We're living in the golden age of green beauty. But if you 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 just do not love natural mascaras.
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.
The older formulas were "made up of natural oils, waxes, and pigments," says Ni'Kita Wilson, an NYC-based cosmetic chemist. 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 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. 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.
Watch a celeb makeup artist demo an all-natural makeup look:
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. That said, you can find whichever one takes your lashes to their fullest potential—and, thankfully, you can now choose from more than just one. Here are the six best natural mascaras.
1. Best Natural Mascara For Sensitive Eyes: Pür Triple Threat Slimline Mascara
This almond oil-based mascara helps to condition your lashes without irritating sensitive eyes. For a naturally glossy look, wiggle the skinny brush from the root of your lashes to the tips to achieve length and definition without clumps.
2. Best Lengthening Natural Mascara: Kjaer Weis Lenghthening Mascara
These short brush bristles allow you to get realistic length minus pesky flakes and smudges. Even better? It's in sustainable packaging: After three months (when the natural formula expires after opening), you can purchase a refill compact for a fraction of the cost.
3. Best Waterproof Natural Mascara: Ere Perez Avocado Waterproof Mascara
If you want a mascara to last from your early mornings in the office through after-work yoga, then consider this clump-free, waterproof formula. The combination of avocado and mamey oils helps strengthen your lashes and stimulate growth, which means you don't need to worry about the dreaded crispy eyelashes you may experience with traditional waterproof mascaras.
4. Best Primer-Natural Mascara Combo: Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
Give your mascara some extra grip and start with the white primer that dries clear. Then followup with the conical shaped, plastic bristle brush to layer the rich, black mascara on top. Add one to two more coats for more drama and length without spider lashes.
5. Best Defining Natural Mascara: W3ll People Expressionist Mascara
The rubber brush bristles on the brush help to separate lashes as you apply to creates a fluttery, you-but-better lash look. It doesn't contain any film formers, so dust translucent powder on top for added staying power.
6. Best Lash-Care Natural Mascara: Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara
Burt's Bees isn't just for your lips anymore. Introducing the brand's nourishing mascara, which is packed with jojoba oil and glycerin to keep your lashes moisturized and healthy. It contains zero synthetic ingredients and uses pullulan to prevents flakes.
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