Making the Switch to Zero-Waste Cosmetics, Part 2: Eyes — Mascara
Comparing sustainable options for mascara
A few weeks ago, I posted about my current makeup routine and how trashy it is, and about how I was making the commitment to reduce waste in my makeup routine as soon as my current products ran out. You can read that post, the first in this series, here — it talks about all my current trashy af makeup products and the criteria I’m using to judge my new products.
The first switch I’m making is in my eye makeup routine, which currently includes black mascara most days and a small amount of black eyeliner for evenings, on a special occasion, or when I’m just feelin’ fancy. My existing mascara (LashBlast Fusion Mascara from Covergirl) was the first thing to run out, so it’s the first thing I’m replacing.
As I started my search for new zero-waste makeup products these past few weeks, one of the first things I learned was that options are limited, and most of the options available are not perfect — they don’t meet every single one of the criteria I set for myself. That means that deciding on a “zero-waste” mascara (and I’m assuming any other zero-waste product going forward) required lots of research, careful thought about which factors were most important to me, and a fair amount of compromise.
In this post, I’ll go through a few of the options I considered, share what I decided on and why, what I still want to try, and my thoughts on how the mascara I chose could be improved to be more zero waste.
As always, if you know of a zero-waste makeup brand that you think would be a better choice or that I should try and review, let me know in the comments! I’d love to learn about more amazing brands that are trying to reduce their impact on the environment.
Options I considered
I really, really wanted to go with this product because I read online that it could do double duty as an eyeliner and a mascara (I’m still a bit personally baffled by the idea of using a cake style mascara with a spoolie brush, but maybe I have a lot to learn) and because this brand just seems so awesome — all of their stuff is handmade, affordable ($18 for a pot of eye coal), and has super clean ingredients. I was even able to find a store in Manhattan where I could buy this without having to get it shipped. But, reading reviews of this product online, it seems like it might not be the best to use as mascara — the phrase “racoon eyes” was used a few times.
To be fair, they do state on their website that this product is intended to be used as an eyeliner, not a mascara, and that is stays in place much better if you use a solid power on your eyelids prior to applying it as eyeliner. This is still a brand I really want to try and I probably still will when it comes time to replace my eyeliner — it just didn’t seem like the right product for mascara at the moment.
This brand is super cool — they use 98% organic ingredients, and they even offer refills for the mascara that can be purchased in recycled plastic tubes, so you only have to buy the stainless steel packaging once. I ended up not going for this option because I read a few reviews online from other zero waste bloggers who said they weren’t fans of how the mascara actually looked on your lashes (apparently, it goes on extremely light). For $38 a tube and $28 for the refills, I wasn’t that keen on buying something that you wouldn't even be able to tell I was wearing. I may still try Kjaer Weis’s mascara eventually, but I didn’t feel compelled to make it my first choice, given the high prices and a few wonky reviews.
I’ve heard a lot of zero wasters talk about this cake mascara, but I didn’t go for it in the end for a few reasons. Firstly, the packaging really doesn't seem that minimal to me. Although this product comes in a tin, which is a very sustainable material, it seems like each one does come with a plastic brush wrapped in a plastic film, and each one comes with a little glossy instruction manual and a cardboard exterior box. In comparison to some of the other options I considered which have no exterior packaging, this didn’t seem great.
The second reason I didn’t go for this product is the ingredients, which were mostly synthetic. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with synthetic ingredients (and I chose a product that contains some in the end), I tend to think that more natural, food-grade ingredients probably means less waste produced in making the ingredients themselves. I could be way off-base here, but that's my instinct. Lastly, I didn’t go for Besame because they’re the only brand I researched that doesn’t seem to be actively invested in sustainability, rather, the fact that they have a few products with slightly better packaging than conventional mascara seems to be mostly happenstance because of their ‘vintage’ look.
Lastly, I did a bunch of research on different zero-waste mascara options on Etsy. This one from Beauty with Roots was particularly appealing to me. The main reason I ended up not going with any of the available Etsy shop options I found is that most of these shops were based internationally (lots of them in the UK). I felt that even though they might be superior options, shipping energy and packaging might cancel out the waste reduction I’d get from a lot of these completely plastic-free options.
What I chose: Lush Eyes Right
I ended up choosing this Eyes Right mascara from Lush. It’s not a completely plastic free option, as each bottle does come with a plastic spoolie and top. However, this mascara comes in a small glass bottle (an infinitely recyclable material) and isn’t sold with any outer packaging (like those weird plastic shells that come around drugstore mascaras). I think it’s a pretty significant upgrade, waste-wise, from my old mascara.
This mascara is also relatively easy to apply, and I’m willing to forgive them the somewhat awkward, shorter-than-average spoolie because guess what? Shorter wand = less plastic. This was also a great option for me because there’s a Lush store near where I work, so I was able to go pick this up on a lunch break — no shipping required. I decided that trade-off was worth it, despite the small amount of plastic in the packaging.
I also like how the mascara looks on — it’s not greasy, dries pretty quickly, and doesn’t smudge and flake throughout the day. It’s not waterproof, which is bad if you’re watching Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue from Call Me By Your Name, but good when you want to take off your makeup at night. Although not drugstore cheap, this was also a relatively inexpensive option. For a three month supply, a bottle of Eyes Right will set you back $19.95.
Ingredient-wise, this mascara is made from a combo of food-grade natural ingredients and synthetic ingredients. Of the synthetic ingredients, the ones that concern me most are Triethanolamine and Methylparaben, both of which have some research suggesting they are moderately hazardous. This product isn’t perfect, but it is what I decided to go with in the end based off of the available options and the criteria I set for myself. But, I still have some suggestions for Lush on how they can make this product better…
Hey, Lush — here’s how you can get even better!
The number one thing I think Lush can do to make this product better would be to offer a “refill” version of Eyes Right that doesn’t come with the plastic top and spoolie, but is rather just the mascara in the glass tube with a metal screw cap. That way, if you want to buy the product more than once, you can just thoroughly wash the spoolie and top instead of chucking it each time, and only repurchase the glass material and mascara itself. So, the first time you buy the product you could buy it as is, and subsequent times you could buy the refill version. I can even see a bottle return program becoming a thing. Pretty please, Lush?
Additionally, I’d love to see Lush nix some of the potentially hazardous ingredients I mentioned above. To be totally honest, I’m not an expert on clean beauty, and I try not to get caught up in the "synthetic is unilaterally bad" thing, but I’ve been trying to research some of the ingredients in my products and those were the ones that stood out to me as ingredients I’d like to see removed, because it looks like there's some research there.
Thanks so much for reading this post! If you know of any zero or low waste eye makeup options I didn’t consider here, please let me know in the comments! Next up, skincare!