I don’t know about you but popping on a little bit of mascara can really boost my mood and my confidence. While any other part of my make up routine I am happy to skip, mascara really is a staple for me. That is why it was super important for me to find a really good zero waste mascara option.
The beauty industry as a whole is notorious for having little to no care towards their impact. Many beauty brands still test their products on animals, including ingredients that are toxic, and their packaging focuses primarily on how trendy and unique looking it is without a second thought about the amount of plastic in the products.
If you are anything like me and looking to lower your impact, I am sure mascara is on your list of swaps too. While items like reusable coffee cups, plastic free food packaging, and reusable bags are great, there isn’t a lot of a dialogue around low waste beauty products. Keep reading for answers to some common questions and information about my absolute favorite zero waste mascara options.
FYI, this is a guest post written by Little By Lottie, a zero waste advocate and blogger. This post contains affiliate links. This means if you choose to purchase one of these items I will make a very small commission at no extra charge to you. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.
Zero Waste Mascara:
15 Sustainable Brands for Bold Lashes
Why zero waste mascara?
Make up in general is too often packaged in plastic, which can even be packaged in plastic again! On top of that, many of the ingredients can be toxic and harmful to the environment. For instance, some brands include palm oil in their products which is well known to have a huge impact on deforestation. Therefore, it is a good idea, if possible, to choose a zero waste mascara over a conventional one, so both you and the planet can remain beautiful.
What zero waste mascara means to you could be a number of things, but for me, it basically means:
- The product was produced thoughtfully and ethically.
- It’s plastic-free, made from recycled materials, or innovative packaging.
- If not, it’s easy to recycle and/or refill.
- The company finds a way to give back to the environment, be it through using renewable energy, going carbon neutral or donating to environmental non-profits.
- It’s made with organic and natural ingredients.
Most if not all of the mascaras on this list meet at least one of these standards, if not more. Several of them are actually refillable and offer take-back programs as well which seriously cuts back on waste.
What to look for in eco friendly mascara brands?
This will entirely depend on your personal circumstances. For me personally there are several things I look for in a product. First and foremost, a product must be cruelty free, this is a total non-negotiable for me. I will not buy a product if it has been tested on animals.
Next it is important to make sure the ingredients are ethically sourced and palm oil free. Not only is this better for the planet but I also like to make sure that the people who work tirelessly to make the ingredients for the products I am consuming are treated in an ethical way.
On top of this, I look for sustainable packaging options. By this I mean, plastic free, home compostable and as lightweight as possible. The first two are pretty self explanatory but the reason for the item being lightweight is to minimize the carbon emissions during shipping.
Finally, I look for a product to be vegan friendly. While I am not a vegan myself, when purchasing luxury items such as beauty products, I do like to make sure that the item has no animal products in it. For me, I do make the exception of beeswax, which will occasionally be in a product I buy (I’ve made sure to list when a product contains it in this listicle).
It is important to note, that it is not always possible for all of these boxes to be ticked and they will alter depending on your own personal views, but these are mine.
How can I make my mascara eco friendly?
You can make mascara eco friendly by choosing to support sustainable and zero waste mascara brands. Like the ones listed in this article (which we’ll get to shortly)! But you can also make your own mascara – Going Zero Waste has a simple mascara and eyeliner recipe worth trying out. All you need is charcoal, shea butter, bentonite clay and oil (like sweet almond or olive oil). DIY mascara is a great option for those who like complete control over the ingredients, or have allergies.
Can you refill mascara?
There’s also ways to revive dry and flaky mascara. Try filling your coffee mug with hot water and dip the tube of mascara in it for few minutes. The heat will soften the dried solution and mascara should be as good as new.
You can also refill your empty mascara bottle after washing it with castor oil. Applying castor oil onto your lashes is said to help them grow longer, but you have to do it at least once a day to see results.
Can I recycle mascara tubes? How about mascara wands?
For mascara wands, I personally like to sterilize and reuse them for cleaning around my house before I throw them away. They are great for getting to those horrible crevices in the bathroom and behind the kitchen sink.
You can also try donating the mascara wands to a local wildlife organization. Many of them will use the wands to gently clean baby animals’ fur of ticks, bugs and dirt!
As for the tubes, check in your local area, but if you are like me you will be able to recycle this with your regular household recycling. Of course, don’t forget to thoroughly clean them! If not, check out some of your local drug stores, they may have make up recycling schemes or the brand themselves may have a take back and refill scheme, depending on which brand you pick.
