If sensitive skin runs in your family, you probably have issues finding an adequate mascara with natural and organic components. So have we!
A few years ago, when we gradually ditched all questionable personal products from our bathroom, we realized that finding high quality, low waste makeup was a real dilemma.
Good news for our lashes, though! The beauty industry is changing thanks to eco-responsible customers like us who demand clean, non-toxic makeup products. We cannot claim that we could find dozens of eco-conscious brands that ticked all the boxes.
However, we handpicked the below list taken into account the below criteria to find the closest zero waste mascara:
- Non-harmful ingredients and thus, a commitment to offering high quality, natural ingredients at a reasonable price.
- Cruelty-free certified. We will also flag the (non) vegan products.
- Thoughtful packaging and innovative recycling/refill programs (whether for the mascara tube or wand).
- Beauty brands that go the extra mile for your lashes! For example, thanks to charitable work or brands abiding by a carbon-neutral shipping policy.
- Companies around the world: we always encourage our readers to buy as close as possible to home.
Since we do not claim to be experienced scientists, we will look at EWG’s Skin Deep rating when it is available for each of the below zero waste mascara (or at least, low waste). Thanks to its hazard score, it acts as a reference point in terms of ingredients’ safety.
Moreover, we will go over each brand’s packaging practices and pinpointing those who we believe can do better. Let’s now review each contender with you, eco-curious citizens, looking for zero waste mascaras!
100% Pure - USA/Germany
The USA made Ultra Lengthening Mascara from 100% Pure was the 2018 finalist for the Clean Beauty Awards.
This ideal, water-resistant mascara comes in 4 shades and is suitable for all skin types. Their main ingredient, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Black Tea), is certified organic.
The second main ingredient is Tocopherol (Vitamin E), which helps protect from free radical damage.
Bear in mind that it contains honey beeswax and hence not vegan friendly. Rest assured though, the makeup and skin care brand is cruelty-free guaranteed.
They avoid animal-sourced ingredients whenever possible, as explained in their mission statement. Donating vegan dog food for every order is even part of their usual philanthropic programs.
100% Pure’s mascara is free of palm oil, coal tar, Teflon, and other toxic petrochemicals. Each of their products is plant-based and hence biodegradable, either organic, vegan, or both.
Packaging & Containers
Any of the low waste brand’s packaging is BPA and phthalate-free. Being free from toxic chemicals is at the heart of the San Jose-based company. Moreover, they use biodegradable packing peanuts made from corn starch.
In addition to using recycled or recyclable packaging, we commend this makeup brand for incentivizing recycling through its in-store program.
Moreover, they are also keen on opting first for recycled materials even in their stores, by using, for example, wood from decommissioned ships or barns.
Why This Brand
We love the eco friendly brand for its commitment to source pigments from fruit, vegetables, tea, cocoa, and minerals, and this, to avoid commonly used heavy metal dyes.
100% Pure is dedicated to providing transparency to its customers while educating them on the list of ingredients used for each of their products. Thus, we encourage you to have a look at their online A to Z glossary.
Moreover, we appreciate the brand’s sustainable business practices in terms of carbon footprint reduction. For example, their headquarters are powered by solar panels, and their drought-tolerant plants contribute to a low impact landscaping.
100% Pure is truly motivating us to strive for a zero waste lifestyle in our customer’s choices and at home and in the office! Read their inspiring blog here.
Lastly, to decrease shipping distance, make sure to connect to the correct online extension: we understood that you can order from either the US or the German website with warehouses spread accordingly.
Ilia - USA / Canada
The brand guarantees cruelty-free and gluten-free ingredients in this mascara.
Ilia’s mascara option contains organic beeswax and shea butter to nourish your lashes and is free of any oil.
Moreover, thanks to the presence of Arginine (keratin), the formula helps boost and enhance your lashes.
It is not labeled as water-proof but as water-resistant. This means that you can easily wipe it off with facial squares and a cleanser. If you are looking for a low waste mascara with long-lasting wear, we recommend Ilia’s!
As detailed in the below section on conventional mascara, it is crucial to avoid any ‘Carbon Black,’ recognized as a carcinogen by many studies. Hence, Ilia gets its black pigment from charcoal, known as a clean alternative for natural dying.
Packaging & Containers
The brand continuously strives for more sustainable packaging: recycled aluminum, glass components, and responsibly sourced paper.
