Written by Grove Collaborative

The 5 best natural mascaras & why you should consider making the switch from conventional

Last Updated: December 31, 2020

If eyes are the windows to the soul, the lashes are the curtains — so let's take a look at what's in conventional mascara, the benefits of switching to natural, and our customer- and staff-favorites.

Packing for a trip, very few of us would willingly forego our mascara. Even those who are makeup-averse often take a few swipes of the tube before leaving the house or joining the video meeting. We all appreciate long, fluffy eyelashes. But do you know exactly what you're sticking onto your delicate lashes and, possibly, rubbing into your eyes when you remove your mascara?

We're here to help you make the most healthful, informed choices when it comes to home, personal, and beauty products, so let's take a look at what's in conventional mascara, the benefits of natural mascara, and our customer- and staff-favorite natural mascaras on Grove.

Is mascara bad for your eyelashes?

We're not into sweeping generalizations here at Grove. We prefer gathering data and making reasonable choices based on facts. Hence, it's not that mascara is all "bad" — the answer is more nuanced. First, we need to consider overall behavior when it comes to using any mascara in the most healthful way.

There's the rub

Treating your eyes with the utmost care is key. Try to avoid rubbing your eyes when you’re wearing mascara, even if they're itchy. This is especially important when removing your makeup, since tiny bits of mascara can get into your eyes, blocking tear ducts and causing irritation or even an infection.

Take it all off

Dermatologists agree that removing your makeup before you go to sleep is crucial for your eye health. Documented — and scary! — cases of accumulated bacteria, permanent harmful growths under the eyelids, and abrasions of the eyes are attributed to sleeping with mascara on. Make it a habit to completely remove your makeup after every single wear.

Throw out on a date

Seen an expiry date on your mascara lately? Overlooking it is easy, especially once the microscopic print gets worn off the tube by day-to-day use. Here's your guideline, per dermos: Been a few months, as in 90 days or longer? Toss it. Plus, replacing it is an opportunity to shop, so.

Grove Tip

Remove mascara the right way

When you do remove your makeup, use the gentlest remover possible, and gently wipe — don't rub! A soft touch is super important, and natural removers like coconut oil are amazingly effective at removing even waterproof makeup without needing to scrub.

How conventional mascara affects your eyes

In addition to paying attention to how you wear and remove any type of mascara, beware of the following ingredients that have been linked to possible harmful effects on your health. Read 'em — but don't weep, because you can avoid these baddies by looking at labels.

  • Parabens: These preservatives have been shown to mimic estrogen, which makes them possible hormone disruptors. Luckily, brands have evolved and many of them now clearly list the absence of parabens.

  • Propylene glycol: This additive found in many mascaras is made of petroleum. Even though the FDA claims it's safe, propylene glycol is a known irritant, and the nonprofit group EWG — the Environmental Working Group, which provides information on product safety — considers it toxic to our lungs, reproductive systems, and other organs.

  • Retinol acetate (vitamin A acetate): Yep, it's a form of vitamin A, but retinol acetate has been linked to biochemical and cellular changes, making it a possible carcinogen. Canada has banned it — and that's enough for us to ix-nay it, too.

  • Aluminum powder: This is a metallic substance used to give some mascaras color. It's a known neurotoxin, and extended use can impair your body's ability to get rid of heavy metals like mercury.

  • Coal tar dyes: Another substance used to color mascara, coal tar dye can appear as a variety of colors. Look for a "CI" in front of numbers, such as in front of Blue 1, Red 33, etc. Worth skipping brands with these dyes? Definitely.

  • Fragrance: Yes, this umbrella of a word can cover up all kinds of chemicals. The word "fragrance" is unregulated by the FDA and represents secret recipes of scents. Unfortunately, that also means it can contain literally thousands of irritants and harmful chemicals, including lung-irritating ingredients whose sole purpose is to cover up other nastier chemical scents. (Sad sigh.)

  • BHTs and BHAs: More preservatives, and they're linked to disrupting our endocrine systems. They've been shown to harm wildlife as well.

  • Fibers: Usually listed as “Nylon 6" and "Rayon” in super thick, fibrous mascaras, fibers can irritate your lashes and eyes, flake off and get in your eyes, and even clog and infect tear ducts. Thick can make you sick, friends.

Benefits of using natural mascara

Healthy eyes

Knowledge is power, and making informed choices about what you put near your peepers will help you keep you seeing perfectly for the long haul.

Stronger lashes

Ingredients in nontoxic mascara — like coconut oil, beeswax, and vitamins — help soften, moisturize, and in turn encourage more growth and less lash breakage.

Safer for the earth

Zero-waste mascaras are far less harmful to the planet, whether they arrive in BPA-free plastic, bamboo, or paper packaging. Natural mascaras contain ingredients that are from the earth and are biodegradable.

How to choose the best natural mascara

The simplest way to pick the right mascara is to read our recommendations and choose what appeals to you. At Grove, we do the research so you don't have to. You can trust that the only products allowed on our site are those that share the same eco- and health-mindfulness that we do. Read on for our favorite ways to lash out (in a good way).

The 5 best natural mascaras

These five best organic mascaras meet the strict Grove criteria for being clean beauty products, and each is a favorite among customers looking for definition, length, and drama.

Lily Lolo Big Lash Mascara

U.K. clean beauty company Lily Lolo has a cult following, thanks to its mineral-based, vegan-friendly beauty products. The brand’s Big Lash Mascara features an hourglass wand for extra volume and length, and you never need worry about nano-particles or harmful ingredients. The products even have antimicrobial properties.

RMS Defining Mascara

RMS founder and makeup artist Rose-Marie developed her company in response to her own health issues related to conventional makeup. Today, RMS is a beloved brand that uses simple ingredients and helps educate its customers to make the best choices for their beauty and health. With beeswax, sunflower oil, and other natural materials, RMS Defining Mascara delivers a thick, defined shape with a glossy finish.

Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara

Burt of Burt's Bees is like everybody's super granola uncle, in the best way possible. With a deep commitment to the earth and every living being on it, the Burt's Bees collection of products is amazing and has grown a wide following and loyalty. This includes the brand’s Nourishing Mascara, which features jojoba oil and glycerin to treat your lashes gently. It also comes in post-recycled materials for eco-mindful packaging.

Ere Perez Avocado Waterproof Mascara

Ere Perez's joyful attitude informs her approach to her natural beauty company that’s committed to simple botanicals and recipes. Customers love this mascara for its natural ingredients, but they're especially happy about it being waterproof — something you don't commonly find in natural mascaras. Almond and avocado oils plus vitamin E keep your lashes conditioned, and this mascara won't smear or run.

PYT Primed and Ready Mascara

Lash but not least (we heard you groan just now), we present PYT. With a mantra of "No BS" — which means "No Bad Stuff" — PYT offers hypo-allergenic, vegan, cruelty- and synthetic chemical–free beauty products at affordable prices. Customers love the brand’s combo Primed and Ready Mascara, which features a clear mascara primer on one end and rich, naturally pigmented mascara on the other. Ingredients like carnauba wax and olive leaf extract protect your lashes without clumping your style.

Shop natural mascara

Looking for more sustainable makeup & skin care swaps and other eco-friendly switches you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any menstrual cup questions (or share your own tips for making the switch using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the switch to natural lip balm or other eco- and body-friendly products, explore Grove Collaborative's clean beauty selection.

Shop Clean Beauty

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