Many ladies like to enhance their facial features by applying make-up—cosmetics sales are a global $500 billion a year industry.
The primary concerns with using commercial cosmetics are that many of their ingredients are mildly to seriously toxic and there are ethical issues surrounding the use of animals for testing.
A staple in the make-up toolbox is mascara.
An additional consideration with mascara in particular is that the tube, applicator, and plastic packaging aren’t readily recyclable and will end up in the landfill.
Ophthalmologists recommend tossing mascara after 3 months of use to prevent bacterial and fungal infections. That’s a lot of plastic from a lot of ladies in a lot of places worldwide.
Because mascara isn’t applied to skin, the Environmental Working Group rates toxicity risk as low for the vast majority of mascaras, although it must be said that there are limited data available for most of the products they score. (1)
There are, however, common mascara ingredients that you may not want around your precious and sensitive eyes for 2 reasons:
- mascara is applied to eyelashes but it can flake and smear, coming into direct contact with your eyes and surrounding skin; and
- what you throw away is harmful to wherever it ends up.
Common Mascara Ingredients to Avoid
Aluminum Powder – aluminum is a neurotoxin and the incidence of toxicity is becoming more prevalent due to its increase in the environment. In healthy people, most aluminum passes through the body as waste by binding to other substances and doesn’t accumulate.
If any underlying condition exists, however, the substances to which aluminum normally attaches in the body decrease and aluminum gets stuck inside.
Long-term exposure to aluminum affects the body’s ability to excrete mercury as well, another known neurotoxin. Heavy metals are a known cause of neurodegenerative disease like multiple sclerosis. (2)
“Aluminum is absorbed from the GI tract in the form of oral phosphate-binding agents (aluminum hydroxide), parenterally via immunizations, via dialysate on patients on dialysis or total parenteral nutrition (TPN) contamination, via the urinary mucosa through bladder irrigation, and transdermally…If a significant aluminum load exceeds the body’s excretory capacity, the excess is deposited in various tissues, including bone, brain, liver, heart, spleen, and muscle. This accumulation causes morbidity and mortality through various mechanisms.” (3)
Parabens – endocrine disruptors known to contribute to the development of breast cancer.
Propylene Glycol – a chemical also used as antifreeze in your car. Can cause severe irritation and allergic reaction when it comes into contact with the skin. Blisters can form and spread to areas around the body. We wouldn’t want blisters on our eyelids.
Retinal Acetate/Vitamin A Acetate – vitamin A is good for eyes, right? In the case of this synthetic form, no. Can cause biochemical or cellular-level changes and organ toxicity. (4)
Non-toxic Natural Mascara
Like most items you can buy in a store, you can make mascara at home using 4 non-toxic ingredients that will always be fresh and chemical-free. If you use mascara every day, this recipe will last you about 2 weeks.
- 1/2 teaspoon organic fragrance-free soap, finely grated
- 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal
- 3 drops almond oil (can substitute coconut, olive, or castor oil)
- 1/8 teaspoon purified water
- Place finely grated soap into a heatproof dish (lead-free ceramic, stainless steel, or glass) and warm at low heat on the stove.
- As the soap melts, add the water and stir with a wooden skewer (if you use a spoon, a bunch of the mascara will stick to it), then add charcoal and oil. Mix together until well blended.
- Pour into a glass, stone, or ceramic container and allow to set. Store in a cool, dark, dry place.
Wet a clean mascara wand with a drop of water. Rub across the mascara and apply to your lashes. The mascara dries quickly and won’t flake. For fuller lashes, apply 2 light coats, allowing the first coat to dry before adding the second.
Gently wipe off with a warm, wet washcloth.
As an alternative to this natural mascara, you can try using castor oil on a regular basis to thicken eyelashes, alleviating the need to apply any enhancement.