Your Makeup Is Running

Nostalgia Critic: You weren't even wearing mascara. How is it running?
JesuOtaku: [confused] I don't know!

When someone is wearing heavy makeup they run the risk that it get smudged, this is especially true if they start crying or otherwise get their face wet. Their makeup will start to run down their face in heavy, inky and colorful rivers; mascara especially. The black lines streaming down the face are very striking visually and make a very visible sign of sadness. A Sub-Trope of Inelegant Blubbering.

Some characters may purposely invoke this effect by applying makeup in this way as a sign of continued grief, kind of like wearing black to a funeral. Be very careful, because these characters are generally carrying their sadness with an equal yearning for bitter revenge.

May sometimes overlap with Cosmetic Catastrophe, especially if it happens during a production. May wind up being the result of Guyliner if it happens to a male character. See also Make-Up Is Evil and Excessive Evil Eyeshadow.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In One Piece, Bentham has this happen during his final talk with Luffy and co. after they went through the Gate Of Justice towards Marine Ford. Only in the Anime though.
  • In Princess Jellyfish, this happens to Tsukimi several times after Kuranosuke dolls her up, though the second time it winds up being averted since he used waterproof mascara, a fact he comments on.

  • Dylan Moran describes gin as "mascara thinner" for 40-something women, in his show Monster.

    Comic Books 
  • Alice in Batwoman has this happen to her twice, in both cases showing one of the drawbacks of such elaborate makeup. Given her general aesthetic is a blatant in-universe-reference to Alice in Wonderland and the associated tropes this may have been deliberate on the part of the character herself.

    Fan Works 
  • Happens to Marinette in Fermeture when she breaks down in tears after returning home from seeing Adrien again, ruining a pillow case with her mascara.

    Films — Animation 
  • This happens to Charlotte early on in The Princess and the Frog.
  • The Matchmaker from Mulan after Mulan accidentally sets her dress on fire.
  • Done by Taffyta, twice, of the racers in Wreck-It Ralph when Vanellope announces they're all to be executed for being mean to her when they forgot she was the world's princess thanks to Turbo. And earlier, when she falls off the track with two others in the last race.
  • Happens to Captain DuBois in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted at the end of her rendition of "Non, Je ne Regrette Rien", as well as to her male subordinates.
  • In The Apartment, the female protagonist lampshades this trope when cleaning up her face after a cry.
    "When you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara."

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dramatically used to great effect with Winona Ryder's character Beth in Black Swan, who's all smeared mascara and smudged eye-liner.
  • The Madam of Liquid Silver in the Tank Girl film.
  • Dakota in Planet Terror as seen in this poster.
  • Lola in Transporter 2 and Valentina in the second half of Transporter 3.
  • Rachel in Blade Runner.
    Rachel: I'm not in the business. I am the business.
  • A very dramatic example in the railroad car sceneTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. Laura and Ronette's smeared makeup and dripping eyeliner lends them the appearance of clowns, adding to the grotesque horror of the scene.
  • The Apartment lampshades this when word of Mr. Sheldrake's previous affairs leave his current mistress, Fran Kubelik, in tears:
    Fran: You'd think I would have learned by now — when you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Sabrina the Teenage Witch episode "Sabrina the Teenage Boy," Sabrina's mascara starts running while she cries in male form, indicating that the spell is wearing off.
  • Mimi on The Drew Carey Show had some pretty spectacular versions of this considering how much makeup she tends to wear.
  • On That '70s Show, Jackie puts makeup on Kelso to give him the "androgynous David Bowie look", only to have it go wrong.
    "Kelso. Your mascara's running."
  • The Colbert Report: The inauguration of Barack Obama caused Stephen to cry with massive amounts of mascara running and snot hanging from his nose.
  • Discussed in Soap when everybody is going to find out if the courts find Jessica guilty or not for Peter's murder when Mary (Jessica's sister) is unable to talk because she's holding back her tears. Burt tells Jessica she's trying not to cry because her make-up will run and she'll look like a raccoon.
  • Played for Laughs in Hannah Montana with Miley encouraging an emotional Lilly to find another boyfriend at the beach, after thinking Oliver is cheating on her. It doesn't work well for Lilly. Similarly to the above Soap example, she is compared to a raccoon.
  • Elliot on Scrubs has this happen to her on one occasion, causing her to remark that her running mascara made her look like Alice Cooper.
  • Rae on My Mad Fat Diary, when she was stood up and started crying as a result (and then smudging whatever stayed on on purpose).
  • In the final episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, Played for Laughs with Pearl's mascara when the S.O.L. engages re-entry protocol.
  • The visual effect was inadvertently used in an episode of Angel when people started going crazy due to a weird shift in cosmic forces and the intention was for them to start "crying blood." The DVD commentary lamented how the make-up design looked more like red mascara running.
  • Pretty much inevitable on RuPaul's Drag Race given that the contestants are all Drag Queens. The Untucked behind the scenes episodes in particular often feature this. And it was once invoked by a challenge where the queens had to cry on cue, and several of them deliberately did this.
  • Annie in Community learns the hard way that Stop Or Ill Shoot works better with a gun than pepper spray. Running into your own pepper spray tends to have this effect.
  • Played straight in Vikings. Floki wears kohl around his eyes, and it runs (to great effect) when he's sitting by Torstein's body early in the third season.
  • In the "Friendface" episode of The IT Crowd, Roy reluctantly meets with a girl he used to date, who wears too much makeup and it runs when she gets upset, causing her to look like the Joker.

