How To Curl Eyelashes Without A Curler: 6 Expert Tricks For Maximum Lift
If there's one product in my beauty arsenal I frequently misplace, it's my eyelash curler. Seriously: That thing just seems to get up and walk away, particularly on days I'm dedicated to mega doe eyes. After launching an unsuccessful search party for my missing tool, I'm left with two options: either forgo the curl (not a fabulous choice for my stubbornly straight lash hairs) or attempt to curl the lashes without a curler. Yep, experts do have a few tricks up their sleeves.
Still, we advise using a proper lash curler if you can (and if you're in the market for a new one, check out these gentle tools), but in a pinch, these tricks will give you the bend you're looking for:
Use a spoon.
Using a (clean!) spoon is one of the most popular DIY lash-curling hacks out there; Miranda Kerr, model and founder of KORA Organics, even swears by the trick for her everyday makeup routine. Makeup artist Jenny Patinkin also gives it her expert stamp of approval: “Using a spoon is an old technique that definitely will work in a pinch,” she says.
- Grab your spoon. Kerr suggests an iced teaspoon (or parfait spoon), presumably because the sides are thinner than your average tablespoon.
- Align the edge of the spoon, facedown, with the base of your lashes.
- Starting at the outer corner of your eyelashes, push your lashes onto the rounded edge of the spoon with your thumb. Hold for a few seconds before releasing, repeating, and working your way inward.
- Repeat the process on the other eye.
As with your typical curler, just a few seconds of hold will keep them lifted—you don't want to tug on those delicate hairs and pluck them loose. As a general rule of thumb: "Do not pull them into submission because they fall out easily," says celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman. "You want to actually have lashes to curl."
Use your mascara wand.
Not all mascara brushes are created equal: Some are great for volume, others provide separation, and some are strictly meant for lift and curl. For the latter, you'll want a curved mascara wand, which helps provide lift to the base, and the bristles should be fairly dense, especially on the inner end.
"If you're looking for curl, you want a mascara wand that is dense with a lot of bristles," says makeup artist Jude Andam. "Similar to a round brush for your hair, this mascara brush will grab lashes and gently pull them up as you apply to create a lifted look." Graylane Beauty's Curling Mascara and Kosas' The Big Clean Mascara both fit the bill.
Your mascara application can make all the difference, too: "Building a heavy layer of mascara at the base of your lashes can help give them some lift," says Patinkin. "Go in with a densely bristled applicator and press and lift into the base of your lashes while making a gentle back-and-forth motion. Don't take too much [product] all the way up to the tips, but do hold your lashes up with the applicator while the base dries, and then repeat once or twice more." By holding the lashes up as the mascara dries at the base, they should stay lifted. Just don't pack on pigment at the tips of the lashes, as you can weigh them back down.
If that doesn't work, "Another way to curl your lashes is to take a thickening mascara, lay it on top of the lashes, and twist the wand as you apply in an outward and upward direction," suggests Dorman. "This will catch your lashes as you twist and pull them up into a curl." Full disclosure: This trick takes some practice, as you can easily smudge mascara onto your lids the first couple of tries.
Use a cotton swab.
You have a valuable window while you wait for your mascara to dry—take advantage of it by encouraging even more curl! After applying your mascara, you can hold a cotton swab horizontally at the base of your lash line. Gently lift the lashes to your desired position, and hold them there until your mascara fully dries. When you pull away, the lashes should remain lifted.
Use a new toothbrush.
Similar to the cotton swab trick, you can also use a toothbrush to manually lift the hairs after coating on mascara. Apply your product of choice, brush through the hairs with the toothbrush, then hold the tips of the lashes upward while the mascara dries. After a minute or so, the lashes should stay put.
This probably goes without saying, but make sure you always use a brand-new toothbrush. "I wouldn't want to put all those germs close to my eyes," says Patinkin, and we wholeheartedly agree.
Use castor oil.
Let's say you want your lashes curled and lifted but you don't feel like wearing makeup. Consider castor oil your lash hero: Brush the oil through the lashes with a clean spoolie from base to tip until they're fully coated, then hold the tip of the lashes up with that same spoolie, a cotton swab, or a brand-new toothbrush while the oil absorbs into the base.
Essentially, it's easier to manipulate the hairs when they're wet, either with mascara or oil. Plus, castor oil is full of fatty acids that effectively moisturize the lash hairs, and keeping eyelashes hydrated helps them stay full and lifted over time—so you'll achieve immediate and long-term curl.
Don't use heat.
Technically, heat works: Like the hair on your head, you can manipulate your lash hairs with hot tools to achieve dramatic, long-lasting curl—that's why heated lash curlers are a thing. But just as daily heat styling can do a number on your hair, your lash hairs can become damaged and brittle over time; and if you try a heated DIY trick, you can risk burning those fragile hairs or even the surrounding lid skin.
For example, you may have come across a tip to heat a spoon before using the old-school technique we described above, but celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg, founder of Blighlighter, says it's best to avoid the heated trick. "Do yourself a favor and skip over the heated spoon trick (you can burn yourself easily)," she notes.
Patinkin agrees: "If you heat a spoon too much, like with a blow dryer, it can actually singe your lids." Similarly, people might heat a metal makeup brush and wrap their lashes around it (sort of like a makeshift curling iron), which sounds compelling in theory but can easily go awry. "I think getting too much heat too close to the delicate skin on the eyes is pretty risky," notes Patinkin.
Your lashes are super fragile and delicate, so you don't want to manipulate them with too many DIY tricks (and we recommend avoiding heat at all costs). But if you're in a bind, the above hacks can help you achieve sky-high lift and curl. "Ultimately, be gentle," adds Dorman. "It's OK if not every lash falls into place or if you miss ones at the corner—it's more important to have healthy eyes." Couldn't agree more.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.