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Mascara is an important beauty staple, but we don’t pay much attention to it. It deserves a second look! It sits right up against our sensitive eyes for hours-on-end, so isn’t it important to know what’s inside it? To know that it’s safe?

Mainstream mascaras are often made with controversial pigments and preservatives that may cause harm to the body or the environment. Beauty products should only do good for our body and the planet, which is where natural & organic mascaras come into play. Made with plant-based ingredients and no harsh chemicals, they enhance the lashes without causing harm!

What Makes a Great Natural & Organic Mascara?

Dodging nasty chemicals while actually achieving glamorous lashes is no easy feat, but we’ve figured it out! These are the features we make sure to consider when selecting natural and organic mascaras.

Safe Formula

The most important feature in a natural mascara is that it has a safe formula that is free of potentially harmful chemicals. We often call this concept “clean,” and we discuss it in more detail here. We used safety ratings from the Environmental Working Group to verify the safety of each mascara. We list them in each review — the lower the rating, the better, with 4 as the maximum we were willing to allow. We also excluded formulas containing parabens, phthalates, mineral oil, and coal-tar dyes. Check out our list of banned ingredients to learn more about what to avoid.

Lash-Enhancing Effects

When you wear mascara you want it to have an impact! Some shoppers might want long and voluminous lashes while others might prefer a more natural look. That’s why we included an “Effects at A Glance” section. You can quickly learn what kind of effect each mascara has, and grab the one that fits your style. If you’re not sure what kind of effects you want out of your mascara, check out our explanation below.

Natural Ingredients

For a mascara to count as natural, most of its ingredients have to come from nature. Small amounts of safe synthetic film-formers and preservatives are sometimes needed, but we’ll still let you know if a mascara contains more synthetic ingredients than others on our list. Another detail you might want to consider is whether a mascara includes organic ingredients, so we cover that as well. If you’re not sure about the difference between organic, natural, and other terms, we explain it all below.

Longevity

Natural mascaras aren’t as intensely long-lasting or waterproof as mainstream ones, and that’s okay! We still prefer that they hold up well throughout the day, without flaking or smudging too easily. We’ll let you know how each mascara on our list performs over time and in different situations, so you can choose the one that’ll fit your lifestyle. We also give some tips on how you can apply mascara in a way that’ll prevent smudging.

Cruelty-Free and Vegan

We’re thrilled to declare that every single mascara on our list is cruelty-free and vegetarian friendly! Because beeswax is an important ingredient in many natural mascaras, not all of them are vegan. If you adhere to a vegan diet, we make it easy for you to find some great mascaras with the “Quick Facts” section in each review.

Nourishing Effects

A mascara, especially when it’s made with natural ingredients, can actually help nourish the lashes! Oils, proteins, peptides, and plant extracts can condition, protect, or strengthen the hairs and maintain their health. While not all of the mascaras on our list have lash-boosting ingredients, most do, so we’ll let you know exactly what they are in each review.

Now that you know what you should look for in a natural mascara, let’s get into the reviews. These are the best natural and organic mascaras we’ve discovered for every need, aesthetic, and lifestyle!

Top 10 Best Natural & Organic Mascaras 2020

1. Best Overall Natural Mascara: Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer


Why we like it: This two-in-one primer and mascara does it all! It volumizes and lengthens the lashes, and looks great all day long. Considering the performance and safety of this formula, the most shocking thing about it is that it’s also affordable!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Volumizing and Lengthening
  • Wand: Slim Plastic Wand
  • Colors: Black
  • Organic: No
  • Vegan: No

This reasonably priced two-in-one mascara from Jessica Alba’s Honest Beauty is a clean beauty favorite. It has an eyelash primer on the one end and mascara on the other, so the two work together to give the lashes a ton of length and volume.

The colorless primer creates a base over the lashes and gives an initial volumizing layer. Applying the mascara on top darkens the lashes and adds length. The final result is very dramatic, but thanks to the plastic wand, the lashes stay separated.

Some users do find it tricky to manage both the primer and the mascara. You can end up with clumpiness if you let the primer dry down too much, so it’s best to apply the mascara almost immediately after priming the lashes. Since most of the drama comes from that initial base layer, you can go for a more subtle look by skipping the primer. This also works well for the bottom lashes!

Another point in this mascara’s favor is its longevity. You can rely on it during long days of being out and about without fear of smearing or smudging! Once it’s time to take it off, we recommend using a dedicated makeup remover for easy removal.

As the EWG rating suggests, both the primer and mascara have a very clean formula that is totally free of harsh ingredients. The mascara was formulated with excellent performance as the main goal, so while it does contain a small amount of jojoba esters it’s not the most nourishing option on our list. If you want a mascara that’ll also have some lash conditioning benefits but the same dramatic results, the Ilia Limitless Mascara is a stunning (albeit expensive) alternative.

