The 5 most common mascara mistakes \\ Photo: Roger Cabello

So you think you know how to apply mascara? OK, you probably do. But there are still pitfalls to avoid.

1. Piling on 50 coats. Or even five. Most mascaras are only meant to be layered twice. “The more you put on, the more likely it will dry mid-application,” says makeup artist Kate Lee. When you put fresh mascara on top of a stiff coat, it’s going to clump and look spidery.”

2. Pumping the wand. All that extra air in the tube causes clumps and flakes—which turn into clumps and flakes on your lashes.

3. Holding on to it. If you can’t remember when you bought your mascara, toss it. The germs that grow in old mascaras can cause redness, itchiness, and even sties or pinkeye. Yup, we made that face, too.

4. Exposed roots. If you carefully wiggle your mascara at the base of your lashes, you get a gold star. Everyone else: Start doing it. “If you don’t get mascara at the roots, your lashes look shorter than they are,” says makeup artist Diane Kendal.

5. Too much muscle. Press too hard at the base, and “you get brush marks on your lids. And it looks like you put mascara on in a car,” says makeup artist Jillian Dempsey. Clean up mistakes with a Q-tip dipped in makeup remover.