Mascara 101: A Beginners’ Guide

Mascaras, lash primers, application and more! National Lash Day is February 19th this year and in honor of the day, we are dishing about all things mascara and lashes! Full and beautiful lashes can really make all the difference in completing your makeup look and leveling up your beauty game! But what if your lashes aren’t naturally as voluptuous as you would like them to be? This is your comprehensive overview of mascara options that affect those lashes. As a makeup artist and beauty educator, one of the things I love to do is to breakdown my knowledge for you into easy to digest guides. Therefore, this post is taking you back to the basics, with “Mascara 101.”

Probably one of the top-selling cosmetic items in the world is mascara. If you asked most people what makeup items they could not live without for every day wear, they would most likely answer mascara as one of the top picks. But, with so many different kinds on the market, how do you know which one is the right kind for you?

When shopping for the right mascara, there are a couple of questions to ask:

  • What do you want your lashes to look like?
  • What kind of eye sensitives do you have?
  • What brand qualities or ethics to do you look for?
  • Do you prefer waterproof mascara or regular?

Mascara Wands

First, the look of your lashes will depend mostly on which type of mascara wand you are selecting. There are some wands that work well for lengthening only, in which you would want to select a long and somewhat thin wand (see wand A in the picture as an example). For extra volume, you would look for a thicker and fuller wand (see wand B in the picture). For lashes that you want to add more upward curl, you would select a wand that curls (like wand C in the picture.) But, you don’t always have to stick with just one type of wand. There are some that include lengthening and volume at the same time. Or, you can add layers for your own customization. For example, you could coat on one layer from a lengthening mascara first and then follow back up with a second layer of a volumizing wand.

*Affiliate Disclaimer: This post includes ads/affiliate links, where I make commission on some of my recommendations/beauty picks. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn on qualifying purchases.

Some of my top mascara picks/examples within each category include:

Eye Sensitivities

Have you ever experienced eye watering or irritation after using mascara? You may have sensitivities to certain makeup. While everyone is different and reacts to certain types of beauty products in different ways, there are some typical triggers that can cause skin irritations more than others. Unfortunately, many drugstore options are loaded with extra chemicals and toxic ingredients that lead to irritation. Even some higher end products are not free of toxins, so it pays to do your research on which brands are committed to providing clean ingredients.

Mascara Brands

In addition to clean beauty, there are other qualities and certifications one might also consider in choosing a mascara brand. As an avid animal lover, I’m personally a big proponent of cruelty-free beauty, which pretty much rules out a lot of drugstore mascaras for me. For example, I find that L’Oréal kills it in the mascara game, but I try to put my financial support elsewhere, due to the fact that they are definitely not cruelty-free. There is also a growing trend for vegan beauty as well as gluten-free for those with celiac disease and other gluten sensitivities. For a comprehensive guide to my research on different beauty brands and their certification status in some of these areas, you can check out my YouTube video here. In addition to some of these ethical qualities, some are just looking for affordable, but quality options in their mascara.

For my top picks of mascara options that truly meet all or most of these categories, I tend to stick with the following:

  • Arbonne Speak Volumes Mascara-I am an Arbonne Consultant because of my draw to clean beauty. All products by Arbonne are vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, toxic-free, and B-Corp Certified. In my experience as a makeup artist using a significant stock of Arbonne products in my professional makeup kit, I have never once had a client react negatively to the mascara or any other makeup in the brand. You can shop or check out more about the brand on my website here.
  • Thrive Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara-a great option that is vegan, cruelty-free, and clean of several of your typical offenders, such as parabans, sulfates, fragrances, etc.
  • Essence Lash Princess Mascara-This selection is one of the most low-price affordable mascara options out there on the market (usually only around $5!) yet it is such an amazing mascara and is also vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and paraban-free at the same time!

Waterproof Mascara vs. Non Waterproof

As a bridal makeup artist, I pay close attention to which mascaras are waterproof versus not. Waterproof is a must for bridal makeup. Whether it’s the bride, the bridesmaids or the mother of the bride or groom, there is bound to be tears flowing at most weddings. In addition, sweat tends to accompany the tears from an afternoon or evening of dancing at the reception. If you want a mascara that will hold up against moisture or that will last longer and pass an all day wear test, waterproof is definitely the way to go. However, there can be downsides to waterproof. You have to be very careful and precise with application or it is very difficult to remove. It is not goof proof! My two mascaras that I stick to in my professional kit are the ones mentioned above: the Lash Princess and the Arbonne. Since the Arbonne is not waterproof, I tend to use it for clients with every day wear or in my makeup lessons, but for bridal and formal events, the waterproof Lash Princess is my ride or die! The wands on each of these are actually very similar, which are very effective both for lengthening and volumizing features.

Mascara Application and Use

So what is the right way to apply mascara and lash primer? There are some different tips and tricks for how you can coat your lashes, but I’ll share a couple of the standard industry ways:

  1. From the root, slide wand back and forth parallel to the lashes
  2. Slide the tip of the wand back and forth perpendicular to lashes

Can you see the difference in how you hold the wand? In the picture on the left, you start at the root where the lashes meet the lid. Quickly wiggle the wand back and forth across the lashes, moving your way upward to the end of the lash. In the picture on the right, you apply the same principal of wiggling the wand across the lashes from the root upwards to the ends. However, you use the tip of the wand rather than laying it parallel to the lash line. If you use this approach, make sure your technique is soft and fast to avoid the clumping and spidery lashes. If you make a mistake, wait a few seconds for the spot to dry, then remove with a q-tip. Waiting for it to dry helps avoid making a further mess.

There are also many who pump the mascara, thinking they will get more out of the container. This is actually a big no no, as it will dry it out faster. Always adhere to the general rule of tossing your mascara after three months. This is one beauty item you don’t want to take chances on, since you are applying it so closely to your eyes and the mascara tube can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. There are different ranges on the recommendations for how long you should keep your used mascara, from 3-6 months. But I like to cut it on the safe side at the conservative recommendation of three months.

Bonus Lash Tips

For even more help with those lashes, there are a few other tips that can assist:

  • Use an eyelash curler before applying primer/mascara to get a head start on lifting the lashes upwards
  • Use a lash primer before applying mascara
  • Apply a loose powder to the lashes for extra volume and staying power after applying mascara
  • Tightline the upper lash line with eyeliner to get an even more voluminous effect. This makes it look like the depth came from your lashes rather than from your liner.

Lash Primers

And, now, just a little more on lash primers. Did you know that primer can actually treat the lashes by moisturizing, conditioning and strengthening? If you have primers that contain the right ingredients, such as peptides, vitamins E and B vitamins, they can actually act as a lash growth serum and help with long-term growth and strengthening. In addition to treating the lashes, they also help prime the lashes to help your mascara go on better. In many cases, it adds length and volume, as well.

For my lash primer picks, I would have to say Tarte Opening Act Primer and the Urban Decay Subversion Lash Primer . Though I mentioned L’Oréal early and how I prefer not to support companies that aren’t cruelty-free, I still feel I should share the lash primer that is just so bomb, I almost have to retract my stance, lol. The L’oreal Voluminous Lash Primer, you just can’t beat it. Hands down. Okay, I said it, ha!

That wraps up my tips and recommendations for your basic mascara guide. For similar tips and articles, consider subscribing to my blog and following my beauty page here. You can also check me out on social media on Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok or YouTube.

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