work – more than I care to admit – I use st ives eye and face stress gel. It’s nice and cool and relaxes the red blotchy puffiness. Just wait a few minutes and powder up. Then a trick my mom taught me ages ago (as we red heads get very red in the face very quick) is to eat some candy, something about the sugar helps to stabilize your face. I don’t know about you, but snickers helps my face and my soul.

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A slightly different twist on this advice: I just went through job hell and a friend, who’d been thru FAR worse in life (aka best cleaning lady in the universe)gave me 2 great tips to stem the crying to begin with. One: cold water. As cold as you can get. Drink it and it will freeze tears in your throat. Two: and similar, but ingenious, Halls, or Chloraseptic lozenges, something you use to numb a sore throat will keep you a little numb and prevent you from choking up in the first place. Fortunately, I’ve only had to use it… Read more »


I really like Aveda’s dual foundation powder compact thingy. It has enough coverage to conceal redness or blotchiness, but it’s not cakey like those wet powder foundation compacts (I think you can apply it wet, but it’s not one of those wet things that dries to a weird glaze on your face). I have super dark under eye circles, so it’s great for touch-ups while I’m out, where I don’t want to re-apply concealer and the whole bit. I think it would be excellent for post-cry touch-ups as well.


I loved this article so much that I linked to it in my blog post about planning your wedding makeup. Thanks for the great info.