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Mascara is the one makeup item that almost every woman owns. For many of us, it might be the only item we’ll wear if we’re in a rush: a quick swipe of mascara, optionally followed by applying a bit of lip gloss to the lips. This is no surprise – long lashes are, for some reason, closely associated with femininity. If you draw a simple smiley face everyone will assume it’s male, but a few lines to mimic lashes will instantly turn it female.
Few makeup products do so much in so little time, helping to make the eyes look larger and in turn making us appear more youthful! It’s no surprise then that most of us have gone through the effort of furiously searching for the best mascara.
We go on to explain the history of mascara, and then get into a comprehensive mascara guide, in which we let you know which mascaras are best for each eye and eyelash type based on formula and wand. I’ve written out the ultimate step-by-step guide to applying mascara flawlessly, along with some additional advice based on eye shape.
You’ll want to get all of that mascara off at the end of the day, of course, so we’ve given instructions for easy mascara removal that won’t irritate your eyes. I added a few more mascara hacks to really elevate your application, and I also answer some key questions about expiration dates, colored mascaras, and more!
Your Mascara Makeup Guide: Contents
- 19 Best Mascaras on the Market to Shop Now
- The Fascinating History of Mascara
- Different Types of Mascara Formulas
- Types of Mascara Wands
- How to Choose the Best Mascara for Your Lash Type
- What Color Mascara Should I Buy?
- How Often Should I Replace My Mascara?
- How to Apply Mascara Based on Your Eye Shape
- Precious Mascara Tips and Hacks to Know
- How to Remove Mascara at the End of the Day
In this section, we’ve reviewed the 19 best mascaras you can buy at any price point and for every eyelash type.
1. Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
With a name like that, this mascara has to deliver. What makes this one of the best mascaras on the market is its incredible volumizing and lengthening ability. The wand itself is hourglass-shaped with traditional bristles, so it helps keep the lashes curled. The smudge-proof formula is enriched with peptides to fortify the lashes, and it comes in a deep black shade, because really, who needs other colors? Buy it at Sephora!
2. YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils Mascara
Volumizing, lengthening, and yet also seriously separating? Indeed, this is a true workhorse that definitely deserves recognition as one of the best mascaras all around. The formula is fairly long-lasting without ever getting “crunchy” or “spidery”, and it has a straight bristle brush for the traditionalists. This mascara is available in 6 fun colors at Nordstrom.
3. Benefit Cosmetics They’re Real! Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara
This might be the best mascara with a plastic wand – a wand that is especially excellent for lash separation. While it does that beautifully, it still manages to give the lashes a long, voluminous look, which is what we all crave. Some people do find it to be on the heavy side, and prefer a lighter mascara for a better curl. Find it in black or deep brown at Sephora!
4. Glossier Lash Slick
This gorgeous black mascara from Glossier is a big crowd-pleaser. If you like a tiny, delicate wand but don’t want to give up the lengthening effect of a bigger brush, then this would be the best mascara for you. It has little fibers that grab on to the lashes and add length in a film-forming formula that holds a curl very well. It is not super-volumizing, so give it a try if you find other mascaras make your lashes look too thick or bulky. Get this mascara directly from Glossier!
5. Urban Decay Perversion Mascara
As one of the creamier options on this list, this is the best mascara to use if you find that most formulas get flakey or clumpy on your lashes. It will give your lashes natural definition without extremes – if your lashes are already long or thick, this might be an excellent choice. As an added benefit, there are many conditioning ingredients in this formula to get your lashes soft and healthy. It is available at Sephora in black.
6. Chanel Le Volume de Chanel Mascara
This is another one of the best mascaras for the drama lovers! It thickens, separates and lengthens with a unique brush that has bristles at different lengths for full lash coverage. It’s easy to build up and layer, and at the end of the day it should come off with ease. Purchase your best fit from three colors at Nordstrom!
7. Lancôme Hypnôse Custom Volume Mascara
From Lancôme we have a mascara with an itty-bitty brush and a big impact. The thin bristle wand is perfect for those who like a precise application and maximum lash separation, as the formula itself works double time to give gorgeous volume. It’s quite buildable for those who like layering it on, and contains a touch of panthenol to keep the lashes hydrated. Order it in brown or black from Sephora!
8. Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara
Maybelline is one of the first brands to release mascara commercially, so it’d be quite an issue if they didn’t have some of the best mascaras in their catalog. They prove that you don’t have to break your piggy bank to rock awesome lashes.
