In 2015, I deemed clumpy mascara my "thing"—I wanted to look like I rolled off the Gucci runway each day, so I intentionally let my mascara clump with abandon—think big, spidery lashes. While this is still a look that I flirt with on occasion, I more consistently go with a more natural lash look today.
But as anyone who has ever applied mascara can probably attest, unintentionally clumpy mascara is rather annoying, and we've been wondering how to apply mascara in a way that eliminates clumping altogether. To find out more, Byrdie spoke to several makeup industry insiders, Kelli J. Bartlett, Amanda Rodriguez, and Eddie Giron, to gain their industry insight into the matter.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading for six expert-approved tips and tricks for preventing and reviving clumpy mascara.
Perfect Your Technique
Believe it or not, there is a right way to apply mascara: "The bulk of the mascara should be at the root...not the tip [of the lash]," Bartlett says. Her recommended technique for applying mascara leaves most of the product at the middle and ends of the lashes, as too much product at the root can cause clumping. Here's how it works:
- Tap your mascara wand against your eyelash roots, making sure the brush is separating the lashes.
- Roll it forward (much like a hairstylist would when blowing out hair) to capture each lash.
- Move it back and forth while pulling the brush in an upward motion. (Note: Make sure to do this gently, otherwise you run the risk of your mascara clumping, especially if you've got shorter, sparser lashes).
Know When To Toss Your Mascara
If you haven't already been replacing your mascara every three months, then now's the time to start. That's because old mascara is among the most common causes of clumpy mascara. "Mascara's shelf life starts ticking the second you open it, so make sure you keep an eye on how long you've had that tube rolling around your bag," Rodriguez says.
To avoid shortening the shelf life of your mascara, don't pump your mascara wand in and out of the tube during application. Instead, "twirl it before taking it out," Giron advises, to ensure you get an even coating of product on your mascara wand.
One of Rodriguez's biggest tips for preventing clumpy mascara is to make sure that you've completely removed all traces of mascara from the last time you wore it. She recommends double cleansing to get the job done. "Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil and Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser ($18) are my go-to's to ensure yesterday's flaky mascara isn't messing with my fresh application," she says.
Use a Primer First
A great lash primer widens your lashes without creating clumps and generally preps lashes for an even mascara application. So, it's worth investing in a product like Dior's Diorshow Maximizer 3D Triple Volume Plumping Lash Primer, which is infused with an oil serum, to improve the thickness and curl of your lashes both immediately and over time.
Don't Put On Too Much Product
In terms of the amount of product you should apply to your lashes, "two coats should be the limit," says Rodriguez. "Anything more will over-pile and give you spidery lashes." But if you go too far with your application, Rodriguez recommends Urban Decay's Essential Eye Tool to comb out excess product and to keep lashes long, separated, and defined.
(Note: This product is currently sold out. For something similar, we recommend IT Brushes For Ulta Airbrush Brow/Lash Styler #118, $13).
Choose the Right Wand
As a general rule, Rodriguez says to choose a mascara with a molded plastic wand. "A plastic brush will work easily through your lashes like a mini comb and give you soft, smooth lashes. Though, if you'd like to get more technical, different types of lashes may respond to some wands better than others.
For example, a fine-toothed mascara brush can accentuate the length and minimize clumping. "The tiny teeth untangle short, curly lashes—grabbing and coating even the smallest hairs," says Bartlett. Meanwhile, an hourglass-shaped brush with dense bristles is great for building volume and length without clumping, as the shape allows an even distribution of product from root to tip.
Can a mascara's formula affect whether it clumps or not?
Yes. Apart from not using expired mascara, you should look for formulas that will not dry out (or at least, not as quickly). Ingredients like natural oils, natural waxes, vitamin E, panthenol, are moisturizing and non-synthetic.
How do you fix clumpy mascara once applied?
If you've got clumpy lashes due to applying too much product, don't despair. You can remove the clumpiness without having to totally redo your mascara. Just grab an old (clean) mascara wand and gently comb through lashes in a straight upward motion from root to tip. This will help to remove the excess product (and clumps).
If your mascara's formula has gone clumpy, how can you fix it?
If your mascara is clumpy because it's old, definitely throw it out. But if your mascara is relatively new but dried out, you can try reviving it. Anecdotal evidence suggests adding a drop of oil (e.g. olive oil) or even a couple of eye drops to help re-hydrate your mascara's formula.