Mascara is a mainstay in nearly everyone’s beauty routine, but because it is applied so close to our eyes, it is smart to be careful and informed. One area of mascara’s safety is ambiguous: is mascara flammable?
There is very little direct research about the flammability of mascara as a finished product. However, a deep dive into common mascara ingredients indicates that it is in fact flammable, and should be worn with caution particularly near open flames, such as those found in a kitchen.
Keep reading to learn about what exactly mascara is made of, as well as flammability potential of these key ingredients.
Why Would Mascara Be Flammable?
It may seem strange that mascara could be flammable, but it’s really quite simple. Mascara, no matter its formula, is made of a number of key components: water, waxes, oils, emulsifiers, polymers, thickeners, fillers, and preservatives. Many of these ingredient categories have the potential to be flammable, and some specific ingredients certainly are.
Many common emulsifiers, responsible for blending water and oil in your cosmetics, are also highly flammable. This is true for oleic acid and variations of alcohol, including cetyl alcohol, myristyl alcohol, and stearyl alcohol.
One of the biggest culprits? Polybutene, which acts as a binder in your mascara. Polybutene is classified as “highly flammable: will be easily ignited by heat, sparks, or flames”. Yikes!
The Flammability of Mascara In Simpler Terms
The information covered thus far has been very technical in nature, so what’s the baseline reality of mascara’s flammability?
Mascara is flammable because its ingredients are flammable. While the specific ingredients vary, there are some main players like the ones listed above. Even if these exact chemicals aren’t listed as an ingredient, you can be pretty sure that a similar ingredient with similar properties has been included. Not to mention, the wax and oil components of mascara are a no-brainer in the realm of things that can catch on fire.
A BBC investigation uncovered some sobering research. They found that a number of deaths in England (due to fires) were linked to the use of skin care formulas that included paraffin. While their study was focused on cream, we already know that paraffin is widely used in mascara formulations. It gets worse: if the product is transferred to bedding or clothing, the paraffin can soak into the fabric, increasing the risk of flammability even when you are not wearing it.
Last Thoughts On Mascara’s Flammability
While mascara is at risk of catching fire and causing severe injury to its wearer, there is some consolation! It is highly unlikely that an average circumstance will cause your lashes to catch fire, and certainly not because of the cosmetic itself. High-risk situations will ideally be accompanied by proper protective equipment, including flame retardant clothing and safety goggles.
The risks of mascara are actually not linked directly to its flammability, but rather other characteristics of the ingredients used. Most are synthetic and can be irritating to those with sensitive eyes, or less than ideal for growing strong, healthy lashes. There are plenty of nourishing, all-natural, and ethical options to choose from.
Above all, exercise caution when near flames, and keep cosmetics away from any flammable materials. Remember, the packaging is often flammable as well, so leaving a tube of mascara could spell disaster. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!