Lash Sensation, in particular, is great for those who want real drama. It’s a buildable, super lengthening and volumizing formula that still manages to keep some separation. The wand itself is curved for a better curling and fanning effect, which is favored by those with straight lashes. Find it at Ulta Beauty!
9. Milk Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara
There is a lot of buzz around this hemp oil-infused mascara. While we really like hemp oil for skin, we don’t think it’s the secret to the magic of this mascara. No, the reason why this mascara is so good is its intensely black formula and big, volumizing bristle brush. It gives serious volume and length, although we’ll admit it’s a little heavy for some. It comes out super wet at first, so you might want to give it a bit of time to dry before you can really fall in love. You can get it from Sephora.
10. Clinique High Impact Mascara
If the words you look for when choosing a new mascara are “length” and “separation”, then this might be the one. It has a precise bristle wand that is of a medium size, and a formula that stays soft and lush without ever getting dry or clumpy. It does provide some volume, but it also holds a curl very well. As with other mascaras from older brands, it comes in both black and brown. It is sold at Nordstrom.
11. Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara in Rich Pitch Black
When you need something that is guaranteed not to budge or smudge, the best mascara to try would definitely be a tubing mascara. While not amazing on the volume side of things (despite their name), they are excellent for giving lash and separation. The removal itself is easy as well, since they come off in little tubes with just a bit of warm water. The brush on this mascara is super thin, making precise application a breeze. It is available online through Net-a-Porter.
12. Dior Diorshow Mascara
As far as prestige mascaras go, this one has certainly managed to achieve icon status. This is likely because of its ability to give massive, doll-like lashes to just about anyone, thanks to the microfibers embedded in the formula. While some find it heavy, others swear by it. The brush is large, so it’s very volumizing and separating but also a little unwieldy. Purchase one in black, blue, or brown from Sephora!
13. Estée Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Lash Multiplying Volume Mascara
This is another one of the best mascaras for those who want a false lash effect. It lengthens beautifully and gives some volume, in a buildable formula that doesn’t clump. It has a classic bristle brush that works for most lash types, and a gold tube that is oh-so-luxe. You can get it at Nordstrom.
14. L’Oréal Telescopic Carbon Black Mascara
This unique mascara gives length, separation and precise control, and it stands as one of the best mascaras out there even though it’s just a drugstore product. The plastic brush is very skinny with small, spikey bristles, so it can be easily used to reach small lashes in the inner corner of the eye or for applying mascara to the lower lashes. It’s not as volumizing as L’Oreal’s Lash Paradise mascara, but not everyone wants volume. Pop into Ulta Beauty to buy it!
15. Make Up For Ever Smoky Lash Mascara
Thick, long lashes in one swipe? Yup, it’s possible. This ultra-volumizing mascara stands out for its ability to give massive lashes quickly without feeling heavy on the eyes. It is comparable to Better Than Sex, but in sleek black packaging and without the cringey name. As long as you’re careful to wipe the brush before using you shouldn’t experience any clumpiness – just joy. It is available at Sephora.
16. Eyeko Lash Alert Mascara in Black
I’m a sucker for unique packaging, so this squeeze-tube mascara got me intrigued right off the bat. There are lots of great mascara options from Eyeko, but we loved this one for its lash-boosting ingredients and its phenomenal longevity. It gives long, voluminous and separate lashes that last all day, even through rain or tears. Order it online from Net-a-Porter!
17. Covergirl Clump Crusher Mascara
This mascara got popular as a dupe for Benefit’s They’re Real, but the truth is it’s best to judge it all on its own merits. The curved plastic brush gives maximum curl and separation, with a formula that easily thickens and lengthens the lashes. It works for nearly everyone and reaches a nice mid-point between natural and dramatic. You can buy it from Ulta Beauty.
18. Hourglass Film Noir Full Spectrum Mascara
As fuss-free as a mascara can be! This mascara goes on easily, giving lashes a perfect thickened and lengthened effect without the need for wiping or building up layers. The brush is hourglass-shaped, which is on-brand but also fabulous for holding a curl. It keeps the lashes flexible throughout the day and stays natural. It is available at Nordstrom.
19. Tarte Maneater Voluptuous Mascara
This mascara gives all of the volume of a nylon bristle brush, but the separation of a plastic brush. It is also one of the best mascaras for those with sensitive eyes, as it doesn’t cause issues if it gets in the eye and it’s easy to remove at the end of the day. If you don’t mind the packaging, you really cannot go wrong. Find it at Ulta Beauty!
Mascara, the black liquid in a little tube that no makeup look is complete without! Mascara is a thick, viscous liquid that is applied to the eyelashes in order to enhance their appearance. These days, this usually means that mascara will darken, lengthen, thicken, curl, or separate the lashes, although mascara that will just color the lashes keeps coming in and out of style.