Pros

  • 2-in-1 lash primer and mascara
  • Very volumizing and lengthening
  • Phenomenal longevity
  • Affordable
  • Safe and clean formula

Cons

  • Minimal lash nourishing benefits

2. Best Premium Natural Mascara: Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara

Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara


Why we like it: This mascara gives a glamorous effect, with a special wand that fans out the lashes while adding both a ton of length and volume. The formula is incredibly safe and gentle, and even includes 25% organic ingredients.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Separating, Lengthening, Volumizing, and Lifting
  • Wand: Plastic Dual-Length Comb
  • Colors: Black
  • Organic: 25% Organic
  • Vegan: No

This mascara has an intensely dedicated fanbase, so it definitely merits some attention. Even mainstream users find themselves falling in love with it!

The most unique thing about it is the plastic brush. It has shorter bristles on one side and longer ones on the other. The short side keeps things subtle, so it’s great for the bottom lashes, while the longer side is fantastic for separating the lashes and amping up the volume. If you prefer a subtle, separate look, you might prefer the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara, instead.

The formula itself is thick enough to hold a curl, so we’d happily recommend this for those with straight lashes. In fact, the curled, fanned out effect it creates reminds us of Maybelline Lash Sensational, which is one of our favorite mainstream mascaras.

Some shoppers find that when they first open the tube, the formula is very wet, which makes it a little harder to work with. Usually, it dries down after a week and becomes easy to use.

This mascara is primarily based on waxes, though it does include a few safe synthetic emollients that are responsible for how beautifully it performs. These ingredients keep the lashes looking great throughout the day. It doesn’t smudge and it keeps the lashes curled and soft-looking for hours on end.

This is one of the cleanest formulas on our list, and it even features 25% organic ingredients. The preservative system here is very eco-friendly, which is another point in its favor! We also appreciate the inclusion of some fabulous eyelash nourishing ingredients like organic shea butter, biotin, and peptides.

The formula is not fragranced, which is great for sensitive eyes. However, it does smell very strongly of beeswax, which some shoppers may find off-putting.

Pros

  • Gives a stunning “fanned lash” effect
  • Helps to hold a curl
  • Looks fantastic all-day
  • Safe formula with organic ingredients
  • Wand has a short side for bottom lashes

Cons

  • Strong beeswax smell

Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Water-Resistant Long Lash Mineral Mascara


Why we like it: Water-resistant natural mascaras are rare, so this lovely mascara is special. It also has lash-lengthening and separating effects that give your lashes a natural but glamorous look. We also love that it’s affordable and vegan-friendly!

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Separating, Lengthening, and Slightly Volumizing
  • Wand: Thick Plastic With Dense Bristles
  • Colors: Black & Blue
  • Organic: No
  • Vegan: Yes

Water-resistant natural mascaras are not common (and waterproof ones are practically unheard of), so this one from Pacifica absolutely deserves a mention on our list!

This mascara holds up beautifully against water, so it’s a must-have for a wide range of situations. It stays put through sudden rainfall, sweaty gym sessions, or teary eyes during allergy season. We probably wouldn’t trust it on a trip to the pool, but for all other damp conditions, it’s absolutely excellent.

It’s fitted with a large plastic wand that does an excellent job of separating the lashes and building up their length. Since the bristles are tightly packed, it still coats the lashes thoroughly and offers a decent amount of volume. It’s not the most dramatic mascara on our list, but it still has serious and noticeable effects. You can also use it on top of a more dramatic option like the Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara to make your entire look a little more water-resistant.

The formula is composed primarily of natural ingredients and it’s totally vegan. There are a few clean synthetic ingredients, as well, like the polymers that create the water-resistant film over the lashes. It’s not the most natural option on our list (that designation goes to the 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara, but it’s certainly a safe choice.

As the formula starts to get a little old, some users note that it loses some of its longevity. It remains water-resistant, but it can start flaking under the eyes at the end of the day. Thankfully, it’s affordably priced, so you can replace it as often as necessary.

Pros

  • Water-resistant
  • Affordable
  • Nice separation and length
  • Vegan-friendly

Cons

  • Contains some synthetics
  • Can get flakey by the end of the day

4. Best Lifting Mascara: Gabriel Cosmetics Mascara

Gabriel Cosmetics Mascara


Why we like it: This lovely mascara gets the lashes looking naturally a little fuller and longer, and it shines when it comes to lifting and curling. If you have straight lashes and prefer a more natural look, it’s a must-have.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Lifting, Slightly Lengthening and Volumizing
  • Wand: Traditional Nylon
  • Colors: Black & Brown
  • Organic: No
  • Vegan: Yes

You might remember this plain little mascara from the cosmetics section at your local health food store! Gabriel Cosmetics is a natural beauty brand that has been around for a very long time, but not a lot of people know about it.