However, when it comes to mascara, it seems that the brand uses conventional plastic-based packaging, hence the lower rating for this dimension.
However, Ilia’s is on our list because of its partnership with Terracycle and its Zero Waste Boxes. Thus, they encourage their US customers to send back 5 empty makeup containers each month.
Terracycle’s innovative recycling program ensures that all items are safely repurposed/recycled and do not end up in landfills.
Why This Brand
We love the brand’s vision regarding clean beauty: even though not all-natural ingredients are good for the skin (just like synthetic ingredients are not necessarily harmful), Ilia envisages clean beauty as a balanced compromise between both.
Concretely, this means merging makeup with skincare attributes; thus, while botanicals are crucial ingredients, they appear insufficient for the brand.
They designed potent formulas with active levels of skincare ingredients shielding your skin from environmental stressors.
As for the mascara, in particular, we vouch for their mascara wand. Unfortunately, not for its reuse or compost capabilities, but its patented dual-sided brush.
First, use the shorter side to curl and give volume. Then, the longer bristles to lift and lengthen your lashes.
Lastly, we are big fans of Ilia’s vegan brushes, made with aluminum and FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood.
Elate Cosmetics - Canada
This paraben and phlatate free mascara is water-based and made of a long list of detailed ingredients on Elate’s website.
All ingredients are fair trade certified, and all products are sustainably made in Canada.
This high-quality mascara contains a vegan-based carnauba wax derived from the leaves of the Copernicia prunifera tree, a more sustainable process than conventional palm oil, as it does not require these trees to be brought down.
However, be aware that this product is also composed of a palm-based ingredient, namely Stearic Acid. We acknowledged that there has been significant controversy regarding the palm oil industry.
However, we believe that sustainably grown palm trees and related exploitation opportunities do not necessarily cause harm to the planet and people.
It represents a significant income source for the locals, and in the case of Elate’s makeup products, it is ethically sourced from RSPO Certified Suppliers. They are regularly third-party audited.
Why not use other vegetable oils, then?
The answer is complex. In a nutshell, bear in mind that “palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land”(1).
This means that using other types of vegetable oils, such as sunflowers, would require much larger pieces of agricultural land, hence increasing the risk of destroying forests to answer the demand.
Not tested on animals and vegan guaranteed, this eco friendly mascara is free of nano-sized particles.
Lastly, we appreciate Elate’s position on organic ingredients. While using about 75% of organic ingredients in total, the makeup brand opts for fair trade over organic when both standards cannot be met.
Ensuring that each person involved in the making of their cosmetics is treated ethically and fairly is at the core of Elate’s mission.
Containers & Packaging
Elate’s mascara comes in sustainably harvested bamboo containers and can be labeled as a low waste product.
Concretely, once you separate the bamboo-part from the inner plastic part, you can crush the bamboo case and compost it.
The green certified fair trade bamboo is sourced from a trusted manufacturer in China, carefully selected based on their FSC Certification.
The tube and wand are labeled as recyclable plastic and can be included in your home recycling bin. However, this seems rather unlikely in most municipal recycling centers.
As a last resort, we recommend you either donate these parts (arts and crafts, for example) or recycle them adequately as part of the Terracycle’s zero waste boxes.
Regarding packaging and shipping practices, the makeup brand uses post-consumer paper fill to pad all retail orders.
In case you are a convinced zero waster, Elate encourages you to point it out when ordering, which will ensure an even more minimalist packaging.
Why This Brand
The B-Corp and Peta certified brand is currently waste-free for about 75% of its products. They even commit to using the most fitted packaging sized for your orders (in boxes made from recyclable post-consumer material, of course).
Moreover, the low waste Canadian brand donates 2% of their profits to various charitable causes (social and environmental), supporting, for example, inspiring charities such as I Am A Girl. This initiative fights for advancing girls’ rights and gender equality across the globe.
We commend Elate’s for being an active member of the conscious beauty movement, including a more intentional lifestyle.
Thanks to their Perfectly Imperfect program, certain not so visually perfect articles, such as bamboo palettes and compacts, can be purchased at a discounted price.
And, minimizing waste is also part of their daily office culture!
Some might argue that opting for sustainable beauty products might not change the world. However, we believe that choosing zero waste makeup brands like Elate can help redefine the future standards of the beauty industry.
