Even the most minimalist of minimalist makeup routines— just a swipe of mascara... and done—could be adding dangerous toxins and chemicals into your everyday life.
Like many cosmetic formulas, the lengthy ingredient list of your favorite mascara might be hiding some grim details. (Think Thimerosal—a mercury-based preservative still used in eye makeup—or known carcinogenic ingredients like formaldehyde and parabens.)
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“Before I knew better, I did it all — dyeing, perming, growth serums, and of course trying many, many different mascaras in pursuit of long, full lashes,” admitted 100% Pure Cosmetics founder Susie Wang. “But now I learned that anything that comes that close in contact with our eyes is something we especially need to be careful with.”
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While beauty products we tend to ingest (looking at you, lipstick) tend to get the most flack for chemical ingredients, toxins hiding in mascara can be just as harmful due to their close access to your eyes. “Our eyes are the most sensitive parts of our bodies because the soft tissues of cornea is exposed and has minimal protective layers,” explained Wang. “The vitreous (the clear gel coating our eyes) acts as a quick delivery system into our brain and other parts of our bodies. Even if the mascara formula itself is not getting inside our eyes, the fumes of the chemicals can still be harmful and irritating.”
Related: How To Detox Your Manicure
Wang’s watchlist includes coal tar dyes (“these dyes contain toxins like toluene, xylene, benzene”), aluminum, fragrances, and “harsh preservatives like parabens, urea, formaldehyde, thimerosal.” Instead, she encourages shoppers to seek out natural lash conditioners and strengtheners with ingredients like panthenol, vitamin E, wheat and oat proteins, seaweed, plant butters—that not only result in comfortable-wear mascara, but healthier, stronger lashes over time.
Still don’t know where to start? Well, you could make your own natural mascara, or revamp your makeup shopping list. Here are some top picks from natural makeup experts and users: