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9 Mascara Ingredients to Avoid

9 Mascara Ingredients to Avoid

When was the last time that you read the ingredients on the box your mascara came in? Or of any of your makeup products? Now, if you’re beauty-obsessed that could be a completely normal pastime of yours and for that, we salute you. However, the vast majority of us have never been taught to read the ingredients list in our mascara the way we have been socialized to count carbs, calories, and fat contents. This is ironic considering an eye infection could be more deadly than the extra saturated fat in our diets, but who is counting, right?


The truth is that with wearing makeup comes the responsibility of understanding where it comes from and what risks it could have on our health. We wish that organizations producing it felt more of a responsibility to make it safer for consumers, but until that day comes, it is important for us to provide guidance about what to avoid.

There are nine ingredients that are surprisingly common in mascara that could be dangerous to your overall health. The good news is that beauty brands are getting on the healthy bandwagon more and more. But still, before you pick up a tube of mascara at your local Sephora it’s worth reading that label and, yes, we realize the type font can very, very small so swing by the website of your favorite brand (most brands list the ingredients on their website, except Chanel– couldn’t find it anywhere on their website).

So here’s our recommendation of ingredients to avoid:

1.  Benzalkonium chloride

Benzalonium chloride, commonly referred to as BAK, is a preservative commonly used in mascara to help it last longer. You are far better off purchasing mascara with a shorter lifespan without BAK because it has toxic side effects. BAK can impact the functioning of our cells that promote oxygen distribution as well as tear functioning of the eyes.

2.  BHA

BHA is another common preservative that has links to cancer. BHA disrupts the chemical process that our hormones go through that allow us to best function.  BHA causes the growth of tumors, birth defects, and developmental disorders. Not only are they harmful to us but when animals interact with BHA they are equally as harmed. So, if mascara containing BHA are not properly thrown out and animals have access to them they are at risk also. Keep your eyes and your pets safe by avoiding any product containing BHA.

3. Carbon Black

Carbon Black is used in mascara to provide its dark pigment. This too has been linked to cancer and toxic outcomes for our organs.

4. Ethanolamines

Ethanolamines are emulsifiers that keep the products perfectly formed. While they might be great for texture of the product, they are not great for our body. They too can be cancer causing.

5. Formaldehyde

Many of us interacted with formaldehyde in our high school biology courses because it kept the cadavers in good quality. Can you imagine that also being in your makeup? Well, it is. Even worse, it’s in our mascara that goes near our eyes.  Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative. It often causes allergic reactions and can be cancer causing.

6. Fragrance

If you are choosing makeup by its scent you may think again. Fragrances are used for making mascara smell less chemical-like. They can cause irritation, dizziness, headaches, acne, and allergies. All of which nobody wants to deal with. You might consider appreciating your natural scent and skipping the risks.

7.  Parabens

While we have discussed parabens at length in this article, it is worth mentioning again that they should be avoided. Parabens are used as a preservative in mascara and can cause cancer. Any ingredient in your mascara that ends with “paraben” such as methylparaben or ethylparaben are parabens and should be avoided.

8.  Titanium dioxide

Like carbon black, titanium dioxide also offers pigmentation. Titanium dioxide can become a carcinogen, which forms cancer. It has been found to, outside of makeup, have great negative effects on our oceans including damaging wildlife and therefore damaging our oxygen production.

9.  Retinol Acetate

Retinol acetate is used for moisturizing in our mascara products. It has been linked to cancer and damaging our oil glands, which cannot be rebuilt once dead.

This may seem like a comprehensive list, but it should be. You should be aware of the contents making up your mascaras that are damaging to your health and wellbeing.

Be safe while being strong, confident, and beautiful! What about you? Any other ingredients you think should be avoided? Leave us a note in the Comments section below!

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