Beauty Wednesday: How to Apply Mascara

How To Apply Mascara | CorporetteThis may well be one of those moments where I’m the insane one, but here’s a question for today’s open thread:  how do you apply mascara?  I’ll admit: I haven’t done a total survey of the field here, but every YouTube makeup tutorial I’ve ever seen has women applying mascara as the very last step when they’re done with their makeup — and some of them even curl their lashes after the mascara is on them.  But what I do is completely different, and over dinner with a girlfriend recently we wound up having a 30 minute conversation about it, so I thought it might be interesting to ask the readers.

(Pictured:  For those of you really into mascara, the Sephora “Lash Stash” gift set is a must — $145 worth of mascaras for $45.  It’s limited edition for the holidays.)

For my $.02: I don’t know if it’s the shape of my eyes or the length of my lashes, but I always, always, always get mascara on my eyelids.  Always.  (I would describe my lashes as being of average thickness and average length (maybe a teeny bit longer than most?) but with no natural curl to them whatsoever — their natural tendency is to point down; my eye lids are fleshy enough that not a lot of my lower lid is exposed in general.) Something about this combo means I get mascara all over my lid — so if I were to apply mascara the very last step of my routine, I would totally screw up my eye makeup.  Instead, for me mascara is one of the very first steps, generally right after I put my concealer under my eyes. For those of you interested in my routine, here it is, in all of its gory detail:

1) I curl my lashes first. I suppose “crimp” is the better verb — I try to crimp them in at least 2-3 places along the lash so they look my curled.  I tried once curling them after I’d applied mascara and it was a sticky mess!  Right now I’m still committed to the Shu Uemura lash curler, but I’m curious to hear if you guys have any other favorites.

2) After my lashes are curled, I apply my mascara, wiggling the wand as close as I can to coat the base of the lashes so they look fuller and thicker, then flicking upwards. (I only apply to the upper lashes unless I’m doing my makeup for a rare Corporette video, in which case I may put a teeny tiny bit on my lower lashes.)  Right now I’m still using Lancome’s Defencils mascara (link) for every day, but will probably switch back to my beloved Voluminous when this tube runs out.

mascara on lid3) This leaves me with mascara all over my lids — so then I dip a Q-tip in a bit of hand lotion and wipe off the mascara that is not where it should be.  Generally I just use Curel, but I’ll also use face lotion or makeup remover if that’s handy too. (I’ve always figured this is also good for moisturizing the skin near my eyes anyway.) I almost always apply liner to the top lid, so I don’t worry about getting too close to the base of my lashes with the Q-tip. (Pictured: me, with no other makeup on, but with my eyelid covered in mascara!)

4) If I’m applying other makeup (eye shadow, liner), I generally wait a few minutes here to let the lotion absorb fully — I’ll tend to my lips, hair, jewelry, or clothes while I’m waiting, or check to make sure whatever I need is in my bag.

5) If, when adding eye shadow or liner, I manage to get some over the mascara, I add a quick second coat of mascara.  I really just focus on the upper part of my lashes, not the base — I generally find this is enough to get rid of the eye shadow-over-mascara look but not so much that I end up with clumpy eyelashes.

If I’m adding false eyelashes (which is something I’m still learning to apply) then I’ll save them for near the end — the only thing to come on top of them is eye liner.  (I usually don’t put mascara on false lashes.)  If I’m refreshing makeup (sans false eyelashes) several hours after I’ve applied it (say, to meet my husband out for dinner), then I may do another swipe of mascara, as well as using Touche Eclat and adding more blush like Nars The Multiple (in Orgasm).

All right, ladies, let’s hear it — how do you apply mascara?  Do you curl (and if so, when in your routine)?


  1. Thermos Reccs :

    For the life of me I can’t find the brand of thermos that (basically) everyone on this site recommended in the comments a few weeks back. Does anyone know? I just remember it was available on Amazon, came in a variety of colors, and would not spill even if tossed in a bag. Thank you!

    • Anonymous :


      • Thermos Reccs :

        YES. Thank you so, so much!

        • Absolutely love my Zojirushi travel mug. Keeps my tea hot for hours.

