Mascara is the one makeup product that I can’t live without. Putting it on instantly makes me feel more put together, even if I’m just walking to the mailbox. Many traditional mascaras have chemicals in them that can be bad for our health though, which is why I’ve switched to using non-toxic mascara instead. If you want to make the switch too, read on to discover the best natural mascara for you!
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The Best Natural Mascaras
Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
This is my favorite easy-to-buy mascara. It’s affordable, and you can easily find it on Amazon, at Target, or at some of your local drugstores. It’s a 2-in-1 primer and mascara, and it really does a fantastic job of lengthening your lashes.
Erin’s Faces Matcha Mascara
A natural mascara that also promotes growth? I’m all in on this one! It’s made with organic matcha and beta carotene, which may strengthen and encourage hair growth, and it will give you a nice look with just one layer.
Clove + Hallow
I’ve always adored Clove + Hallow’s products. This mascara does a good job of volumizing my lashes, but I have to say that it has a tendency to melt throughout the day. It’s fairly inexpensive though, and the non-toxic ingredients make it worthy of being on this list. You can purchase this mascara directly from Clove + Hallow (which I always prefer because the money goes directly to the company).
Pacifica Stellar Gaze
Another easy-to-find mascara, Pacifica’s ingredients are fairly clean, and I like that I can hop into my local Target and find it when I’m in a pinch. This mascara is great at darkening, volumizing, and ultimately making your eyelashes look a little longer.
What is Mascara Anyway?
Mascara has been used for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used kohl (which is a black powder) to darken their eyelashes. They thought it would keep evil spirits away.
Today’s mascara is a lot more than kohl though. (And no, it’s not bat poop either!) Here are the main ingredients in most mascaras:
Iron Oxides – Mascaras usually have some iron oxides in the formulation, which make it dark-colored.
Waxes – Companies use waxes (think beeswax or candelilla wax) to thicken the mascara’s formula and volumize your eyelashes.
Fats & Oils – Many brands often add fats and oils in order to moisturize your lashes and keep the formula liquidy and easy to apply.
Preservatives – Preservatives can make your mascara last longer, and they can also keep it from clumping together on your lashes. While some preservatives can be good, you want to avoid some of them because they can be harmful to your health.
9 Toxic Ingredients You Should Avoid when Looking for Natural Mascara
Now that you know what ingredients mascara usually has in it, you need to know which ones to avoid. Here are some ingredients that the best natural mascara should keep out of its formulation.
Parabens are a type of preservative that are used in many different beauty products. They are not good for us though. They mimic estrogen, which makes them a hormone-disruptor, and they’ve been found in breast cancer tissue. Many brands have started making paraben-free versions of their products since a lot of this research has surfaced.
On the label: ingredients ending in “-paraben” (butylparaben, propylparaben, etc.)
Propylene glycol is intended to help absorb water and hydrate your lashes. It is a skin irritant however, and you should avoid it especially if you have any type of skin condition like acne, eczema, or rosacea.
On the label: propylene glycol
Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A)
Vitamin A is supposed to be a miracle cure for aging skin. Unfortunately, the EWG has found that preformed Vitamin A (like retinyl acetate, which is sometimes in conventional mascaras) may cause liver damage, brittle nails, and hair loss. You should not use any product with preformed Vitamin A, especially mascara since it may cause hair loss.
On the label: retinyl acetate
The FDA allows aluminum powder in products that you apply externally, such as most cosmetics. However, they do not allow it in lip products. Why? It can be contaminated by toxic heavy metals that are linked to neurotoxicity and cancer.
On the label: aluminium, aluminium flake, aluminum, aluminum powder, lb pigment 5, pigment metal 1
Synthetic Dyes & Coal Tar Dyes
Some mascaras use synthetic dyes or coal tar dyes in order to give the product its dark color. Research links these dyes to certain types of cancer, and scientists believe coal tar dyes are also responsible for other health issues, like asthma, headaches, and nausea.
