Can You Sleep With Mascara On?

young woman wearing mascara lying in bed sleeping

Can you sleep with mascara on? Honestly, for all of us who get way too tired to remove makeup after a long day, the answer seems like an easy one. Or, at least, we want it to be an easy one. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer when it comes down to whether or not you can or should be sleeping in mascara after a long day.

This article will cover all the reasons you shouldn’t wear mascara—or any sort of makeup, for that matter—to bed. Also, if you had accidentally slept with some mascara on, don’t worry: we will cover what to do next. Hint: it isn’t the end of the world!

Before moving on, no, you should avoid sleeping with mascara on for a number of reasons. Not only do you risk a bacterial infection, but you also may have to deal with a myriad of other problems like irritation, dry skin, brittle lashes, and premature aging (in the long run, at least).

So, without further ado, keep reading for all the fun, interesting facts behind what really happens when you wear eye makeup to bed and why it isn’t in your favor to fall asleep in it.

Is It OK To Sleep With Mascara On?

No, sleeping with mascara on is not OK! In fact—if you can—avoid sleeping with mascara on at all costs. Putting aside the risk of an eye infection like pink eye (known also as conjunctivitis), there are tons of other reasons you should avoid resting your head while you are still wearing eye makeup. 

To best define the beauty product as it is, mascara is a beauty product that adds length, color, and thickness to one’s own natural lashes. It enhances the eyes and is the second most popular beauty product in the world according to Harper’s Bazaar writer, Becki Murray.

With its allure and overall popularity, mascara is nearly everyone’s go-to makeup essential. That being said, mascara can be easily forgotten, especially if it is the only makeup being worn at the time. 

Despite its popularity, versatility, and ease of access, mascara should never be slept in, as there are a number of risks associated with doing so.

Risks include the following:

Brittle Lashes

First things first, brittle lashes are a common after-effect of mascara use. Brittleness occurs when eyelashes that are coated in mascara are pulled at or rubbed; in turn, this tugs at the roots and leads to lash fall-out, root sensitivity, and irritation. 

To combat excessively vulnerable lashes, moisturizing could help. There are a number of moisturizing serums on the market, however, if those evade you then there are easy, DIY moisturizers that could be made from the comfort of your own home using a number of natural oils.

Vaseline is another popular choice—simply remember to completely cleanse any and all oil or petroleum jelly from your eyelid or eyelashes afterwards.

Fine Lines And Wrinkles

To clarify, mascara alone does not cause fine lines and wrinkles. That being said, removing mascara can cause the development of premature aging of the skin. Generally, aggressive rubbing, pulling, and a generally poor removal technique are only a few of the direct causes of fine lines.

It is important to note that when an individual falls asleep in mascara, the product continues to dry and harden on the lashes it is coating. The continued drying process makes mascara more strenuous to remove and—despite all of our best efforts—could create fine lines thanks to the difficult removal.

Dryness And Irritation

Mascara can trigger eye-dryness when slept in from the product flaking off during rest. Likewise, irritation of the eye and surrounding skin happens when there is an event known as contact dermatitis—or, inflammation of the skin upon contact.

This is a common, minor allergic reaction that many people experience with a number of products, not all being makeup. And, unfortunately, it sometimes just happens.

Although it may seem sudden, your body was actually routinely exposed to the allergen in minor doses until it managed to identify what the exact issue was. Contact dermatitis isn’t contagious, or life-threatening, but can be extremely vexing to deal with. 

What Happens If You Wear Mascara To Bed?

By wearing mascara to bed, you risk drying out your lashes and you may trigger premature lash loss. On top of this, you can also cause the formation of fine lines—which I review all about in the section above.

Most notably, when you wear mascara to bed it wears on your eyelash and eyelid health. The toll of wearing mascara to bed can manifest in a number of ways. Unforeseen product buildup can lead to painful irritation, while inflammation of the eyelid can contribute to lash loss.   

How Long Can You Leave Mascara On?

Depending on your preferred brand and type of mascara, you can have mascara reasonably stay on for well over 9 hours. If you are early to rise and late to fall, then that sort of durability may be pretty dang appealing.

Honestly, I really can’t blame you. However, no matter how tired you get or how wonderful the mascara is feeling (it is easy to forget it is there sometimes), make sure you remove the makeup you are wearing at the end of the day.

Mascara should never be slept in whatsoever, whether it be for a cat nap or for an overnight snooze. Neglecting this unspoken rule can lead to some beauty kerfuffles that cause dryness, brittleness, and irritation. In short, it is fine to wear mascara for whatever length of time you feel like it.

You can wear it for your 9-5, or even for an entirety of an evening event that could last into the early hours of the morning. Afterwards, always make sure your makeup is removed before getting some shut-eye and moisturize once all is said and done.

Is It OK To Wear Mascara Every Day?

Although mascara is one of the easiest, most beloved makeup products most of us have in our beauty bag, it really isn’t OK to wear mascara every day. Oh, and before you ask: yes, even if you take it all off at night. Repetitive, regular daily use of mascara can lead to irritation, inflammation, infection, lash loss, and buildup.