Early Uses of Mascara
Mascara is one of the oldest makeup products we know of, although initially it referred to any paint used to color the brows, lashes, or mustache. Initially, the term used in English was actually “mascaro” and it referred to a product advertised for men – primarily actors.
However, the practice of painting the lashes isn’t exclusive to European actors. Ancient Egyptians are known as some of the earliest makeup users. They are known to have used kohl to paint eyelids, eyebrows, and eyelashes as early as 4000 BC. Because of the influence of the Egyptian Empire, the use of kohl around the eyes persisted for the following centuries, and only fell out of practice in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.
The history of the term itself is wholly unclear. In Spanish the word máscara can mean either mask or stain, with either meaning working as a plausible source for the name of the makeup product. Other romance language like Portuguese, Italian, and Catalan also have words that sound similar that can mean either mask or dark stain depending on the language.
Any one of these old definitions could be related to the modern meaning of the word mascara, but since we don’t even know exactly how these terms in different languages relate to one another we cannot draw a connection.
In Western Europe the use of makeup, particularly around the eyes, became taboo and associated only with actors and sex workers, although it never fell out of favor in the Middle East. However, the mascara we know today was developed in Europe, so let’s jump forward in time a bit.
Long eyelashes are considered a sign of femininity, so women in the Victorian era would mix together their own black pastes that they would heat up and apply to their lashes to increase their length. Of course, visible makeup was a big no-no at the time so Victorian women were certainly hoping for a subtle effect.
The Modern Mascara Game
Towards the end of the Victorian era, as we previously mentioned, makeup products started becoming available commercially for actors to use, with the first iterations of “mascara” or “mascaro” meant to be used not just on the lashes but also on the brows and mustache – obviously, they were sold to men rather than women.
The first commercial mascaras can be attributed separately to two men whose legacy you might be familiar with today: Eugène Rimmel and Thomas Lyle Williams (the founder of Maybelline). Separately (and some decades apart) both men combined coal with petroleum jelly to make a messy product that could darken the lashes.
At the time these products, as well as other cosmetics, were primarily sold through mail-order catalogues. With the advent of print advertising and the silent film, makeup slowly became acceptable as it was popularized in the mainstream.
Because of the messiness of the product a more user-friendly mascara was developed soon after: a black “cake” product in a tin that could be made dampened and then applied with a small brush. This product was no miracle, but it was all we had for the next few decades.
In 1957, years after darkening the lashes became a popular practice, the cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein launched a mascara that came as a black cream in a tube that would then be squeezed out on to a brush and applied to the lashes. This changed the mascara game completely, as soon after a grooved rod was patented and sold in the tube, much like the mascara we know and love today.
There are many different kinds of mascara formulas – some volumize, some lengthen, and others are all about preserving that curl. In most cases you want all of these effects in one, which is why brands have altered their mascara formulations in recent years. Even so, there is still quite a bit of variety from formula to formula, so I break it down and help you choose the best mascaras for you based on formula.
• Traditional Mascara
A typical mascara is meant to do it all: give length and volume to the lashes while holding a curl without weighing down the lashes. Most of the mascaras on the list boast this kind of formula, and for the most part they deliver.
It’s always good to start with a traditional mascara like this, and if it works, fabulous! If it doesn’t then it’s possible that your lashes have some unique needs that will require something more specific. The YSL Volume Effet and Benefit They’re Real! both fall under this category.
• Volumizing Mascara
A volumizing mascara is a mascara that coats the lashes well and gives them exceptional volume or thickness. In most cases people want a mascara that will make their lashes thicker, so this tends to be the default formula from any brand.
Most volumizing mascaras tend to also be very lengthening. Occasionally a volumizing mascara will also lead to lashes clumping together or looking thick to an unnatural level – think “spider lashes”.
Volumizing mascaras run the risk of being on the heavier side, so some people find that they weigh their lashes down or don’t do an adequate job of holding a curl. Most traditional mascaras are quite volumizing, though occasionally a mascara advertised as volumizing won’t actually have that effect, so make sure to read reviews!
Great examples of volumizing mascara are Too Faced Better Than Sex or L’Oreal Lash Paradise.
• Lengthening Mascara
Usually mascaras are both volumizing and lengthening, although occasionally you will find mascaras where the focus is on the length. These mascaras are less likely to clump up or cause “spider lashes”. Instead they will just give the lashes natural-looking volume but with a lot of length and separation.