  • In Porcupine Tree's "Blackest Eyes":
    "It's so erotic when your make up runs"
  • The Non-Appearing Title of the Foo Fighters song "Cheer Up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running)" references this, in a likely Take That! at the emo scene.
  • The Julie Roberts song "Men and Mascara" refers to "little black rivers running down her face" in addition to its hook line, "men and mascara always run."
  • Cherry from the animated band Studio Killers looks like this all the time.
  • The Decemberists' The Tain: ''"Darling dear, what have you done?/Your clothes are torn, your makeup runs.""
  • Franz Ferdinand's "Walk Away": "mascara bleeds a blackened tear".
  • Marina & the Diamonds In "Shampain", Marina has mascara and tears running down her cheeks from a night of heavy drinking on her own.
  • Imelda May's "Black Tears" (on the 2017 album Life Love Flesh Blood) is a Break-Up Song built around the image of mascara running.
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Go Robot" has the lyric "She cried so hard, you know she looked like Alice Cooper", comparing this trope to Alice Cooper's signature stage makeup.
  • The cover art to Stabbing Westward's Self-Titled Album features a model with running eye shadow giving a Kubrick Stare.

    Video Games 
  • This is how Mimi made fun of Peach before one of their fights during Super Paper Mario: "Better not cry, or all your pretty makeup will run!"
  • Mass Effect 2 has this happen when you romance Jack/Subject Zero. During her romance scene she will begin to cry and her black eye makeup will run down her face which you can fully enjoy here.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum Dr. Young's mascara is ruined when she starts crying after she's nearly killed by Zsasz.
  • Resonance of Fate: Leanne exploits this trope, mentioning at one point that she wears makeup as a reminder to stay strong because if she cries, she'll ruin the makeup.
  • Peri from Fire Emblem Fates frequently lets her makeup run whenever she is crying or about to cry when things don't go her way.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • During a crossover with JesuOtaku, The Nostalgia Critic is puzzled after he has running makeup crying over characters from Digimon: The Movie.
    Critic: How did that even happen? You don't wear makeup!
    JesuOtaku: (confused) I. Don't. Know.

    Western Animation 
  • Helga's older sister Olga in Hey Arnold! has her mascara run whenever she cries.
  • Happened to Luanne in King of the Hill when she cried.
  • A recurring joke in Drawn Together is that whenever Captain Hero cries, his mascara runs. Happens to Xandir too.
  • Happens to Mai at one point in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
  • Eska wears this as she tries to catch up to Bolin in The Legend of Korra. Even more unsettling since up to then she was The Stoic.
  • Caitlin from 6teen is prone to crying, and whenever she bawls her face becomes a mess with black liquid running under her eyes.
  • Misery's cousin Morose from Ruby Gloom, like the rest of her family, has endless trails of tears running from her eyes. Due to wearing heavy dark eyeshadow, they appear as thick black streams instead.
  • A rare male example would be Xiaolin Showdown's Jack Spicer. However, this has only happened once.
  • The Flintstones: In an episode Wilma uses makeup to make herself look more tired than she really was to guilt Fred into hiring a maid. Fred points out that her makeup is running, proving he knows she's faking it. Fred laughs at her and she breaks down and cries. Eventually he gives in and hires a maid.
  • In the Futurama episode "Crimes of the Hot" due to the excessive heat Linda the newscaster has this in the same scene that gave rise to the "WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!" meme.
  • Moonbeam City: Both Pizzaz and Rad. Pizzaz's crying is used for dramatic effect, while Rad's is wacky comic relief.
  • Whenever Rarity cries in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, it becomes this.

    Real Life 
  • This was something of a trademark of Tammy Faye Bakker, wife of televangelist Jim Bakker. There is a story that she was once asked why she wore such heavy make-up, since it invariably ran when she (invariably) wept; she is supposed to have replied that it was so that people could see her cry.
  • Evoked by Sir Michael Redgrave to take revenge on fellow actor Geoffrey Edwards. Redgrave was playing Horatio to Edwards' Hamlet, and was required to grieve while cradling Hamlet's body. Always able to cry on cue, Redgrave turned on the waterworks so that "a large splash of warm mascara fell on Hamlet's chin."