Eyes are our most expressive feature, the window to our souls, so it’s no surprise that many women want to accentuate the area with a little cosmetic flourish. There’s nothing quite like a wave of that magic wand of mascara to darken, thicken and lengthen your lashes and make your eyes pop. Even makeup minimalist often opt for a touch of mascara to give them a more alert look for the day or a special flair for the night.

The flip side is that the eye sockets and tear ducts are a direct window to the bloodstream, so it is critical that any product you use on or near the eye not be a chemically questionable concoction. The ingredient list in most mainstream mascaras is a real eye opener (even some “hypoallergenic” ones) – you’ll find nasty things like formaldehyde, parabens, petroleum distillates, coal tar, phalates and – egads – mercury (often listed as thimerosal). Do you really want particles of mercury flaking in your baby blues, browns or hazels?

It’s not that mainstream cosmetic companies are out to get you. The typical moist, dark tube of mascara is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria which can lead to allergies, irritations and infections, so big brands prioritize preservatives in their formulas to help their products maintain antimicrobial properties and a decent shelf life – two admirable goals that convince them that chemical additives are just a necessary evil in their business. Unfortunately, cheap and effective paraben preservatives are known estrogenic hormone disruptors, suspected carcinogens and have been linked to birth defects. Yikes! Yet still many consumers compromise their long term health in lieu of luscious lashes.

Indeed, if there’s one type of makeup that you should definitely go green on, it’s mascara. However, it can be difficult to find a formula that is both cosmetically effective and naturally safe. In the weighing of consumer pros and cons, it’s a shame that our vanity often trumps health.

Unlike their synthetic counterparts, natural mascaras use nourishing ingredients like plant extracts, oils and beeswax in their formulas. These simple, pure, gentle ingredients are less irritating, less damaging and more suitable for sensitive eyes, contact lens wearers and, frankly, everybody. Furthermore, most natural brands also avoid animal testing, keep packaging to a minimum, source organic ingredients and adhere to eco-friendly business practices.

Yes, the big brands promise long wearing, non-clumping, self-curling, high-definition, voluminous, separating, fiber lengthening, smudge resistant and/or waterproof lashes that natural mascaras can’t always match. However, most of us who have been caught with runny raccoon eyes, spidery Tammy Faye fringes or little black flecks on our cheeks can attest that the hype doesn’t always match reality.

Here are a few general practices that will help consumers of natural mascaras get the most out of their conscientious product choice.

  • First, minimize the amount of air you introduce to your tube of mascara. Never pump or twist the wand repeatedly to try and coat more of the product onto it. That just dries out the formula faster and potentially introduces bacteria into the tube.
  • Likewise, never add water to the tube or applicator or, heaven forbid, use saliva to try and loosen it up or extend its life cycle. That’s just asking for a petri dish of potentially infectious problems.
  • For similar reasons, sharing your mascara with a sister or a friend is a definite no-no. Once you’ve used it once, it’s for your eyes only.
  • If you contract an eye infection or irritation, throw out your mascara and any eye makeup that you have used or you risk re-contamination.
  • If you notice a change in texture or smell in your mascara, throw it out and start afresh.
  • A great tip is to use an eyelash curler before applying mascara. Clamp this device onto your upper lashes for about 20 seconds (you can even heat it with a blow dryer first) and your fringe will furl fabulously.
  • Start at the root of the lash line, wiggle the wand and then gently stroke it in an upward direction towards the tips.
  • Use two or three coats of mascara on these curled lashes and you will achieve a wide-eyed look that holds up to any high-definition department store brand. A touch-up or reapplication may be required a few hours later, but that’s a small inconvenience compared to the hazardous health risks of mainstream mascaras.
  • Finally, replace your mascara every 3 or 4 months – yes, this flies in the face of the green movement’s usual waste-not mandate, but in the case of mascara it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Natural mascaras have come a long way in the last few years. Manufacturers have made considerable strides in improving their formulations so they enhance both the look and condition of your eyelashes with little compromise in terms of safety or quality. So if you haven’t explored the options in a while, here are our top mascara recommendations that frame your fringe with added benefits.

Our best selling Volume Mascara by Dr.Hauschka leaves lashes plump and protected with natural ingredients like rose wax, silk powder and neem leaf extract. It comes in fashionable black, rich aubergine and pearl anthracite.

Plant-enriched Dr. Hauschka Mascara is your best bet if you have particularly sensitive or allergy-prone eyes. This long-wearing formula contains strengthening tea leaf extract and soothing eyebright. It makes your eyes really lash out. 

Apply a stroke of genius with Living Nature’s Thickening Mascara, which adds texture and volume with natural halloysite clay. One or two sweeps and your lashes appear thicker and longer without clumping or flaking. It is easily removed with Living Nature Gentle Eye Makeup Remover.