If you had to assemble a makeup kit for a desert island survival, chances are that mascara would be pretty high up the list. For many people, mascara is a must-have daily wear, whether you rock a full face of makeup or not.
But how many of the most popular mascaras on drugstore and department store shelves are as non-toxic as they claim?
In this guide, you'll learn about the best clean mascaras that do what they claim to do - give your eyelashes a beautiful boost without exposing you or your family to toxic ingredients.
Today we'll be looking at:
- Why you should use a natural mascara.
- Why not all mascaras labeled "clean" are actually natural.
- Ingredients to avoid in conventional mascara.
- Why preservatives are important in mascara.
- The best natural mascaras and the results of our research.
Why You Should Use a Natural Mascara
While many people have leaped into clean beauty in recent years, some believe that because mascara is applied to the lashes and not directly to the skin, it's perfectly safe to use whether or not it's clean.
Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider using a natural mascara.
Because it's better for your lashes.
Using clean, all-natural mascara can help improve lash health and encourage longer growth. When you use healthy mascaras that don't contain harmful chemicals and toxins, you can lessen your lashes' exposure to irritants and soothe the delicate skin on and around your lashes.
Using clean mascaras can also help strengthen and protect eyelashes over time because they nourish lash follicles with natural oils and other ingredients.
When you use a toxic mascara, it could be doing more harm than you realize.
Conventional mascaras are often made with parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances, all of which can be harmful to your health.
Over time, these ingredients can weaken lashes by drying them out or causing breakage. If the chemicals in conventional mascara irritate your eyes, it can cause redness, inflammation, and other eye issues.
Conventional mascaras include a large amount of
Because it's better for the environment.
When you use clean, green beauty products like organic mascaras, not only are you nourishing your skin and hair with healthful ingredients, but you're also using fewer chemicals that could contaminate
Clean mascaras are an excellent alternative to conventional mascaras because they contain safe, natural ingredients and are the least likely to cause adverse health effects.
Not All "Clean" Mascaras are Actually Natural
The truth is that not all mascaras are created equal, and even if you're using a clean mascara, there's no guarantee it's free of harmful toxins.
While many companies advertise their products as natural and clean mascara, although they contain toxic ingredients, some truly craft high-quality, non-toxic mascaras made with nourishing ingredients.
In an unregulated industry, it's hard to know which brands are genuinely producing quality products free from toxins and irritants. This is why at Better Goods we dive deep into the ingredients and claims in specific products to find the actual best natural mascara products.
What Makes For a Clean Mascara?
There's no cut-and-dry definition of what constitutes clean mascara. The terms "clean" and "natural" are often thrown around and used inappropriately on packaging when it turns out that the product contains ingredients that we should avoid.
The beauty industry is very lightly regulated, meaning there are no rules on what makes a product clean or natural.
At Better Goods, we analyze individual ingredients in each product we rate. Any clean mascara we rate "Good" or "Best" is one you can feel safe using.
Ingredients to Avoid in Conventional Mascara
Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives to prevent mold and bacteria from growing inside the tube. At Better Goods, we never recommend products that have parabens. Parabens are potentially unsafe because they have been found to disrupt hormones and interfere with reproduction.
Parabens may also be listed on ingredient lists as:
Fragrance is a term used to describe an ingredient or mixture that gives a product its scent. Fragrances can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals, many of which are toxic. We never recommend products with artificial fragrance.
These chemical compounds slowly release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that can cause asthma and skin rashes. Some examples of these ingredients include (but aren't limited to): DMDM hydantoin, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, methylchloroisothiazolinone, and methylisothiazolinone.
Synthetic dyes are made from petroleum and can cause skin irritations. They can also be harmful to the environment when they're washed down the drain.
Carbon black is a petroleum-derived ingredient used for its deep, dark color. The problem with it is that it has been linked to adverse health effects.
These ingredients are ethanolamines, linked to liver tumors. The EU bans DEA in cosmetics, but they can still be found in products.
Ingredients to Look For in Clean Mascara
Luckily, many brands of clean mascara avoid using these harmful ingredients. Here are some of the safest ingredients to look for:
- Organic waxes - Examples: beeswax, carnauba wax, sunflower wax, or carnauba wax.
- Oils - Olive, castor.
- Shea Butter
- Keratin - Rich in proteins that help repair damaged hairs and prevent breakage.
- Soy proteins - Help strengthen and protect lashes.
- Vegetable glycerin - A natural, plant-based humectant that helps keep your lashes soft and moisturized.
- Biotin - Strengthens hair follicles, resulting in longer, thicker lashes.
A Note On Preservatives
Mascara must contain a preservative. As much as we wish it weren't true, mascara is vulnerable to bacterial and fungal growth.
Due to the delicate nature of the eye area, any product that gets in or around your eyes could potentially pose a danger if bacteria is present. Some people are susceptible to microbes and may experience an adverse reaction when exposed to them.