It’s unfortunate since, despite the understated packaging, Gabriel products are worth trying, including this mascara. It has really pretty effects that are not too intense.

What we like about it the most is how well it lifts the lashes. If you curl your lashes first, the slightly thick formula helps to hold them in place for the entire day. Even if you don’t, it still adds some lift which helps to open up the eyes! If your lashes are naturally very straight, this is a great mascara to buy.

It also darkens, lengthens, and volumizes the lashes, albeit not extremely. It’s not too dramatic, so it’s great for a natural look or for daily use. If you want a more dramatic mascara that’ll still lift and curl your lashes, you might like the Ilia Limitless Mascara instead.

If you want to keep your look even more natural, this mascara also comes in a brown version that is incredibly subtle. We think it’d be especially nice for blondes and redheads with very light lashes! For those with darker hair, on the other hand, it can work as a brow gel.

It has fantastic longevity. Though it’s not advertised as such, it’s very water-resistant and non-smudging. It even holds up well against oily eyelids!

Most natural mascaras are made with beeswax, but this one uses plant-derived cellulose gum instead. It’s one of the few vegan options on our list, although if you want a vegan natural mascara that looks just a touch more intense you can try the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara, instead.

Pros

  • Natural-looking volume and length
  • Lifts and maintains a curl
  • Excellent longevity

Cons

  • Too subtle for most

5. Best Budget Natural Mascara: Avril Le Mascara Volume Bio

Avril Le Mascara Volume Bio


Why we like it: This Ecocert-certified French mascara is the most affordable option on our list. It gives the lashes a nice level of volume, with a tapered wand that also allows you to get into the inner corners of the eye.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 4
  • Effects at a Glance: Volumizing
  • Wand: Tapered Nylon
  • Colors: Black
  • Organic: 20% Organic Ingredients
  • Vegan: No

Avril is a French brand that makes exclusively organic cosmetics. While all of the mascaras on this list so far are made with natural ingredients, this mascara is actually Ecocert-certified with 98.8% naturally-derived ingredients, out of which 20% are organic. It’s well-loved in Europe, both because of the formula and because of the low price-point.

Considering how affordable and natural it is, it’s hard to believe just how beautifully it performs. It’s fitted with a tapered nylon wand with a practical tapered design. It’s wide at the bottom to give a lot of volume at the center of the lash line and thin at the end to easily reach the fine lashes at the inner corner of the eye.

Since it’s so volumizing, this mascara can also get a little clumpy if you’re not careful. We’d recommend the Ilia Limitless Mascara if you want better separation.

It stays put throughout the day and holds up well against light dampness or rain. However, it doesn’t hold up well against oils, so if you have oily skin you are more likely to experience smudging with it. We’d recommend trying the Thrive Causemetics Mascara, which is both water-resistant and slightly more oil-proof.

The blend does include a couple of ingredients that EWG rates higher than we’d prefer, but they’re not too risky or carcinogenic. If your primary focus is on natural and eco-friendly formulas rather than “clean ingredients” then you’ll like this mascara more than some of the synthetic-laden but clean options on the list.

Pros

  • Ecocert-certified natural
  • Gives excellent volume
  • Very affordable
  • Tapered wand allows for precise application

Cons

  • Not oil-resistant at all
  • Can get clumpy

6. Best Natural Mascara for Oily Lids: Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extension Mascara

Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extension Mascara


Why we like it: This mascara lengthens the lashes by forming tiny, oil-resistant tubes around them. It’s a clean formula with a lot of natural ingredients, though it also includes some synthetics.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 3
  • Effects at a Glance: Lengthening
  • Wand: Slim Plastic Wand
  • Colors: Black
  • Organic: No
  • Vegan: Yes

This mascara from Thrive Causemetics is the best non-smudging mascara we’ve seen, even if its formula contains a few synthetics high on the ingredient list. It’s very difficult to find a totally natural mascara that’ll hold up against oily eyelids, but this is as close as it gets.

This type of mascara is called a “tubing mascara” which means that it’s made with film-forming polymers that adhere to the lashes like a little tube. They offer immense length to the lashes, and they hold up impeccably against oils. They’re generally quite water-resistant, but at the end of the day they come off easily with just a bit of warm water and some friction.

While this mascara does include those synthetic polymers, it otherwise has a fairly clean formula with an acceptable EWG ranking. It also features a lot of nourishing natural ingredients, shea butter, castor oil, and even an orchid stem cell complex said to boost lash growth. As a bonus, it’s suitable for vegans!

