Mascara is one of those makeup products that even non-makeup wearers use.
Many people who go without foundation, blush and eye shadow often do stop to apply a quick coat of mascara for a bit of extra polish.
However, conventional mascara is full of chemicals, synthetic waxes, pigments, solvents, preservatives and fragrances.
These ingredients can cause allergic reactions and can be unsafe during pregnancy.
Natural alternatives are becoming increasingly popular among people who want to minimise their exposure to harmful chemicals, especially around the sensitive eye area.
Check out our 5 top picks for natural mascaras that are available in the UK below.
Best Natural Mascaras in the UK
1. Green People Volumising Mascara
The Green People Volumising Mascara is a certified organic mascara that does a good basic job of lengthening and defining lashes.
The results aren’t necessarily groundbreaking, but are ideal for achieving a natural daytime look.
It contains cellulose microspheres for enhanced volume, which is unusual for a natural mascara.
It comes in two colours including black and brown-black. The wand is fairly small, making it easy to apply on both top and bottom lashes.
The formula can clump up a bit especially when applying multiple coats, so it works better for a minimal look or for people who don’t mind taking the time to apply multiple coats with extra care to avoid clumping.
98% of the ingredients are ECOCERT natural, with 15.4% organic ingredients.
Beeswax is one of the main ingredients in this formula, so it isn’t a vegan product although the Green People brand is certified cruelty free by PETA.
Green People is a British brand that was founded in the 1990s when Charlotte Vøhtz’s mother was unable to find gentle, natural products to use on her daughter’s eczema.
The company was also directly involved with developing the Soil Association’s organic certification standards and regulations for natural and organic beauty products.
Over the years, Green People has become an award-winning brand with products containing over 90% natural and organic products.
Their products are Soil Association certified organic, certified cruelty-free, 0% plastic inside the products and ECOCERT natural.
2. Odylique Mascara
Odylique means “power of nature” and their mascara is a fantastic example of this philosophy.
It contains 100% natural ingredients, including 88% certified organic ingredients and high-quality minerals free from lead, mercury or other heavy metals. In fact, this is the first mascara certified organic according to Soil Association standards.
Again, it is not a vegan product as it contains beeswax, although it is certified cruelty-free by the PETA Beauty Without Bunnies campaign.
The ingredients list for this mascara is short and simple, making it a good option for anyone looking for the most natural products available. The formula applies smoothly, without clumping and gives nice definition to the lashes.
Like most natural mascaras, volume isn’t Odylique’s strong point, as it doesn’t contain the plastic fibres present in conventional volumising mascaras.
It can be built up in several coats however, without the usual clumping. It’s also easy to remove while staying reasonably smudge resistant during wear.
This mascara comes in brown and black options.
While suitable for sensitive eyes in most cases, alcohol is the second most prominent ingredient, so it could cause eyes to water in some cases.
A British family business, Odylique makes all of its products in small batches in East Anglia. Every single one of their products are certified by the Soil Association, and many are also fair trade certified.
Their packaging is also manufactured in the EU to recyclable standards, making this a good option for anyone looking to reduce their plastic waste.
3. Dizao Organics 95% Organic Moisturizing Black Mascara
Dizao Organics mascara is a 100% natural mascara with 95% organic ingredients as certified by the USDA.
This isn’t actually a mineral mascara, but the pigment actually comes from organic coffee bean extract for an unusual twist and deep black colour.
Other major ingredients include beeswax (hence it isn’t a vegan product), rice extract and carnauba wax.
In fact, all of Dizao’s products are formulated with carnauba wax, a substance obtained from the leaves of the Brazilian palm tree.
Unfortunately, this mascara also contains shellac. Shellac is refined from resinous beetle secretions, making it a natural product, however it is quite harsh.
EU regulation currently allows shellac in cosmetics products, while the FDA has determined that a concentration of 6% shellac is safe in food and cosmetics.
Nevertheless, it is an allergen that can cause dermatitis upon contact with skin so isn’t ideal for people with sensitive skin and eyes.
Dizao Organics isn’t a particularly transparent company; they provide little information regarding their background and organic certification. Their mascara is made in the USA although their research is done in Italy.
This mascara is a good budget option as the price is quite a bit lower than many of its competitors on the natural makeup scene.
4. Lily Lolo Natural Mascara
A genuine favourite on the natural beauty scene, the Lily Lolo Natural Mascara is one of the most popular natural mascaras on the market right now.
This is a vegan formula that is also BUAV certified cruelty free, with the leaping bunny logo.
This mascara dries quickly and is fairly resistant to clumping. The wand is made with densely packed synthetic bristles, allowing you to quickly apply a lot of product.
Lashes are defined, lengthened and volumised by this mascara, although it can flake quite a bit under the eyes during wear.
Flakes are easily removed, as long as you don’t forget to look in the mirror every once in a while. This formula is available in the colour black only.
The ingredients list isn’t as pure as some other options, but it is reasonable.
This mascara doesn’t contain any alcohol and it has undergone ophthalmologic testing to ensure it’s suitable for sensitive eyes.
People with extremely sensitive eyes may want to choose a simpler formula, however.
Lily Lolo makeup products are widely available in most regions worldwide, including the UK and with a mid-range price point, this mascara is a great option for vegans looking to check out a cult classic.
5. RMS Beauty Volumising Mascara
The RMS Beauty Volumising Mascara is a beeswax based product that is pigmented with iron oxides.
It has a relatively wet formula that is prone to smudging underneath the eye, however it does condition and moisturise the lashes.
The wand is smaller than average, with a narrow synthetic bristle brush that is easy to control. The small brush is good for the lower lashes in particular, but doesn’t necessarily add outstanding volume or definition to the upper lashes, but rather gives a very natural effect.
