Wanting to make your eyes pop with luscious lashes? Looking to add definition and length? Mascara is the answer. From curling and volumising to lengthening and colouring, mascara can add a whole new dimension to your eyelashes.
Whether a make-up enthusiast or a beginner in the makeup field, here at The Recommended, we’ve put together a super handy guide on how to apply mascara like a pro.
We’ve got you covered with step-by-step instructions, top tips and tricks from experts, and rounded up some of the best mascaras on the market. We’ve also included essential dos and don’ts to help you master applying mascara and achieve the perfect fluttering eyes.
Our mascara experts
Cassie Lomas is a world-renowned celebrity makeup artist. Her A-lister clients include Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Rita Ora (to name just a few). Cassie launched her own makeup school, Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy, in 2010, has her own creative agency representing the best new hair and makeup talent, and has her own range of makeup brushes. She can often be seen on TV shows such as This Morning and Lorraine giving her latest makeup top tips.
Melissa Austin is the editor of the beauty blog BeautyAnswers. She has studied media makeup, obtained qualifications in makeup artistry, and is a pro when it comes to all things makeup, hair, beauty and skincare related.
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How to apply mascara: a step-by-step guide
Want to master the art of applying mascara? Follow this step-by-step guide for flawless, professional results, with top tips from makeup experts.
Step one: Prep your lashes
Ensure your eyelashes are clean and dry - this will provide the perfect starting point for applying mascara. At this stage, you can also curl your eyelashes using an eyelash curler. Our beauty expert Melissa Austin advises curling your lashes before application to ‘maximise your mascara’s potential’ and ‘lift your lashes, making them instantly appear longer.’
Step two: Apply mascara to the upper lashes
Remove any excess mascara from the brush, and hold the wand horizontally by your lashes. Makeup expert Cassie Lomas advises: ‘getting the wand right to the roots of your lashes, giving it a little wiggle from side to side, then directing it upwards and out.’ This ensures your lashes are coated evenly from root to tip. Make sure to coat both sides of your lashes to create thickness.
Step three: Apply mascara to the lower lashes
Use the tip of the wand to apply the desired amount of mascara to your lower lashes - again, make sure to coat evenly.
Step four: Add extra volume (optional)
Wanting more volume and length? Apply additional coats of mascara to your lashes to achieve your desired style. Melissa recommends allowing each coat to dry before building it up, explaining that ‘applying too much mascara in one go will leave you with clumpy looking lashes and a messy finish.’
Step five: Separate any clumps
For the finishing touch, make sure to separate any clumps in your lashes. Cassie recommends using the tip of your wand ‘to move the lashes into places’, or alternatively, you can use an eyelash comb.
Top tips for applying mascara: the dos and don’ts
We’ve rounded up some of the best advice out there for applying mascara, from useful hacks to the things to avoid.
- Start with clean lashes: Ensure you have removed all makeup residue before applying fresh mascara. This will give a clear and clean canvas to work with for the best results. Try out Caudalie’s Vinoclean Micellar Cleansing Water to wipe away daily impurities and makeup from your face and eyes - formulated with 98% natural ingredients, it’s suitable for all skin types and will leave skin and the eye area super soft and refreshed.
- Use an eyelash curler pre-application: If you are using an eyelash curler, it’s important to use it before applying your mascara. We recommend the Tweezerman ProCurl Lash Curler for adding definition to your eyes that will last. According to luxury makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury, you shouldn’t curl after application, ‘as when mascara has dried, it makes your eyelashes more prone to breakage’.
- Don’t apply mascara onto wet lashes: Make sure your lashes are completely dry before applying mascara to avoid unnecessary smudging.
- Don’t pump the wand: Avoid pumping the wand as this introduces air and will dry out the formula, decreasing its shelf life. If you want to get more mascara on the wand, experts at Charlotte Tilbury suggest slowly twisting it around the tube - ‘this way you’re not pushing any extra air into the tube, so it shouldn’t dry out.’
