Mascara is one of the number one beauty products used by women. But before you layer on the thick lashes, take a look at what may be lurking in your favorite mascara. How safe is your mascara?
Who doesn’t love having a set of long, lush lashes? Women all over the world agree that dramatic lashes can instantly turn boring into fabulous. And it is estimated that the average woman spends almost $4,000 on mascara in her lifetime.
Many of us don’t think twice before we put on our favorite mascara. We have been doing it since we can remember. It’s just part of what we do. It makes our eyes look brighter. Our eyes stand out more with our long, lush lashes. It makes us feel good to look good. And there is nothing wrong with that,
But what concerns me is what’s in our mascara. I already know that there is very little regulation of the beauty industry. The United States has not passed a law to regulate the ingredients (meaning chemicals) used in the beauty industry since 1938. Most of us weren’t even born in 1938. What’s up with that? Shouldn’t we be concerned about the chemicals we are putting on our bodies, especially around our eyes?
Because I love my mascara, I decided to do a bit of research. I decided to take a look at the ingredients in popular mascaras and see how they rate with the Environmental Working Group for safety. Here’s what I found:
8 Unsafe Ingredients to Avoid in Mascara
Parabens are harmful preservatives that are added to beauty products to increase their shelf life. Unfortunately, they not only keep bacteria from growing in our mascara, they also mimic the hormone estrogen and are known as endocrine disruptors. Yes, that means that the parabens in your mascara could be affecting your hormones. Parabens have also been linked to breast and skin cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in pregnancy.
Parabens are known irritants that cause rashes, swelling and redness. Ever wonder why your mascara makes your eyes itch? It’s the parabens irritating your eyes.
2. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is a petroleum derivative used in mascara. It is also a frequent food additive (as E1520) and is also found in deodorant sticks, toothpaste, mouthwash, tobacco products, and other industrial products such as anti-freeze and brake fluid. Brake fluid???
While the FDA considers propylene glycol “safe,” it has been linked to skin and respiratory issues. According to the Material Safety Data Sheet on propylene glycol, the chemical is a strong skin irritant, and has been implicated in contact dermatitis. The sheet goes on to warn that the ingredient can inhibit skin cell growth and damage cell membranes, causing rashes, dry skin, and surface damage. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates it as a moderate health risk for skin and lung irritation and has concerns regarding cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity, irritation and enhanced skin absorption, and organ system toxicity.
Propylene glycol also enhances absorption. That means that the other harmful chemicals in your products are more likely to penetrate the surface layer of the skin and go deeper, into the bloodstream.
3. Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A Acetate)
Many people think that because it is a vitamin, Retinyl acetate is safe to use. But the EWG classifies retinyl acetate as a high risk ingredient in cosmetics. It is known to cause biochemical or cellular changes and is linked to positive cancer mutations in studies. Canada has banned the use of retinyl acetate is the use of cosmetics.
4. Aluminum Powder
Aluminum Powder is a metallic substance composed of finely ground particles of aluminum and is used to give color to mascara. It is also a known neurotoxin and interferes with essential functions of our cells and bodily processes. Long term exposure to aluminum powder can impair the body’s ability to excrete heavy metals like mercury. This can result in making any amount of heavy metal exposure that is in the body even more toxic.
5. Coal Tar Dyes
Coal tar dyes are contain heavy metals and are used as colorants in mascara. Look for FD & C Blue no. 1 on the label. Also, you may find them listed as a five digit number that is preceded by a Cl. (includes D&C Blue 1, Green 3, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Red 33, etc.) They may also be labeled as Aminphenol, Diaminodenzene or Phenylenediamine. These dyes are considered carconogenic (cancer0causing), and the heavy metals can be toxic to the brain.
I am always wary of anything that say “fragrance.” Fragrances are trade secrets, and ingredients do not have to be revealed. Fragrances are mainly used to cover up the smell of other chemicals in the product, mainly coal tar dyes in mascara. Fragrances can be irritating to the eyes and skin. Other reactions can include dizziness, headaches, acne, and allergies. Fragrances are sometime listed as “parfums” in the ingredient list.
7. Formaldehyde Releasing Preservatives
Formaldehyde is a carcinogenic impurity released by a number of cosmetic preservatives. It is rated very hazardous by the EWG and is categorized as carcinogenic (cancer-causing.) It is also associated with contact dermatitis when used in cosmetics and beauty care products. It is often is labeled under different names such as DMDM, imidazolindyl urea, methenamine, diazuli dinyl urea, and quaternium-15 – just to name a few.
8. BHT and BHA
BHT and BHA are used as preservatives in mascara and are considered endocrine disruptors. Studies have linked BHA with cancer. They are both harmful to fish and other wildlife.
How to Choose a Safe Mascara
Basically you want to find a products that is safe and is not toxic. The best way to check the safety of your current mascara is to check out the EWG’s Skin Deep Database. You can type in your brand and see how it rates for safety. You can also search for individual ingredients in your mascara to see how safe it is.
If your favorite mascara rates between a 1 and 2, you know you have a good, safe brand. Ratings of 3 to 5 are considered so-so. You may consider switching to a safer brand when you run out. Anything above a 5 is considered unsafe and should probably be avoided.
I’m not one to fix something if it’s not broken. If you have a good brand that you love and it’s rated safe, stick with it. If your current brand is less than clean, you may want to consider trying a safer brand.
My Favorite Safe Mascaras
I have 2 mascaras that I can personally recommend. The first one is my current brand that I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE. It’s safe, and it works! The second one is the one that I used for years because it is rated safe and did the job. I tried so many “safe” brands and found it so hard to find one that actually performed like I wanted it to.
1. Lengthening Mascara from Beautycounter
This is my new mascara crush. The new Lengthening Mascara from Beautycounter is what I have been waiting for. It’s safe AND it works!! It has a really nice spiraled brush that makes application super easy. No clumping or mess. It has great lengthening power and was developed to be buildable so you can easily layer it to create the look that you want. I love that it has organic oils and shea butter to condition my lashes while I wear it. It stays on, does not flake off or smudge, and does not contain any of the harmful chemical above. Like I said, I’m in love! (available at beautycounter.com )
2. Ecco Bella FlowerColor Mascara
This was my go-to mascara for a couple of years. It has cool packaging with a built in mirror. It has a nice thick brush and the mascara has good lengthening power. I love that it comes off easily with coconut oil. It’s rated a 1 by the EWG, which is why I initially chose it. My only complaints would be that the formula is a bit thin and sometimes does smudge. (available on Amazon)
That was a lot, I know. I did the research so you don’t have to. You guys know that I’m passionate about safe skincare. Please share with your girlfriends who may want to know.
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photo credits: depositphots @ Ariwasabi and @ NinaMalyna