Some people love lipstick; some can’t leave the house without perfectly polished brows. Me, I’m an eyelash enthusiast—at least a small part of my happiness is dependent on good mascara. Unfortunately, though, I have sensitive eyes and am prone to infection. After a bunch of experimentation, I’ve realized that natural mascara is easier on my eyes—but it’s not always the most impactful. I’m willing to give up exaggerated doe-eyes if it means healthier peepers but, at minimum, I want definition and length. At this point, volume is a bonus—but a much appreciated one.
I spent weeks testing and comparing brands (truly, doing the lord’s work…) to curate this list of the best natural mascaras. First thing’s first: Let’s define what I mean by natural. This is a term that’s thrown around a LOT, especially in the beauty world, and it can mean different things to different people (not to mention product marketers). For me, a natural mascara should be free of parabens, sulfates, pesticides, phthalates and artificial fragrances. The ones on this list feature naturally-derived and organic ingredients but may also include safe synthetic ingredients. (Reminder: Literally everything is a chemical. Not all chemicals are bad for you.)
Because they avoid certain ingredients, you might find that natural mascaras don’t give the instant oomph-factor you’re used to with conventional mascaras, but newer formulas have come a long way. And, I found that with the ones below I was able to easily build coverage and volume with an extra coat or two.
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Volume Mascara, $42.50, well.ca
This natural mascara may be pricier than the rest, but it’s worth it for a 100% natural formula that’s dermatologically and ophthalmologically tested and approved. It’s not tested on animals and is free from preservatives and synthetic fragrances. (But it still smells really good—fresh and floral.)
The lightweight formula goes on smoothly and creates instant impact by adding length, volume and curl. I only needed one coat. And although my lashes lost a bit of volume, they still looked pretty great at the end of the day.
Limitless Lash Mascara, $36, well.ca
Ilia’s mascara is 99% natural and contains shea butter and keratin to strengthen lashes, as well as beeswax and carnauba waxes for weightless conditioning. The brush has two sides: one with long bristles, the other with short, closely spaced bristles. These allow you to coat and separate even the tiniest lashes at the inner corners of your eyes.
If I didn’t know it was natural, I would have thought this was a conventional mascara: It adds really dramatic length while also defining lashes. Plus, the formula allows for multiple coats without clumping. Best part: My lashes still looked long and lush at the end of the day.
Phyto-Pigments Ultra-Natural Mascara, $33, juicebeauty.com
Juice Beauty is a cruelty-free cosmetics company, and this natural mascara contains a mix of 60% organic ingredients along with plant-derived waxes and safe synthetic ingredients.
Candelilla and carnauba waxes, along with Juice Beauty’s phyto- and mineral-based pigments, make this mascara super glossy. It glides easily over lashes and makes them shinier with every coat. Lashes look long and glamorous. I expected the formula to smudge but it stayed on my lashes all day, with only a little drooping by the end of the day.
Big Lash Mascara, $28, mybloombeauty.com
This vegan and cruelty-free natural mascara is formulated and made in England and consists of 100% natural ingredients.
Another contender for could-be-conventional mascara, Lily Lolo’s Big Lash mascara lives up to its name. It adds length and volume, and it’s easy to build coverage despite a quick-drying formula. It also has great hold, adding a bit of curl to lashes as it dries. While the curl didn’t stick around all day, my lashes still had impact come evening.
Organic Wear Natural Origin Jumbo Lash Mascara, $16.50, well.ca
Physicans Formula’s Organic Wear collection features natural and organic ingredients that are sustainably made and cruelty-free. The mascara’s big brush is also recyclable.
This natural formula’s brush is thick with soft plastic bristles. It easily adds length and definition to lashes with buildable coverage. My lashes weren’t quite as jumbo at night as they were in the morning, but the difference wasn’t so dramatic that I was tempted to do a touch-up.
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Natural Mascara, $14, pureanada.ca
At just $14, this natural mascara doesn’t cost much more than the cheapest drugstore offerings, but it’s free of parabens, gluten and mercury. (Yes, many conventional mascaras have mercury in them!) It’s also vegan and 97% natural. Plus, Pure Anada is a Canadian company, so you can feel extra good knowing you’re supporting a local biz.
This natural mascara adds definition and length while still making lashes look soft and natural. It’s a more subtle effect, great for days when you want a low-key look. The bonus is that it lasts all day and looked just as great in the evening as it did when I first put it on.