We’re living in the golden age of green beauty, in which 49 percent of women say buying all-natural makeup is important to them, according to a Harris Poll. Yet if I were to draw a Venn diagram of mascara enthusiasts (almost 90 percent of makeup wearers) and clean-beauty devotees, it would show almost no overlap. People do not love natural mascaras. Even the most virtuous eco-consumers cheat.
That’s because, historically, natural mascaras sucked. Yeah, I said it.
First-gen natural mascaras (est. early 2000s), on the whole, weren’t inky enough, and “formulas were either too wet, which weighs lashes down, or too dry, which crumbles off and falls onto your cheeks,” says Katey Denno, one of Hollywood’s most outspoken green-makeup artists. Why? The formulas were “made up of natural oils, waxes, and pigments,” explains NYC cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. But the natural oils didn’t disperse pigments very well (which explains the muted colors). And without something known as film formers—for which there have been no true natural analogues—there’s nothing to seal mascara onto lashes and provide water resistance.
At the time, green makeup was considered a fad. But once companies saw women were demanding these products, suppliers got on board, and then the impossible happened: Someone finally created a green mascara that was actually, truly good. Launched in 2008, Physicians Formula Organic Wear Mascara ($10, amazon.com) was the first organic formula on the U.S. mass market, and it won accolades from makeup pros (including Denno) and beauty editors.
The benchmark was set, and since then, clean cosmetic chemists have pushed formulas further, making them even more sophisticated. For one, there are now a few ways to circumvent those film formers, like using natural alternatives such as pullulan, a polysaccharide made from fermented yeast that dissolves in water. It’s not as powerful as the synthetic stuff, but it can still outlast a sad-movie cry-athon.
Chemists are also tweaking the ratios of plant-based waxes and oils to find the most long-wearing combinations. Too much hard wax causes flakes; too much oil creates smudges (the right mix disperses the mineral-based pigments better, too, which is how the dull-hues problem was solved). Some companies also add plant-based starches like tapioca or corn to aid in absorbing natural oils. These swell up around the lashes, which makes them look thicker and helps the formula stay put longer.
(Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight and look younger with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)
Most green mascara formulas aren’t entirely all-natural, though—they’re a combo of natural and naturally derived ingredients (the latter require a chemical reaction to extract an essence). And some eco brands do use select synthetics—for health purposes. All beauty products containing water require preservatives to prevent harmful bacteria growth, particularly natural products loaded with “nutrient-dense sugars and gums,” says Wilson. “That’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for microbials.” There are natural extracts with antibacterial properties, like fermented radish or cellulose—which some brands use—but they’re still newish and not as proven as synthetics to thwart bacteria. That said, I’m going with whichever one takes my lashes to their fullest potential—and, thankfully, I can now choose from more than just one.
A few new greenies stand up to any traditional tube. The best:
This natural mascara option is free from synthetics and creates a fluttery, you-but-better look. No film formers, so dust translucent powder on top for staying power.
Learn how to apply and remove false eyelashes like a pro:
Burt’s Bees isn’t just for your lips anymore. Their new mascara also contains no synthetic ingredients. It defines with plant-based waxes and prevents flakes with pullulan.
If you have sensitive eyes, this option is your new best friend: no petrochemicals, but a dash of the anti-inflammatory herb eyebright, used in homeopathy to treat eye irritation. (Depuff and brighten your eyes naturally with Bio Correct Under Eye Concealer from the Women’s Health Boutique.)
Natural mascaras can even be volumizing. This one plumps minus clumps by coating each hair with carnauba and candelilla waxes. Plus: 98 percent natural!
Want something waterproof? This one is made of 98 percent naturally derived ingredients and deposits a shiny black that withstood a sweaty yoga class and a therapy session.
Juice Beauty’s mascara contains 63 percent organic ingredients. The rose, argan, and purple carrot dyes make your lashes inky as hell.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Women’s Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!
Source: Women’s Health Mag