How To Apply Mascara Like a Pro

The right mascara is only half the battle. Here are 10 tips to help you brush up your application technique.
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Michelle Villett
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The right mascara is only half the battle. Here are 10 tips to help you brush up your application technique.
Kim Kardashian lashes

Remember when buying mascara was as simple as strolling through the drugstore and picking up whatever Maybelline New York or CoverGirl product happened to be on sale that week? The decision was pretty much: Waterproof or Not Waterproof. Brown or Black.

Things are so much more complicated now. Not that I don't still love the brands I wore in high school—but they've morphed into high-tech magic wands that share retail space with dozens and dozens of equally impressive-sounding formulas. Lengthening! Volumizing! Curling! Plumping! Defining! Vibrating! Growth-enhancing!

It's enough to make your brain hurt. But you know what? I swear to you that the mascara itself is only the first hurdle. Sure, it's important to choose the right prodz (especially if your lashes are long but fine, and I'll get to that in a sec). But the way you apply it can make a HUGE difference. I've collected a ton of tips over the years from makeup artists, brands, a reader and even my own mother (thanks Mom!), so today's post is dedicating to helping you brush up (!) your technique.

Tip #1: Use the tip of your mascara wand to deposit the product at the roots of your lashes.

Lancome-Hypnose-Doll-Lashes-Mascara

This is the newest tip I've adopted, which came my way via reader Barbie in the comments of this post. She was talking about Lancôme's new Doll Lashes (which I reviewed here), and said: "The trick is to apply mascara with the tip of the applicator to the roots of your lashes first and then using the brush as a whole to brush/even out the product." I started doing it with not just Doll Lashes but ALL of my mascara, and I'm hooked. If your usual technique is to just brush the wand through, this will rock your world because it really helps deposit the product at the bottom of the lashes—and the more colour at the roots, the more your eyes will pop. It's also fantastic if your mascara is on the clumpy side, since any clumps will attach to the roots first (where they're actually not such a big deal), and then you're smoothing them out with the brush anyway. Love this tip. Thanks Barbie!

Tip #2: Use volumizing formulas with caution if you have long, fine lashes.

Remember this show?

Marc-Jacobs-Spring-2012-beauty

Marc Jacobs was going for a deliberately heavy-lashed look... but that might not be your cup of tea for the office. Or ever. You see, when you load up long, fine or long AND fine lashes with mascara that's too heavy for them, the lashes get weighed down and you end up with this slightly unnatural, drag-queeny effect. Even worse: because the lashes can't hold up the weight of all those fibres, the mascara can start to flake off. So if you have these kind of lashes, or if you're on Latisse or have lash extensions, a more clean-look formula is probably a better choice. (I'm currently on Latisse and I've definitely noticed a new ridiculousness with my usual plumping mascaras... I just can't wear them anymore.)

Tip #3: Brush your lashes in a diagonal direction for a wide-eyed effect.

I've heard different things from different experts on the direction in which you should pull the mascara through the lashes, but I think the diagonal is the most universally flattering. (One makeup artist brushes straight up, and yes, that can make your eyes look bigger, but it's also a bit cartoon-ish.) Diagonal works for everyone—it gives a really pretty, wide-eyed effect. You know how cat's eye liner helps open up your eyes? Well, it's kinda like that.

Tip #4: Coat your lashes with powder to thicken them.

Shu-Uemura-loose-powder

An oldie but a goodie. You know those mascaras that are double-ended, and one side is this weird white "priming" thing? Me no likey. Using a little bit of translucent face powder is so much easier, and it works the same way to fatten them up. Just lightly brush the lashes while you're setting your foundation (you do set your foundation, right?) and then slick on the mascara. BAM! Fat juicy lashes.

Tip #5: Don't be afraid to wear two or three different kinds of mascara at once.

Seriously, who said you had to only wear one mascara? You can totally layer them for a custom mix that ticks off all your boxes. For example, you might start with a defining mascara first to separate out your individual lashes, and then build it up with something lengthening on the tips, and maybe throw on a volumizing one at the end for the final wow factor. It's totally up to you. Lately, however, I've been dabbling with a brand new product from Hourglass called Film Noir Lash Lacquer:

Hourglass-Film-Noir-Lash-Lacquer

It's basically a top coat for lashes that goes on over your regular mascara. It makes them way more black (like, VERY noticeably more black) and a bit glossy. Highly recommended for evening.

Tip #6: Paint both sides of your lashes.

I forget to do this a lot of the time, but trust—it's a fabulous trick if you want your lashes to look thicker. (I mean, DUH! We all go around wishing we had thicker lashes, and this is a pretty basic way to get 'em no matter what the formula.) Plus, when you blink it just gives you a more polished look if the top part of your lashes are painted instead of just the underside.

Tip #7: Hold your brush horizontally and blink to coat your bottom lashes.

You know that well-worn tip about using the tip of your mascara wand to paint the bottom lashes? Like this?

woman applying mascara to lower lashes

Well it blows. I don't know where that came from, but there's no better way to make the lower lashes all thick and clumpy and unnatural-looking. Instead, if you want to add a touch of product to those puppies, try this: rest your mascara wand horizontally, NOT vertically, along the bottom lashes and blink a few times. Works like a charm!

Or you can always try Clinique's Bottom Lash Mascara, which has a tiny brush that is a bit easier to maneuver.

Clinique-Bottom-Lash-Mascara

Tip#8: Prevent bottom-lash smearing with a waterproof mascara.

My mom's been doing this for years now. Waterproof mascara can be a pain in the bum to remove, but it's also painful when you catch a glimpse of your makeup mid-afternoon and realize your mascara has migrated from the bottom lashes down to your cheekbones. The best way to avoid the panda-eye look is to follow tip #7 but with a waterproof formula that won't budge.

Tip #9: Tubular mascara might change your life.

Apparently there are some people out there who have never heard of tubular mascara, because a question about it came through just the other day. God, it's good. Kiss Me from Blinc was the first one...

Kiss-Me-Mascara

...but now you can buy them from Bobbi Brown, Clinique, L'Oréal Paris, Estée Lauder, Lise Watier and Maybelline New York. What they do is coat each individual lash with an actual "tube," which requires no makeup remover—just water—to get off. (The first time you use one of these, you'll be mighty alarmed when you see all the tubes in the sink. Don't worry, your lashes aren't falling out.) They're not likely to give you crazy volume or even lengthening, but are simply ACE for anyone who is fed up with clumping, flaking, smudging and smearing. Because they're tubes, you get none of that. They're a great choice for bottom lashes too.

Tip #10: Maybe you should think about not wearing mascara at all.

Here's the thing. If you want to look younger, fresher, less "done," then you might want to try skipping mascara altogether from time to time. I noticed this last season at Prada and okay, the model is probably 14—but doesn't this look gloriously fresh?

MFW-F11-Prada-4

It's a nice palette cleanser after all the horrific lash crimes we've been subjected to lately (and the Kardashian family is at the top of that list). So just somethin' you might want to consider. You'll want to make sure your skin is looking tops, and to compliment the look with some nice cream blush and rosy lip balm. Curl your lashes, too. Then: wait to be asked for ID at the liquor store.

Tell me:

Have you tried any of these mascara tips before?
What lash tricks do YOU swear by?
Do you have a favourite mascara?