Dab HMS - USA
The California-based makeup brand is dedicated to using a majority of USDA certified food-grade and organic ingredients.
Thus, the list of components for this – truly – zero waste mascara is rather simple! And, you can use it as mascara, eyebrow filler, and eyeliner, which is quite innovative!
This item mainly contains wild-crafted Aloe Vera, coconut charcoal, and a variety of high quality, often organic, oils (coconut oil, castor oil, etc.) and waxes (Carnauba wax and Candelilla wax).
Vegans on the lookout: in addition to being cruelty-free, Dab is entirely free of animal products and is gluten-free!
Contrary to what you might think, as it does not come in the conventional liquid version but a solid one, Dab’s zero waste mascara does not crumble nor peel. Simply mix a bit of water with the formula and apply it to your lashes.
We appreciate this plant-based, palm oil-free product for allowing you to easily adapt the density of your looks by playing around with its consistency. More instructions can be found here.
Packaging & Containers
Dab’s organic Aloe Vera -based mascara is plastic tube free! It comes in a metal tin. We are huge fans of the zero waste makeup brand for its refill options for all glass and metal containers.
The mascara wand is remarkable, too, as it is plastic-free; made of silicone and wood. Rest assured, you can easily opt-out of the wand in case you do not need one.
In terms of shipping materials, Dab uses paper mailers and is proud to be plastic-free.
Why This Brand
There are mainly two reasons why Dab is on our list. First, the zero waste makeup brand’s holistic approach to skin care and makeup, beauty, and self-care go hand in hand with transparency and wellness. Did you know that they are often nicknamed medicinal makeup?
Secondly, for their efforts to abide by fair trade business practices. The low waste cosmetic brand only partners with manufacturers that observe ethical sourcing, cruelty-free, and thus from factories or mines free of any child labor.
This is, for example the case regarding the little mica they use; it is mined and processed in the USA. Unfortunately, mica (a sort of mineral) is traditionally associated with illegal mines in Asia.
In this regard, we encourage you to look at their 100% un-dyed cotton Face Steam Cloth.
Thus, should you need one to safely cleanse your face skin, Dab’s products are ethically hand-knitted in home industries, which has created home-based employment opportunities for women in Cape Town outskirts.
Bee You Organics - USA
The zero waste makeup company has earned this spot on our list for its simple, first-rate list of ingredients. Only 8 – all USDA Certified Organic! Quite the achievement. It is not water-based but oil and wax-based and is safe for celiacs.
Its first ingredient is organic castor oil. Moreover, the mixture contains activated charcoal and cocoa powder.
All Bee You Organics’ cruelty-free products are made from scratch in the Pacific Northwest. Since they are water and alcohol-free, Bee You Organics’ makeup and skin care are extremely concentrated. The formula is also free of palm oil, mineral, mica, GMO’s, and Iron Oxide.
All in all, opting for this zero waste mascara is THE way to helping your lashes grow longer, thicker, and darker.
Good to know: you can request a vegan option by ordering a formula with organic Carnauba Wax instead of beeswax.
Packaging & Containers
This mascara does not come in the conventional plastic tube, but rather, in a reusable glass jar with a metal lid.
Once you can no longer use the mascara wand, the brand encourages you (if you live in the US) to donate it to the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. This amazing association reuses these wands to remove fly eggs and larva from wild animals.
Taking care of the Earth is the zero waste makeup brand’s motto (even in their emails!). Thus, they are making sure to ship all products in recycled and recyclable packaging, with the minimum packaging possible.
They even propose label-free items for us proud low wasters!
Why This Brand
Based in Spokane, Washington, Bee You Organics is a family-owned business created by Larissa.
Following a car accident that left her with scars, she decided to find (and thus, create) her own cosmetics that would fit her skin, without the irritation and breakout she suffered from when using conventional products.
Going back to the roots is part of the zero waste makeup and skincare brand’s DNA, they select all their ingredients with their strictest standards, starting with their most unrefined form.
The brand is affordable, transparent regarding its practices while offering a wide range of long-lasting, zero waste products (with easy to follow instructions!).
Although beeswax is at the core of the brand’s philosophy, they only 100% pure, organic beeswax from local bee farmers in the PNW.
Did you know that beeswax is a “natural humectant, locking moisture into the skin and creating a barrier between your skin and outside elements/irritants”?
