Is Mascara Toxic


Mascara is the staple of makeup routines. In fact, it’s the second most used cosmetic in the United States (not too far behind lipstick). It’s estimated that makeup users will spend up to 4,000 USD in their lifetime on mascara. Because mascara is a no-brainer when it comes to the average makeup routine you probably haven’t thought twice about what exactly hides within the ingredients of mascara. However, when you think about it in order to really take mascara off you need makeup remover. Not to mention the United States has not passed a law to regulate the ingredients (meaning chemicals) used in the beauty industry since 1938. All of these factors can only make one wonder, what exactly hides in mascara. 


History of ingredients in mascara:

Mascara has historically been used to enhance eyelashes. Whether it is to darken, define, thicken or even lengthen lashes, mascara ingredients tend to include the same components of oils, pigments, waxes, and preservatives. In the 1930s mascara was primarily made of a mix of petroleum jelly and coal and there were no regulations of cosmetics at the time. However, after the Lash Lure incident of 1933 where a woman who consented to have her lashes permanently dyed with the product and became blind the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act was put into place by the FDA to start to regulate ingredients in cosmetics. With that being said, there haven’t been any major alterations to the regulations of cosmetics since 1938, and since then there have been thousands of chemicals that have hit the market.  Right now mascara does not have to be approved by the FDA unless the manufacturer has said there are color additives within the ingredient composition. In addition, if you were to read an ingredient content online for a mascara from a supplier such as Sephora, you will see underneath a statement that says “Please be aware that ingredient lists may change or vary from time to time. ”


Ingredients to avoid in Mascara: 

Since it’s difficult to keep up with different formulas of mascara and its ingredient contents here are some ingredients that are toxic to your health and you should look out for:

Coal Tar Dyes

Coal tar dyes contain heavy metals and give coloring mascara. When looking at the label, look for FD & C Blue no. 1. They may be 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 might be labeled as well as Aminphenol, Diaminodenzene or Phenylenediamine.  These dyes are considered carcinogenic not to mention heavy metals can be toxic to the brain.

Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, and Propylparaben (AKA Parabens)

Parabens are frequently used as preservatives. This means that they are added to makeup to prevent the growth of microbes, fungi, and bacteria in order to extend shelf life. These chemicals are absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the tiny pores around your eyes (gross)

Parabens have been linked to causing breast cancer by mimicking estrogen and causing endocrine disruption. They have also been linked to reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and skin irritation.


Formaldehyde is another preservative used in mascara and is a well-known carcinogen. The mascara label may not explicitly include formaldehyde however the combination of chemicals such Bronopol and Quaternium-15 work together to form formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.

Not only is it a carcinogen, but formaldehyde is also a skin irritant and linked to liver toxicity. And naturally, it can cause severe allergic rashes. 

Aluminum Powder 

Aluminum powder is a colorant for mascara. It’s ground-up metallic and a known neurotoxin. Due to its neurotoxin status, excess use of it can result in the body losing its ability to excrete mercury.

Bht and Bha

BHT and BHA are more preservatives used in mascara. Both are considered endocrine disruptors however BHA has been linked with multiple forms of cancer.


Thirmerosal is frequently used as a preservative and antiseptic to prevent bacterial and viral growth. It has been banned from being used in vaccines but is still used in cosmetics to prolong shelf lives. It is known to damage brain function due to its heavy mercury content.

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