The Best Way to Put on Mascara

December 10, 2013 | By | Comments (16)

model-makeup_300I often get asked how to avoid a clumpy mascara application. I just saw a new trick (which, after nearly 20 years in the industry is really saying something): Swipe the formula on your arm hairs first!

Yes, it is a small mess (though nothing that a makeup wipe can’t fix), but this removes excess makeup from the brush so that it clumps on your arm hairs, not your lash ones. There’s always the old wipe the wand on a tissue before applying, too, which basically achieves the same result as the arm-hair strategy.

A few other goodies:

• Do not pump the wand in the tube pre-application. This introduces air into the formula and makes it dry and (you guessed it), clumpy over time.

• I like to hold the brush vertically and paint it onto a few hairs at a time—this seems to keep them separated.

• I just use BeneFit They’re Real Mascara, which for my money, clumps less than most formulas to begin with.

What’s your best mascara de-clumping tip?

Get more expert beauty tricks and secrets.


  1. j

    dumbest post ever

    December 11, 2013 at 12:06 am
  2. Izzy Smith

    I have no words for how useless this was.

    December 11, 2013 at 12:12 am
  3. Didi Gluck

    Dear J, Dear Izzy. I’m sorry you felt this information was dumb and useless. Perhaps you have better mascara de-clumping tips you’d like to share? I’ll keep looking out for more, but since posting, I did see a makeup artist unravel a paper clip and use the end to (carefully) separate the lashes that had clumped after mascara had been applied (while it was still wet). Strikes me that prevention is better than resorting to sharp objects near eyes, but it did produce a very Liza-Minnelli-in-Cabaret lash. It’s difficult to find tricks that work for all mascaras, since depending on the viscosity of their formulas, a successful, clump-free application may require a different strategy. And it’s not like you can try before you buy with mascara to see whether you’re getting a thick formula (which you’d have to brush on in one slow, deliberate coat to avoid clumps), or a thin one (which you could paint on in multiple quick coats while wet). So again, I ask, if you have tricks and tips that you’ve found work for all mascaras, please speak up! The last thing I’ll offer as a (hopefully!) helpful hint is to remind you to curl your lashes (in little crimps from root to tip) before putting on mascara. This helps to separate the hairs before they’re doused in goop.

    December 11, 2013 at 7:01 am
  4. Carol

    I had just learned the same tip recently and it works great. Ignore the naysayers!

    December 11, 2013 at 11:47 am
  5. Lisa

    Love the They’re Real mascara. Run the wand under hot water occasionally too

    December 11, 2013 at 11:49 am
  6. Toni L Bradley

    I work hard at getting nice lashes because mine are rather sparse. I would LOVE to have my husband’s but it is what it is. I read this recently and it has done wonders for no clumping and getting good lashes: Swipe one thin coat on the lashes before applying any other makeup. This gives this layer time to dry. Then after your makeup is applied and you are ready to apply your mascara, curl them at that time. The first, dried layer of mascara will let the lashes hold the curl much better. Then I apply another light coat and then spend a little time on individual lashes. I then have eyes! LOL

    December 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm
  7. Tami

    My arms have very little hair, so I think I’ll stick to the tissue method! Just fold a piece of tissue over your mascara wand and swipe away the clump-causing excess before applying to your lashes. One thing you need to know about this tip is to NOT use typical facial tissue or bathroom tissue. They are way too soft and full of lint which will just tear and leave messy fibers on your mascara wand and lead to more clumping! I use the type of tissue that you would use in a gift bag. Just cut a sheet of it into about 2″ strips, then stack them up and cut the strips into squares. In just a few moments, you’ll have enough squares to last a long time! I even carry some in my makeup bag without them ending up crumpled by putting them in a travel size container that once held cotton swabs. Depending on the thickness of your tissue paper, you may want to use two layers to keep your fingertips clean.

    December 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm
  8. Lil

    I use a small toothbrush to separate lashes that are sticking together while mascara is still wet.

    December 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm
  9. Amanda

    I have always used Maybeline big lash. Unfortunately they recently changed the formula (why?!!) so I’ll finally be making the switch to natural. I have also (for about the last 7 years) used this trick: apply with one hand while you simultaneously place a finger from your other hand behind the lashed. It doesn’t separate the lashes, but rather groups them together so they look 5 times thicker and don’t get hoppy/clumpy/flakey. Just try it once.

    December 11, 2013 at 11:26 pm
  10. Kall

    REALLY J & Izzy? Maybe this is not helpful to you or to some others. But it IS helpful to many especially those that have “old habits” of adding air and bacteria into mascara etc.

    If it is not of interest then move on and be nice and leave NO comment.

    December 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm
  11. Tricia

    I know we are talking techniques and not brands, but Loreal Voluminus, Original will never fail you!!

    December 12, 2013 at 11:45 pm
  12. Julay

    I love a Benefits they’re real mascara but it’s almost impossible to remove!!!

    December 13, 2013 at 4:39 pm
  13. Amanda

    Another good unclumping method is to use a safety pin to separate lashes

    December 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm
  14. Carrie

    Love Love Love Benefits They’re Real Mascara! It is tougher to remove than most mascara but it’s worth it. No under the eye smudge from morning until night and my lashes stay dark, long & thick all day! Thanks for the tip!

    December 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm
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    April 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm
  16. Molly Ryan

    Where can I find Benefit They,re Real Mascara! I never seen it in any stores and I’ve never heard of it! Thank you very much!!!

    July 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm

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