While the length this mascara offers is very dramatic, it sadly offers little-to-no volume. If you have naturally thick but short lashes, it’s a great choice. If you have oily lids, you might also be willing to compromise on volume for the sake of longevity. That said, there is an easy fix: first, apply a layer of a volumizing mascara like Avril Le Mascara Volume, and follow it up with a lengthening, oil-proofing layer of this mascara!

The only big drawback to this product is that, while its price fluctuates a bit, it can get very expensive.

Pros

  • Oil-proof formula
  • Very lengthening
  • Easy to remove
  • Features lash-nourishing ingredients

Cons

  • A lot of synthetic ingredients
  • Not volumizing at all
  • Can get expensive

7. Best Natural Mascara for Sensitive Eyes: EVXO Mineral Mascara

EVXO Mineral Mascara


Why we like it: This little-known vegan mascara offers subtle enhancement. It’s gentle on sensitive skin and it’s easy to remove, although unfortunately it also smudges easily.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 3
  • Effects at a Glance: Slightly Volumizing
  • Wand: Nylon
  • Colors: Black
  • Organic: Some Ingredients (Percentage Not Disclosed)
  • Vegan: Yes

If you like to shop from small or local businesses, we recommend this natural mascara that comes from a tiny vegan brand based in California.

This unique mascara is the first we’ve ever seen made with rice bran wax for its base. The result is a smooth formula that goes on soft at first but can be built up for a more intense and volumized look.

This formula is particularly well-loved by those with sensitive eyes, who find that most traditional mascaras burn their eyes or irritate their skin. The composition is gentle and free of potential irritants, so while most of the mascaras on our list are safe for sensitive skin, this one is great for those who know they are highly prone to issues.

Some shoppers notice that a few weeks after the mascara is opened, the formula dries down and becomes quite thick. That, combined with the old-school nylon wand, can lead to some clumpiness.

As with many mascaras for sensitive eyes, this one is quite easy to remove. Unfortunately, this also means that it doesn’t have the best longevity. It smudges easily in the presence of even slight dampness, and it won’t work with oily skin. If you need a more water-resistant mascara, you might prefer the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara, which is also vegan.

Pros

  • Great for sensitive eyes
  • Gentle, buildable formula
  • Easy to remove

Cons

  • Smudges easily
  • Can get clumpy

8. Best Mascara for a Natural Look: Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Origin Nourishing Mascara

Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Origin Nourishing Mascara


Why we like it: This is the perfect day-to-day mascara that keeps the lashes conditioned. It gives a very put-together look by darkening and separating the lashes, but with subtle volume and length.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Separating and Darkening
  • Wand: Plastic
  • Colors: Black & Black-Brown
  • Vegan: No

Burt’s Bees is one of those drugstore natural beauty brands everyone knows. This is their signature mascara! It has a subtle yet pretty effect, so we think it’s a decent and affordable option for day-to-day.

It’s very intensely pigmented so it does turn the lashes very nice and dark. However, when it comes to either length or volume, it’s not dramatic. You can build it up a little bit, and it won’t clump, but multiple coats of this mascara will look about the same as just a single coat of Avril Le Mascara Volume.

The tightly packed plastic wand reminds us of some of CoverGirls’ wands. It’s great for keeping the lashes nicely separated, which also contributes to its natural look.

It tends to stay in place quite well throughout the day, especially when the tube is fresh. However, it doesn’t hold up well against water, and if you tear up and it gets into your eyes it will burn quite a bit. Some users find that as the tube gets old, the mascara can get flakey by the end of the day.

This formula is heavily wax-based, with both beeswax and plant wax used in the mix. It also includes glycerin and jojoba, which work together to condition the lashes!

Going further down the list, we were pleasantly surprised by a list of gentle, Ecocert-approved preservatives instead of phenoxyethanol, which is what budget-brands usually use to preserve their natural products.

Pros

  • Subtle, natural effects
  • Very affordable
  • Contains conditioning ingredients

Cons

  • Can get flakey
  • Burns if it gets into the eyes
  • Too subtle for most

9. Best Glossy Natural Mascara: W3LL People Natural Expressionist Mascara

W3LL People Natural Expressionist Mascara


Why we like it: This EWG-verified mascara is infused with organic waxes! It gives the lashes a unique glossy sheen. It also lengthens and separates, although it’s not particularly volumizing.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: EWG-Verified
  • Effects at a Glance: Separating, Lengthening, Gives “Glossy” Look
  • Wand: Slim Plastic
  • Colors: Black & Brow
  • Organic: Many Organic Ingredients (Percentage Not Disclosed)
  • Vegan: No

This is one of the most frequently-recommended natural mascaras out there, and while we really like some of its unusual effects, we sadly find that it doesn’t measure up to the other options we’ve tried.

For some baffling reason, W3LL People claim that it offers “fluffy lashes”, but we don’t see it. In reality, the opposite is true, and this mascara has what we’d describe as an “oil-slick” effect.

