Introduction to Mascara

Mascara will darken your eyelashes and make them look thicker/longer. This is the makeup item where YMMV (your mileage may vary) most; a mascara that works great for one person might work horribly for another, so you may need to do some trial-and-error to find your favorite. Here are a few drugstore recommendations:

  • Jordana Best Lash
  • Maybelline Lash Sensational
  • Maybelline Colossal Volum’ Express
  • CoverGirl Clump Crusher

A lengthening vs. a volumizing mascara wand (Maybelline Define-a-Lash and Colossal Volum’ Express)

Makeup companies tend to focus their efforts on developing new wand shapes rather than new formulas (many brands actually use the same formulas). So it’s really the wand that makes a difference. A wand that resembles a comb, with very fine, evenly spaced bristles, will separate and lengthen your lashes. These are good if you have naturally thick lashes and just want a little enhancement. A wand with long, densely packed bristles will increase volume for a more dramatic look. Note that if your wand has short bristles, it’ll be easier to avoid smearing mascara on your eyelids when you apply it. And finally, a curved wand is designed to provide a curl for your lashes – just use it with the curve facing up (like a U shape).

To apply mascara, tilt your head back (so you don’t get a bunch of mascara on your eyelids), wiggle the brush left and right at the bottom of your lashes, and then comb it up from the base to the tip of your lashes. If you do get mascara on your eyelids, you can clean it up with a Q-tip.

To prevent clumping, before applying your mascara you can comb your lashes with a metal lash comb (not a plastic one; those are useless). Real Techniques, Sonia Kashuk, and Tweezerman all make metal lash combs.

You can also wipe some mascara off the wand onto a tissue before applying to get rid of the excess. If your mascara does clump up, you can comb through your lashes right away with a lash comb to fix it.

Keep in mind that mascara should be thrown out every 3 to 6 months – closer to every 3 months if you have sensitive eyes. Because of this, and because there are many good drugstore mascaras, I recommend sticking to drugstore mascara rather than mid-to-high-end.

You can also curl your eyelashes to really “open up” your eyes. I’ve never used an eyelash curler (this is why), but you would need to find a curler that fit the shape of your eyes (otherwise it would pinch and be uncomfortable). This post goes into wonderful detail on curvature numbers for a bunch of different eyelash curlers. Here’s a rundown of some eyelash curlers that are popular on the Makeup Alley boards:

  • Flat eye shape – Shiseido
  • In between – Shu Uemura
  • Round eye shape – Kevyn Aucoin, Chanel

You can see some comparisons here and here.

You would use the curler at the base of your lashes, in the middle, and at the ends for a more natural-looking (not L-shaped) curl; each time you’d “pulse” the curler a few times, then hold for a few seconds. To get better results, you can heat your eyelash curler first, either by sticking it in your shirt for a few minutes, or by using a hair dryer on it for a few seconds, then checking it against your hand to make sure it’s not too hot.

Then you’d need to use a mascara that will hold the curl rather than making your lashes flop back down. Waterproof formulas are best for this – try Maybelline Full n Soft Waterproof.

Tutorials and helpful posts:


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