Finding a good mascara without toxic ingredients that works seems to be the clean beauty challenge of the moment.
I have not tried them all but have read plenty of reviews, talked to makeup artists, and tested enough to know that the ones with super clean ingredients often do not stay put for long and will smudge under the lower lashes or leave a trail of black flakes along the cheeks within a few hours. After coming home from an evening out with friends, the last thing I want to see in the mirror is a smoky eye—under my eyes!
However, the alternative is resorting to regular brands that don’t make an effort to clean up their formulas. That is less than desirable as there are heavy toxic materials in there that you wouldn’t want anywhere near you—let alone lurking around your delicate peepers. (Evidently, there was a speaker at The W.E.L.L. Summit who studied breast cancer tissue and found that the ingredient in waterproof mascara that keeps it from coming off is also found in Teflon and highly carcinogenic. UGH!)
After enough trial and error, eventually I did succeed in finding six cleaner mascaras that amp up my lashes with volume and length, while lasting full days (and sometimes through nights) without budging. I will say, that there are more natural options out there with cleaner ingredients, however those did not work for me as well as these did. So if you find an objectionable ingredient or two in these mascaras, that’s why.
Give your mascara a fighting chance
Note: finding the right formula is a purely subjective experience. As always, please use discernment and make choices that suit your comfort level. In addition, I’ve talked to a couple of friends who said that more than a few of my picks didn’t work out for them. If oily lids are a problem, then your lashes may struggle to hold onto most mascaras.
Makeup artist Rebecca Casciano recommends starting with a primer and dabbing on finishing powder over lids after applying eye shadow to absorb excess oil. I’d say it can’t hurt to keep these biodegradable blotting papers on hand to dab your skin clear throughout the day too.
Also, reserve your gorgeous eye treatment oils for pre-bedtime use if you want to give your mascara a fighting chance. Any time I use an oil around my eyes by day, it’s like asking for migrating mascara and eyeliner. Better daytime options include Skin Owl’s eye+, Blissoma Bright or Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Serum that absorb easily, instantly brighten eyes, and prep the orbital zone for makeup. (Posts about Blissoma here and Kahina Giving Beauty Eye Serum here.)
Let’s dive into the six mascara picks!
What makes it fabulous? Vegan, gluten free, lengthening, defining, separating, decent price point
Description: Lily Lolo contains the cleanest ingredients of my winning formulas and still performs impeccably. I do not find it to be as volumizing as some of the others, but it gives good definition to my lashes and the perfect coating for daily use. As with all my picks, there is no smudging or flaking during the day and it lasts well into the evening. I keep finding more and more to love about this UK brand and wouldn’t be a friend if I didn’t share their gorgeous pressed eye palettes with you too.
Ingredients: Gluten free, vegan friendly. aqua, myrica pubescens fruit cera (myrica pubescens fruit wax), propanediol, copernicia cerifera cera (carnauba wax), polyglyceryl-6 distearate, sucrose stearate, acacia senegal gum, glyceryl dibehanate, helianthus annus seed cera (sunflower seed wax), lactobacillus ferment bis-octyldodecyl dimer dilinoleate/propanediol copylymer, polyglyceryl-10 myristate, oryza sativa bran (rice bran wax), glyceryl caprylate, rosa canina fruit oil, argania spinosa kernel oil, xanthan gum, potassium sorbate, glyceryl undecylenate, may contain iron oxides
What makes it fabulous? Lengthening and defining, conditions lashes, budge-resistant, no clumping
Description: Fitglow is designed to meet your needs for function and beauty while on the go. The mascara is no exception. The rice bran wax feeds lashes a dose of antioxidants and vitamins to condition them, while the formula offers high endurance wear during the day until removal. This mascara gives nice length and definition to lashes, but it takes a few coats to reach thicker lashes.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Oryza Sativa Wax (Rice Bran Wax), Olea Europea Fruit Oil (Olive Oil), Vegetable Source Cetyl Alcohol (Coconut), Coernica Cerifera (Carnauba Wax), Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla Wax), Vegetable Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Acacia Gum, Black Iron Oxide (CI 77499), Aminomethyl Popandiol (Ph Adjuster), Phenoxythanol (Preservative). Hippophae (Sea Buckthorn)
What makes it fabulous? Extreme volume + length + definition, long-wearing formula stays put, minimal clumping,
Description: I introduced NU Evolution Cosmetics here and here and devoted a post to the mascara with an exclusive coupon code here. To say that I am impressed with the line is an understatement. I am blown away by its performance. I wore NU Evolution mascara to volunteer at Indie Beauty Expo from 5:30 am until 9 pm and didn’t need to do a clean sweep under my eyes once! So far, NU Evolution outlasts even the best of them, while amping up my lashes with volume and length.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Chamomile Hydrosol (Matricaria Recutita)*, Cera Alba (Beeswax)*, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Shellac, Stearic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Powder*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Triethanolamine, Glycerol, Lecithin*, Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E), Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum (Cinnamon) Bark Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Lavendula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Extract, Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal) Root Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Extract, Caprylyl Glycol. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide (CI-77891), Iron Oxides (Cl-77499), (CI-77491), (CI-77492), Ultramarines (CI-77007).
