Mascara 101

As part of my Ask Adele Anything Agony Aunt section, Elana asked on

“I need some advice on mascara. No matter which new brand I use, the mascara always clumps my eyelashes together. How do you achieve that beautiful lush and natural looking eyelashes without the clumps!? Any particular brand or method of applying?”

I have decided to dedicate a full post to Mascara. My need to know tips and tricks on how to achieve beautifully defined luscious lashes with your favourite mascara.

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Women have always been obsessed with their appearance, especially their eyes. Although mascara and false eye lashes was used before the 1960′s, in my mind Twiggi has made over the top eye lashes super hot. Not only did she have exaggerated top lashes, but also exaggerated bottom lashes, known as the twiggies. To me, she has made it acceptable and fashionable to experiment and have fun with lashes.

To me mascara is one of the most important elements of makeup. It defines your eye, opens it up and makes your eyes appear more alive and youthful. I will never leave the house without mascara on. The saying “less is more” definitely do not apply to mascara.

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Mascara Knowhow

Mascara comes in various formulations, each giving a different result. Choose the formul that helps you achieve the look you want.

Mascara Formulations:

  • Thickening mascara coats each individual lash from root to tip with particles that add bulk to the lashes and help them appear thick and full. The idea is to increase each individual lash size.
  • Lengthening mascara contains plastic polymers that cling to the tips of the lashes, making them appear longer. These lengthening particles attach themselves to the end tips of your lasshes to add length.
  • Defining mascara coats each individual lash and keeps them separated and defined. This type of mascara usually does not contain bulk adding or lengthening particles. The formulation is usually not as thick and tacky as the thickening and lenghtening types. This type of mascara has the most natural appearance.

Mascara Wands:

(Image from Robert Jones, Looking Younger)

The mascara wand is just as important as the mascara formulation. The different shapes and sizes of the bristles on the various wands creates different effects. Mascara tubes come with a built in wand, normally paired and suited to go with its furmulation. However when you are not satisfied with the built in wand, you can buy disposable wands from most cosmetic counters, such as MAC.

  • A wand with long, fat, full, thick, dense bristles will help thicken and lengthen your lashes.
  • A wand with short, dense spiralled bristles helps define your lashes. It is less dense as the full thick fat wand, which means it takes less product and allows you to coat each lash with a thin coat from root to tip.
  • Bristles tapering from short at the tip to longer in the middle defines, thickens and lengthens lashes. It enables you to perform detailed defining work with the tip, while giving volume and length from the thicker middle.
  • A wand with widely spaced rubber bristles defines and separates, giving a thin even coat on each lash.
  • A wand shaped like a comb defines and separates each lash. It provides a thin coat of product while combing and separating each lash. This particular wand practically elimminates clumping and can also prevent lashes from sticking together.
  • There are also combination wands available.

Applying Mascara

(Image from Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual)

  1. Start by curling your eyelashes using a crimp style curler. This opens up the eye and gives you a big eyed youthful bambi look. Never use this tool on mascaraed lashes as it will break the hair. If you are using a heated curler, use it after you've applied your mascara as the heated mascara sets the curl in place. If you are not a huge fan of eyelash curling, you can use your fingers to push the hair upwards after you have applied mascara, just before it is dry.
  2. Roll your mascara wand in the tube, then pull it out. Never pump your mascara wand into the tube as this creates air bubbles inside the tube, which in turn dries out the mascara and will have a clumping effect. Now the next part is quite important to avoid clumping, but it is a waist of product. You have to weigh the product wastage against perfect clump free lashes, and decide for yourself which is more important. After the wand is pulled out of the tube, gently roll/wipe the wand on paper towel to remove excess product. Remember to also dab the tip of the wand. Most of the time it is the excess product clumping in your lashes.
  3. Apply your first coat of mascara starting as close to the base of the lash as possible. Some prefer a outwards and upwards sweep, whereas others prefer side to side wiggling followed by an upward and outward sweep. Just as long as you coat each and every hair from the outer to the inner corner from the base to the tip.
  4. Separate the lashes with your wand as you go along by combing through them. Don't worry. You won't remove too much product. The idea is to layer it on for a fuller effect. When clumping has occurred, use a clean eyelash comb to comb through the lashes. This will remove the clump while at the same time separating them. This could become a bit messy.
  5. Do the same with as many layers as desired, waiting between each layer till almost dry. In my experience applying product over already dry mascara can have a clumping effect. Dried clumps can be combed out, but take care not to pull out hair. Another trick to remove dried mascara clumps is to dab your forefinger into a little Vaseline. Rub your thumb and forefinger together to spread the Vaseline. Now lightly place your thumb and forefinger over the clump and gently pull. The greasiness of the vaseline helps remove the product without pulling hair.
  6. If you smudged the mascara, it is easiest to remove when dry. Wet mascara tend to smear, making it more difficult to get rid of. After the smudge has dried, use a Q-tip to gently roll and sweep the product off of your skin. It should come off easily without leaving any marks behind. For a stubborn smudge, dab your Q-tip in makeup remover.
  7. I always do my lower lashes, but some people prefer not to. When applying mascara to the lower lashes, as with the top, take care to apply from corner to corner, covering each hair.

Final words on mascara

Mascara is not an 'one product/formulation/brand fits all' . What works for me might not work for you. It all depends on what type of lashes you have and your desired end result. I for instance have medium length lashes, but I want thick full long lashes. The thicker fuller and longer the better. I am a huge MAC Cosmetics fan. But for some reason am not too crazy about their mascaras. Although their Zoom Lash mascara is not too bad, and I absolutely can not live without the Haute & Naughty Lash. Another one of my favourite mascaras is Max Factor's False Lash Effect Fusion.  I love the wand, formulation and effect.

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There are hundreds of brands out there, each with their own formulations, combinations and wands. My advice when choosing mascara: First decide on the look you want, then go to your favourite cosmetic counter and try them all out. Please make sure to use a disposable wand, as mascara is one of the top causes of eye infections.

Play around with different formulations and wands and have fun with your lushes lashes!