The 9 Best Natural Mascaras of 2021

These eco-friendly formulas will make your heart and lashes flutter

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The Rundown
Like the name implies, this mascara has no limits.
At less than $15 at your favorite drugstore, this clean mascara really can’t be beat.
Vitamin-rich avocado oil adds extra nourishment to this waterproof formula.
The dense brush fattens up your lashes while the nourishing blend of castor and sunflower oil plumps from the inside out.
Kosas’ 'ergonomic' curved brush is meant to align with your lash line and grip and curl every strand.
The brand further reduces your environmental impact by selling this mascara in a refillable case.
In one nifty tube, you get both clean formulas that pack in jojoba esters to further condition and nourish your lashes.
Coming in shades like cobalt and violet, this vegan mascara lets you play with color.
Clean Faced Cosmetics makes zero waste mascara easy.

Many of us swipe mascara on daily—hoping to make our eyes pop on Zoom meetings and behind face masks—without ever thinking about what we are actually putting so close to our eyes. Unfortunately, conventional mascaras may contain ingredients, like parabens and synthetic fragrance, that are associated with health concerns.

Thankfully, it is getting easier to find more sustainable options. While “natural” isn’t a legally defined term like Certified Organic, we looked for formulas that are cruelty-free, and without parabens or phthalates, and that take advantage of plant-based ingredients. Whether you want to add length or curl to your lashes, these eco-friendly formulas will do the trick.

Here are our top picks for the best natural mascara:

Best Overall: ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara

ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara

Like the name implies, the ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara has no limits. This dual-sided brush lifts, lengthens, and curls while keratin, shea butter, and biotin condition the lashes. Use the side with the shorter bristles to curl and create volume and then the side with the longer bristles to separate and lengthen your lashes.

The cruelty-free formula is free of parabens, formaldehydes, phthalates, and mineral oil. The best part? You can easily remove it with just warm water.

Best Drugstore: CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara

CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara

CoverGirl’s Lash Blast might be one of the most beloved drugstore mascaras–I still remember buying my first tube as a teenager from Target! The brand’s signature brush took the world by storm by offering 10 times the volume without the clumps, and recently CoverGirl released a clean version.

The mascara offers the same brush but with a vegan formula free of parabens, sulfates, talc, and mineral oil. Argan and marula oils help condition for clump-free and flake-free lashes. At less than $15 at your favorite drugstore, the price for this mascara really can’t be beat.

Best Waterproof: Ere Perez Avocado Waterproof Mascara

Ere Perez Avocado Waterproof Mascara

Is there anything that avocado doesn’t make better? In mascara, vitamin-rich avocado oil adds nourishment to waterproof formulas that tend to be extra drying. Ere Perez’s vegan version with nourishing oils, waxes, and vitamin E strengthens your lashes and is easy to remove.

The mascara is formulated to last all day, so you can wear it during intense workouts without leaving with raccoon eyes.

Best Volumizing: W3LL People Expressionist Volumizing Mascara

W3LL People Expressionist Volumizing Mascara

If you’ve hesitated to try natural mascara because you’re afraid it won’t kick up the volume as much as the old stuff, try the Expressionist Volumizing Mascara from W3ll People. It’s oversized, dense brush fattens up your lashes while the nourishing blend of castor and sunflower oil plumps from the inside out.

The formula also resists clumping and flaking, which is equally important when sporting larger-than-life lashes. It earns top marks from the Environmental Working Group for ingredient safety.

Best Curling: Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara

Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara

When it comes to your lashes getting and keeping a curl, it really all comes down to the brush. For the biggest effect, you need a curved brush to push the lashes up and out. Kosas’ "ergonomic'' curved brush is meant to align with your lash line to gently grip and curl every strand.

Not to mention it contains castor oil, vitamin B5, and Biotinyl Tripeptide-1, a peptide known for strengthening the hair follicle and reducing hair loss. Plus, it’s created without all the bad stuff. Kosas bans more than 2700 ingredients and follows Sephora’s and Credo’s clean beauty standards.

Best Lengthening: Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara

Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara

With a slim brush, the Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara grips every lash and applies the right amount of product for a lengthy, defined look. If you want more drama, you can layer on coats. The clean formula combines castor, jojoba, and rosehip seed oil to keep the lashes moisturized, and 99.8 percent of all agriculturally derived ingredients in this mascara are from organic sources.

The brand further reduces your environmental impact by selling the mascara in a refillable case. Once you’ve ordered your first case and fallen in love, simply order refills every three months.