What makes it fabulous? Fuller lashes, lengthening, thickening, volumizing, great price point
Description: The lush wand says it all. Pacifica plumps up my lashes from the very first coat and then it lasts and lasts. I’ve been very happy with this find and also like the addition of coconut oil, panthenol, kelp, and rice protein to strengthen and hydrate those delicate strands. Plus you can’t beat a $14 mascara which is half the price of some of the other brands and can be found at Target.
Ingredients: Aqua, glycerin (vegetable), glyceryl stearate se, jojoba esters, tapioca starch, stearic acid ( vegetable), copernicia cerfera (carnauba) wax, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla) wax, arabic/acacia gum, acrylates, crosspolymer, potassium cetyl phosphate, microcrystalline cellulse (plant), cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, panthenol (vitamin b), cellulose gum, gluconolactone, macrocystis pyifera (brown kelp) extract, hydrolyzed oryza sativa (rice) protein, sodium benzoate, iron oxides c1 77499.
Description: Though not as thickening as some of my other picks, this mascara beats others at staying put, while being cost effective to boot.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Copernicia cerifera (Carnauba) Wax (thickener), Euphorbia cerifera (Candelilla) Wax (thickener), Acrylates Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Polyisobutene, Phenoxyethanol, Hydroxyethylcellulose Sodium Hydroxide, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Steareth-21, Cocos Nucifera (coconut) Oil, Panthenol (vitamin B), macrocystis pyrifera (kelp) extract, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Disodium EDTA, Hexylene Glycol, Iron Oxides CI 77491, 77492, CI 77499
What makes it fabulous? Thickening, conditioning, gluten-free, allergen-free, chock full of ingredients to feed lashes
Description: Once you get over the sticker shock, this mascara boasts a host of lash-loving ingredients like gingo biloba to enhance circulation at the root of the eyelash and help growth, allantoin to protect the skin around the follicle, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, an amino acid that strengthens hair, and Acorus Calamus Root Extract to relieve skin irritation. Yes, it feels luscious on lashes and does seem to keep them growing strong and healthy over time. Yes, it is pricey but those rave reviews keep streaming in, so it may be worth a shot if you’ve tried them all and still can’t find one that works.
Ingredients: Water, Acrylate Copolymer, Stearic Acid, Iron Oxides, Carnauba Wax, Glycerin, Synthetic Beeswax, Tromethamine, Polyvinylalcohol, Mica, Silica, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-17, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Bergamot Leaf Extract, Octapeptide-2, Acorus Calamus Root Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Allantoin, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol
Honorary mention: While leafing through Coco Eco Mag Issue 31, Beauty Director Kristen Arnett’s mascara pick turned out to be Ava Anderson Mascara and I agree! For $17.95, it’s a lovely mascara that doesn’t offer the same volume or length that the mascaras above do, but still wears well and definitely doesn’t clump on lashes. It would not be a glam and go pick, but it is a good option for daytime use. Thanks to Cindy Bokma, the lovely blogger at The Green Beauty & Wellness Blog by Hello Dollface for introducing it to me.
I’d like to also direct you to beauty blogger Kim Wallace over at kimberlyloc.com, who did a stellar job putting together The Ultimate Guide to Natural Mascaras. Her attention to detail is staggering and will definitely direct you to the right mascara.
Another recent mascara post that lists several brands that I have not tried can be found on Janny: Organically. Her #1 pick is already in the mail on its way to me, so I will let you know how it goes.
What mascaras are you using and loving? Please let me know in the comments—especially if I must try another one that’s working for you.