Applying eye makeup - mascara in particular - is one of the most time-consuming steps when a woman is getting ready to go out.
Almost nothing else takes as much patience and control as getting the perfect wide-eye look by applying mascara to elongate and separate the eyelashes.
But that goal can be elusive when the wrong applicator is used or when the hands are too unsteady. It's even worse when too much mascara is applied and the lashes end up looking like spider legs - unless, of course, that's the desired effect.
For a lot of women putting on mascara is part of their morning ritual and is just as essential as combing their hair and brushing their teeth. The mascara is expected to do a lot. It should separate the lashes and make them look longer and thicker - like fake eyelashes that have been glued on.
When it comes to mascara brushes, makeup brands try to out-do each other. There are bendable brushes, bushy brushes and brushes that come in elaborate containers.
All of it leaves the average consumer asking which brush is designed to fulfill exactly what purpose. Experts say the most important consideration is the shape of the brush.
"The brush has a big influence on the final outcome," says Stephan Schmied, makeup artist for Max Factor. He said the reason for the variety of shapes is that there are several goals: to create volume, to coat all the eyelashes and to reach even the finest lash. "The requirements are great and that's why there are so many different brush shapes."
Women who place a lot of importance on having perfect makeup should choose a round brush, says Susanne Krammer, a makeup artist at Rimmel London. The radius of these brushes is usually small and that makes an exact application possible. "Even the smallest most hidden eyelashes in the corner of the eye can be reached," she adds.
Women who frequently reapply their mascara should use bendable brushes because their bristles are relatively far apart and can easily be used to apply the product as often as desired, says Krammer.
Women who seek accurately separated eyelashes should use bushy brush applicators to put on their mascara, Krammer said. The key to using these kinds of brushes, however, is having as little mascara on the brush as possible. Otherwise, the eyelashes could get clumpy the second or third time the brush goes over them.
Another problem is nasty looking spider leg lashes caused by the age of the product. "Mascara begins to dry out slowly right after being opened," says Eric Schmidt-Mohan, a makeup artist at Manhattan Cosmetics. "The older it is, the pastier it becomes and therefore the harder it is to apply to the eyelashes."
The wrong brush strokes also can lead to clumps in the lashes. Schmidt-Mohan's tip is to use the brush like a comb from the root of the eyelash to the tip. That's preferable to using a jerky motion along the arch of the lashes, he said.
When eyelashes stick together, however, there is a special utensil for correcting the mascara mishap. It is a comb that easily separates them, Schmidt-Mohan says. If this isn't available, he recommends cleaning the mascara brush with a tissue and brushing the eyelashes again without any mascara on it.
But perfectly separated eyelashes are not always what a woman wants. Spider leg lashes are sometimes the desired effect, especially in the autumn, says Krammer. To create the look, start by applying the mascara normally, Krammer says, then continually adding mascara by pressing the brush on the lashes until they clump together.