Mascara is one of the most popular types of makeup, yet its formulation can be ambiguous. For those who are concerned about sustainable and ethical makeup, it’s important to know: is mascara vegan?
Some mascaras are vegan and some aren’t. Their formulas vary depending on the company that makes them, and any number of ingredients can fill the roles of the basic composition.
Read on to gain an understanding of what mascara is composed of, what ingredients are animal-derived, and what alternative options you have when looking for a product.
What Is Mascara Composed Of?
No matter what, all mascara formulas are composed of a few common ingredients. Fundamentally, they are a combination of waxes and oils that provide pigment, but things get a little more complicated. The full story is that mascara is made of water, waxes, oils, emulsifiers, polymers, thickeners, fillers, and preservatives. This may seem like a lot of components, but they all serve a distinct purpose in enabling mascara to enhance your lashes. However, not all mascara formulas are the same. Even with these common components, the ingredients that are put to work can vary.
The most common ingredient in commercial mascara are parabens, a form of preservative that prevents the growth of bacteria within mascara. Brands such as L’Oreal, Cover Girl, Clinique, Maybalene, Revlone, and Lancome all use them in their formulas.
While parabens themselves are not known to be dangerous, there are a couple other ingredients you should watch out for, regardless of if you’re looking for a vegan formula. Aluminum powder is one of them: it works as a cosmetic colorant. Watch out for this ingredient, since it is considered to be a neurotoxin.
Lastly, we have propylene glycol, which has been deemed safe by the FDA. However, it has been known to cause skin irritation.
What Mascara Ingredients Are Animal-Derived?
Now that you know what mascara is made of and what common ingredients you should steer clear of, it’s time to look at what ingredients come from animals.
Guanine, or pearl essence, is derived from fish scales. Its purpose is to add a sheen to mascara, and is also used in nail polish. Next we have beeswax or honeycomb, sometimes listed as “cera alba” or “cera flava”. These ingredients are responsible for preventing separation and keeping your mascara smooth. There is some debate about whether or not bee products are vegan, but regardless, there are plenty of alternatives, such as paraffin, vegetable oils, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax.
Also watch out for panthenol, which is a B5 provitamin. It can also be listed as dexpanthenol, d-pantothenyl alcohol, butanamide, and more. It’s derived from meat or honey, and used as an emollient to make your lashes shiny. Collagen is the last common non-vegan ingredient used in mascara formulations. It can be vegetable derived, but is still often taking from the connective tissue of animals. It’s meant to make your lashes thicker, and can also be listed as hydrolysed collagen.
Best Vegan Mascaras
If you’re looking for a good vegan mascara, we’ve got you covered. The cosmetics industry listens to consumer concerns, and has a lot of great options for ethical products to choose from. Check out Too Faced’s Better Than Sex Mascara — it’s a cult favorite that promises thickening, lengthening, and curl, all while being vegan and cruelty free. Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara is another best seller, giving you volume and natural looking definition, all in good conscience. Last but not least comes the Super Fan Mascara by Smashbox: it has an intensely black formula and adds definition, sans clumping or flaking.
You don’t have to sacrifice high-quality makeup to ensure you’re buying ethical and vegan products! While it may seem difficult to find a mascara that fits the bill, a little bit of knowledge and research goes a long way. You’d be surprised to see how common it is for mainstream brands to formulate their makeup in a way that keeps animal wellbeing and the environment in mind!