While we recommend avoiding parabens, a common chemical preservative, there are safer alternatives you'll find in the natural mascaras we reviewed.
Better preservatives: Look for ingredients like sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, or asorbic acid for safer alternatives.
The Best Natural Mascaras, Analyzed by Better Goods
We took a deep dive into the ingredients to find the best clean mascaras you can feel safe using.
We looked at social media, popular online shops, and reviews across the review 15+ of the most popular mascara brands labeling themselves as clean beauty. They're rated on this scale:
– These products are the best of the best. They contain all-clean ingredients, are non-toxic and are often the best choice for our environment.
– These products are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.
– These products are typically okay, but have some issues that make us unable to give them a “Good” rating. Often times they contain ingredients that are questionable.
– These products typically have toxic ingredients or issues that make them dangerous or unsuitable to use. These products should typically be avoided.
Of the 15+ clean mascaras we looked at, these were the best of the best.
This mascara from Physicians Formula is an example of a great clean mascara with natural ingredients. It should be noted that it contains beeswax, making it a non-vegan product. It’s also very affordable, making this one of our top recommendations for a clean mascara.
This mascara from Burt’s Bees has a clean list of ingredients and is reasonably-priced. Beeswax makes up a large amount of the formula of this product, making it non-vegan.
Lili Lolo’s Natural Vegan Mascara easily meets our standards for a non-toxic and clean mascara. The formulation contains no ingredients we recommend avoiding, and as a bonus, it’s 100% vegan.
Pacifica’s Stellar Gaze Mascara is a clean mascara you can feel safe using. It’s also safe for sensitive eyes, and contains no irritating ingredients in the formulation.
This clean mascara from RMS Beauty has a great list of ingredients, many of which are organic. None of them are on our list of ingredients to avoid, making this a safe choice for a clean mascara.
These mascaras are safe to use but don't quite go above and beyond like the products we rated Best.
Sappho New Paradigm
Sappho New Paradigm’s vegan mascara has a clean list of ingredients, and its only real downside is that it’s more expensive than other comparable mascaras we reviewed.
The Honest Company
The Honest Company’s Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer has a clean formulation with only glyceryl behenate standing out. While not technically an unsafe ingredient, it is a recognized irritant and you may wish to avoid it if you have sensitive skin or eyes.
You’ll find a clean list of ingredients in the Limitless Lash Mascara from Ilia. While more expensive than others we reviewed, this is a cult favorite that we can recommend.
La Bouche Rogue
Le Sérum Noir from La Bouche Rouge is a clean mascara with a safe list of ingredients. Glyceryl behenate is the only ingredient to watch out for, as it can be an irritant to sensitive eyes and skin.
Josie Maran’s Argan Black Oil Mascara is a clean mascara with no ingredients we recommend avoiding. It contains 100% organic argan oil, and beeswax is a main ingredient, making it a non-vegan product.
Glyceryl behenate is the only ingredient that stands out in a list of otherwise great ingredients. This ingredient can be irritating to sensitive eyes, so you may wish to avoid it if this applies to you.
This waterproof mascara is made from a clean list of ingredients, making it a clean mascara worth giving a try.
These mascaras had a few issues that make us unable to recommend them over those with better ingredients.
Although the ingredients of this mascara from Tarte are okay, it contains cyclopentasiloxane. For this reason, we cannot recommend it over other mascaras we reviewed that had safer ingredients.
This mascara from W3LL People has a relatively clean list of ingredients, with titanium dioxide being the only one that’s remotely iffy. Because many of the other mascaras we reviewed have better ingredients, we have to rate this product lower than others.
Because this mascara contains titanium dioxide, we recommend avoiding it and using one of the better rated mascaras we reviewed.
Aminomethyl propanol isn’t toxic in itself, but it can sometimes be contaminated with nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. While the risk of this is small, because other clean mascaras we reviewed didn’t have this ingredient, they are safer choices.
Four of the mascaras we reviewed received a rating of Bad. This is because they contain ingredients that we always recommend avoiding.
This mascara contains triethanolamine, a toxic ingredient. For this reason, we recommend avoiding this mascara.
This elf mascara has both triethanolamine and carbon black, two chemicals on our list of ingredients to avoid. Therefore, we also strongly recommend avoiding this mascara as well.
With both triethanolamine and several parabens, this mascara from Neutrogena is one we recommend avoiding.
There’s nothing clean about this mascara from Clinique. We recommend avoiding this mascara and purchasing one with better ingredients.
When it comes to finding a safe and clean mascara, you have plenty of options. We've analyzed the best of the best so that you can feel confident about what you're putting on your lashes.
Any of the clean mascaras we rated best and good are safe to use, and we recommend looking through our specific reviews for more detailed information.
Do you know of a product we haven't covered? Let us know! Join the discussion below.