Here's How to Stop Your Mascara From Flaking Once and for All

The ideal mascara should lengthen, volumize, and define your lashes and make them really pop. I think that's what most of us are looking for, right? So when your mascara is prone to clumping, smudging, and flaking, it can be really frustrating, especially if you've splurged on the product! It's definitely happened to me more than once.

On the flaky-mascara front, I wondered if the cause of it could be the product itself, the application, or something else entirely. I decided to chat with some makeup artists to get their tips so I could solve the problem once and for all—and maybe it could help you, too. See what they had to say below.


(Image credit: @isabellecoheen)

What Causes Mascara to Flake?

So what's the main cause of flaking? It turns out it might be the product itself, especially if it's old or almost empty. "Most times I find the cause of this issue is the formula," makeup artist Maya René says. "Often if the product is running low and you're using a fairly empty tube, you'll start to experience flaking, which tells you it's time to replace the mascara altogether. Other times, mascara will start to flake due to reasons that the formula isn't one that is hydrating enough or it has been exposed to air, which dries it out."

But it also might be your application method. Makeup artist Renée Loiz adds that applying too many coats of mascara to the lashes before letting each coat dry could be a culprit.

How to Stop Mascara From Flaking

There are a couple of things you can do to prevent the dreaded flake. As we learned above, you'll want to make sure you're using a product that's not old or dried out. You'll also want to leave some drying time in between applications. And here are some other helpful pointers to keep in mind:

1. Make Sure Your Brush Is Clean: René recommends cleaning your mascara brush of any old gunk or dried-out product.

2. Try Hydrating Formulas: "When in the market for mascaras, look into brands that use ingredients such as hyaluronic acid that work to enrich dry or brittle lashes," René says.

3. Put the Cap Back On: "Remember to always put the top back on the mascara after using and even in between applying to lashes," Loiz says. "The more you leave the top off, the more air gets in causing mascara to dry out."

4. Make Sure Your Lashes Are Dry: This means that they're free of skincare or other makeup on them.

5. Try a Lash Primer: René recommends adding a lash primer, which can condition your lashes and create a longer-lasting lash lift with volume. Apply a coat, allow it to dry completely, and add mascara.

6. Don't Pump the Wand Too Much: "When applying mascara, it's easy to get carried away. We're all guilty of overpumping our wands into the tube in search of more product," René says. "However, keep in mind that method might actually be working against you. In doing so you're also pushing more air into the tube, which will prematurely dry the product out."

7. Don't Apply Too Many Coats: "I recommend only applying two to three coats," Loiz says. "If you're pressed for time, at least let the lashes become semi-dry (sticky) before applying the next coat and also then only applying two coats."

How to Fix Dried-Out Mascara

And if you find your mascara is dried out, there are ways that you can revive it, which can save you some bucks and a trip to the store. "What I've done since I was a young teenager is add a tiny drop of hot water to the dried-out mascara tube and shake it up, then put the wand back in and mix around," Loiz suggests. "Add one more drop of water and repeat the process if it's still dry. I think this works like a charm and adds a bit more longevity to your mascara!"

René also recommends submerging your closed tube of mascara into a cup of hot water for a few minutes, which will help any hardened product soften up.


(Image credit: @aysha.sow)

Mascaras That Don't Flake

And if you're looking for the perfect no-flake mascara, try some of these recommended by the experts and editors.

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Managing Editor

Sarah is lifestyle writer and editor with over 10 years of experience covering health and wellness, interior design, food, beauty, and tech. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she attended New York University and lived in New York for 12 years before returning to L.A. in 2019.

In addition to her work on THE/THIRTY and Who What Wear, she held editor roles at Apartment Therapy, Real Simple, House Beautiful, Elle Decor, and The Bump (sister site of The Knot).

She has a passion for health and wellness, but she especially loves writing about mental health. Her self-care routine consists of five things: a good workout, “me” time on the regular, an intriguing book/podcast/playlist to unwind after a long day, naps, and decorating her home.