Zao Organic Makeup - USA/Mexico
Zao’s zero waste mascara is focused on offering certified organic ingredients that are both gluten/vegan friendly.
The makeup brand is generally known for its formulas of powerful vitamins and antioxidants, such as organic pomegranate butter, rice powder, or aloe vera.
They never use any synthetic preservatives, parabens, and petroleum derivates in their low/ zero waste makeup products.
They do not use ‘fragrance’ as such, but rather, opt for natural hypoallergenic vanilla extract as perfume. It minimizes the risk of allergic reactions while giving a pleasant smell.
Designed to thicken the lashes, this mascara is made of 40% of organic components. The presence of Acacia Senegal gum will naturally nourish and replenish your lashes.
Moreover, its main active ingredient is Phyllostachys Nigra Extract, in other words, organic hydrolate of bamboo leaves.
Derived from bamboo leaves distillation, it is mainly composed of organic silica widely used in oriental medicine to replenish the epidermis.
Lastly, even though the list of ingredients might be of concern at first regarding palm oil derivatives, Zao gives us valid explanations for each. Thus, these are derived from other oils such as coconut or certified RSPO palm oil.
Packaging & Containers
The zero waste makeup brand has made it a habit for its customers to easily recharge/refill their products.
Even though some of their refills come in minimal BPA-Free plastic material (it seems to be the case for the mascaras), the brand is dedicated to becoming entirely plastic free soon.
Bamboo is the core of Zao’s eco-design for packaging. Sourced in endemic forests in a protected area in China, it grows without fertilizers or pesticides.
Some items are also wrapped in reusable cotton pouches for protection.
Unfortunately, we could not find any information on the materials used for shipping, hence the lower rating for this category.
Why This Brand
Good for your skin, good for our ecosystem: this summarizes Zao’s mission statement.
This goes hand in hand with their willingness to exclude any animal products in their offer, even for their brushes. They are cruelty-free and Ecocert certified, to name just a few of their zero waste friendly labels.
The eco-luxury brand has its products fabricated in Italy and France. The latter implemented a factory ethics program known as “Fabrik Etik” in 2016; a company with a suitable professional environment for disabled people.
Moreover, Zao is part of the Slow Cosmetic Association.
Lastly, we appreciate the brand for its high level of transparency in terms of its manufacturing process.
They partner with three manufacturers in Europe, and each of these is mentioned in their products.
Rejuva Minerals - USA
Rejuva Minerals’ products are impressive in terms of health standards! Many are EWG certified, SAFE certified, or both.
Their entire mineral makeup line is also talc-free, paraben-free and bismuth oxychloride free.
When it comes to the water-based mascara, it contains vegetable glycerin (organic), jojoba, candelilla wax, and carnauba wax, to cite a few ingredients, all non-GMO.
We recommend it for its subtlety: it will slightly increase your lashes’ volumes and give your eyes a natural look.
Our only concern regarding this mascara is that it contains Stearic Acid, a palm-oil derivative.
Even though the EWG label ensures fair manufacturing practices (in this case, is a US-based, cGMP compliant facility), we wanted to find out where and how it is sourced.
We promise to update you with our findings in due time!
Packaging & Containers
Many of their products are available in glass jars or compacts. Rejuva’s Eco Jars are either Italian-made glass jars that are sifter-free. Or, made from 100% regenerated material that is BPA and phthalate-free.
As for their shipping practices, they use boxes made from recycled paper.
The Pur Lash is packaged in recyclable BPA and phthalate-free tubes, shipped in boxes that are manufactured from 50% recycled materials.
Similar to the above situation with Elate, we asked the brand what they mean, concretely, by ‘recyclable’ plastic mascara tube considering the low rate of plastic being recycled globally.
Why This Brand
Product safety is at the core of the Florida-based brand. They are committed to offering non-toxic makeup and skin care products only.
And this, thanks to naturally derived and organic ingredients without the most commonly known skin irritants.
Since 2011, the brand has met the goals of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, thus offering some of the safest cosmetics on the market!
The proudly USA made brand is even rated as ‘clean’ on the famous Think Dirty app.
Even though we commend Rejuva for its beauty standards, we encourage them to consider supporting local charities and enhance their waste management even further.