If you find most mascaras make your lashes clump together, then a lengthening mascara is for you! Additionally, a lengthening mascara is likely going to do a better job of holding a curl since it won’t weigh your lashes down. Urban Decay Perversion is a good example of a lengthening mascara.
• Wet vs. Dry Formula
Some mascaras come out the tube a little denser and drier, while others come out very wet and fluid but get drier after a few weeks of use. Very wet mascara formulas do run the risk of clumping, but they can be easily brushed out. They tend to take longer to dry, so they are a better choice if you like really layering on the mascara, as a dry formula will be harder to build up.
On the other hand, dry mascaras are better for holding a curl, since they are stiffer right from the start. They are also a less messy option for those who want to quickly apply mascara and be out the door, without risking it smudging up their eyeshadow.
Both dry and wet mascaras can give excellent length and volume, and even a wet mascara can become a dry formula with a bit of time and patience.
• Fiber Mascara
A fiber mascara is a typical mascara formula that has little cellulose or nylon fibers suspended in it. As the mascara is applied, the fibers grab on to the lashes and increase either length, volume, or both. Glossier Lash Slick is a great fiber mascara for length, while Dior Diorshow is a fiber mascara that gives both length and a lot of volume.
• Tubing Mascara
Tubing mascara has a formula that surrounds the lashes and dries in a tube-like shape. It falls under the category of lengthening mascaras, since it doesn’t give too much volume but does lengthen the lashes.
These are the best mascaras for people with sensitive eyes since they will not flake or get in your eyes throughout the day, but they will come off easily with warm water at the end of the day and won’t require any harsh rubbing of the eyes. They can be applied first, and then followed up with a volumizing mascara, if you’d like the best of both worlds.
Kevyn Aucoin The Volume Mascara is a great tubing mascara, even if its name is misleading.
• Waterproof Mascara
In addition to all of the categories already listed, there is also the little “waterproof” checkmark. We’ve written a whole article strictly about waterproof mascaras, so suffice it to say that most brands will have their volumizing or lengthening mascaras also available in a waterproof version that won’t come off in a shower or rain.
These mascaras tend to be super long-lasting, but they can also be difficult to remove. They are best for those who have very watery eyes, or if you need special mascara for a tear-jerking event, a rainy day or a day at the pool.
There are all kinds of different mascara wands made of different materials, with different types of bristles and shapes. Some do a better job of lengthening the lashes while others are perfect for keeping them curled.
I’ll go feature by feature and explain which mascara wand type is best for which effect and lash type. In many cases the type of mascara wand will have a bigger impact on the final effect than the actual formula of the mascara!
• Material: Nylon vs. Plastic Mascara Wand
When you imagine a traditional mascara wand, chances are you’re picturing one made of nylon. These mascara wands look kind of fluffy, especially when compared to their plastic cousins. Urban Decay Perversion and Too Faced BTS mascaras both have nylon brushes. Nylon brushes tend to be great for volume and length, but they’re not always as good on the separation front.
Then we have plastic mascara wands, which tend to be great for separation because the bristles are thicker and stiffer. They are great for very dense lashes, but if your lashes are fine, you want to be careful as some plastic brushes can be rough on the eyes. Maybelline Clump Crusher is an example of a plastic wand mascara that is quite gentle.
• Size of Brush
The general logic is that the bigger the wand, the thicker the lashes will be, while a smaller wand is better for a more precise, gradual application. If you want a quick and dramatic application and are not particularly concerned about clumping, then definitely opt for a bigger mascara wand.
A small brush, on the other hand, is really perfect when you need precision, due to having very dense lashes, a smaller eye, or a very rounded lash line where it is difficult to cover all the lashes in one swipe. Smaller is also better for separating the lashes.
Smaller mascara brushes tend to be better for applying mascara to the lower lash line or to the inner and outer corners. Smaller brushes can still give the eyelashes volume, but they might require more coats.
You can totally use both, by starting your application with a smaller brush for initial separation, and then following up with a mascara with a wider brush for volume.
• Size of Bristles
In addition to brush size, bristle size and density also matter when choosing your mascara wand! Nylon brushes tend to have longer, denser bristles, which is why they give so much volume, while the bristles on plastic brushes tend to be a bit further apart so they give more precise separation. If the bristles are too far apart they won’t give any separation, of course, so you will likely want a nice middle-ground.
• Mascara Wand Shape
Most mascara brushes are straight cylinders with a rounded end, and we’ll admit this is our preference. This shape is the most user-friendly since it is easy to control and doesn’t require much mental gymnastics. You will have to move the brush around to cover lashes all along the lash line, but that is almost always the case even with curved shapes.