For a mid to high range price, the RMS Beauty mascara does a reasonable and gentle job. The packaging is sleek and simple, as with all RMS products.
The formula is vegetarian friendly and RMS does not test their product on animals, although they have yet to achieve cruelty-free certification.
RMS Beauty is the creation of Rose-Marie Swift, make-up artist for Victoria’s Secret and a range of celebrities. Swift developed the line after experiencing health problems after years of exposure to the toxins in conventional cosmetics.
The products in the RMS range have become some of the most sought-after natural beauty products around, although their mascara may not be one of their stand-out products.
Natural or Organic?
Virtually no natural makeup product can ever be classified as 100% organic, even if it is completely natural.
Most natural makeup these days is mineral based, with pigments coming from micas, oxides and other minerals mined from the earth.
While these are indeed natural substances, they are not “living” and therefore can’t qualify for organic certification.
The best natural makeup companies are transparent in their ingredients and state what proportion of their ingredients are “organic” versus just “natural.”
Typically, “organic” mascaras contain a mix of organic, natural and possibly some synthetic substances in varying quantities.
Choosing Natural Mascara
Caution should still be taken when choosing natural mascara, as natural ingredients aren’t always safe or gentle.
Alcohol, shellac, natural or synthetic essential oil compounds (such as geraniol, linalool etc), preservatives and even mineral pigments can be irritating to the eye or even contaminated with other substances.
If you’re new to the natural beauty world, be aware that natural mascaras rarely have the staying power or dramatic effect of conventional mascaras.
Natural mascaras simply lack the ingredients needed to make a waterproof or ultra long-lasting formula.
Many conventional volumising mascaras contain tiny plastic fibres to bulk out the look of your eyelashes.
Nevertheless, there are some great mascraras on the market that are not only better for your eyes and body, but look great, too.
Ingredients to Avoid in Mascara
Even the better-known regular mascara brands can contain a range of potentially harmful ingredients which could be absorbed through your skin and create a range of health issues. These can range from skin irritation, asthma, endocrine disruption, birth defects and headaches, right the way through to increasing your risk of developing certain cancers.
Here are the worst of the ingredients to look out for:
Mascaras are breeding grounds for bacteria so often parabens are added to help extend shelf life and stop the growth of bacteria, fungus and other microbes.
Parabens is actually a group of chemicals which includes butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben and they are what we call ‘xenoestrogens’.
These are chemicals which mimic natural oestrogen in your body and can cause imbalances and health issues for your entire body including endocrine disruption, hormone imbalances and increase the risk of breast cancer and early puberty.
Although some phthalates are banned in the EU, they’re still used in US cosmetics which can often find their way over here.
This anti-androgen chemical can disrupt your natural hormone balance, cause early puberty, cause birth defects and deformities, and damage your liver, lungs, kidneys and reproductive system. If you’re pregnant, you should most definitely steer well clear.
3. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals
Although formaldehyde is banned from cosmetics in the EU, it’s still used in some US cosmetics.
Because it’s technically a gas, it can also be formed and released when certain chemicals come together in a product. A known carcinogen, it has been shown to cause skin irritation, gastrointestinal issues and liver toxicity issues too.
This mercury-based preservative and antiseptic is used in mascara even though it has been shown to damage brain function, especially for those with young and developing brains. If you’re pregnant you should definitely steer well clear.
5. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
As well as being quite a nasty skin irritant studies have suggested that it could also contribute to cancer due to the way it affects your body’s ability to react to toxins.
6. Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A Acetate)
A common acne treatment and moisturiser, this synthetic vitamin A has been shown to cause biochemical or cellular level changes and can cause problems for almost all the organ systems in your body.
That’s why it’s been banned in UK cosmetics. Like many of the others on this list, this is not the case for the US where you can still find this toxic ingredient in your mascara.
The word ‘fragrance’ might sound innocent enough, but it’s actually an umbrella term that can cover a range of chemicals, including several which have been shown to be carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting.
There’s no legal requirement for cosmetics manufacturers to label the exact chemicals used on their products, so whenever you see this word, be suspicious.
There’s a huge number of potentially toxic colourants which could have been used in your mascara.
- Aluminium powder- a potential neurotoxin that can impair your body’s ability to excrete mercury so compounds its dangers.
- Carbon black– a powder pigment that helps your lashes look thick and full. Also a potential carcinogen.
- Coal tar- often labelled as aminophenol, diaminodenzene or phenylenediamine, this can cause severe allergic reactions, headaches, asthma, nausea, fatigue and lack of concentration. It has also been linked with various cancers including lung cancer, kidney cancer and bladder cancer. It’s banned from use in cosmetics in the EU.
9. Triethanolamine (TEA)
Used as an emulsifier and pH adjuster in mascaras, TEA is considered to be a potential carcinogen, could cause cancer, cause skin irritation and potentially cause harm to various organs of the body.
If we had to pick just one of these natural mascaras to recommend it would be Green People’s Volumising Mascara as it works well, is made from 98% natural ingredients and is free from all of the harmful chemicals listed above.
Every day, more people are becoming wary of conventional cosmetic products and turning toward natural and organic products.
Mascara is one product where the natural versions will never really be able to perform the same as the conventional product in terms of staying power, volume or curl.
However, the eyes are a very sensitive area that is easily irritated, so it’s particularly important to choose a safe product.
There are a range of natural mascaras that look good and perform reasonably well and while it can take a lot of trial and error to find a natural mascara that suits you, it’s well worth the effort to find a safe product that you can feel good about wearing.