- Avoid excess mascara on the wand: Ensure there isn’t too much mascara on the brush, as this will cause clumping.
- Use a lash comb: Once you’ve applied your mascara, separate your lashes with a lash comb to give an even finish and remove any clumps. Check out Tweezerman’s Lash Comb for simple use and professional results - its gold-plated teeth will easily glide through your lashes, removing any excess mascara.
- Don’t forget lower lashes: They can be easy to miss but don’t forget to apply mascara to your lower lashes, too, for a balanced, complete finish.
- Avoid excessive application: Too much mascara on the lashes can become heavy and cause eyelashes to clump together. Avoid excessive application and use a comb to separate them out.
- Get rid of expired mascara: Mascara should be changed every three to six months or thrown away immediately if you’ve had an eye infection. This will reduce the risk of bacteria spreading to the eyes.
Choosing the right mascara
Lengthening, defining or volumizing? Dramatic, subtle or elegant? There are lots of different mascaras available for all the styles you are aiming for, suitable for all eye types, complexions and activities. Here we’ve rounded up some of the key factors to look for when choosing the right mascara for you:
Waterproof or regular?
Need long-lasting wear, coming into contact with water or feeling a little teary-eyed? Choose a waterproof mascara. Regular mascara is designed to last, but waterproof mascara has specific properties to withstand hot, humid and wet conditions. We like Clinique’s High Impact Waterproof Mascara, designed with a water-resistant, smudge-proof formula to be ready for every occasion and made to last. For expert tips on how to remove waterproof mascara, check out our guide on how to remove waterproof mascara.
The different types of mascara wands
Our expert Cassie comments that ‘mascaras are only as good as the wand you apply them with, so when choosing a mascara, go for one that has a brush you like.’ Mascara wands come in different shapes and with different bristle types, so there is something for every need. First things first, it’s important to decide which effect you want it to have on your lashes - our expert Melissa explains the different types:
For a volumized look, Melissa recommends using a mascara with a jumbo wand, packed with lots of bristles as, ‘these are designed to reach every lash and dispense product evenly to give a fluffed-out lash effect, ideal for those with sparse or thin lashes.’ MAC’s MACStack Mascara will add drama to your eyes, designed with a mega brush to give 360-degree coverage and leave lashes lengthened and lifted without clumping, smudging or flaking.
Thin or cone-shaped mascara wands will distribute the product evenly and lengthen your lashes to make them look elongated. Melissa recommends this type of wand for those with shorter or lighter-coloured lashes. Check out Sweed’s Lash Lift Mascara which promises to lengthen and define delicate lashes. Thanks to its thin brush and wand, it will coat every lash from root to tip for full coverage.
Hourglass-shaped wands have feathery bristles, ‘ideal for creating dramatic volume, length, definition and lift that is effective even on sparse lashes.’ Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara will achieve fuller-looking lashes with its hourglass-shaped brush capturing every lash. Curved wands lift lashes from the root to create long-lasting, fluttery results - try Benefit’s Roller Lash Lifting and Curling Mascara to lift and curl your lashes for up to 12 hours.
Choose the shade of your mascara carefully. Whether jet black or chocolate brown to blend in with your natural eyelash colour or a bright blue or pink to jazz up your eyes, there are plenty of options to choose from. For a splash of drama to your lashes, we love Benefit’s Badgal Bang Volumising Mascara in a striking blue hue or Eyeko’s Lash Alert Lift and Curl Mascara in deep purple.
Want to read more expert-recommended beauty round-ups? Check out our cosmetics page for a full list of recommendations, including the best mascaras, how to stop mascara from smudging, and how to remove waterproof mascara – all recommended by expert make-up artists.
Cordelia Aspinall is a Digital Writer for Immediate Media, working across brands including The Recommended, RadioTimes.com, MadeForMums and BBC Gardeners’ World. She has previously worked and written for digital publications including Condé Nast Traveller, The Evening Standard, Cosmopolitan, and several other lifestyle brands.