It doesn’t make the eyelashes appear wet, but it adds some gloss which is excellent for a dramatic look. If you want your lashes to look soft and fluffy, we don’t recommend it, but if you want a sleek, put-together look then it’s a good fit.

When it comes to more traditional effects, we find that this mascara separates and lengthens the lashes well, but it doesn’t offer much volume. If you would prefer something more volumizing, Avril Le Mascara Volume is a great choice. You can even layer this mascara on top of Le Mascara to add that sheen for a false-lash like look!

Where it loses points is longevity. It doesn’t hold up well against either water or oil. We wouldn’t recommend it for all-day wear or for a night of dancing, since it’s almost guaranteed to smudge after you work up a sweat. However, it will complete an elegant look for a subdued dinner at a nice restaurant.

This mascara is EWG Verified, which guarantees that it’s completely free of any controversial or potentially risky substances. Another nice detail about this formula is that both the beeswax and plant wax in it are organically-sourced.

Pros

  • Gives the lashes a glossy sheen
  • Lengthens and separates nicely
  • EWG-Verified with organic ingredients

Cons

  • Poor longevity
  • Doesn’t measure up to claims

10. Best Dramatic Natural Mascara: 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara

100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara


Why we like it: This luxury mascara comes in a few different colors made with tea and fruit extracts. It gives the lashes dramatic volume, for a doll-eye effect.

Editor’s Rating:

Quick Facts:

  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Effects at a Glance: Very Lengthening and Volumizing
  • Wand: Hourglass Nylon
  • Colors: Black, Black-Blue, Black-Brown & Black-Purple
  • Organic: Some Organic Ingredients (Percentage Not Disclosed)
  • Vegan: No

This mascara gives a classically flattering effect, with a dramatic mix of volume and length! It looks truly stunning on the lashes, although it also has some major flaws that prevent it from ranking highly on our list.

This mascara comes in a few color options, and while we gravitate towards black, we do find that the other shades are nice once in a while. The colors come from tea and fruit pigments rather than traditional minerals. In practice, the purple and blue show up on the lashes like a dark tint rather than a vivid tone.

The nylon wand does a great job of coating the lashes thoroughly. The formula builds nicely, so you can get dramatic, doll-like lashes, though it can look spidery after too many coats. However, it is likely to smudge if you work up a sweat.

If you like the idea of bold lashes but don’t want any clumpiness, the Ilia Limitless Mascara is our favorite for offering both drama and separation.

Considering how dramatically this mascara performs, it’s surprising that it’s so natural. There are a ton of plant extracts in here that have protective and nourishing effects on the lashes. Those include antioxidant-rich tea extracts, a variety of berry extracts, and both oat and wheat proteins. However, natural doesn’t always mean gentle, and some users experience irritation either from the extracts or from the natural fragrance in here.

We also want to mention that while some of the brand copy suggests that all 100% Pure products are vegan, this mascara includes beeswax and honey, so it’s vegetarian but not vegan. 100% Pure does have a vegan mascara, but we find that it doesn’t perform as nicely.

It comes at a high-end price, which isn’t great if you’re budget-conscious. It does feel luxurious, however, with a sleek, silver tube that has some heft to it.

Pros

  • Great color range
  • Dramatic volume and length
  • Natural formula with no synthetics

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Smudges easily
  • Not for sensitive skin or eyes

Understanding Natural & Organic Mascaras

When it comes to your beauty, health, and personal convictions many considerations are subjective. We’re not about placing limits–we’re about giving options! This guide will help you figure out your own preferences so you can find the natural or organic mascara that’ll be best for you.

Natural Mascara Terms to Know

Throughout this article, we talk about terms like “natural” and “clean,” but what do they mean, exactly? And which of these terms are important to you? In this section, we define and explain all of the important green beauty terms, so you can decide what’s important for you.

Natural

“Natural” is an unregulated term that vaguely means that something comes from nature.  It brings to mind the idea that a product is made with nothing but vegetable dyes and plant oils. The term “green” is often used interchangeably with “natural.”

When putting together our list of natural mascaras, we had to decide what natural meant for us.

Many brands pretend that their products are natural when, in reality, their formula is mostly synthetic with just a drop of aloe–that doesn’t fly for us!

For a mascara to qualify, it had to be free of all of the harmful chemicals we mention below and its ingredient list had to consist primarily of naturally-derived ingredients or earth-based minerals. We also accept some nature-identical ingredients, which are ingredients made in a lab but with an identical structure to substances that exist in nature.

If you want a mascara that specifically contains little-to-no synthetics, the 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara is the one to choose.