On the label: FD&C or D&C followed by a color and number (FD&C Blue no. 1, D&C green no. 6), coal tar dyes may also be recorded as Cl. with a 5-digit number after it or Aminphenol, Diaminodenzene, or Phenylenediamine.
Triethanolamine is intended to balance the ph- levels of certain products, like mascara. However, it is a known irritant, and it can actually dry out your eyes and be harmful to your hair and skin.
On the label: 2,2′,2″-nitrilotris[ethanol], 2,2′,2”-nitrilotriethanol, ethanol, 2,2 ,2 nitrilotris, ethanol, 2,2′,2″-nitrilotris-, tea, triethanolamine, and trolamine
Fragrance is a big no-no in my book. Unfortunately, the term “fragrance” is protected by the FDA, and companies don’t have to disclose any ingredients that they use in their fragrances. Many are riddled with parabens and other harmful preservatives. When you see the word “fragrance” on an ingredient list, you should instead read it as “undisclosed chemicals.”
On the label: aroma, fragrance, parfum
One in five cosmetic products contain ingredients that release formaldehyde, according to the FDA and EWG. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, and it may be hiding in your mascara (and many other products too). While your mascara may only contain a very small amount of these formaldehyde-releasers, it, unfortunately, is not your only area of exposure, and formaldehyde can build up over time.
On the label: DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Diazolidinyl urea, Quaternium-15, Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol ), 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, Hydroxymethylglycinate
Several brands of mascara use thimerosal as a preservative in their mascara formulations. Thimerosal is mercury-based, and the FDA has actually banned it in cosmetics… except cosmetics that are used around the eyes. Mercury-based elements, like thimerosal, can accumulate in the body and cause lifelong health issues.
On the label: ethyl(2-(mercapto-k s)benzoate(2-)-k o)- sodium mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-(mercaptpo-k s)benzoato(2-)-k o)- sodium mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-mercaptobenzoato-s)mercury, sodium salt, mercurate(1), ethyl[2mercaptobenzoato(2)o,s], sodium, mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-(mercapto-k s)benzoate(2-)-k o)-, sodium, mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-(mercaptpo-k s)benzoato(2-)-k o)-, sodium, mercurate(1-), ethyl[2-(mercapto-.kappa.s)benzoato(2-)-.kappa.o]-, sodium, sodium ethylmercurithiosalicylate, sodium mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-(mercapto-k s)benzoate(2-)-k o)-, sodium mercurate(1-), ethyl(2-(mercaptpo-k s)benzoato(2-)-k o)-, sodium salt ethyl(2-mercaptobenzoato-s)mercury, thimerosal, and thiomersal
How to Choose a Natural Mascara
Seeing all of the scary ingredients listed above may have you feeling worried about the mascara that you’re currently using. I try not to worry about these things too much because you generally use a very small amount of mascara, and you don’t put it directly on your skin. As long as you remove it each day (don’t sleep with mascara on!), you probably won’t have a lot of problems. I do like to limit my exposure when possible though. Here’s how to choose a more natural mascara that will have you feeling a little better about your makeup routine:
Look for natural waxes and oils as discussed above. Beeswax, candelilla wax, and coconut oil can all be very nourishing for your lashes, and they can give you a great look.
Remember though, just because a product says it’s “natural” or it uses “natural ingredients” doesn’t mean much of anything. These terms aren’t regulated, so any brand can claim a “natural” label. Always look at the ingredients list, and steer clear of any of the ones that I mentioned above.
If you’re unsure about a particular ingredient, look it up on the EWG’s Skin Deep database, where they rank ingredients on a toxicity level from 1 (not harmful) to 10 (very harmful).
How to Remove Mascara
Listen up. This is important:
Always remove your mascara before you go to sleep at night! Leaving your mascara on can give you an eye infection, and if you are using a less-than-perfect formulation, those harmful ingredients can get right into your body.
Do you have a favorite non-toxic or natural mascara that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments!