If your eyes are the windows to your soul, it’s probably a good idea to keep them free from toxic chemicals and harmful microplastics. The trouble is, most mascara and other cosmetics contain a whole bevy of nasty substances. Some chemicals are acutely toxic to fish and other wildlife, and some bioaccumulate and persist in the environment, causing harm for years to come.
Table of Contents
- The problem with conventional cosmetics
- Chemicals to avoid in mascara
- The best non-toxic, eco-friendly mascara brands
- 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented® Ultra Lengthening Mascara
- Au Naturale Bold Statement Vegan Mascara
- Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigment Ultra-Natural Mascara
- Maia’s Mineral Galaxy Natural Mascara, Brown
- Rejuva Minerals Mega Lash Mascara, Midnight Black
- Rejuva Minerals Pur Lash Volumizing Mascara, Black Pearl
- Final thoughts
Not to worry though, we have done hours of research to come up with the best non-toxic, climate-friendly mascara options!
The problem with conventional cosmetics
There’s no robust regulation in the US that restricts the use of dubious chemicals in cosmetic and personal care products. Some of the better companies and many consumer advocacy organizations and activists are pushing for the Personal Care Act to be enacted to help protect consumers. Until then, it’s perfectly possible, if not highly likely, that mascara and other cosmetics will continue to feature toxic chemicals known to harm human health and the environment.
Some of these chemicals have acute effects on aquatic life and the health of waterways.
In some cases, it’s not the chemical itself that’s of concern but the potential for it to be contaminated by processing. Some chemicals, Laureth-21 for instance, are chosen instead of SLS and SLES but may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene dioxide.
Chemicals to avoid in mascara
- BHA and BHT (Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene)
- Carbon Black
- Coal Tar
- Ethanolamine Compounds (MEA/DEA/TEA)
- Ethoxylated Ingredients
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
- Mineral Oil
- Nanoparticles (Nanomaterials)
- PEGs (Polyethylene Glycol)
- Phenoxyethanol (2-phenoxyethanol)
- Propylene Glycol
- Quaternary ammonium compounds (quats) like benzalkonium chloride – can cause asthma
This list is not exhaustive, so if you spot a mascara you like the look of, be sure to check the full ingredients list against the EWG database or leave a comment with a question below.
It’s also a good idea to avoid mascaras that contain acrylate copolymers or other microplastics. Like microbeads, these microplastics end up in waste water where they persist and can cause serious harm to wildlife including fish, birds, amphibians, and small mammals.
The easiest option, of course, is to choose one of the Leaf Score recommended products below! All of these are free from microplastics and those with 5 leaves are non-toxic and eco-friendly.
The best non-toxic, eco-friendly mascara brands
Highlights: The mascara itself is made with natural pigments from berries, black tea, and cocoa. It’s also water-resistant and free of unpleasant chemicals.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
Made in the USA, this eco-friendly, non-toxic mascara helps lengthen lashes without clumping, smudging, or flaking. And the best thing? It’s made with natural pigments from black tea, berries, and cocoa! It is water-resistant and free from coal tar, Teflon, and other unpleasant chemicals.
Cruelty-free (but sadly not vegan-friendly as it contains honey and beeswax), 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara is available in Blueberry, Black Tea, Blackberry, and Dark Chocolate. It is easy to apply, has great reviews, and can be layered for as dramatic a look as you like!
Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Black Tea)*, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Cera Alba (Honey Beeswax), Rubus Fruticosus Fruit Extract (Blackberry Extract), Ribes Nigrum Fruit Extract (Blackcurrant Extract), Rubus Idaeus Fruit Extract (Raspberry Extract), Hydrolyzed Oat Protein (Oat Protein), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (Wheat Protein), Pantothenic Acid (Pro-vitamin B5), Fucus Vesiculosus Extract (Seaweed Powder), Coconut Stearic Acid (Coconut Acid), Mica, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter (Cocoa Butter), Pearl Powder, Oryza Sativa Germ Powder (Rice Powder), Theobroma Cacao Extract (Cocoa Powder), Coffea Arabica Seed Extract (Powdered Coffee Beans), Mel (Lavender Honey), Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract (Oregano Extract), Thymus Vulgaris Flower/Leaf Extract (Thyme Extract), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract (Rosemary Extract), Lavandula Angustifolia Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (Lavender Extract), Hydrastis Canadensis Extract (Goldenseal Extract) * Certified Organic
Highlights: Formula features plant-derived waxes and natural pigments while being available in a variety of colors. Use code LEAFSCORE for 20% off.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
Au Naturale Bold Statement Vegan Mascara features plant-derived waxes and natural mineral pigments to create volume and rich color that lasts. Clean, green, and cruelty-free, this vegan mascara is available in Black, Brown, Navy, Teal, Violet, and Cobalt.
