3 Dangerous Ingredients Lurking In Most Mascaras — And 3 Healthy Ones to Look For

If you were to ask a handful of makeup wearers which product would be the only one they’d take to a desert island, we’re confident that (after toothpaste and sunscreen!) mascara would be the most common answer. It’s easy to understand why — a good mascara opens up the eyes, makes the wearer look more awake, and adds subtle definition. For those with baby-fine or blonde lashes, mascara can completely transform their look. 

Yet when selecting a mascara, we tend to only consider benefits like volume vs. lengthening, or how long the formula lasts. But the most important aspect to consider are the ingredients.The alarming truth is that many mascaras on the market contain hazardous ingredients, even ingredients that are shown to be damaging to one’s health. In the United States, only 11 ingredients have been banned from use in beauty formulations by the FDA. Conversely, the European Union has banned over 1,300 ingredients, taking the perspective that the benefits simply don’t outweigh the risks.

When formulating our eye-friendly beauty products, we take the same approach — we only get one set of eyes, so why bother creating treatments that are potentially damaging, especially when there are so many good-for-you ingredients out there? Twenty/twenty beauty’s new Clean Sweep Mascara only contains ingredients that are safe for your ocular health to support — never disrupt — the delicate ecosystem of the eye. The ophthalmologist-tested formula is also long-wearing, natural-looking, and doesn’t flake. Like the entirety of the line, this mascara is vegan, cruelty-free, and does not contain any potential carcinogens or hormone disruptors.

To get a better sense of the danger lurking in most mascara tubes, keep reading. Here, we’ve outlined three ingredients that are in many mascara formulas you’ll find at your local drugstore or beauty retailer — or even in your own makeup bag — as well as the three star ingredients of our Clean Sweep Mascara ($28). Don’t be surprised if these frightening facts urge you to make the switch!

Dangerous Mascara Ingredient #1: Coal Tar and Carbon Black

Coal tar dyes have long been used to give mascara a rich, black tint, but they’re exactly what they sound like — derivatives of coal. We already know from years of research that breathing in coal dust causes cancer; coal tar has also been shown to be carcinogenic when applied to the skin. When combing through ingredient lists, look for coal tar dyes disguised as FD & C Blue no. 1, or for carbon black, which is another byproduct of coal used to create an inky black effect, and can be hidden under the names Black 2 or D&C Black 2, acetylene black, thermal black, and more. We never use these ingredients.

Dangerous Mascara Ingredient #2: Allergenic Waxes

Allergies to beeswax and carnauba wax are very challenging for those suffering. Many beauty products use these ingredients, including mascara: Beeswax is used to help to shape the lashes and condition them without creating any clumping or smearing, while carnauba wax creates a dry finish, preventing any sticky feel.

If you’ve experienced seasonal allergies, you have a basic understanding of the sensation caused by an allergic reaction to beeswax or carnauba wax, but on a more minor scale. When allergens are applied directly to the eye area, the effects can be redness, itching, tearing, discomfort, and inflammation severe enough to negatively affect one’s vision. Many people also have an allergy to carnauba wax and do not know it — and anyone who gets pollen seasonal allergies is at risk of an allergy to beeswax. These allergies are one factor that can make it impossible for makeup wearers to tolerate certain brands of mascara. Our formula does not use either of these ingredients. 

Dangerous Mascara Ingredient #3: Parabens

Parabens are used as preservatives in all types of beauty and personal care products, including mascara. While preservatives are important — they prevent microbe growth — parabens have been linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive and neurological toxicity, and skin irritation.  We do not use parabens in any of our products. 

Good-For-You Ingredient In twenty/twenty beauty Clean Sweep Mascara #1: Biotin

Biotin, also known as vitamin B7, promotes the synthesis of keratin, a protein that makes up 91 percent of our hair. We included biotin in Clean Sweep to help strengthen lashes with every swipe.

Good-For-You Ingredient In twenty/twenty beauty Clean Sweep Mascara #2: Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is an ingredient naturally found in our own bodies; this sugar molecule can attract and hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water to help hydrate. By drawing water into the lashes with hyaluronic acid, Clean Sweep promotes healthier, softer lashes.

Good-For-You Ingredient In twenty/twenty beauty Clean Sweep Mascara #3: Vitamin E

In addition to staving off damage caused by environmental pollution, vitamin E is extremely nourishing. When paired with hyaluronic acid, it can help seal moisture into the lashes, working to condition them. With regular use, Clean Sweep can help lashes become less brittle and more lustrous over time. 


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