Curved brushes and hourglass-shaped brushes are usually recommended for giving lashes a bit of a curl. In practice we’re not so convinced, but we do love curved brushes for being some of the gentlest plastic brushes around.
If the particular length and curve of the mascara wand correspond especially well with the curve of your lash line you might find that a curved wand does a better job of quickly covering every one of your lashes with mascara… however, finding a curved brush that matches perfectly will require a lot of trial and error, so don’t bank on it.
Tapered cone-shaped brushes are something a lot of brands are starting to introduce, although personally we’re not fans. The idea is that the large end will give volume in the center and outer parts of the lash line while the tapered end will give a precise application to the inner corner. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really seem to work in practice, which is why we haven’t recommended any mascaras with this kind of brush anywhere in the article.
Similarly relegated to the pretty much useless pile are ball-shaped brushes, which were meant to be better for a precise application. Unfortunately, the ball shape isn’t as easy to control as a smaller wand, and the effect was rarely all that nice – just time-consuming.
Based on your lash type, you might favor one type of mascara over a different one. Some mascaras work better with larger eyes, while others are perfect for straight lashes, and I want to make the process of choosing easier for you.
However, before I start categorizing all the different kinds of eyes and lashes, I want to make one thing clear: these are general guidelines that will give you an idea of what is likelier to work for you, but as you experiment you might discover that what works for you has nothing to do with these suggestions, and has everything to do with how your hand works as you apply mascara. Because of that I urge you to not feel constrained or limited, but instead approach all kinds of mascaras with an open mind.
Best Mascara for Short Lashes
If you have short lashes, then of course you will want a great lengthening mascara! Tubing mascaras, and mascaras with smaller applicators or plastic applicators are the way to go.
Some volumizing mascaras run the risk of making short lashes look spidery, so if you do want a thicker and longer effect, it is better to choose a mascara that will also separate your lashes – Clump Crusher or They’re Real both come to mind.
Best Mascara for Long Lashes
Just because your lashes are already long doesn’t mean you’re not going to want them to look even longer – we all know that. Volumizing and lengthening mascaras tend to look really beautiful once applied to long lashes.
You will likely prefer a mascara that is quick-drying or non-smudging, otherwise you risk having it get all over your eyelids soon after you’ve finished putting it on – most mascaras will hit that quick drying point a few weeks after you’ve opened them, but you can speed that up by leaving it open for half an hour.
Both larger and smaller mascara wands will work with long lashes. For a quicker application opt for a bigger wand, although if you are prone to clumping you might prefer a plastic one or a smaller one.
Best Mascara for Sparse Lashes
Those with sparse lashes should definitely opt for a volumizing mascara with a nice large wand. They’ll give a quick application that will build up volume and give the lashes a denser appearance.
If your sparse lashes are prone to sticking together, get a drier formula or opt for a plastic wand with a volumizing formula. The fibers in a mascara like Diorshow might also go the extra length to give your lashes more density.
Best Mascara for Dense Lashes
If you have very dense lashes, chances are you want a mascara that will do a great job of separating them, as they can be super prone to clumping. Lengthening, non-volumizing mascaras are the way to go, with tubing mascaras at the very top of that list. Opt for plastic applicators or just smaller applicators in general in order to have more control and better separation.
Best Mascara for Straight Lashes
For that ultimate curl, you want a stiff mascara with a formula that leans towards dry, but that isn’t too heavy. Wet mascaras can take a curl out of the lash, while dry ones and waterproof ones are less likely too.
A lot of volumizing mascaras can be a little on the heavy side, but that’s certainly not true across the board and it’s not true for most of the mascaras on our list. Some people find that a round or curvy brush does a better job of curling lashes, although we’re not sure if that’s true.
Last but not least, you definitely want to have a good eyelash curler in your arsenal!
Best Mascara for Curly Lashes
A more wet mascara formula might be best for you, as it will be more malleable and it’ll grab on to your lashes more easily without moving them around or getting them tangled. Depending on how curly your lashes are, you might also prefer a more separating plastic brush with longer bristles that will do a good job of combing your lashes. Another tip is to brush your lashes with a clean brush before applying mascara.
When in doubt, go for black mascara. If you are only going to own one mascara then definitely make it a black one.
The days of brown mascara are long gone, with even blondes and redheads opting for that deepest of colors. If you are very fair, you can keep a brown mascara in your arsenal for days when you want to fly under the radar, but there is no reason why it should be your go-to.