Eco friendly Makeup Accessories
Let’s take some time to review other similarly trustworthy zero waste make up options. As usual at Puratium, we encourage you to explore second-hand or upcycled products whenever feasible as a first step.
Buying new items should come as a last resort. And when you do, support local, sustainable companies, including small scale makeup brands!
- A makeup remover, such as this one from Ecoroots, a well-known cruelty-free and plastic-free brand in the US. We particularly like this zero waste cleaning oil rich in antioxidants and organic essential oils. Packaged in a recyclable glass bottle and pump, it gently removes impurities. It will also leave your skin glowing, without the dry feel.
- Zero Waste, washable facial squares that will be a great combo with the cleaning oil. These absorbent pads are made of three layers of 100% cotton flannel. Compostable and produced with very limited waste, you will not regret this purchase from the eco friendly Well Earth Goods’ store based in Oregon.
- Bamboo-made brushes for perfecting your zero waste makeup routine: we think highly of Elate’s product for its sustainability and superior features. The handle is made of ethically sourced bamboo, the ferrule of high-grade Aluminum, and the bristles of Taklon. Did you know that Taklon (a vegan-friendly alternative to conventional fur bristles) is naturally non-porous, anti-bacterial, and hypoallergenic?
- Reusable swabs from Last Object. If you are not the finest artist (guilty here), these will be of great help should you accidentally be too generous with your mascara, or in case of smudging. Help us combat the billions of single-use cotton swabs produced (and tossed away!) daily. If you stopped using conventional mascara tubes (or, about to, thanks to our article!), why not opt for this smart zero waste swap?
- Make sure to carry your zero waste mascara and related plastic-free products in a long-lasting toiletry bag convenient for daily use and traveling. Find out more about the topic here.
What Is Wrong With Conventional Mascaras?
Based on our experience, we wanted to share a non-exhaustive list of questionable ingredients found in conventional products, and mascaras in particular.
As usual, we encourage you to carefully read the label of any product you buy, and even more so when purchasing zero waste makeup. Be on the lookout for potentially hazardous substances, either for you or for their ecotoxicity.
Recent scientific studies have shown that these substances, integrated on the markets decades ago, now pose serious health threats such as cancer, asthma, birth defects, and fertility problems (2).
Let’s have a look at what you do NOT want to read in your zero waste mascara label:
- Preservatives such as formaldehyde (carcinogenic) and parabens (known endocrine disrupters) (3).
- SLS and SLES, known skin irritants (4).
- Fragrance, which often hides toxic ingredients.
- Heavy metals like mercury and other metallic substances like aluminum powder have been ‘linked to interfering with various cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system’ (5).
- Retinyl Acetate (also known as Vitamin A Acetate) is rated up to 9 (out of 10) on the EWG’s Skin Deep scale, primarily for its link to developmental and reproductive toxicity.
As the saying goes, be the change that you want to see around you. If we could all do a little bit of ‘better’ in our habits, we can continue to galvanize long-lasting changes. And that includes clean beauty as a zero waste makeup standard.
The above zero waste mascaras are, according to us, of better quality than conventional ones while being much more earth friendly.
Some brands are focused on offering certified organic and/or plant-based only ingredients, others even incite to a broader plastic-free, zero waste lifestyle.
Whatever you were looking for in terms of price or location, we hope this review helped you find the right low or zero waste match for your lashes!
Thus, the above-described product offered by 100% Pure and Bee You can be considered zero waste mascara because all parts are reusable/recyclable, including shipping packaging. Old mascara wands remain a challenge in most cases unless you can donate/recycle them properly, as incited in these cases.
On the other hand, we did not want to cross out first-rate mascaras with low waste practices from this list.
Hence, Rejuva Minerals and Ilia meet EWG‘s strict standards for your health. This means no chemicals of concern and full transparency of manufacturing to ensure product safety (very limited, in Ilia’s).
However, as explained above, we had to investigate further with Rejuva for their use of palm-based Stearic Acid. Even though it is recognized as a safe ingredient, ethical sourcing concerns have been raised regarding the palm oil industry.
We can only encourage other brands to seek similar, trustworthy labels. Fair enough, small scale companies cannot always afford the process. Hence, we only chose mascaras with a clear list of ingredients with no hidden ‘fragrance’.
Lastly, if you are looking for a broader analysis of zero waste makeup brands and their finest products, our review on the topic will guide you through similar criteria.