          • Do you ever notice your tea tasting metallic-y when you put it in a stainless steel mug? The Zojirushi mug has great reviews but I usually make more tea than coffee when I’m on the go.

  2. Anonymous :

    Kat, you definitely should use some mascara if you’re using false eyelashes – it helps blend them in (both color and texture-wise) with your real lashes and makes them look more natural. I’ve got a cheap tube of Great Lash I use for this (because it’s not like I need extra volume or length I get from my normal mascara when I’m already putting on fake lashes).

    FWIW, I put mascara on top and bottom lashes every day because my lashes are very light. Takes me no more than 20 seconds total for a quick swipe, and off I go. Mascara is the only makeup I won’t leave the house without applying.

  3. A trick my mom taught me was to look down into a handheld mirror when applying mascara. You can still see what you are doing coverage wise, but avoid getting mascara under your eyebrow because you opened your eyes too wide. I usually apply mascara at the end of my routine.

    • Christina :

      THIS! This is exactly what I do and I always thought was so clever haha.
      I have short lashes as well, and this really makes a difference in how much mascara I get on my lid.

      Another trick, if you don’t get the hang of the looking down and blinking onto the mascara wand, is to take a business card and snug it in between your eyelashes and your eyelid, and then brushing your mascara wand onto the eyelashes, pressing against the business card. This results in super clumpless lashes, but can also lack volume. Definitely prevents mascara shadowing your eyelids though!

  4. I always put mascara on after everything else – I feel like if I do it the other way, I just smush all of my lashes together and get shadow all over them. Then I’ll always apply one coat on the tops of the lashes, then one coat normally. It usually does the trick.

  5. Woods-comma-Elle :

    For me it’s always at the end.

    I often use a hairdryer to heat up my curlers (not too hot, ouch!) to make the curl stronger and longer-lasting. I use Smashbox primer and usually 3 or 4 different mascaras on top of each other. The problem with curling after mascara is that the mascara can get stuck to the curlers and you risk pulling your eyelashes out. However, I do curl afterwards, but only when I’m doubly sure my lashes are dry and that I’ve wiped off all the residue on the curlers themselves.

    I don’t have particularly long, but not particularly short lashes either, yet despite all the above steps I always wish they were longer. I’m naturally blonde, so without mascara I have zero colour on my lashes, maybe that is why…

    I have recently learned to do false eyelashes better – the left eye I still have issues with placing the false eyelash right, but one trick I have learned that works for me is using the end of a make-up brush to press down the lashes once I have placed them over my eye (rather than, eg, using my fingers), as you can get it really close to the lashline and the glue doesn’t really stick to it.

    • I always thought I was weird for using multiple mascaras, happy to hear others do as well.

  6. Mascara at the end, base of lash wiggle, then q-tip with lotion for cleanup and COVERUP under eyes after:).

  7. I do the rest of my eye makeup first before I curl my lashes and put on mascara. The area where I would get mascara on my eyelid is precisely where my eyeliner is, so you can’t see it at all.

    Kat, do you hooded lids? Based on the picture, it looks that way, but I’m not sure. I have hooded lids as well, and I prefer the Tarte eyelash curler or the Shiseido one. I own the Shu Uemura one, but I don’t find that it curls my lashes very well.

    • Not really hooded I don’t think… Less than Jennifer Lawrence, way less than makeup tutorials I’ve seen for “hooded” lids. But def fleshy :)

      Will definitely have to ask Santa for the Tarte curler though!

  8. While we’re on the subject, does anyone have a waterproof mascara they recommend highly? Looking for a new product. Thanks!

    • Tarte Lights, Camera, Splashes. Stays on pretty well, comes off easily with remover, and it doesn’t irritate my contacts

    • The Givenchy waterproof will not come off. Not with wear, not even with standard lotion. You have to use remover. Has a good brush too.

  9. Fate smiled on me with long, dark lashes. I use an eyelash curler, and when I’m in the mood, some Vaseline.

    • Baconpancakes :

      Fate laughed at me with long, curly, completely transparent eyelashes. I use mascara and eyebrow pencil every day, or I look surprised all day.

  10. I keep an old, washed mascara brush that I use to go over my lashes after applying mascara. It gets rid of any clumps and separates the lashes.