In all honesty, lashes are a delicate thing. Moreso, the skin around the lashes is a more delicate thing. It doesn’t take much friction for it to tear or get inflamed, and when pairing that sensitivity with mascara, you’ve got a recipe for a lash disaster.

Of course, mascara should be enjoyed. Definitely use it if it fits in with the look you are going for, but use it limitedly. Don’t overload your lashes with product, and please don’t use mascara every single day if you care—or are worried—about your lash and eye health.

Can Wearing Mascara To Bed Ruin Your Eyelashes?

We can say with confidence that wearing mascara to bed will damage your eyelashes, although it is unlikely that a single instance will completely ruin them. The way mascara works is that it coats the lashes—sometimes, the lashes clump together—and stiffens them into shape.

It is one of the reasons curling eyelashes beforehand is a desirable practice: the mascara formula will hold the curl. Unless, of course, you are like me, who has very straight, stubborn lashes, but I digress.

Continuing on, eyelashes that are covered with mascara become vulnerable to breakage because of the product having hardened. It is in a cast, and if pressure is applied in just such a way, it will crack.

So, when you head to bed with mascara still coating your eyelashes, they are still being held in a rigid form. Rubbing your face against the pillow or with your hands, or falling face-first into bed will cause some amount of lash breakage and fall-out.

Likewise, even if it isn’t intentional, moving in your sleep can cause enough pressure to break your lashes as well. Lastly, if you have fallen asleep with mascara on you may notice your lashes feel dry.

In a similar fashion, your eyes may feel sore or irritated. Make sure to remove all makeup and moisturize your lashes and face to the best of your ability. After, giving your face a breather from makeup wouldn’t be a terrible idea either. 

Can Sleeping With Mascara Cause A Stye?

Sleeping with mascara can surely cause a stye. Styes are painful, red bumps. Usually, they are a direct result of one of the glands along your lash line becoming clogged. And, what is better at clogging pores than makeup? 

It is no wonder that sleeping in mascara can cause a stye, since the product rests so close to—if not immediately on—the lash line. The mascara can plug the glands, trapping in dirt and debris; this will lead to swelling and irritation. 

Now, if you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of developing a stye, don’t panic. In most cases, a stye will go away on its own. A warm compress will hasten the process—just stay away from mascara during this time. 

Also, most drug stores like CVS Pharmacy will carry eye drops specially formulated to ease stye symptoms. These droplets will make the short time you have the stye far more bearable, especially if your symptoms are more severe or distracting. 

Of course, if you have any concerns over the development of a stye, or if the stye remains inflamed for more than the standard time, it wouldn’t hurt to make an appointment with your physician. They may have further knowledge of any helpful remedies. 

Can Sleeping In Mascara Cause Pink Eye?

Yes, sleeping in mascara can certainly cause pink eye. Pink eye—also commonly referred to as conjunctivitis—is the inflammation of the conjunctiva.

In itself, the conjunctiva is the mucous membrane that surrounds the sclera (the white of the eyeball) that provides lubrication and protection. When it becomes inflamed, you can experience redness, itchiness, watery eyes, discharge, and general discomfort. 

Furthermore, conjunctivitis that occurs from sleeping in mascara is usually bacterial in nature. It comes around when the bacteria within the mascara comes in contact with and infects the conjunctiva. 

In most cases of pink eye, it will pass on its own. A cold compress will help reduce the inflammation and the itchy, burning sensation that comes with it. 

Saying that, there are antibacterial eye drops available if you are looking to speed up the process and ease the ongoing symptoms. Check in with your doctor if you have more questions, and get ready for a small lecture about sleeping in your eye makeup. 

Do I Need To Remove My Mascara Every Night?

Absolutely: you should remove mascara every night. Inadequate removal of mascara—or, alternatively, neglecting to remove mascara altogether—can lead to some serious problems down the line.

There was a 2017 case of a 50-year-old Australian woman who reported long-time use of mascara who went to an ophthalmologist after experiencing extensive irritation. 

Only, the ophthalmologist discovered that the woman had poor makeup removal techniques, and that leftover mascara had flaked off into the conjunctiva and gotten deposited into the mucous membrane. 

The case study can be accessed here through the American Academy of Ophthalmology, though be warned: the images attached can be enough to turn a stomach.

Of course, the above is an extreme case and is certainly not commonplace. There is a higher risk of irritation and damage done to the eyelashes themselves. 

On that fun note, don’t disregard thorough mascara removal. Make sure you get off as much mascara as you possibly can. For the health of your eyes and for the surrounding delicate skin, makeup removal is a crucial before-bed routine.

What To Do If You Slept With Mascara On?

If you slept with mascara on, don’t worry! Take off the mascara as soon as you wake up and follow up with a cleanser. After cleansing, it would be a good idea to follow up with a hydrating face mask for extra measure. 

If you don’t have access to an effective makeup remover, check out our article titled “How To Take Off Mascara Without Makeup Remover” for some advice on the topic. Generally, sleeping with mascara on once won’t cause serious issues. Even a small handful of times won’t lead to any major problems.