Best with Primer: Honest Beauty 2-in-1 Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

honest 2-in-1

Jessica Alba really wanted all of us to have perfect lashes when she created the 2-in-1 Extreme Length Mascara and Lash primer from Honest Company. What’s a lash primer, you may ask? Think of it like a base coat for your lashes. By applying it first, it fills in, nourishes, and creates the ideal surface for mascara.

In one nifty tube, you get both clean formulas that pack in jojoba esters to further condition and nourish your lashes. Did we mention the celebrity formula is available at most drugstores at an affordable price? You are welcome.

Best Shade Range: Au Naturale Bold Statement Vegan Mascara

Au Naturale Bold Statement Vegan Mascara

If you like to play with color, consider Au Naturale’s Bold Statement Vegan mascara that comes in navy, teal, violet, and cobalt in addition to black and brown. Besides being a beauty trend seen on red carpets and runways alike, shades like purple and blue can make your eyes look brighter. Rest assured, the formulas remain formulated without any animal products, synthetic preservatives, nanoparticles, gluten, parabens, or toxins.

Launched in 2011, founder Ashley Prange started the brand on a personal mission to create cosmetics without the ingredients that led to her chronic breakouts and irritation. Now she continues to lobby for the Personal Care Act, a bill to create stricter regulation on cosmetics in the United States.

Best Zero Waste: Clean Faced Cosmetics Zero Waste Mascara

Clean Faced Cosmetics Zero Waste Mascara

Clean Faced Cosmetics makes zero waste mascara easy. Its vegan lengthening mascara comes with a compostable bamboo spoolie and in a glass vial that you can either reuse or recycle. We also love the fact that the vegan formula only has seven ingredients—which we can actually pronounce—like organic aloe vera, organic vitamin E, and activated charcoal.

Made without alcohols or silicones, the mascara may take a bit longer to dry after application. Once you get the hang of it, you'll feel great about going zero-waste.

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with ILIA Limitless Lash Lengthening Mascara (view at Sephora). It promises to lengthen, volumize, and curl your lashes while staying put and clump free. Plus you can remove it simply with warm water. If you want a waste-free option, check out Clean Faced Cosmetics Lengthening Mascara (view at Etsy).

FAQs

Is mascara bad for your lashes?

Using a mascara loaded with chemicals and harsh ingredients can dry out your lashes, leading to breakage and fall out, especially when removing your makeup. That’s why it’s best to look for clean formulas that include conditioning ingredients like oils and vitamins to keep your lashes moisturized and strong. 

Finding a mascara that is easy to remove can also save you a lot of headache—and lashes—when it comes to taking off your makeup. If you aren't planning to go swimming or do a sweaty workout, avoid waterproof mascara as it can be harder to remove. If you need the extra staying power, consider Ere Perez Natural Avocado Waterproof Mascara (view at Amazon), which is easy to remove.

Why should I use natural mascara?

From cancer-causing ingredients like carbon black to irritants like polybutene to parabens and other synthetic colors and dyes, the traditional mascara ingredients used to make your lashes thick and dark aren’t healthy for you or the planet.

There’s also the physical waste of the product. Traditional mascara bottles aren’t meant to be reused, so you are throwing away a plastic container and wand each time. The beauty industry is a large source of waste, creating 120 billion units of packaging every year.

Should you apply natural mascara differently than conventional mascara?

Natural mascara may be slightly wetter than conventional mascara, so it’s best to wipe off any excess product from the bush and apply slowly, letting the product dry between coats. Otherwise, you can use the makeup artist’s method to apply mascara: Put the brush at the base of your eyelashes and wiggle the brush as you glide it slowly up your lashes.

Does natural mascara last as long as conventional mascara? 

Most natural mascaras last as long as the conventional ones—about three months. Mark your calendar and take a whiff from the tube from time to time. If it smells off, it's time to replace it. 

How do you remove natural mascara?

Depending on the formula, warm water may be all you need to remove natural mascara, like with ILIA’s mascara (view at Sephora). Otherise, I’ve found using a simple oil, like jojoba or almond, the most effective and natural way to remove mascara. Simply load a reusable pad with the oil, press and hold on your lashes for about five seconds and then wipe the pad down and away from the lash line for the gentlest removal.

Why Trust Treehugger

Emily Cieslak loves writing about sustainable fashion and beauty for Treehugger and other publications. She considers mascara the most important product in her makeup bag and has tried plenty of formulas over the years from drugstore to department stores. After noticing the damaging effects of using conventional mascara on her lashes, she has been on a personal mission to find clean formulas that deliver just as much oomph.