Your Makeup Is Running
Never drink more than one color of Gatorade before watching a Tear Jerker.

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.


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    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.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 


    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.


    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 

    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."