Your guide to do-good mascara GO NATURAL
Once an endangered species, natural mascaras are on the up. Get coating
Planet lovers, rejoice! We’re living in the golden age of green beauty, in which more than half of Aussie women admit they prefer to use natural products over their synthetic counterparts, according to a 2017 survey by Sukin. Despite this, there’s little overlap between mascara enthusiasts and clean-beauty devotees (eg, most women are not in love with natural mascaras). Even the most virtuous eco-consumers cheat.
Why? Historically, natural mascaras (the first launching on the market in the early 2000s) generally weren’t inky enough, and “formulas were either too wet, which weighed lashes down, or too dry, which crumbled off and fell onto your cheeks”, says Katey Denno, one of Hollywood’s most outspoken green make-up artists. The reason? The OG formulas were “made up of natural oils, waxes and pigments”, explains cosmetic chemist Ni’kita Wilson. The natural oils didn’t disperse pigments very well (which explains the muted colours). And without something known as film formers – for which there have been no true natural equivalents – there’s nothing to seal mascara onto lashes and provide water resistance.
At the time, green make-up was considered a fad. But once companies saw that women were demanding these products, suppliers got on board, and then the impossible happened: someone finally created a green mascara that was actually, truly good. Launched in 2008, Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Origin Mascara ($24.95, at Priceline) was one of the first organic formulas to hit the mass market, and it won accolades from make-up pros (including Denno) and beauty editors. The benchmark was set and, since then, cosmetic chemists have pushed formulas further, enhancing staying power.
There are now a few ways to circumvent those film formers,
by using natural alternatives such as pullulan, a polysaccharide made from fermented yeast that dissolves in water. It’s not as powerful as the synthetic stuff, but it can still outlast a sad-movie cry-athon. Chemists are also tweaking the ratios of plant-based waxes and oils to find the longest-wearing combinations. Too much hardwax causes flakes; too much oil creates smudges; but the right mix disperses the mineral-based pigments better, too (which is how the dull-hues problem was solved). Some companies also add plantbased starches, such as tapioca or corn, to help absorb natural oils. These swell up around the lashes, which make them look thicker and helps the formula stay put longer.
But before you rush out to buy, know that most green mascara formulas aren’t entirely natural – they’re a combo of natural and naturally derived ingredients – and some eco brands do use select synthetics for health purposes.
Also, beauty products containing water require preservatives to prevent harmful bacteria growth. There are natural extracts with antibacterial properties, such as fermented radish or cellulose, but they’re not as proven as synthetics are for thwarting bacteria.
That said, we’re going with whichever one takes our lashes to their fullest potential – and thankfully we now have a choice.