The question of what’s the best mascara is one that’s perpetually up for debate. But if you don’t know how to use an eyelash curler, it doesn’t matter if you reach for a lengthening option or a volumizing formula, either way, your mascara won’t be able to reach its full potential.
Sure, it sounds like a self-explanatory exercise—just grab a curler, press down, and release. But like any other beauty tool, eyelash curlers can come with a slight learning curve. In the interest of delivering the most seamless, long-lasting results (and nixing the risk of breaking or pulling out your lashes), we broke it down into a comprehensive guide. Below, our best advice for how to use an eyelash curler—because no matter which mascara you love the most, it will only get better if you follow these pro-approved tips.
1. Do your research.
Before you even get to curling, decide which one fits your routine best. “There’s an abundance of choice out there, so it’s best to look for one that speaks to your concerns,” says celebrity makeup artist Ralph Siciliano. “To find the right curler, I think research is key.”
The first decision you need to make is whether you want to opt for the classic manual curler or get a heated version. Generally, makeup artists seem to gravitate toward the former. Lilibeth makeup artist Meri Palevic-Desevic isn’t a fan of heated options because of the potential for irritating your eyelids. (Her top pick is the Lilibeth Perfect Eyelash Curler, which she loves for its lifting abilities.) Siciliano’s favorites also all fall into the non-heated category, but he does add one caveat: “Heated eyelash curlers are great for those stubborn hairs that grow straight.”
The best method is to test everything in-person, but if you want to narrow down the options, we asked Siciliano to describe his on-set standbys in detail. “There are several curlers I love that never leave my kit,” he says. “The Shu Uemura S Curler is fantastic for working in small sections, especially the outer lash corners of the eye, which can sometimes be tricky. The Tweezerman Pro Master Lash Curler has a good grip and the design is spot-on for almond-shaped eyes and deep-set sockets. Le Recourbe Cils de Chanel Eyelash Curler is a great universal curler that works for a wide range of eye shades, and I tend to use it often. Lastly, if there was a beauty apocalypse coming, and I could only save one from my arsenal, it would be the Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler. It fits seamlessly due to its wide opening and semi-curved design.”
2. Tilt your head.
Now that you’ve settled on your curler of choice, it’s time to use it. Start with clean lashes and grab a mirror. “Practice makes perfect,” says Siciliano. “Everyone’s eye shape is different, but a good general step-by-step rule of thumb is to look into a mirror and position your head correctly.” This will allow you to get the curler in place without accidentally pinching your eyelid (we’ve all done it, and none of us care to repeat it again). To help avoid any curler-induced injuries, keep your chin up and tilt your head slightly back for the best angle.
3. Get right to the root.
Speaking of pinched lids, it can be tempting to try to keep something that clamps down a safe distance away from your eyes. But this tends to cause a visible crimp in the lash that won’t result in a smooth curl. “It’s how you hold it that makes the difference,” says Palevic-Desevic. “The best way to use the lash curler is to hold it close enough to the base without pulling on your eye or pinching the skin.” If you’re nervous, try bringing it right up against the base of the lash, then closing it gently one time to check the placement before you squeeze down.
4. Let it go gently—then add mascara.
After you’ve curled your lashes, make sure you disengage completely before moving the curler away. “Hold it for five seconds and let go by completely opening the curler,” says Palevic-Desevic. “Never pull on your lashes.” Once you’ve done so, feel free to pile on as many coats of mascara as you want.
5. Keep it clean.
Curlers go very close to your eye, so you want to make sure you’re keeping them sanitized to avoid infection. “After every use, wipe them down using rubbing alcohol,” says Siciliano. “This will clean off any makeup residue and sanitize them.” Palevic-Desevic adds that you can also deep-clean them with mild soap and water—but it’s not necessary to do this more than once a month if you’re sanitizing them daily.
You should also keep an eye on the rubber pads that clamp down on your lashes; once they wear out, they won’t work as effectively. Palevic-Desevic says replacement frequency depends on how often you use your curler, but for regular use, she estimates swapping out the pads every three months. If you’re bad at keeping track, just follow Siciliano’s tip and get new ones once you can see visible signs of wear.
Common Eyelash Curler Mistakes
Once you get over the fear of hitting your eyelids instead of your lashes, the process is pretty simple. There are only two things that Palevic-Desevic and Siciliano say they see people doing frequently that could damage lashes or give a less-than-ideal curl. Pro tip: Learn from these common mistakes.
1. Don’t start with mascara.
The easiest way to break or pull out your lashes is by applying mascara before you curl. “It causes your lashes to stick together, and the mascara will also stick to the curler,” says Palevic-Desevic. “You should never put on mascara before curling.”
Siciliano agrees that it’s best to curl first before you reach for your mascara. While it’s always ideal to start with clean, bare lashes, he does note that other eye makeup can be applied pre-curling. “It depends on the look I’m going for for, but in general, I think it’s best to curl after eyeliner,” he says. “If lashes are too curled, they tend to get in the way of liner application, especially if you’re working with a gel or liquid.”
2. Don’t only curl once.
If you’re ending up with lashes that stick straight up instead of curving, that’s probably because you could use a second curl. “Another common mistake is when just the tips are curled,” says Palevic-Desevic. “It’s important to grab the full lash from end to end.”
To level up, try Siciliano’s fix for a smoother curl. “While holding the clamp as close to the base as possible, be sure that you are tilting and holding the curler upwards,” he says. “This helps give them the lift.” From there, you should release the clamp and bring it to the halfway point of your lash, then re-clamp and hold for another five seconds.
“If done correctly, the result will be a fully curled lash,” he says. “Like anything else in beauty, it’s a matter of trial and error.”
Shop some of our favorite lash curlers, below, and click here for more reviews on the best eyelash curlers.
Lancôme Le Curler
Kevyn Aucoin The Eyelash Curler
Saie Lash Curler
Surratt Beauty Relevée Lash Curler
Sarah Wu is a writer in Berlin. Follow her on Instagram @say.wu.
Originally Appeared on Glamour