    • That’s a great idea! My mascara always irritates my eyes during the day, so I started just putting it on the tips. This whole “wiggling the brush at the base of the lash” seems like the worst idea ever.

      • My eyes are irritated by many brands of mascara, but I’ve had great luck using Blinc’s “tubing” mascara. Zero irritation, reasonably waterproof (my lashes will get a bit gooey and stick together if I cry a LOT or go swimming, but the mascara itself doesn’t run), and comes in colors too. I also like Blinc’s heated curler. It’s far easier for me to use than the clamping kind. The warmth feels nice and not at all dangerous. I need to change out the batteries once every week or two if I use it every day. If my lashes clump (rare with Blinc mascara), I sweep them with an old clean toothbrush reserved for this purpose.

  11. TO Lawyer :

    I lucked out with long lashes that don’t need to be curled (thank god because I am terrified of my eyelash curler) but I put on my eye makeup and then mascara at the end. Will usually use under-eye concealer either just before or after the mascara.

    I read somewhere that you’re supposed to curl your eyelashes before you put on mascara because doing it the other way around can lead to eyelash breakage.

  12. Miss Behaved :

    I can’t do mascara. It irritates my eyes and I get it all over the area under my eyes (as opposed to my eyelids, although that happens occasionally, too). So I’ve basically given up. I tried blinc, but I still have the mess problem before it dries. My trembling hands probably don’t help the problem.

    Recently, I’ve been trying clear mascara, but I’m not sure it’s doing anything. On the other hand, I wear glasses so I’m not sure it matters. And I don’t wear any makeup to work.

    • Mountain Girl :

      I’ve just recently given up on mascara as well. I’ve worn it daily since I was a teen but for the last year or so it seems like I just struggle with raccoon eyes. I have tried my old favorites and a bunch of new ones and haven’t found anything that works. But I wear glasses and don’t really think it makes much of a difference.

      • This used to be me until I found Bobbi Brown Smudgeproof Mascara – it really is smudgeproof! I used to have qtips in my purse for the inevitable under-eye smudges, but not since BBSM.

  13. marketingchic :

    Do shadow and liner first, and translucent powder (generously) over that. Then mascara. The mascara I get on my skin comes off easily with a dry q-tip because of the powder.

  14. To date, I have not found a single mascara that is oil-proof. Except for Blinc. And even then, sometimes the fiber shards end up in my eye (comfortable, I know) and it doesn’t give enough volume or length. It’s just good for coloring lashes. So, I don’t wear mascara. FOOEY.

  15. Generally for a regular work day I apply mascara only, no shadow or liner and don’t curl. I apply mascara to the top lashes from the bottom side, do wiggle along the base and slowly pull down. Then for the bottom lashes I apply from the top with just a light sweep. Dab away stray mascara with my fingertips. Often this is done at a red light, or in the parking lot.
    If I am doing full eye makeup, usually I do liner first, then shadow, then mascara.

  16. I have avergae length lashes, but I’m fair skinned and blonde so my lashes are practically invisible without mascara.

    I’ve been doing the “wiggle at the base/sweep through the lashes” method for quite a while now. When I first started doing that, I got mascara all over my lids but I’ve gotten fairly good at it now and rarely have any misplaced mascara. It’s always the last thing I put on too. I guess I don’t really put that much at the base of my lashes though; Usually just 1 coat at the base and then sweep across the ends a few times. I feel like if I put my mascara on before my eyeshadow, I would get eyeshadow on my lashes and then have to re-apply the mascara….if that makes sense.

  17. DC lawyer :

    Here’s the secret — Apply “Rapid Lash” every evening at the base of your upper eyelashes. It’s amazing what it does to keep lashes long and to keep them from falling out. Then I use one quick covering of Clinique’s “High Impact Curling Mascara.” My lashes look nearly artificial, and they used to be quite thin. I actually panic if I go on a trip and have forgotten to pack the Rapid Lash.

    • I think I got a free sample of that somewhere and chickened out on trying it – I get really weird about chemicals near my eyes after that scary eye trouble I had a few years ago. I’m too chicken to even try lash extensions! Will have to revisit RapidLash though.

