Mascara, in the nonpoetic sense, is make-up applied to the eyelashes to make them appear more prominent (and therefore beautiful). It comes in many different types: lengthening, volumizing, curling, defining, thickening, water resistant, water proof, and so on. Generally the popular colours for mascara are black and brown (and many in-between shades) but my favorite is bright blue. There are a myriad colours out there and, recently, it's become popular to wear clear mascara, which I believe entirely defeats the purpose.

Used correctly, mascara can be the most powerful article of makeup in a person's war paint arsenal. Well defined lashes serve to enlarge and emphasise the eyes, which illuminates and brings forward the most important feature in one's face.

For best effect, choose the right shade:

  • Those with dark or moderately dark hair and eyes can go for the staple black or dark brown. Avoid blue at all costs, but dark green can be good if you have green or hazel eyes, or an olive skin tone.
  • Avoid black like the plague if you are exceptionally fair or a redhead. Use instead brown or, and this goes only for radiant natural blondes, blue. If you are very fair skinned you might want to consider clear mascara which will give definition but not add colour to your eyes.

A sad truth of makeup marketing is that they sell you more than you need - unless you use your mascara twice a day every day, it will probably dry up before you get to the end of the tube. Don't be cheap - throw it out and get a new one. It is also worth while investing in a good brand. I find that Lancome are the gods of mascara (even for my allergy prone peepers), however you are likley to be forking out up to £20 for them... Clinique is also excellent, and the Body Shop make an allergy-tested variety which is somewhat cheaper and very serviceable, but doesn't last very long.

Thick, clumpy lashes laden with pasty colour are no good to anyone. Apply your mascara with care. Always make sure you start at the very base of the lash, almost inside the eye, and draw the brush all the way to the tips. A fail-proof way of achieving this is to apply your mascara while looking down onto a hand held mirror. If you feel that you need an extra coat that's fine, but always stop at two.

A good trick to make lashes seem longer is to apply the second coat the the tips only, using light feathery strokes. I also sometimes use two different kinds of mascara: a thickening first coat and then a lengthening coat on top, achieving both effects. If you find that it clumps, and it probably will, wait until it's dry and then separate the lashes with a toothpick. To make sparse lashes seem thicker, apply some eye pencil to the inside of the lash, on the upper part only.

It is usually a good idea to avoid painting the lower lashes. It enlarges the eye, but creates a look which is unfashionable at the moment and will mark you out as someone who got their makeup tips from their mother. If you feel you must, use clear mascara on the lower lashes and trace the corner of the eye with a tiny bit of dark eye shadow.

I personally don't use eyelash curlers, because mine are curly enough, but I know women who positively swear by them. Just remember to use them before you apply the mascara!

a mascara stained,
white pillow case
-all thats left,
of last nights grieving
like black bruises
smudged on pale skin...
for i become the emotions,
they carry me weary
to the place (far off)
where nightmares,
and realistically fake smiles,
merge, sinking deeper
into the sadness,
of my shadow.

previously published in livywright September 2001

Cool trivia moment! That little brush they build into the cap of a mascara tube is called a wand. (OK, maybe it's not really all that cool, but anyway, it helps make sense of the advice I'm about to give here.)

A good trick is to take the wand from one of your old dried up mascara tubes and wash it out. Then if your mascara ever gets clumpy you can take the clean wand and carefully separate your lashes for a nicer look. It's easy and safe because you already have a lot of practice at using that little brush right up close to your poor defenseless eyes.

It's also very important to remove your mascara before you go to sleep, no matter how tired you are. Leaving it on overnight can make your lashes get brittle and break or fall out. You're wearing mascara to make your lashes look better, right? So take a couple of minutes to remove the mascara properly, or eventually it won't be able to help you anymore.

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