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Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Mascara

Mascara is one of the most popular makeup products that can enhance the appearance of your eyes and lashes. However, not all mascaras are created equal. Some of them may contain harmful ingredients that can cause irritation, allergies, or even serious health problems. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the harmful ingredients that you should avoid in mascara and how to choose a safer alternative.

What are the harmful ingredients in mascara?

According to various sources, some of the harmful ingredients that you should avoid in mascara are:

  • Coal tar dyes: These are synthetic colors that are derived from coal tar, a by-product of coal processing. They are used to give mascara its black or brown color. However, they may also contain heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury, that can be absorbed into your bloodstream and cause toxicity. Coal tar dyes are also known to be carcinogenic, meaning they can increase the risk of cancer. To avoid coal tar dyes, look for the ingredients FD&C Blue No. 1, D&C Black No. 2, or a five-digit number preceded by a Cl (such as Cl 77266).
  • Fragrance: This is a term that can include hundreds of different chemicals that are added to mask the unpleasant smell of other ingredients or to create a pleasant scent. However, fragrance can also be very irritating to the eyes and skin, causing redness, itching, burning, or even allergic reactions. Fragrance can also contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates, that can interfere with your hormones and cause reproductive problems. To avoid fragrance, look for products that are labeled as fragrance-free or unscented, and check the ingredient list for any terms that indicate fragrance, such as parfum, perfume, aroma, or flavor.
  • Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives: These are chemicals that are used to prevent bacteria and mold growth in mascara. However, they can also release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, into the product over time. Formaldehyde can also cause eye and skin irritation, as well as respiratory problems. To avoid formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, look for the ingredients DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, or sodium hydroxymethylglycinate.
  • Parabens: These are another type of preservatives that are used to extend the shelf life of mascara. However, they can also mimic estrogen in your body and disrupt your hormonal balance. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer, infertility, and early puberty. To avoid parabens, look for the ingredients methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or isobutylparaben.
  • BHA and BHT: These are antioxidants that are used to prevent the mascara from going rancid. However, they can also cause skin irritation and allergic reactions. BHA and BHT are also suspected to be endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. To avoid BHA and BHT, look for the ingredients butylated hydroxyanisole or butylated hydroxytoluene.
  • Propylene glycol: This is a humectant that is used to keep the mascara moist and prevent it from drying out. However, it can also cause eye and skin irritation, as well as allergic reactions. Propylene glycol can also penetrate the skin and affect the liver and kidneys. To avoid propylene glycol, look for the ingredient 1,2-propanediol.
  • Retinyl acetate: This is a form of vitamin A that is used to promote lash growth and thickness. However, it can also cause eye and skin irritation, as well as increase the sensitivity to sunlight. Retinyl acetate can also be toxic to pregnant women and fetuses, as it can cause birth defects. To avoid retinyl acetate, look for the ingredient vitamin A acetate.

How to choose a safer mascara?

Now that you know what harmful ingredients to avoid in mascara, you may wonder how to choose a safer alternative. Here are some tips that can help you:

  • Read the labels carefully and look for the ingredients that we mentioned above. Avoid products that contain any of them.
  • Look for products that are certified organic, natural, or vegan. These products usually have fewer and safer ingredients than conventional ones. However, be aware that these terms are not regulated and may not guarantee the quality or safety of the product. Always check the ingredient list to verify the claims.
  • Look for products that are hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, or ophthalmologist-tested. These products are less likely to cause allergic reactions or irritation than others. However, they may still contain some harmful ingredients, so always check the ingredient list to confirm.
  • Look for products that have a short and simple ingredient list. The fewer and simpler the ingredients, the less likely they are to be harmful or irritating. Avoid products that have a long and complex ingredient list with many unfamiliar or unpronounceable names.
  • Look for products that have positive reviews and ratings from other users. You can also ask for recommendations from your friends, family, or beauty experts. However, keep in mind that everyone’s skin and eyes are different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Always do a patch test before using a new product to see how your skin and eyes react to it.


Here are some frequently asked questions about harmful ingredients in mascara and their answers:

  • Q: How often should I replace my mascara?
  • A: You should replace your mascara every three to six months, or sooner if it changes color, smell, or texture, or if you have an eye infection. Mascara can harbor bacteria and fungi that can cause eye infections or irritation. Replacing your mascara regularly can help prevent this problem.
  • Q: How can I remove my mascara safely and gently?
  • A: You should use a gentle and natural makeup remover that is suitable for your skin and eye type. You can also use a cotton pad, a soft cloth, or a reusable makeup remover pad to gently wipe off the mascara from your lashes. Avoid rubbing or pulling your lashes, as this can cause damage or loss of lashes.
  • Q: Can I use waterproof mascara?
  • A: Waterproof mascara can be useful for occasions when you need your mascara to last longer and resist water, sweat, or tears. However, waterproof mascara can also be harder to remove and more drying to your lashes than regular mascara. Therefore, you should use waterproof mascara sparingly and only when necessary. You should also use a special makeup remover that is designed for waterproof mascara to remove it properly.


Mascara is a great way to enhance your eyes and lashes, but it can also contain harmful ingredients that can cause various problems. By avoiding the harmful ingredients that we discussed in this blog post, and by choosing a safer alternative, you can enjoy the benefits of mascara without compromising your health or beauty. Remember to always read the labels, do your research, and listen to your body. We hope this blog post was informative and helpful for you. Thank you for reading. 

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