When you apply mascara properly, it has a wonderful effect.
It thickens and elongates (and in some cases, darkens) your eye lashes. It gives definition to your eyes whether or not you are wearing other eye makeup.
Each lash should be perfectly separate and without clumps of mascara, messing up the look of your lashes. And that is an age old problem – how to apply mascara without clumping. Is it even possible?
Here are 10 ways to make sure your mascara goes on smoothly without those tell-tale clumps.
How Old Is Your Mascara?
If you have had your mascara more than a few months, then it is probably dried out a bit and is more likely to form clumps on your lashes. Treat yourself to a new one. Remember that all makeup has an expiry date which is measured from the date you open it and should be discarded after a certain period of time. With mascara that is just 3 months so you don’t need to feel guilty at not using every drop. Think of it as looking after the health of your eyes. (See Does Makeup Expire? for more details on makeup expiration dates).
Also, prevent mascara from drying out prematurely by not pumping the brush up and down. This introduces a lot of air which can cause the mascara to thicken, dry out and make it more prone to clumping. After use, make sure you close the container tightly for the same reason.
If you have a fairly new mascara that has gone thick and clumpy you can run the tube under hot water (or put it in a cup of hot water) to help the contents to “melt” and flow better. (Don’t add water to the actual mascara as this will affect the performance and add a source of bacteria as well as diluting the preservative which stops bacteria growing.)
Don’t Overload The Brush
Mascara is best applied one thin layer at a time so don’t overload the brush with too much product. Get rid of excess on the opening of the container or wipe the brush on a piece of clean tissue or paper towel.
Use a Zig Zag Motion
Lots of mascara fans swear by using a slight zig zag motion when applying mascara to prevent clumping. I have never found this much help as it seems to leave me with a thicker cloggy effect and I seem to end up with mascara flakes all over the place when I try it. I prefer long smooth strokes from base to tip.
But do experiment because wiggling the brush may become your holy grail technique even if it is not mine! To try this, apply mascara from the base of your lashes and wiggle the applicator back and forth very gently up to the ends. You can see how to do this in the 2 minute video below
Separate Lashes After Applying
Once you have applied your mascara (and before it is dry), take a clean applicator and brush through lashes as if you were applying another coat. You can use a clean brush from an old mascara for this, or a disposable mascara applicator. Alternatively, you can use an eyelash comb.
You can get cheap little plastic combs to try out this technique, but I recommend the Tweezerman Sepralash comb. You can see the reviews and details here on Amazon. Just be careful you don’t stick the sharp points into your eye! (You’ll also see plenty of advice about separating your lashes with a pin – just don’t! An eyelash comb is easier to control and less likely to cause damage).
Whatever separator you use on your lashes, make sure you clean it after each use otherwise it won’t glide through your lashes the next time you go to use it.
Separating lashes is much more difficult if you wait until your mascara is dry and you’ll find the comb or brush will tug at them and leave lots of flakes if you do this so act quickly – apply and separate.
I saw a tip that it helps the comb to go through the lashes and remove clumps if you put a little baby oil or eye makeup remover on the comb before using it but I haven’t tried this myself yet.
Apply Mascara To Clean Dry Lashes
Mascara is more likely to clump if you have bits of mascara left over from the day before. Make sure you remove all traces of eye makeup at night with a good eye makeup remover and start off each day with mascara free lashes.
If You’re Applying a Second Coat
Opinions are divided about whether you should apply a second coat before the first one is dry if you want to avoid mascara clumps. Generally I just go ahead and apply a second coat without waiting (I have no patience and then I use the comb on them) but often I don’t bother at all because mascaras are pretty good these days and one coat is often enough.
You’ll see Cheri in the video above advises waiting for the first coat to dry before applying the second.
This is just a case of experimenting to see which technique works best for you with your mascara brand and applicator, because some will clump when you do this and some won’t.
Just in case you’re wondering, I would definitely stop at two coats, I don’t think there’s ever a need for more – and more is just asking your mascara to clump. (I don’t even think the little comb would be able to cope with that!)
Try a Rubber Brush
Some mascaras (like Maybelline Define-a-Lash – see below) have an applicator brush with rubber filaments rather than typical bristles and this seems to help prevent clumping – worth a try if you need a new mascara anyway. If it turns out you like the brush but prefer your old mascara formula you can always keep the brush to use with your usual brand.
Choose a Lash Lengthening Mascara
A lengthening mascara is less likely to clump than a volumizing one as the formula is slightly thinner and does not contain additional fibers. Clumps are not the kind of volume that you want
Apply in One Sweep
Don’t try to go over the ends after you finish one coat, just apply one or more coats in one sweep from the base to the ends of the the lashes. The ends are more prone to clumping as they are finer so the more you overload them with product, the more likely you are to have problems.
Curl Your Eyelashes
If you curl your eyelashes before applying mascara this can help separate them so that they do not clump together.
Best Non Clumping Mascara
The best non clumping mascaras are filament free and not too thick. If they contain polymers that dry to a smooth sheen rather than a dull matte, so much the better. With these mascaras when you add a second coat, it just glides on rather than clumping and dragging.
There are tons of good products out there and there’s no need to spend a fortune.
A great budget buy is Maybelline Define-A-Lash lengthening mascara (available in washable and waterproof versions). You’ll find it in drugstores everywhere but if you have problems it’s available in all shades here too.
It has one of those helpful rubber wands and it flows well too. This is sold as a no clump mascara but in this case it actually is one!
It was even good enough for Josephine Fairley, author of “Beauty Steals” and “The 21st Century Beauty Bible”, to switch after being a Lancome Definicils fan for years so that sounds good enough for me.
Other good clump free mascara options
- Max Factor False Lash Effect
- Maybelline Great Lash
- L’Oreal Paris Volume Collagene
If you have a tip for smooth mascara application or you have a fave mascara that works a treat, please leave a comment and share below