Organic

While the term “natural” isn’t regulated, the term organic definitely is! Organic means that a substance was farmed in an organic manner, without any genetic modification or dangerous pesticides.

For something to be labeled organic it must be certified. In the US, the USDA is responsible for giving organic certification, while in Europe the most common standard is the COSMOS Standard.

There is still room for brands to make misleading claims. A company can advertise that their product is “made with organic ingredients” because 5% of the formula is an organic extract while the remaining 95% is synthetically-derived. The product might contain organic ingredients, but it still won’t be natural!

Brands like Ilia and Avril do an excellent job, however! They offer truly natural products with certified organic ingredients. They make it clear which ingredients are organically-sourced by adding asterisks to their ingredient lists and by clarifying percentages.

Clean

“Clean beauty” is a relatively new term that’s slowly but surely overtaking “green beauty” in popularity. Like the term “natural,” “clean” doesn’t have a strict definition, either. It generally means that a cosmetic is totally free of potentially harmful ingredients, regardless of whether they are synthetic or natural.

There’s a false belief that because something is natural it must be safe, but that’s not true. A lot of the chemicals on our banned list are organic compounds that exist in nature! However, the green and clean beauty communities have a lot of overlap. Most advocates for natural cosmetics also prefer clean formulas and vice versa.

There is some disagreement when it comes to specific ingredients: clean beauty advocates might avoid natural cosmetics made with essential oils, while some green beauty advocates might avoid clean cosmetics that are made with silicone or mineral oil. Our list of mascaras straddles the two terms, with some formulas that are more strictly “clean,” other formulas that are more strictly “natural,”  and many formulas that fit into both categories perfectly.

The Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara and Thrive Causemetics Mascara are both closer to the “clean beauty” category, although they also count as natural.

Vegan

When it comes to food, vegans avoid anything sourced from an animal, including meat, dairy products, eggs, and honey. They usually extend the same principles to cosmetics, avoiding products made with honey extract, silk proteins, or beeswax.

People often think that if a product is vegan, it must be both healthy and natural! In reality, there are a ton of vegan mascaras made with synthetics, while many natural mascaras rely on animal-sourced ingredients like beeswax! In the natural beauty world, vegan mascaras like the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara and the Gabriel Cosmetics Mascara are an exception to the rule.

What Effects Do You Want?

All that talk of definitions can get a little heavy, so let’s shift focus to something more fun: just what kind of lashes do you dream of? Choose the best natural mascara for you based on the effect you love!

Long Lashes

Long lashes are a major symbol of femininity, which is why almost all natural mascaras will help add length to your lashes. If you have naturally short lashes, you should definitely look for lengthening effects, but even those with naturally long lashes often like adding on those layers of mascara to mimic false-lashes.

You can’t go wrong with any of the mascaras on our list, but the Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara and the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara do a particularly nice job. The Thrive Causemetics Mascara also deserves an honorable mention, for having an unusual formula that creates elongating tubes over the lashes.

Voluminous Lashes

Volumizing mascaras coat the lashes, making them appear thicker and lusher. They’re a must-have if you have sparse lashes, but they’re also just nice when you want a dramatic look. There’s no rule that says that just because your makeup is natural your style has to be natural too!

One thing to note about very volumizing mascaras is that they’re a little more prone to clumpiness, though this also strongly depends on the type of wand you use and how you apply the mascara.

It can be harder to find a very volumizing natural mascara since the formulas are often a little thinner. However, we found some really phenomenal options that break the curse and volumize as much as mainstream mascaras. The 100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara in particular, is extremely volumizing, while the budget-friendly Avril Le Mascara Volume, also does a beautiful job.

Separated Lashes

Lash separation often depends on the type of mascara wand you have. Mascaras with a plastic wand that’s tightly packed with bristles will do the best job of separating the lashes, while nylon wands are slightly likelier to clump. However, more volumizing formulas are also a little more clump-prone.

Clumping kills any illusion that your lashes aren’t coated in makeup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not what most shoppers want. That’s why we love a properly separating mascara. The Ilia Limitless Mascara is especially fantastic because it doesn’t compromise length or volume for separation, while Burt’s Bees Nourishing Mascara is better for a more natural look.

Lifted Lashes

Length and volume aren’t particularly helpful if your lashes just hang down over your eyes. While some of our readers are blessed with naturally curled lashes, many women have straight or even downturned lashes that aren’t visible at all when glimpsed head-on. While an eyelash curler can help, it’s important to have a mascara that can enhance and maintain that lift.

The best formulas for lifting the lashes and holding a curl will have a texture that’s neither so thick that it weighs down the lashes nor so wet that it undoes a curl. It’s hard to find that sweet spot, but the Gabriel Cosmetics Mascara does the job beautifully.