Alternatively, you can try recycling your mascara wand and tubes with Terracycle’s free program for beauty products. You can also always bring them to any Credo Beauty location to be recycled – they will take any beauty empties you have!
- Recyclable Refillable Inserts
- Bamboo casing
- Water and Sweat Resistant Formula
- Clump resistant
- Vegan Friendly
- Black or Brown Available
Elate is a great brand with honestly beautiful packaging, which will put any high-end brand to shame. The product comes in two parts, a bamboo casing and recyclable plastic refill. Something I really love about this product is the ability to layer up. I personally love a product that is multi-use, and with this you can apply one coat for a more subtle look to go to work or multiple for a heavier look for nights out!
Kjaer Weis is unique in the sense that it really doesn’t feel like a sustainable product. I know that sounds strange but from looking at it you are more likely to assume that it is a high end product that you might have picked up at Sephora, rather than something that has been developed to be eco-friendly. The mascara is 100% refillable with a metal casing – so if you did ever want to dispose of it, it is infinitely recyclable. The only thing I would say about this product, is that if you aren’t comfortable having beeswax in your products, this one isn’t for you.
- Return and Refill Mascara
- Tubes Contain Zero Process
- Wands Return Scheme
- Carbon Neutral
- Cruelty Free
Izzy a world’s first when it comes to certified carbon neutral mascaras! It has gone through vigorous testing so you can be assured that it will be suitable for even the most sensitive of eyes. The packaging is great as it comes in a reusable and refillable stainless steel packaging. Something I really love about this brand is their unique stance on postage. They are committed to ensuring all of their mailers are made from upcycled materials and they are also reusable!
- Vintage Style Mascara Cake
- Comes in metal tin
- Suitable for Sensitive Eyes
- Female, Family Owned Business
- Vegan and cruelty-free
I have to say this is the first mascara I ever saw of this kind! It comes in a metal tin, with a mascara “cake” insert. If you aren’t sure what I mean, imagine a blusher style product but for mascara. It is honestly so cool and innovative! This cruelty free, and low waste option is inspired by a 1920s design and has been specially formulated to be suitable for sensitive eyes. The company is based in California are keen to bring back some of the amazing classic makeup and best of all, they are a female, family owned company with a really passion for all things sustainable!
- Comes in a Compostable Tub
- Vegan and Cruelty Free
- Clump Free Formula
- US based Company
This is another brand which has steered away from the classic mascara tube. River Organics have created an awesome chemical free mascara made of Coconut oil and Rhassoul Clay. This truly is a zero waste mascara, as it comes in paper packaging, meaning it can be composted at home! You use a classic mascara wand to apply, so while it is a little different in its packaging, if you are a little unsure about zero waste mascara options, this won’t be too much of a shack to the system.
- BPA-free plastic tube with a metal case
- Can be recycled in any 100% Pure retail store
- 100% Natural Ingredients
- Four Different Shades
- Cruelty Free
- Flake Free Formulation
One amazing thing you need to know is that unlike so many companies, 100 Percent Pure, have a super clear definition of what natural is. All of their products are naturally pigmented using fruit and are based in the USA. There’s also a rewards program for recycling—when you bring back 10 empty containers, you get 15% off your next purchase.
7. RMS Beauty
- Tube is made of plastic and the case is aluminum
- Contains Beeswax
- Gluten Free
RMS Beauty have some of the most wonderful natural beauty products on the market and their mascara is no different. Made from living ingredients such as beeswax and sunflower oil, if you are looking for quite a thick formulation, this might be an awesome option for you. They also have two different mascaras on the market so if you are looking for more of a volumizing effect then they have a product for you!
8. Illia Beauty
- Classic Mascara Tube and Wand
- 1% for the Planet
- Contains Beeswax
- Cruelty Free
- Not Tested as Hypoallergenic
Illia Beauty have recently added a second mascara to their range which you should definitely check out! They are super focused on minimizing their impact and have cruelty free, natural beauty at the heart of their company. They have done extensive consumer testing and have developed some amazing flake free and smudge free formulas AND were even voted ‘Best Natural Mascara’ in the 2019 Glamour magazine awards. This one is well worth a look!