Bold Statement is made in the USA without animal bi-products, synthetic preservatives, nanoparticles, gluten, parabens, or toxic chemicals. Most of the ingredients in this formula are certified organic, EcoCert, and/or Kosher/Halal certified.
Au Naturale launched its full product line in 2011 and is now a global company that has established partnerships with fair-trade farmers across the globe. The founder is a keen lobbyist pushing for the US to enact the Personal Care Act, a movement to demand stricter regulation of cosmetic products.
Au Naturale is also offering LeafScore readers a discount! Use coupon code LEAFSCORE at checkout for 20% off of your purchase.
Aqua (Water), Alcohol*, Stearic Acid, Xylityl Cocoate (Xylityl Coconut Fatty Acids)*, Oleic/Linoleic/Linolenic Polyglycerides, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Copernicia Cerifera (Canauba) Wax*, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Mica (and) Silica**, Xanthan Gum, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Iron Oxide CI77499**. May Contain: Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract***, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract***, Corallina Officinalis Extract***, Eclipta Prostrata Extract***, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract***, Moringa Oleifera Seed***.
Highlights: A mascara formula that’s made to include both vitamin E and aloe to help condition your lashes when worn.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
Vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigment Ultra-Natural Mascara is a smooth, buildable eyelash tint that gives a soft feathery look. No clumping, smudging, or flaking, this is made with plant wax, tapioca, argan, rose, and purple carrot pigment and is a non-drying formula that includes vitamin E and aloe to help condition your lashes.
The Ultra-Natural Mascara is free from parabens, petroleum, propylene or butylene glycols, silicones, talc, carbon black, phthalates, sulfates, PEGs, TEA, DEA, GMO, artificial dyes, or synthetic fragrances. They never test products on animals (other than humans), and the only real chemical of concern in this mascara is sodium benzoate, which has limited safety data but doesn’t seem to be a persistent chemical or to bioaccumulate and is designated as safe in the amounts used in cosmetics like this mascara.
Juice Beauty is also more eco-friendly than most companies, using 70 – 98% total certified organic ingredients in all products, although the mascara is an exception with just 60% organic (this is still way higher than most brands!). The company also uses FSC certified paper packaging.
This mascara comes with a slim brush with a spiral shape, making it easier to apply and get full coverage.
Organic aloe barbadensis juice)*, organic glycerin*, acacia senegal gum extract†, organic tapioca starch*, glyceryl stearate SE†, jojoba esters†, microcrystalline cellulose†, stearic acid†, potassium cetyl phosphate, gluconolactone†, copernicia cerifera (organic carnauba wax)*, euphorbia cerifera (candelilla wax)†, tocopherol (Vitamin E)†, cellulose gum†, sodium benzoate, calcium gluconate, sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid)†, maltodextrin†, methyl dihydroabietate†, argania spinosa (argan shell powder)†, rosa gallica (rose flower powder)†, daucus carota (purple carrot extract)†, iron oxide (CI 77499)
* Certified organic ingredient
† Plant derived
Highlights: EWG verified and made with ingredients safe for use for people with sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
This EWG Verified mascara is made with all-natural ingredients and is safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers. It helps make lashes look thicker while still looking natural, and it feels soft, feathery, and comfortable. It can be easily layered for a bolder look or kept minimal for that bare-faced look.
Maia’s Mineral Galaxy Natural Mascara is also water-soluble, meaning it’s not waterproof but is easily removed without any harsh makeup remover.
This mascara is free from fragrance, gluten, mineral oil, parabens, petrochemicals, phthalates, triclosan, and cruelty. Instead, it features algae extracts, plant waxes, vitamin C, and other natural ingredients. One ingredient of concern in this formula (hence the dropped leaf) is Ceteareth-20, which is likely safe for use in cosmetics but may contain potentially toxic impurities such as 1,4-dioxane.
