Did you know that mascara has been traced back to the ancient civilizations of Assyria and Egypt? Used as a protectant from the harsh desert environment and to enhance the “windows to the soul” mascara was originally composed of a combination of ingredients including kohl, charcoal, crocodile excrement and honey. Developed in the early pat of the 20th century as a beauty product, mascara continues to be an important part of many beauty routines, bringing volume and fullness to thin lashes everywhere. But like many who are concerned with the ingredients in everyday products, we wondered, is mascara safe? After all, shouldn’t we know what’s in something that we put so close to our delicate eye area? We did a little digging and discovered the real difference between standard mascara formulations and natural brands.

Check Ingredient Labels

While modern formulas are far from their ancient predecessors, the basic ingredients are similar and include pigment for color, and wax or oil to bind the pigment to the lashes. The FDA does not comprehensively regulate the ingredients in cosmetics, so it’s important to read labels prior to purchasing mascaras that contain any of the following ingredients:


Found in a variety of cosmetics and beauty products from shampoo to mascara, parabens have been loosely linked to some forms of cancer and are a known allergen and irritant. While they’re added to products to reduce bacteria and microbes, research on their safety has been mixed, which makes them an ingredient to watch out for.

Retinyl Acetate (also called Vitamin A Acetate and Acetic Acid)

Retinyl Acetate is heavily regulated in some parts of the world and has been shown to cause damage to the body at the cellular level. It has also been found to be a “known human reproductive toxicant,” by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.


Fragrance, in the form of a variety of chemicals, is added to many cosmetics products including mascara. A known skin irritant and allergen, added fragrance has been shown to cause rashes and even dizziness in some users. The big question, however: what are fragrances doing in your mascara?

Choose Natural Instead

There’s no reason to continue to use products that contain harmful ingredients. Natural mascaras have fewer ingredients, fewer toxins and are just as effective as those containing those questionable components. Regardless of the conflicting opinions about the dangers associated with these ingredients, do you really want to be putting them on your body?