When it comes to other colors, consider them a fun embellishment when you want to play around. We’ve seen really saturated colored mascaras in shades like pink, green, blue and purple on the runways recently, so they can certainly be part of your fashion looks. However, we’re of the opinion that a colored mascara should not be used with the goal of enhancing the eye color – stick to eyeshadows for that.
Mascara is the kind of product that can hold bacteria quite easily and as a result it has the shortest shelf life out of all of the different types of makeup products. It is important to replace your tube every three to six months.
However, if you experience any irritation or if you suddenly get some sort of eye infection, take this as your sign to throw out your mascara even if three months haven’t passed yet.
You should be careful with the expiry dates of eye makeup products in general, but mascaras require the most care, since they come in very close contact with the eyes themselves. Using expired mascara can lead to all kinds of nasty eye infections that can have long-term repercussions on your vision.
You can use different mascara application techniques to achieve different effects or to fit your own eye shape. Below, we discuss all the possible mascara application methods for you to follow.
The Basic Mascara Application How-To
• Start with clean, well moisturized eyes. Apply eye cream or an eye-safe moisturizer to the area around your eyes with your ring finger. After all, what’s the point of going through all that effort of wearing eye makeup if the skin around your eyes is dry and itchy? Allow a few minutes for your skin to thoroughly absorb the product.
• Apply your eye makeup as you normally would – this could be a full eyeshadow and eyeliner look, or even just a swipe of face powder to even out the color of your lids. If you’re in a rush you could probably skip this altogether!
• If you intend to apply concealer to the under-eye area, I usually recommend doing it after you’d applied your eyeshadow but before applying mascara.
• If you feel the need, curl your eyelashes. The Kevyn Aucoin eyelash curler from Sephora is a great choice if you don’t already own one. To curl your lashes, start off by holding the open curler as you would a pair of scissors in front of your eyes.
Tilt your head slightly forward so you can see the top of your lashes in the mirror, and position the curler so that your top lashes are between its top and bottom parts. Line the top part of the eyelash curler with your lash line, making sure that it doesn’t touch your lid.
Once you are happy with how it is positioned, you can slowly clamp it shut while moving your hand slightly upwards. Squeeze the curler in a pulsing motion for a few seconds, and then open it up just slightly and move it upwards. Repeat the pulsing squeeze a few times for each section of the lashes, to give them a thorough curl all throughout their length.
• Now it’s finally time to get that mascara out! Open your tube of mascara. If you’re using a brand-new mascara chances are the brush will be loaded up with more product than you actually need, so wipe off the excess on a tissue. Otherwise you are likely to end up with clumpy-looking lashes.
• With your head tilted upward (and your mouth open for that universal mascara application face), bring the mascara wand to the lower side of your top lashes and wiggle it in between the lashes as close to the lash line as you can get.
• While gently moving it from side to side, pull the mascara wand up towards the tips of your lashes. The gentle sideways motion will help to thoroughly coat each lash while keeping the lashes separated.
• Depending on the shape of your eye and the natural curve of your lashes, you might want to repeat this process along the inner and outer corners of your eye, where you might not have reached with your initial application.
• Tilt your head forward a bit, and examine the top of your lashes – it’s possible you might have to apply a bit more mascara along the top of your lashes, especially close to the roots. You can angle your brush slightly in order to really get in there with the tip of the brush, to deposit color without necessarily volumizing.
• To increase the length and volume of your lashes, dip your mascara back in the tube, wipe off the excess once again if necessary, and apply the mascara once again starting at the roots the same way you did previously. Repeat this process until you are happy with the results. Avoid overdoing it, or you might end up with the dreaded “spider lashes”, which look crunchy and overly thick.
• If you feel like your lashes did clump together despite your best efforts, use an eyelash brush (like the Lift Off Lash Comb from Sephora or just a clean mascara wand) to brush through your lashes and separate them. Make sure to do this while the mascara is still wet.
• Once you’ve perfected one eye, repeat the process on the next one!
• If you’ve smudged a bit of mascara anywhere on your lid, use a cotton bud dipped in a bit of concealer or foundation to wipe off the smudge. It’ll remove it without smudging the rest of your makeup, and it’ll be easier for you to touch things up afterwards.
Applying Mascara to the Lower Lashes
These days many of us want our eyes to look as big as possible, so applying mascara to the lower lashes has become fairly mainstream. A decade ago, however, applying mascara to the lower lashes was not standard practice, and many outdated sources will tell you to avoid doing so altogether.
If you have naturally thick and long lashes, you might not feel the need to ever apply mascara to the lower lashes, and you may also choose to skip it if you’re going for a 1950s-inspired makeup look that focuses on the upper lash line and leaves the lower one bare of both mascara and eyeliner.