Sodium Hyaluronate, Seaweed Gel made from the Algae Extracts of: Sargassum Filipendula Extract, Hypnea Musciformis (Hypneaceae) Extract & Gellidiela Acerosa Extract, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, D-Panthenol, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Stearic Acid, Ceteareth-20, Vegetable Glycerin USP, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Iron Oxide (CI 77491/CI 77492/CI 77499)
Highlights: Vegan-friendly formula that has no parabens, soy, gluten, GMOs, or mica.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
Rejuva Minerals Mega Lash Mascara is a vegan-friendly formula that is free from parabens, soy, gluten, and GMOs, as well as titanium dioxide and mica. It is EWG Verified and rated Clean in the Think Dirty app. It was also voted runner-up in the 2018 Dirty Thinkers’ Choice Award and is made with some organic ingredients. It is available in Midnight or Coffee Bean and is water-resistant but not waterproof.
One key downside to this mascara seems to be a short shelf life – just two to three months. In some ways, this is a good thing as it means there are no synthetic preservatives, but it would be nice if they included a natural preservative such as vitamin E or vitamin C to extend the life of the product.
This mascara also contains sodium benzoate, which has limited safety data but doesn’t seem to be a persistent chemical or to bioaccumulate and is designated as safe in the amounts used in cosmetics like this mascara.
As for eco-friendliness, Rejuva Minerals ship their products in boxes that are made with 50% recycled material.
Water, Iron Oxide, Candelilla Wax, Sucrose Stearate, *Carnauba Wax, Chicory, Propanediol (non gmo vegetable), Sunflower Wax, Gluconolactone (non gmo vegetable), Sodium Benzoate, Galactoarabinan (plant), Capryl Glycol (plant), Potassium Sorbate (salt), Spinosa Gum, Xanthan Gum, Sunflower Seed, *Cotton Flower Extract, *Avocado Fruit Extract *Organic
Highlights: Tapioca starch acts as a volumizer to help accomplish a more natural look than some of its competitors.
100% Cruelty-Free: Yes
Another great non-toxic mascara from Rejuva Minerals, Pur Lash Volumizing Mascara is EWG Verified and is made with naturally derived and organic ingredients. There are no animal by-products, parabens, soy, gluten, GMOs, mica, or titanium dioxide.
This mascara offers a more natural look than the Mega Lash Mascara from the same company (see above). It uses tapioca starch as a volumizer and natural mineral and plant pigments for color. This one also contains sodium benzoate, however, and lacks significant preservatives, meaning a short shelf life.
Water, *Glycerin (vegetable), Acacia, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Jojoba, Stearic Acid (plant), *Tapioca Starch, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, *Carnauba Wax, Candelilla Wax, Cellulose Gum, Gluconolactone (non gmo vegetable), Sodium Benzoate, Iron Oxides. *Certified Organic
Finally, you’re going to need something to remove mascara, so why not choose an eco-friendly, non-toxic makeup remover and some organic cotton rounds or reusable makeup remover pads? Our picks:
- Exactly! Organics Eye Makeup and Mascara Remover is EWG Verified and made in the USA – view on Soap for Goodness Sake
- Organyc Organic Cotton Rounds in biodegradable and compostable packaging – View on Amazon
- Sephora Organic Cotton Rounds with GOTS certification – view on Sephora
- TL Care’s Nursing Pads made with organic cotton – made for nursing but great for removing make-up and nail polish! – View on Amazon
- Priveganic organic cotton make-up removal pads come with a convenient washbag to stop them getting bunched up or stuck in a dryer vent – View on Amazon.
It can be tricky to find makeup remover pads made entirely with organic cotton. Most ‘eco-friendly’ pads are made with bamboo and a little cotton, but, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere on LeafScore.com, bamboo is a very tough fiber, making it a great choice for building but a terrible choice for soft textiles.
To soften bamboo, most manufacturers use a shocking array of toxic chemicals. Rarely do manufacturers use natural fermentation to soften bamboo fibers as this takes a long time and is very expensive. So, skip the bamboo and use organic cotton reusable pads with your eco-friendly mascara and makeup remover.