The goal is to avoid ending up with an eye infection or any kind of irritation to your eyes from bacteria that naturally exist on your skin and lashes. “Microbes thrive in dark, damp conditions, like the inside of a mascara tube,” Diane Hilal-Campo, M.D., board-certified ophthalmologist and founder of Twenty/Twenty beauty, tells SELF. “Whenever you apply mascara and replace the wand in the tube, microbes from your lashes and skin will contaminate the brush and, in turn, contaminate your mascara. These bacteria can contribute to a host of infections, including styes and conjunctivitis.” Yeah, we’ll pass on those. To be super safe, you can use a disposable mascara wand each time you apply, according to Dr. Hilal-Campo (but keep in mind that if you’re an everyday mascara wearer, this is not exactly an eco-conscious move).
There’s a chance mascara, if contaminated, can cause irritation on the skin around your eyes too, board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, M.D., founder of Skin Science Dermatology, tells SELF. Don’t panic, though—you can just use a cool compress and switch to a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil to calm things down, Dr. Yadav says. But see a doctor if it gets severe. “If your skin is highly irritated, your ophthalmologist or dermatologist will be able to prescribe a treatment specifically formulated to treat the eyes, eyelids, or surrounding area,” she adds.
4. Learn some hacks for preventing and fixing smudges.
Possibly the most annoying thing about mascara: the smudges it can leave on your lids while it’s still wet. “When you apply mascara, keep your eyes looking down for a couple of seconds before opening them, especially if you have long lashes,” Inglessis says. If you get a smudge, use a pointed Q-tip dipped in makeup remover to get rid of the stain ASAP—before it dries.
But even if you’re diligent during application, you can still end up with black smudges on your lids by 5 p.m. “If you have oily eyelids, mascara can move,” Inglessis says. “Using an eyeshadow primer or concealer on your lids before applying mascara can help prevent transfer.”
5. Use a lash primer to give shorter lashes a boost.
Going for a more dramatic mascara before-and-after look? You can make it happen, even if you have short, thin lashes. First, apply a lash primer (like Urban Decay Subversion Eyelash Primer) to fill in the lashes that are less full, Allen suggests. You might also add an extra coat of mascara in the darkest black you can find on top of the primer to add more volume, she adds.
And your eyeliner can give you an assist, too. “Try adding a smudge of black liner on your top lids, close to the lash line, to make your lashes appear thicker,” Allen says.
6. Use the mascara wand both vertically and horizontally.
We know, we know: Wiggling the wand at the base of your lashes is the classic technique for applying mascara. But in addition to that, you should also turn your mascara wand vertically to coat lashes. “That way, you can really get to the roots of your top lashes,” Inglessis says. She suggests using a windshield wiper motion along the root of the lashes with the wand held vertically. Then, use the same method to coat those tiny bottom lashes.
7. Coat both sides of your lashes.
Light-lashed people, this tip is especially for you! Typically when you apply a coat of mascara, you’re only coating the bottom part of your lashes. For a darker, more voluminous effect, use the wand to brush down on the top side of your upper lashes. Then, brush them back up from the underside. “Do the top first so you don’t weigh the lashes down,” Inglessis says. This way, all 360-degrees of your lashes will be covered in product.
8. Use a tissue so you don’t smudge your bottom lashes.
Applying mascara to your bottom lashes is truly an art form (anyone who’s ended up looking like a doll in the not-good way knows what we’re talking about). Allen recommends using the tip of the brush to delicately apply the product to each individual bottom lash (yes, it’s tedious, but it’ll minimize smudging). It might also help to apply mascara to your bottom lashes with a tissue between your undereye and bottom lash line, Allen suggests. “That way, any excess mascara will transfer to the tissue.”