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How to apply mascara correctly, according to top makeup artists

Use these expert tips next time you put on mascara.
How to use mascara
Experts recommend wiggling mascara from the root outward in a fan-like style for full coverage.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

We all have that one facial feature we love to highlight. Whether you're crazy for eyeliner or adore a bold lip, you've got to admit that mascara can really put the finish touch on almost any look. Learning how to apply mascara correctly may seem like an entry level beauty skill, but perfecting your technique can take a bit of work.

TODAY Style asked a few professional makeup artists to dish on the best application tricks and tips for finding the right mascara for you.

There are different mascara formulas for every lash need.
There are different mascara formulas for every lash need.Getty Images

What are the different types of mascara?

With one swipe of the wand, mascara can turn lackluster lashes from drab to fab. And whether you're looking to add length, volume or curl, there's a mascara formula out there to tackle your every need.

"Mascara enhances the eyes in a number of ways. It not only darkens lashes, but can lengthen and volumize for brighter, bigger-looking eyes. Fuller-looking lashes can help to give a more youthful appearance to the eye area," said Claudia Soare, president and creative director of Anastasia Beverly Hills .

Most mascaras are formulated to offer multiple benefits (length and volume or curl and length, for instance), but they are generally separated into three main categories:

  • Volumizing mascara: Ready to pump up the volume? This popular mascara type can give you major thickness and can often provide additional length.
  • Lengthening mascara: Bye-bye, stubby lashes! This type of mascara formula adds length to the ends of lashes to help open up your eyes.
  • Curling mascara: Curling mascaras add flair to flat lashes and give them a much-needed boost of volume.

So, how do different mascara formulas work their magic? It's mostly in the brush!

"The brush is the key for application of mascara — more sparse bristles will add more product to the lashes, which can be overwhelming or 'clumpy' for someone who doesn’t have a lot of lashes to begin with. Wispier, dense bristles will comb product through lashes for more definition and less clump. If you naturally have long lashes, you may want a mascara wand that deposits more product and really makes them as dramatic as possible," said makeup artist Timothy MacKay.

How to apply mascara, mascara brush differences
The brush shape and size can make a big difference.Alamy

How to put on mascara

Learning how to put on mascara or hoping to step up your lash game? Here's a step-by-step tutorial from the pros to get you started.

Step-by-step application guide:

  1. Start with an eyelash curler: And make sure to focus on the corners! "An eyelash curler can help achieve the effect of fuller, longer-looking lashes," Soare said.
  2. Prime lashes: Primers can help lock your mascara in place, especially if you have fine lashes. "Only apply the product from the mid-shaft to the ends in order to avoid clumps. If the primer gets into the root, the lashes tend to clump together, but it does wonders to elongate the lash when used generously at the tip,"said Glamsquad artistic director, Kelli J Bartlett, said.
  3. Apply the mascara: Bartlet swearsby the three-step "bump-and-grind technique." "Start by bumping the wand in at the root, roll it forward to capture each lash, and grind it back and forth while pulling up! Make sure to get from the root to the tip," she said.
  4. Don't be afraid of layering: Just be careful to not apply too many coats because it can begin to flake. "One to three coats is plenty for natural or dramatic lashes that last all day," Soare said.

Over time, these makeup mavens have picked up some invaluable mascara tricks and, lucky for us, they were willing to share a few.

Pro mascara tips:

  • Prime with ease: "Build up the primer on the outer lashes to give the eye a flirty, almond-shaped lift," Bartlett said.
  • Master your mascara technique: "I like to wiggle the mascara from the root outward, and always in a fan-like style: the inner lashes combed towards the nose, the center lashes out forward and outer lashes thickly brushed out toward the temples," MacKay suggested.
  • Shop around: "Try different formulas! Just because something works perfectly for your friends doesn’t mean it will work for you," said celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin.
  • How to tackle mascara mishaps: "If you ever make a mistake with your mascara and get a bit on the skin, do not try to wipe it off. Let it dry completely. Once dry, you can use a clean mascara wand or brush to lightly pick the product off the skin," Soare said.
  • Find the right brush: "Wands and formula are the key! If you’ve got very short, fine lashes, you don’t want the same formula as someone with lashes that are already long and thick. My general rule of thumb is that the shorter your lashes are naturally, the smaller the wand you use," Irwin said.

When to apply mascara

Now that you know how to apply mascara, the next question is when should you perk up those peepers in your beauty routine? The answer is really based on personal preference, but most makeup artists agree that it's usually best to apply mascara last.

"I curl and prime my lashes first and then continue with the rest of my beauty routine, leaving the actual mascara application for the last step," Bartletsaid.

Doing so can avoid any makeup fallout on your lashes since face powder and powder eye shadows can often settle into lashes.

How to apply mascara
Applying mascara to your bottom lashes is an art of its own.Getty Images

What about bottom lashes?

Once you've tackled your top lashes, learning how to apply mascara to your bottom lashes can take your makeup game to the next level. While it's not always necessary, adding a coat to your bottom lashes can help open up your eyes even more. Still, getting bottom lashes coated without making a mess requires a bit of trial and error. So the pros shared a few additional tips:

  • Perfect your technique: "For an easier application, try tilting your head downward slightly and looking up into a mirror. This will pull the lashes farther away from the skin making it easier to apply without smudging," Soare said.
  • Less is more: "If you’re using the mascara wand, try not to re-dip before doing your bottom lashes after doing the top. Use what’s left on the bristles as it might be enough for the bottom," MacKay said, otherwise, "horizontally glide the bristles over the tube opening to only get a little bit of product on (the brush) so it doesn’t overwhelm the smaller lashes,"
  • Consider the formula: "I almost always use a waterproof formula on the bottom. Especially if someone has longer bottom lashes, it makes a world of difference keeping it from smudging. I also use a formula with a smaller brush for the bottom and hold the brush vertically and very carefully work it into the lashes," Irwin said.
  • Try some powder: "If you do choose to wear mascara on your lower lashes, make sure to add a small amount of powder under the eyes to keep mascara from smudging throughout the day," Soare said.