Natural Lashes

If you gravitate towards subtle makeup looks, that’s perfectly okay as well! With our list, we wanted to show that natural mascaras can have supernatural effects, but that doesn’t work for everyone, especially not for day-to-day looks.

Natural-looking mascaras are easier to use since they’re not likely to clump. They add a hint of darkness and slightly enhance volume and length, to emphasize the lashes without ever looking like makeup. EVXO Mineral Mascara is the most natural-looking mascara on our list, but the Gabriel Cosmetics Mascara is another nice option, especially if you want a brown-colored mascara.

Banned Ingredient List

Organizations like the Environmental Working Group and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics warn against a lot of chemicals that are often used in cosmetics. These are the ones that are particularly likely to pop up in mainstream mascaras, and that we made sure to avoid!

Coal Tar Dyes

One of the categories of dyes used to color cosmetics are called coal tar dyes. They pose a risk as carcinogens because of their potential for being contaminated. The FDA does regulate these kinds of dyes and they are subject to certification, but we still chose to exclude products containing them from this list.

They usually show up on ingredient lists with the letters FD&C followed by a color and number. In mascaras, specifically, we avoid carbon black, a coal tar dye that’s usually listed as D&C Black No. 2.

Safe Alternatives to Dyes

Thankfully, iron oxides and other mineral pigments present a safe alternative to coal tar dyes! They show up looking nearly as dark and intense on your lashes, and they don’t pose any risk. Brands like 100% Pure came up with an even more innovative solution, by turning tea extracts and fruits into dark pigments.

Harmful Preservatives

Preservatives are important in cosmetics because they keep bacteria and fungus from colonizing your favorite products. Without them, mascaras become highly dangerous products that can cause serious eye infections! However, many of the preservatives used in mainstream cosmetics may carry their own risks.

Parabens used to be the most common preservatives used in cosmetics. They show up on ingredient lists as propylparaben, methylparaben, and other words ending in -paraben. They are considered endocrine disruptors and have been tied specifically to breast cancer.

Formaldehyde-donors are another class of potentially carcinogenic preservatives. They kill contaminants by slowly releasing formaldehyde into a formula as they degrade. They show up on ingredient lists as quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, and DMDM hydantoin.

Safe Alternatives to Harmful Preservatives

Instead of parabens and formaldehyde-donors, we looked for new preservatives that are approved for use in natural cosmetics, like benzyl alcohol, sodium benzoate, and dehydroacetic acid. These types of preservatives don’t have any risks associated with them, so while they are synthesized in a lab, they have also been given the green light by certifying bodies like Ecocert.

Finally, there’s phenoxyethanol, which is one of the most common preservatives used in green cosmetics, even though it has been the subject of some mild controversy. It’s mostly associated with allergic reactions, as it’s slightly more likely to irritate the skin when compared to other preservatives. It can also cause issues to infants if ingested, but that’s not a risk we associate with mascara.

If you’d like a mascara that is specifically free of phenoxyethanol, Honest Beauty’s Extreme Length Mascara and Ilia’s Limitless Mascara are both fine, as are many other options on our list.

Phthalates

Phthalates are a group of ingredients that are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics. They are part of a category called “plasticizers.” They used to be common in mascaras because they helped other ingredients form a more flexible film over the lashes. Like parabens, they are also considered to be endocrine disruptors. While we don’t like seeing them in mascaras, they are particularly dangerous in plastic children’s toys.

Safe Alternatives to Phthalates

Beeswax and plant waxes are fantastic for creating an even coating over the lashes, so they’re almost always used in clean and natural mascaras.

Additionally, though they’re not necessarily natural, there are many safe polymers that act as excellent film formers around the lashes. They show up in the more water or oil-resistant formulas on our list, like the Pacifica Aquarian Gaze Mascara and the Thrive Causemetics Mascara.

Petroleum-Derived Compounds

When it comes to the skin, petroleum-derived compounds aren’t so bad. Back in the day, there was a risk that they’d be contaminated with carcinogenic compounds, but nowadays, anything used in cosmetics gets thoroughly purified. However, that doesn’t make them okay in natural cosmetics!

Mineral oil, paraffin, and petrolatum are all byproducts that come from the petrol industry, which is extremely destructive to the environment. Because of that, we made sure to avoid any so-called “natural” mascaras that included them.

Safe Alternatives to Petroleum

Thankfully, the natural world is filled with lovely alternatives to mineral oil and petrolatum that even have a nice, fortifying effect on the lashes. These include jojoba esters, which are used in the Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara and shea butter which is used in the Ilia Limitless Mascara.

Fragrances

Fragrances can cause a lot of issues in mascara. It’s estimated that between 1%-3% of the population is allergic to fragrances. This may not sound like much, but no other ingredient category is as likely to be allergenic!

