How to Apply Mascara (The Right Way)

Updated 04/06/19
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What mascara someone uses is, in this day and age, deeply personal. Do you want clumpy spider lashes? Do you want just slightly enhanced lashes? Do you want to mimic the look of false lashes? You have so many options, and everyone has their own preference. A few swipes of the stuff can make small eyes pop, or turn barely-existent lashes into a full set. The key is in finding the perfect mascara for you and applying it correctly. 

Basic mascara application goes like this:

  • Step 1: Place the wand deep into the base of the lashes, wiggling it in left to right. It's the mascara placed near the roots—not the tips—that gives the illusion of length.
  • Step 2: Pull the wand up and through lashes, wiggling as you go. The wiggling part is key, as it separates lashes.
  • Step 3: In this final step (which you can skip), close the eye and place the mascara wand on top of lashes at the base and pull through to remove any clumps.

When picking a mascara, you first have to consider the formula you want (lengthening, thickening, waterproof, or non-clumping). You'll obviously decide this on what you feel your eyelashes are lacking. You should also consider price. If you only want the mascara for a special occasion (like if you wear regular mascara on weekdays, but want a more voluminous one for a fancy party,) you can get a good basic drugstore mascara. However, mascara is something that, if you use it often, it's best to invest in.

Fancier mascaras go on with less clumping and last longer, and they have way less fallout. Also, anything you keep near your eyes should be at least somewhat anti-microbial, lest you get styes. For short term, no one will be able to tell if you're wearing a drugstore brand or a department store brand. But in the long term, an investment in a good mascara is worth it if you're going to use it daily.

Most drugstores and department stores have excellent return policies, so if you try a mascara and hate it you can return it. Never try mascara on at a department store, there's too much risk for infection. Instead, check out the store's return policy and take a few home to try. 

Most (not all) people want to keep their lashes from clumping. But for some, lash combs are simply too fussy. For others, they're a great invention for keeping lashes glob-free and perfectly separated. To use a lash comb, first apply mascara at the lash base, then wiggle the lash comb through to the tips of your lashes. Not into the lash comb? Get rid of clumps without them by removing excess mascara from the wand. Wipe the wand on a tissue, which will eliminates blobs BEFORE you start.

Another great way to get rid of clumps is to sweep a clean, fresh mascara wand through lashes when they're wet. If you don't want to bother with spoolies, either buy new ones or recycle old ones. When you finish a mascara, clean the wand in a cap-full of eye makeup remover (this is important, because it acts as a disinfectant), then wash with soap and dry. Keep it clean by washing it whenever you wash your makeup tools.

Basic mascara "rules" are simple: Never pump the brush in and out of the mascara tube. This only introduces air into the tube, which will cause your mascara to dry out sooner than it should. Black works for everyone, but it can be harsh on light-skinned blondes if not worn correctly. Blondes will mostly want to opt for a brown or "your lashes but better" black mascara by day, and reserve intense blacks for night. Burgundy or plum colors will make blue eyes pop, as do blue mascaras. Purple mascara looks great on anyone with brown eyes.

Many makeup artists also recommend applying mascara only to the top lashes. If you want to make eyes appear wider, apply mascara to the bottom lashes but make sure you give lashes a light touch. Not great at getting those bottom lashes, or keep smudging it under your eyes? Try putting a tissue under them before application. A trick makeup artists use to make lashes pop is apply one coat of lengthening mascara, followed by one coat of thickening mascara, then removing excess product. Apply the coats of mascara all at once before the first coat dries.

 Once the first coat dries, you'll get clumps if you attempt another swipe at the lashes. Try to wait 5 seconds before blinking after you apply mascara, or you could end up with mascara dots all along your lid. Double check my lids before going out as well. It's embarrassing to find out hours later that you've done a poor makeup job.

Curling lashes also gives eyes the appearance of being wider and brighter. Shoot warm air from your blowdryer onto the mascara curler for 3-5 seconds to warm it up before curling lashes. Still, touch it first to make sure it's not too hot. It's a complete myth that you have to curl lashes before you apply mascara. You still can curl lashes after mascara application, just make sure the mascara is dry first. Shu Uemura eyelash curlers are super popular, and won't break the bank. Some makeup artists also like to apply mascara with a wand that's bent at a right angle, but it's not necessary, and some people even find it more difficult.

It's up to personal preference.

Primers, which are fairly popular, coat lashes and separate them before you apply mascara. Makeup artists often swear by mascara primer. Still, it's not wholly necessary. You can use it all the time, or only on special occasions when you really don't want makeup to budge. Marc Jacobs Beauty makes a great one

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