Knowing how to apply mascara seems simple enough—just swipe on and flutter away! From the second you open the bottle to choosing the right type of mascara to the actual application process, there are a few things that can go sideways. Yes, we’re talking about the potential for flakes galore, running mascara, and raccoon eyes—all the things that make mascara application troublesome. To ensure your lashes look great—and that you’re following the best hygienic practices—we’ve outlined eight common no-nos and how to fix these mascara mistakes once and for all.
Mistake #1: “Pumping” Your Mascara
Raise your mascara tube if you’re guilty of pumping the wand in and out on repeat. We’re not exactly sure where this technique came from, but the idea is that it helps coat the brush more thoroughly with mascara before applying. Unfortunately, all this does is pump air into the tube, which can cause your eye mascara to dry out quickly and lead to flakes and clumps. Save your mascara and your money and refrain from the pump and swipe.
Mistake #2: Using Expired Mascara
Mascara is formulated to last anywhere from three to six months. Even if your product seems to have some life left in it, we recommend tossing it after the expiration date and getting a new tube. Using any product past its shelf life—especially products that are applied near your eyes—poses a hygiene issue and can lead to irritation or infection. Also, fresh mascara always applies more easily. So there’s that.
Mistake #3: Skipping Waterproof Mascara in Wet Scenarios
Waterproof mascara is your friend anytime you’re heading to the beach, pool, or into the madness of a rainy day. (It also comes in handy if you predict any potential tears.) Wearing waterproof mascara on these occasions helps prevent runny mascara and can help you feel more confident as you navigate the day.
Mistake #4: Forgetting to Curl Your Lashes First
How to apply mascara 101: Use an eyelash curler first and then apply your mascara after. Sure this tip may seem obvious, but it is actually one of the most common everyday makeup mistakes. This helps prevent odd creases, clumps, and fallout. It’s also gentler on your eyelashes to curl them first since it reduces your risk of accidentally pulling out lashes (ouch!).
P.S. If you don’t want to curl your lashes, that’s cool, too. Just make sure you do it before applying mascara on days when you feel like taking that extra step.
Mistake #5: Applying to Bottom Lashes First
There are two mascara camps out there: those who apply to their top lashes only, and those who apply to both top and bottom. If you fall into the latter category, then make sure you apply mascara to your top lashes first and then the bottom. Doing the opposite can cause your mascara to smudge underneath your eyes.
Mistake #6: Foregoing the “Wiggle” Application Method
We regret to inform you that simply swiping your mascara in an upward motion and calling it a day is not the ideal approach. While there are a few different techniques for how to apply mascara, we argue the best way is to hold the mascara brush at the base of your lashes and gently wiggle the wand back and forth and then sweep up and through to the tips. This helps coat more of your lashes and prevent clumps.
Mistake #7: Re-Applying a Second Coat Midday
Once your mascara dries it’s a done deal. Adding a second layer hours later will cause the previous coat to flake and create unwanted clumps. Your best bet is to use a cotton swab dipped in a liquid makeup remover—such as Miracle Water 3-in-1 Micellar Cleanser—to gently remove the existing eye mascara. Let your lashes dry and then apply a fresh new coat. We promise your mascara will look way better this way!
Mistake #8: Not Using a Gentle Cleanser for Removal
Mascaras are formulated to last for hours on end, which can make them difficult to remove at the end of the day. Add the fact that we’re dealing with the super delicate and sensitive eye area and you’ve got a recipe for irritation and subpar cleansing that can lead to a temporary case of raccoon eyes.
To remove every last bit of mascara, we recommend using a cotton swab, ball, or pad saturated with Miracle Water 3-in-1 Micellar Cleanser and gently swiping it over your eyes before following up with your cleanser. As an alternative, try Bye Bye Makeup Cleansing Balm. It nixes even the most stubborn makeup, including waterproof mascara, sunscreen, foundation, and dark eye makeup. Gently massage a tiny scoop onto your dry skin and then rinse with warm water.
Note that waterproof mascara is especially difficult to remove because it’s specifically formulated to be resistant to water. You’ll definitely need a gentle cleanser to get the job done.
Ready to become an expert on mascara? Read through our Ultimate Mascara Guide to determine which type of mascara is best for your needs. If you're seeking some eye makeup tips, follow our advice for How to Brighten & Enhance Your Eyes in 4 Easy Steps.