  18. Mascara is one of the first things I put on too!!! I had no idea everyone else seems to do it last. The same thing happens to me (getting a little on my lids) – but I just putting my eyeshadow over it and you can’t even tell!

  19. Mascara looks awesome on me and my lashes make it easy to apply, but I don’t wear it often because it completely trashes my lashes! I think a couple fall out every time I use mascara, and they get all dry and fried feeling when I remove it. I’ve tried lots of different brands, usually use the Maybeline stuff but the Dior and Chanel are just as bad. Any super hydrating will-not-make-lashes-fall-out brands?

  20. You have to look down and up at the same time to avoid getting mascara on your face. It’s a whole Princess Di thing. Tilt your face down and look coyly up through your lashes. Also orient the wand vertically, not parallel to the lash line. And wipe it off with a tissue first.

    This is the sum of my mascara knowledge.

  21. I’m a daily mascara wearer, towards the beginning of my routine. After foundation, I curl my lashes. Then I apply Urban Decay eye primer (love that stuff – keeps raccoon eyes away), eyeliner, mascara (Dior Show Iconic), then shadow. I don’t often get the mascara on my lids, but if I do this way I don’t have to reapply the shadow/liner. When I’m in a hurry, I don’t bother with shadow anyway.

    • +1 for Urban Decay Primer Potion. Before I started using this, I couldn’t use eyeliner, because even the waterproof kind would slide up my eyelids over the course of the day. Now my liner stays on for 8 hours.

  22. So many good tips, you guys – can’t wait to try them all!

  23. I have short lashes (thankfully they have a nice curl) and hooded eyes. I’ve gotten pretty good about not needing any kind of clean-up. Here are my tips:

    1. Look down into mirror while applying.
    2. Wipe off as much excess product off the brush as possible before starting.
    3. Most mascara wands are pretty flexible, so I usually bend the wand as I’m pulling it out of the tube to give it an angle similar to an offset spatula. The bent wand still fits in the tube just fine and it gives me a lot more control over the application. It makes it a lot easier to get at the small lashes on the inner corners of my eyes. I usually do those while holding the wand vertically (this is where getting rid of the excess comes in).
    4. If I get a smudge, I wait until the mascara is COMPLETELY dry. Then I remove it with a dry cotton bud. It will always come off pretty easily, and usually in one piece.

    The biggest thing that makes my lashes look fuller/longer is actually tightlining, or lining the upper waterline beneath my lashes. It gives the effect of a fuller lash line and fuller eyes. I wear contacts and have never had an issue with it. It’s now an essential part of my daily routine. I use a waterproof pencil. Some people use gel liner, but I think pencils are much easier to use.

  24. It’s expensive, but Trish McEvoy’s lash curling mascara is the only mascara that does not smudge, flake, or give me raccoon eyes. It is the kind that creates little tubes around the lashes so it comes off with water and gentle tugging. I love products and trying new things, but the TM mascara is my HG mascara.

  25. A lady I used to work with actually had her eyelashes “permed” so they would curl up. She told me that no eyelash curler would ever curl them, so she had this done and was really happy with it. It’s not permanent, but I think she went and had it done once or twice a year.

  26. Anonymous :

    I use almost exactly the same process as you – when I wear mascara I put it on first. I don’t have hooded eyes per-se, just very deep-set eyes and looong blonde lashes, so mascara tends to get everywhere, especially with the larger brushes that seem to be so popular lately. I also have a heck of a time with mascara running and smudging after a day’s wear, so I look for mascaras that don’t list water as an ingredient. Years ago, I used LashOut but the formulation changed… Right now it’s CG professional something or other in black. Comes off with a generous application of mineral oil.

    • NewAssociate :

      Ditto. I use the Covergirl Professional and I agree 100%. Its really the only mascara I have found that doesn’t smudge or run. You can’t apply too many layers or it would get almost crunchy, but I can’t imagine anyone would have a problem with this stuff running.

      For my other makeup I prefer my Sephora name brand quality, but mascara is that tricky one where you really have to try everything out there, even drug store brands.

      Mini threadjack – Anyone ever tried Latisse?

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