Most of the time, however, chances are you will want to go in with mascara, so here’s the best practice!
• With the lower lashes it’s doubly important to wipe most of the product off of your mascara wand, as you are aiming for subtle definition rather than intense lengthening or volumizing effects.
• Starting on the outer half of your lash line, get as close to the roots of the lashes as possible and gently pull the mascara wand down towards the ends. You don’t have to wiggle the brush this time around, as this might over-volumize the lashes.
• Do the same at the inner half of your lash line.
• If necessary, use a clean lash brush or mascara wand to go over the lashes and ensure they are separated.
• If you did happen to over-apply mascara, you can fold a tissue and then gently press your lashes in between while the mascara is still wet. Be careful not to actively wipe or pull on the lashes – this is just a gentle press that will help to blot excess mascara off of your lashes, leaving them looking subtle yet defined.
While these are the basic application methods, you can also slightly alter the way you apply mascara to achieve different effects.
Applying Mascara for Cat Eyes
This mascara application method is best for downturned eyes, eyes that are a little too close together, or for anyone who wants to lengthen their eye.
• Start with an even, thin coat of mascara all along the length of the lashes.
• Then, add additional coats of mascara to the outer corner of the lash line. This will make the outer lashes longer, and give you a cat-eye effect that helps lengthen the eyes and make them seem more upturned.
• When you apply the mascara, especially on the outer corner, pull the lashes slightly diagonally.
• If your eyes slope down a bit at the outer corner then avoid putting mascara on the lower lashes.
• Pair it with some cat-eye style winged liner to seal the deal.
Applying Mascara for Doll Eyes
This kind of mascara application is great for anyone who wants to widen their eyes, and it’s especially good for narrow eyes!
• Start with a thin, even coat of mascara all along the lash line.
• Concentrate the second coat of mascara at the center of the lash line, right above your pupil.
• Do one final coat along both the center of the eye and outer corner.
• As you apply the mascara, make sure to pull the lashes vertically upwards! The final effect will be lashes that are longest at the center, opening the eyes up and making them look doll-like.
Fanned Out Mascara
This final technique is quite dramatic and can work for all kinds of eye shapes. It’s especially nice for those who have close-set eyes, since it won’t pull them apart any further.
For this technique, you simply want to make sure that all of your lashes are even in length, by applying an equal amount of coats from the inner corner to the outer corner. The lashes will fan out and look super feminine.
Applying Mascara for Grunge Queen Lashes
For all the talk about separating the lashes, we gotta remember that the ‘90s are back. This means that slightly clumpy lashes are not all bad! If your beauty idols are Natasha Lyonne or a young Courtney Love, then feel free to layer on the mascara without bothering to separate it out, and feel free to go heavy on those lower lashes as well!
You should still embrace the wiggle, since it’s important the mascara taper out at the end rather than look solid and thick all the way along, but don’t worry too much about combing out your lashes before and after.
• Often, brand-new mascaras are just a little too wet when you first try them out. They might take longer to dry or not hold a curl as well as you’d like. If this is the case, let the mascara dry a bit by leaving the tube open for 20 to 30 minutes. Your next mascara application should be much easier as a result!
• Never pump your mascara wand! If you were ever in the habit of rapidly pushing the brush in and out of the mascara tube as though you were trying to mimic something particularly crude, now is the time to stop doing that. That motion loads up the brush with way more mascara than is actually necessary, and it also pushes air in which will lead to your mascara drying out sooner than it needs to.
• I’ve already mentioned the wiggle, but it’s worth repeating. Embrace the wiggle, understand the wiggle, and master the wiggle. I’m talking, of course, about the side-to-side motion you should utilize when applying mascara, as it ensures that your lashes will look voluminous yet separated.
• In a pinch your mascara formula can also double for liquid eyeliner. Dip an eyeliner brush into your tube of mascara and apply it as you would any other liquid liner – no one will be able to tell the difference!
• Another detail worth repeating is about hanging on to a lash brush or a clean mascara wand, for separation. After applying your mascara, while it’s still wet, get rid of clumps by brushing your lashes with the clean brush. Use the side-to-side wiggle motion for the best results.
• You don’t have to hold your mascara wand horizontally! Experiment with the angles at which you hold your mascara wand. You might discover that a vertical angle works well for your lower lashes or outer corner, or that a diagonal angle really helps you get into the inner corner.
• If you feel like even the most volumizing mascara on our list doesn’t do quite enough, consider investing in a lash primer. They add more bulk below the mascara and they also help prevent it from flaking throughout the day. Be careful, however, as lash primers often also make the lashes look unnaturally thick.