- Plastic Free Container and Wand
- Smudge Free
- Natural but Buildable Look
Clean Faced Cosmetics are a handmade cosmetics brand based in Michigan. They are a really awesome company who make incredible zero waste mascaras, and other make up products too! If you are curious and read the reviews for this, you’ll find one that says “for the first time in my life I don’t have any end of the day raccoon eyes!”. Raccoon eyes are a far too relatable problem and I may have just solved your problem!
10. Dirty Hippie
- Tube or Cake Mascara
- Black or Brown Shades
- Cruelty Free
This is an amazing UK based company who stock all of their products on Etsy. Let’s be real, who doesn’t love a good hour scrolling through Etsy! Something I love about this product is you have a certain amount of freedom to personalize the amount of coverage you want, as it is easy to control the amount of product on the wand. These are lush handmade and totally plastic free products, which are also super good value for money. I highly recommend checking them out.
11. Dab Herb Makeup
- Mascara bar in an aluminum container or glass
- Multifunctional product
- Vegan friendly
Dab Herb Makeup produce an amazing 3 in 1 mascara. It’s formulated so that it is thick enough to be mascara but not clumpy, so can be used as both eye liner and also an eyebrow filler. Plus, it’s totally suitable for sensitive eyes and all ingredients are certified organic, vegan and mineral free. It comes in a vintage style mascara bar with a totally plastic free applicator wand and is said to stay put for at least 8 hours! AND this mascara has a much longer shelf life than a regular mascara.
12. Bee You Organics
- Plastic free Tube and Wand
- Designed to sit well on uneven skin
- Family Owned Business
- 100% Natural Ingredients
- Gluten Free
I challenge you to find a more wholesome looking mascara, because I think you’ll struggle. The Bee You Organics zero waste mascara comes in the most adorable glass tube with an aluminum lid and had a little label tied on with brown string! I love it so much! Not only that, but unlike many other brands, they have developed wands that are also plastic free, so if a lack of plastic is at the top of your priorities, this is definitely one of the best options for you.
The company itself is owned by an incredible woman who was inspired after a life changing car accident, that left permanent scarring, to create formulas that don’t sink into imperfections in the skin. These amazing formulas will make you feel confident without having that horrible cakey look when it inevitably sinks into scarring and wrinkles – we have all been there.
13. Zao Organics
- Refillable Product
- Suitable for sensitive eyes
- 100% high quality, natural ingredients
- Recyclable insert
- Palm Oil and Animal Product Free
This is my all time favorite mascara I have to admit, even compared to any non-ethical ones I have used in the past. It is not perfect from a packaging point of view, so I am still trying to find one that works for me like this one does but the quality of the product is amazing. I have tried both their black and brown mascaras and they are the first I reach for.
The product itself comes in two parts, an outer, reusable bamboo casing and a recyclable plastic insert. It also comes with a bamboo bag, to keep the product clean and lasting for as long as possible.
14. Mad Hippie
- Wand and Tube Mascara
- Innovative Sugar Cane Packaging
- Recyclable with Terracyle
- Cruelty Free
- Silicone Free
If you are looking at this for the first time you might think this product is packaged in regular plastic but you would be wrong! The packaging is made from a super clever sugarcane plastic formula which helps protect the product and the environment. This company are super conscious of their impact and are always working to lower their carbon footprint without compromising the quality of the products they sell. Their mascara’s come in a classic black shade and are super easy to apply. I would say, no matter what kind of look you like to go for, this is definitely a good call as there really is buildable coverage with this product.
15. DIY Mascara
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
- 1 1/2 teaspoons beeswax, grated (and melted)
- Activated charcoal: 1/4 teaspoon for light black mascara, 1/2 teaspoon for black mascara, 1/2 teaspoon cacao powder for brown
If you are keen, or fancy a little project to do you could even make your own! All you need to do is grab an only container you have lying around and you could clean and reuse your old mascara wands. There are tons of really great recipes out there but I personally love this four ingredient one. Just mix it all together and you’re set!
If you want to know more, check out the full recipe here.
Which of these zero waste mascara brands will you try? Did I miss anything? Leave your favorites in the comments!
Curious about more makeup options? Check out these 5 zero waste makeup brands you need to know about.
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Guest post: Hi, my name is Lottie and I have my own zero waste blog too (it’s littlebylottie.co.uk if you want to check it out or @littlebylottie on Instagram). I live across the pond in England and am super passionate about sharing easy changes you can make in your life to have a huge impact on the planet. I’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with Ariana on a few occasions. I’m so pleased to have this opportunity to write for her page.