Savvy womens Magazine

Black Eyes

By Claire Baiz

There is no such thing as eye makeup remover.

One afternoon, back in the 1960’s, just after Twiggy introduced the half-inch spider lash, the conspiracy began. It was mid-afternoon, in a dingy downstairs jazz club in Midtown Manhattan. The narrow necktie boys from Revlon scraped their chairs up to the corner booth across from Team Mary Quant, three rail-thin blondes dressed in matching white vinyl miniskirts and go-go boots.

“It’s not working,” whispered the Yardley lady, a Psychic Coral lip-gloss stain on the rim of her shot glass. “The damn stuff won’t stay put during the day, but when you try to remove it, it’s like you need to burn it off with a blowtorch…or something.” Her voice trailed off uncertainly under the scowls of her peers.

“We’ve tried everything,” a Revlon guy nervously flopped open a thick manila file labeled Top Secret. “Our research arrived at the same conclusion—nothing truly removes eye makeup without removing the customer’s eyes.”

At that moment nearly fifty years ago the world’s major cosmetics companies entered into a secret pact. No one will blow the whistle: they all have too much to lose. You can buy all the eye makeup you want, but don’t expect to get it off any time soon. Sure, with effort, your tissue or blotter will appear to be effective, but it’s trompe d’oiel. Eye makeup remover goes on clear (or white or blue) but it’s engineered to turn a muddy hue upon contact with any surface. Rub some against a wall if you don’t believe me.

I’ve sampled eye makeup removal techniques from several generations and philosophies and can assert with confidence that there is a conspiracy to convince women that eye makeup remover actually exists.

In the sixties I used my grandmother’s Albolene cream. This clearish salve has the same effect on eyeballs that the Exxon Valdez had on the Alaskan coast. If you get the tiniest amount in your eye, for God’s sake sit down—and don’t plan to read anything anytime soon.

In high school I heard Vaseline did the trick. I am pretty sure Vaseline actually comes from the Exxon Valdez, and the effect was the same. Besides, adding industrial lubricant to teenage skin was a disaster.

Tubes, liquids, pre-saturated pads. Honey, I’ve tried them all.

Why is it I still wake up with raccoon eyes, or at least enough melted makeup to mark up a morning tissue?

The expensive stuff was such a pretty shade of Caribbean Blue that it was irresistible, to the tune of nearly forty bucks. Then came the all-natural slime that oozed out of the recyclable container. It cost less than half as much, and was equally ineffective.

Finally, the tube of gel remover I bought at Target remained on my eyes longer than the makeup it was intended to remove…but it had a hidden advantage: the remover was so thick that when I tried to push it from the dispenser, the pressure sprung an oozing leak at the wrong end of the tube. This actually became my favorite eye-makeup remover—not because it worked, but because I could open it one-handed, at the gym, by just giving the thing a little push at the business end.

Thankfully, despite bad removers, most eye makeup wears off from sheer friction after a weekend of abstinence, allowing my facial canvas of five decades to brace for another week of paint.

I’ve considered doing without.

Last year in a hotel suite, as a spur-of-the-moment experiment, I made up just one eye and asked a convenient male, who was sitting across the room doing nothing--except staring aimlessly into space the way men do-- if he could tell the difference. “Yeah, something is wrong with one eye,” he gestured to the one without makeup. “It looks droopy.” Men might not notice much, but if this fellow, who didn’t notice a sock on the front stairwell for two weeks, figures my ‘plain’ eye is deformed, that’s incentive for my addiction to base, concealer, three shadows, smudge liner, mascara and eyebrow pencil.

After all, if a man could tell the difference, then eye makeup must work.

It would just be nice to get the darn stuff off on the first try.

About the Author:
Claire Baiz is a freelance writer and quarterly columnist for Signature Montana magazine. Her essays and fiction have appeared in InStore magazine and she is a featured editorial writer for the Great Falls Tribune. Claire divides her time between her wholesale jewelry business and writing, spending time in Montana and New York City. She blogs at