Monday, September 21, 2009

Lethiferous Lashes: Is Mascara Making You Sick?

     I once read somewhere that women tend to be very loyal mascara consumers; many use their favorite brand for years. I'm not one of them. Though I have my favorites, I tend to try the latest and greatest. Among my favorites are the very inorganic, somewhat dangerous Dior brands.
Why, oh why do I insist on paying $20 -$30 for a tube of toxicity? Mascara theoretically touches nothing but dead lash ends ... Wrong! What about the product residue that ends up raccooning under my lids after a long day? What about the particles that invariably flake into my eyes? What about the stuff that washes down the drain after I remove my makeup? The problem with many mascaras is they're loaded with preservatives, namely parabens.
The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database lists 1195 products. Among the worst (0=no risk, 10=high risk of toxicity) are the following mascaras:
  1. Prescriptives Beyond Long maximum Length Mascara, rated 9 for numerous parabens, BHT and aluminum powder. If you're concerned about endocrine disruption, allergies, cancer or neurotoxicity, you'll want to avoid this product.
  2. Estee Lauder Lash XL, also a 9 for aluminum powder and parabens as well as benzyl alcohol, which can be allergenic and irritating.
  3. Cover Girl Lash Blast Luxe Shimmery Volumizing Mascara also scored a 9.
  4. Diorshow (boo hoo) got a 9 for all the reasons listed above, plus Fragrance. The product smells delightful, like roses. Too bad manufacturers aren't required to tell us their fragrance ingredients. They consider these formulations proprietary, but the EWG finds everything in them from pthalates to formaldehyde. Scary stuff...when ingredients aren't listed, I get worried.
  5. Cargo Texas Lash, 9. I'm not at all familiar with this product, but it also rated as a high hazard for its perfume content.
The good news is, among the nearly 1200 mascaras reviewed, there were many that pose little to no threat, with ratings between 1 and 3. Costal Classic Creations, for example, received a zero, making it the safest option in the database. I've never heard of this company, so I'd love some feedback from anyone who uses the products.
Cleure Moisturizing mascara received a score of 1; the only problem the EWG seems to have is the mica content. Mica is used in lots of makeup, and is occupationally harmful to the folks who make the products. It is also bioaccumulative, which means it shows up in our waterways. Again, I'm not familiar with the brand, Cluere Grace Products.
Jane Iredale PureLash Lengthening mascara rates a 2, and seems to have a lot of fans. I've used other Iredale products happily, so I am going to try this stuff soon.
Loreal Double Extend rated well with a 2. Now, I have to say Loreal makes some great mascaras. The Double Extend Beauty Tubes, however isn't one of them. I believe this high-tech product touted by lovely Linda Evangalista is too new to the market to have its own rating, but even if it ends up with an acceptable number (under 3 for me), I won't buy it again. It's a hot mess that tangled up all my lashes and flaked all over the place.
According to the EWG, the product Paula Dorf Cake Mascara actually contains thimerosal: that's right, mercury. Avoid at all costs, unless of course you are looking to be poisoned!


  1. I actually love Korres' mascara -- it's all natural (though I don't believe certified organic) and it's the ONLY mascara I've ever used that doesn't irritate my eyes!

  2. Averill: I'll give it a whirl. I love Korres!

  3. Kitty this is such helpful info. I always end up with red eyes & my lash line also burns if I use a tube of mascara for more than a few weeks. I am taking everything you said to heart & will make some changes. I love Korres too & will check that out. Thanks Kitty & Averill!

  4. Glad I could be of service, DT! Let us know if you find something great that works!

  5. What a creative and smart blog so glad I found you. I love how I've been wearing mascara for the past twenty years and after your post I need to reevaluate. Love your blog sweetie! Come stop by for a slice of San Francisco...

  6. Everyone should "stop by for a slice of San Francisco" with Laura (See above). She's kittytastic. Thanks for coming by girl!!!

  7. Oh what a great, informative post! I usually go with the cheapest I can find like Maybelline and always waterproof so it stays on. I will now re-think my choices! Thanks for a great post!

  8. Korres isn't all natural...just another greenwasher.