In reality, the risk comes around when you make sleeping in mascara a regular habit, or when you are using a mascara product that has expired. That’s right: makeup, especially mascara, does expire. As a rule of thumb, toss out any mascara that is older than 3 months.

Although you can technically push it to 6 months, remember that mascara is a moist product that—once exposed to air—becomes susceptible to bacteria. If you suspect that your mascara has expired (if it is clumpy, smelly, or applies poorly) then it is best to cease application and get rid of it. 

Now, if you sleep with mascara that may be expired, keep track of any unusual symptoms as they pertain to your eyes: any burning, itching, swelling, or unusual discharge should be reviewed by your physician.

These symptoms can arise even when sleeping in mascara that has not expired. All symptoms should be carefully monitored, as there is always a risk of conjunctivitis—although minimal, more often than not. 

What Is A Safe Alternative To Mascara?

There are a few alternative products to mascara. These alternatives largely include strip falsies, extensions, mascara balms, creams, and lash tints.

Each have their own unique traits and are effective in replacing mascara, though falsies, extensions, and tints can all be used with mascara to further draw attention to your eyes.

Below is a bit more in-depth information about each option, in case you are interested in trying out these awesome mascara alternatives:


False lashes are a classic go-to for a quick and easy emphasis on your eyes. They come in a ton of different styles and can be dressed up or dressed down. Application techniques range from using eyelash glue to the use of tiny magnetics along the lash strip. 

The most popular false eyelashes are lightweight and mimic the look and feel of natural lashes. With a handful of material options available—from mink, to faux-mink, synthetic, and silk—there is a ton of versatility available with falsies without the use of mascara.

Lash Extensions

Lash extensions are a popular option for those looking for the extra oomph granted by false eyelashes, though they are far longer lasting (around 2 months).

Although you won’t be able to switch up your lash look as often as you may like, extensions are great for those looking to wake up with full, fluttering lashes right off the bat, and who also don’t mind regular upkeep. 

As with most beauty procedures and processes, extensions require substantial aftercare that should be considered prior to application. If you’re considering lash extensions, be aware that you will need to take extra care of your lashes and eye area.

Balms And Creams

Lash balms and creams are usually organic. Moreover, most of those you can find on the market are advertised as being zero-waste (a total win for Mother Earth).

These mascara alternatives tend to include ingredients like natural oils—coconut, castor, grapeseed—and come in a container separate from the applicator brush.

For example, River Organics Zero-Waste Mascara is completely vegan and cruelty-free. Even better is that their packaging is compostable and their labels are made from biodegradable sugarcane.

Similar products can be found on an online marketplace like Etsy, where small businesses like Earth Sparked and Nudi Goods sell their own sustainable variations of mascara alternatives. 

Lash Tints

Lash tints can be a bit more damaging to your lashes than previous mentions, but they are still considered an effective mascara alternative. They can possibly make lashes brittle and for some, actually, damage the eye itself.

As an aside, lash tints aren’t actually approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as of 2022. This means that in some states, it is illegal for salons and professionals to conduct a lash tint.

It should be further added that tints are oftentimes performed with a lift as well, which appears to add extra length to your lashes without actually doing just that. Together, they do a phenomenal job at enhancing the eyes.

While a lash tint is popular amongst a number of influencers, celebrities, and others, always check your local laws and only go to licensed, experienced professionals. 

Final Thoughts: Can You Sleep With Mascara On?

To wrap it all up, let’s be safe rather than sorry: don’t wear mascara to bed. Seriously. If the 2017 images of mascara flake buildup beneath the eyelid wasn’t enough to dissuade you, hopefully all the other reasons why you shouldn’t wear mascara to bed was plenty. 

More often than not, your risks include what you would likely expect. Outside of the realm of eye infections and inflammation like conjuctivitis and a stye, you also run the risks of having to manage irritation, breakage, and the development of early aging from inadequate skincare.

Remember that it is vital to note that there is a very limited risk when sleeping in mascara only once or twice, unless an allergen within the product is already present. At that point, if you are not already aware, you shouldn’t be wearing any makeup that you have a known allergy to, no matter how minor it may seem.

Risks of sleeping with mascara increase when dealing with expired mascara or when it becomes a regular habit. So, always be thorough when removing your mascara before bed.

Now, there are alternatives to mascara if you are not too thrilled about using that particular product after hearing about all of these adverse effects of sleeping in it.

These handful of alternatives include falsies, lash extensions, lash tints, eyelash balms, and creams. Each have their own pros and cons, therefore you should explore all the options before selecting a single one to replace your ol’ reliable mascara.

At best, now that you are aware of the risks that come with sleeping in mascaras and the options you have, do what makes you the most comfortable.

How you feel and the confidence you have in yourself is key. Simply put, you don’t have to follow the advice and information in this article, but hopefully, with the new information, you are able to make an effective decision moving forward on your beauty journey.

You May Also Like

By Cierra Tolentino

Cierra Tolentino is a beauty writer at Kintegra Research. She loves keeping people up-to-date with the latest beauty trends in skincare, hair care, and makeup. Finding answers to tough questions is her thing. When she has free time you can find her chasing down a clumsy toddler and obsessively drinking tea.