An allergic reaction around the eyes can cause long-lasting issues including damage to the skin and to the eyes themselves. Even if you don’t have fragrance allergies, their presence in mascaras can still be bothersome to those around you.

Synthetic fragrances are especially problematic because they’re considered “trade secrets.” It’s impossible to know how many different compounds are hidden within one little word like “fragrance” or “parfum.” Brands can hide phthalates in their fragrance without having to disclose it to anyone!

All of the mascaras we’ve selected are free of synthetic fragrances, but some do include natural essential oils that may still not work for those with fragrance allergies. If you’d like a completely fragrance-free mascara, Honest Beauty and EVXO both have you covered.

There’s More to Know About Natural Mascaras

If you have a few more questions or concerns about natural mascara, have no fear! We’ve got them all covered in this section.

How Do You Apply Natural Mascara Flawlessly?

We’ve put together step-by-step instructions for applying natural mascara, along with some must-know tips that guarantee a clump-free, flawless look that’s unlikely to smudge!

  1. To ensure your mascara doesn’t smudge too easily, apply a light layer of setting powder around your eye to absorb facial oils.
  2. If you want, curl your lashes to give them a bit of a lift.
  3. Next, open your tube of mascara and have a look at the wand. If it’s totally covered in globs of mascara, you’re at serious risk of clumping!
  4. Wipe off the wand on the rim of your mascara tube to remove excess product. If it’s still too saturated, wipe it down gently with a clean tissue.
  5. You’re ready to start! While looking up, bringing the wand right up against the base of your lash line, from below.
  6. Pull the wand up towards the tips while also wiggling it from side to side. This wiggling while pulling motion guarantees separated lashes and maximum volume!
  7. Repeat this motion all along your lash line to cover all of your lashes.
  8. Let the mascara dry down partially–it should still be a little tacky. Then add more coats of mascara to increase both the volume and length.
  9. Be careful not to overdo the layers or you can end up with spidery lashes.
  10. Finally, apply a single coat of mascara to your bottom lashes, using the same wiggle and pull motion.
  11. If any mascara smudges on your eyelids, you can wipe it away with a cotton bud dipped in a bit of makeup remover or concealer!

Can Natural Mascara Damage Your Eyelashes?

Sadly, we know for a fact that mascara can damage the lashes. According to research, it’s the removal process, specifically, that is most damaging to the eyelashes, especially if you try to remove your mascara with water.

While no research has been done on natural mascara specifically, we can make an educated guess and assume that natural mascara is gentler on the lashes than traditional mascara. This is because natural mascaras are often made with beneficial oils and plant proteins that help to condition and fortify the lashes.

Additionally, natural mascaras are much easier to remove! Since they come off so easily, the removal process is going to be a lot less damaging to the lashes, with less pulling and rubbing. Just to be safe, we still recommend you use a proper makeup remover at the end of the day.

How Often Should Natural Mascara Be Replaced?

Natural mascaras should normally be replaced 3 months after they’ve been opened. In most cases, you can find out the exact amount of time by looking at the packaging of your mascara for the “period-after-opening” symbol.

The symbol looks like an open jar. It’ll be marked with “3M” if your mascara should be used within 3 months of opening, or “6M” if it can be used for up to 6 months from opening. The preservatives used in natural mascaras are often a little weaker than mainstream ones, so they should never be used beyond the expiration date!

How Do You Make Natural Mascara?

You don’t. With so many amazing natural mascaras made by professional chemists (including some very budget-friendly options like Avril Le Mascara), there is no reason why you should try to make your own.

On the other hand, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t try! Our eyes are incredibly sensitive and prone to infections. When you make cosmetics at home, you don’t have a way of guaranteeing a totally sterile environment, and chances are you don’t have access to the safe preservatives that natural beauty brands use.

Any mascara you make can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria. In the worst-case scenario, an eye infection induced by a homemade mascara can lead to blindness. Please leave cosmetic formulation to the professionals!

What Can You Use Instead of Mascara?

While natural mascaras can mitigate some risk of eyelash damage, it’s still good to give your eyes the occasional break from makeup! We have a couple of suggestions for days when you’d like to go makeup-free.

If you’d like your lashes to look a little longer, giving them a quick curl with an eyelash curler will immediately push them up and open up your eyes.

You can also  apply a thin coat of coconut oil or castor oil to your lashes with a clean spoolie. While the belief that these oils help with hair growth is not verified, they will certainly condition the lashes and give them a pretty sheen.

A Natural Conclusion

Long, lush lashes are possible even without those synthetic ingredients! These days, natural mascaras easily rival their traditional counterparts, offering the same intense length, volume, or separation. Even those who prefer a natural look will find an organic mascara to love! With natural mascara, you can bat those lashes with confidence, knowing that you’re doing something good for yourself and the environment.