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How to Apply Mascara like a Pro Makeup Artist


News flash: you don’t have to be a professional makeup artist to create eyes that seriously wow. You can get that va-va-voom look all on your own with the help of your trusty old mascara wand. 

After all, there's a reason mascara is considered a classic makeup staple—just a few swipes can transform your whole look. The clean girl makeup trend says so, just by adding mascara to your fresh skin look can make you look more awake and accentuate your natural lash length and shape. And with tons of great formulas and ways to apply, the options are endless. Check out our tips below and learn how to swipe right!

About the Expert:

Sarah Biggers-Stewar is a makeup artist and the founder and CEO of CLOVER BY CLOVE + HALLOW.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Any Mascara

We think of mascara as the finishing touch to your makeup routine—it comes after eyeshadow, eyeliner, and any other eye makeup you are using and completes your look. But what if we told you it could be your one and only secret to a natural makeup look? Adding a touch of mascara is always our go-to errand or Saturday morning brunch look. It’s natural and effortless, only taking a couple minutes to perfect. 

Before you start swiping, it’s time to pick your product. There are endless types of mascara formulas to choose from for you and your lashes. Are you looking for volume, length, curl or all of the above? Whichever formula you choose, we’ve got you covered! This foolproof technique works for any and all mascaras.

“I prefer a silicone wand on my eyelashes so I always check out if it’s a traditional or silicone wand before purchasing. I also pay attention to the stopper—the part that squeezes the wand right before it comes out of the tube—to make sure it doesn’t leave too much product on the wand. And lastly, I look for formulas that are fragrance-free or else my sensitive eyes will become irritated,” says Sarah Biggers-Stewart, Makeup Artist and Founder & CEO of Clover by CLOVE + HALLOW

Step 1: Curl Your Lashes

Before applying mascara, use an eyelash curler to lift and lengthen lashes. This will allow your mascara to adhere better to your eyelashes and it fans each individual lash out a bit. Choose one with a rounded upper pad, like EYEKO Magic Express Curler, to get as close to the lash line as possible without pinching.

Step 2: Use Eyelash Primer

Just like you would use primer on your skin before foundation to prevent creasing and eyeshadow to prevent any fallout, an eyelash primer will give your mascara better staying power. It will also help thicken and separate lashes, prepping them perfectly for mascara. Swipe one or two coats of primer on top lashes and bottom lashes and wait at least 30 seconds before moving onto mascara.

IPSY Creator Micaela Klein demonstrates how to swipe mascara onto your eyelashes

Step 3: Apply Mascara on Your Upper and Lower Lashes 

It sounds silly, but the way you take the mascara wand out of the tube can affect your application. No matter which product you choose to use (we recommendIL MAKIAGE Icon High Volume & Intense Curl Mascarafor volume and length), twist the wand out of the tube and wipe off excess product on the edge of the tube. This will help you avoid clumpy, too-heavy lashes. Also, don’t pump the wand in and out of the tube—this can actually dry out the formula. 

To apply your mascara, look up, place the wand at the base of your upper lashes, and wiggle it back and forth, coating the base of your lashes. Then pull the wand upward towards the tip of your eyelashes, making sure you’re coating every part of your lashes as you pull through and moving slowly to avoid clumping. Apply additional coats of mascara until you get the thickness and look you want, taking care not to let the product dry in between coats (this can make your eyelashes brittle and weak). 

“For the fullest lashes, always wiggle the applicator at the root of your lashes before swooping upwards to apply. The wand bristles will separate and lift your lashes so the formula can coat each one,” says Sarah. 

When it comes to your bottom lashes, you’ll want to be extra careful not to use too much product and create clumps. Since your bottom lashes are generally more delicate than your upper eyelashes, any clumpy sections will be especially apparent. To avoid this, use the tip of the wand and apply your mascara just at the roots of the lashes, wiggling the bristles back and forth for an even coat. Or, pick up a mascara that is meant for bottom lashes. They typically feature a tiny wand for coating the finest eyelashes you have without creating a mess or dispensing too much product. We love this one from PIXI.

IPSY Creator Micaela Klein demonstrates how to swipe mascara onto your eyelashes

Step 4: Cover and Separate All Your Eyelashes

To make sure you’re covering every individual eyelash, when you reach the outer and inner corners of your eyes and those hard-to-reach corner eyelashes, angle your wand vertically and gently brush up against them. This will help ensure a more even application. Next, switch the brush to a diagonal downward angle and gently move across your eye, so the bristles on your wand hit the tips of your upper lashes. This will separate them and remove any clumps.

Step 5: Clean Up Any Smudges

Mascara can be messy and sometimes smudges onto the eyelids and the skin around the eye. It happens to the best of us, even professional makeup artists. Luckily, it’s super simple to fix. Remove any leftover product with a gentle eye makeup remover—we love ESTÉE LAUDER Take it Away Gentle Eye and Lip LongWear Makeup Remover for a powerful clean that won’t harm your skin or eyes. Or, cover a cotton swab with a face moisturizer, like BOBBI BROWN Hydrating Face Cream, and gently press it onto the smudge to remove.

A closeup photo of mascara strokes on a white background

7 Hacks for Upping Your Mascara Game

Now that you’ve got the basics covered, we’ve got a few game-changing hacks to create full, falsie-like eyelashes. Consider this your mascara cheat sheet. 

Hack #1: Use a Business Card

Your business card is good for more than just networking. “If you tend to make a mess on your eyelid when applying mascara, put a business card or something similar behind your lashes as a backboard. It works great!” says Sarah. This will keep your eyelids smudge-free and your eyeshadow intact.

Hack #2: Use it as Eyeliner in a Pinch

No liner handy? No problem. Let your mascara do double duty. Take a small eyeliner brush, like OFRA COSMETICS Eyeliner Brush #1, and swipe it against the plastic part of the mascara wand to pick up the product. Gently drag it along the upper lash line, moving from the inner corner of your eye outward.

Hack #3: Coat Both Sides of Your Lashes

If you think mascara can only be used underneath lashes, think again. For mega high impact lashes (think thick and uber dark), cover them on both sides. After applying mascara underneath your lashes, go back in with the brush and slowly move it over the top of your lashes from roots to tips.

Hack #4: Apply Translucent Powder Between Coats

Yes, translucent powder like NAKED COSMETICS HD Finishing & Setting Powder is a serious shine stopper, but (surprise!) it can also make lashes appear much more thick and full. After one coat of mascara, brush a little powder onto tips of lashes, then add another coat to finish the look.

Hack #5: Hold the Wand Vertically to Hit Tiny Bottom Lashes

Sometimes those small little hairs can be really hard to cover, especially without major smudges. Do a 180 and hold the wand upright, gently pressing into lower lashes, coating every single strand.

Hack #6: Let Smudges Dry Before Wiping Away with a Q-tip

Try this clean-up trick to remove smudges: let them dry first. Then grab a Q-tip and wipe across your eyelid, picking up every smidge of makeup that isn’t meant to be there.

A closeup photo of strokes of mascara on a white background

Looking for more makeup application tips? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started with your own beauty subscription. Already a member? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and TikTok @IPSY.

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About the author
Dori Price
Ipster, baby mama, skincare addict
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Article Last Updated July 5, 2023 12:00 AM