• Another volumizing trick that is just as dramatic as using a primer but unfortunately just as prone to over-thickening, is the powder hack. After the first coat of mascara dust your lashes with some face powder (or baby powder, although we’re not sure it’s safe to have near the eyes). Comb out your lashes, and then do a final coat or two of mascara. The powder will add some significant thickness and volume.
• If you’re willing to go through the effort of double up, there is a trick that gives the easy removal of a tubing mascara but the volume of a volumizing mascara. It’s simple: just start off with a coat of tubing mascara, give it a few seconds to dry just a bit, and then add another coat or two of volumizing mascara.
• You may have heard of the saline drop trick before – you add a few drops of an eye solution to a dried-out mascara in order to extend its life and make it more fluid. I’m not going to recommend that, however. It might give you a few more uses out of the mascara, but it will also throw off the balance of the preservatives in both formulas, and it can end up hurting your eyes, especially if the mascara has already reached its expiration date. You’re better off sticking to one of the more affordable mascaras we recommended earlier, and replacing it often.
• So if it hasn’t been three months yet, and your mascara is getting too dry there is some recourse. Tighten the cap off your mascara, and let it sit in a bowl filled with warm (though not boiling) water for a few minutes. The heat will melt some of those clumps, but it won’t be so hot as to compromise the preservatives in your formula.
• If you find your lashes are difficult to curl, you can heat your lash curler up with a blow dryer before using it – it should give it a boost and curl your lashes better.
• If you find yourself struggling with a messy lower lash mascara application, use a tissue as a protector. Fold the tissue once or twice, and then hold it along your bottom lash line. Apply your mascara to the lower lashes, and the tissue will prevent a clumpy application while also preventing mascara from smudging on to you under-eye area.
• If you’d like to amp up your mascara from day to night but are afraid of flakiness or clumping, try the makeup remover trick. Pour a few drops of an oil-free makeup remover on a clean eyelash brush, and use it to brush out your lashes. It will re-moisten your lashes, remove hard clumps of mascara, and will allow you to apply a few fresh coats of mascara with ease.
• Once you’ve finished a tube of mascara, don’t throw out the whole thing! The tube itself might be recyclable, but you can definitely reuse the brush. Wash it with dish soap to get all the mascara residue out, and then use it for combing your lashes both before and after mascara applications. You can also use a clean mascara brush for combing your brows!
• We’re generally opposed to the suggestion to curl the lashes after mascara application. 9 out of 10 times this will just lead to crimped-looking lashes and a dirty eyelash curler. However, if your lashes are truly resistant to curling and you really want to try this technique, we recommend working fast – apply your mascara, and then immediately curl your lashes while the mascara is still wet. Your curler will still get dirty, but at least your curl will stay in place without your lashes looking wonky or crimped.
This is my guide for removing even the toughest waterproof mascara. It is guaranteed to leave your eyes feeling clean and fresh at the end of the day, so you don’t have to worry about waking up with raccoon eyes in the morning!
• First, choose your ideal makeup removing product. I normally opt for whatever plant oil I have on hand – I wrote quite a bit about different natural cleansing oils in this article. You can also use a cream, oil, or balm cleanser, micellar water, or a dedicated eye makeup remover.
• Grab a cotton pad and saturate it with your makeup removing product of choice.
• Close your eyes, and then hold the cotton pad against your eyes for 5 seconds. Seriously, count the seconds out with Mississippis and everything – 5 seconds is longer than you think, but it is the amount of time required for your remover to properly dissolve the mascara.
• After the time has elapsed, gently wipe the cotton pad downwards. This should remove most of the mascara from your upper lashes.
• Hold the cotton pad again, this time with your eyes open, against your lower lashes. You might have to fold the cotton pad first to get it to fit into the space. After a few moments, wipe downwards again.
• This might be enough for all of the mascara to disappear! If it’s not, however, then do one more swipe, this time wiping the cotton pad over the eyelashes going from the inner corner of the eye outwards.
• If your mascara happens to be super strong and unremovable, simply repeat the whole process but this time hold the saturated cotton pad against your eye for a full 20 seconds.
• Sometimes a bit of mascara and eyeliner remain along the lower lash line. Use a cotton bud dipped in makeup remover to gently cleanse in between the lower lashes.
Photos via @marianna_hewitt, @sonagasparian, @ymorbeauty, @laura.craffey, @beautsoup, @kenzas, @thesaraengel, @ludovica.raffa, @celebratingskincare, @skinwithashlyn, @lucidskyn, @cactouce_makeup