It's been over a decade since Lauren Conrad cried a single black mascara tear during her friendship break up with Heidi Montag on The Hills.
While Conrad's runny look has become an iconic pop culture moment, anyone who's not a fashion closet intern on a reality TV show known for its drama wants a mascara that won't smudge, smear or flake — tears or no tears.
The good news is that there are a ton of mascaras to choose from, whether you're into long, extension-length lashes, the extra fluffy variety, or all of the above. And you can find some from clean beauty brands that perform just as well as traditional formulas.
But what makes a mascara clean isn't cut and dry.
Generally speaking, "clean" mascaras are free of many chemicals and preservatives found in traditional formulas. This can include carbon black (a dark powder used for pigment that comes from coal tar and can contain heavy metals), parabens, phthalates, silicones, and synthetic dyes and fragrances. However, with no FDA regulations on what constitutes "clean beauty," brands are able to define the term based on their own standards. But many go with the guidance of third party organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) or the European Commission's regulation on cosmetics, which has more ingredient restrictions than the US.
Clean mascaras might be relatively new, but the category has evolved in the last few years, with options for whatever look you're going for, whether it's subtle everyday lashes or dramatic length and volume.
Ahead, our 10 favorite clean mascaras for each and every lash need.
- Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara
- Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara
- Kosas The Big Clean Mascara
- CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Mascara
- Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
- Jane Iredale PureLash Mascara
- Saie Mascara 101
- W3LL People Expressionist Mascara
- Beautycounter Volumizing Mascara
- Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara
Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara
What makes Ilia's beloved lengthening and volumizing mascara so special is the brush. The brand tested over 100 prototypes before landing on the unique design. The dual-ended bristles ensure no lash gets left behind while simultaneously separating them to prevent clumps.
To shop: $28; credobeauty.com
Burt’s Bees Nourishing Mascara
Made with nourishing ingredients found in your favorite skincare products, like jojoba oil and glycerin, this 100% natural drugstore buy hugs dry, brittle lashes in addition to lifting and lengthening lashes. The formula is ophthalmologist-tested so it's gentle enough for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.
To shop: $13; amazon.com
Kosas The Big Clean Mascara
Kosas' debut mascara became a cult-classic overnight for good reason: The brand tried 104 versions of the formula before landing on one that's just right. Powered by ingredients commonly found in haircare, the mascara strengthens and conditions lashes on top of providing instant volume and fullness. The brush also deserves a callout, thanks to an innovative rainbow shape that catches every single lash hair. It's also worth noting the formula doesn't contain mineral oil, carbon black, acrylates, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and more.
To shop: $26; sephora.com
CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Mascara
Covergirl's newest mascara delivers the same thick, fluffy, clump-free lashes as the OG Lash Blast, but is formulated without parabens, mineral oil, talc, sulfates, and is vegan and cruelty-free. It comes in packaging made with 80% FSC-certified recycled paper.
To shop: $6; amazon.com
Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
This affordable dual-ended mascara gives you two products for the pride of one. Use the primer side to prep lashes for even, smooth application, then use the mascara side for dramatic length and definition. Honest has omitted parabens, paraffins, silicones, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances from its cruelty-free formula.
To shop: $17; amazon.com
Jane Iredale PureLash Mascara
It wasn't long ago when clean mascara options were few and far between. One of the first on the market was Jane Iredale's PureLash, which remains a fan-favorite today. The waterproof mascara is gentle enough for sensitive eyes, but doesn't sacrifice performance. It adds length and volume that stays smudge-free and flake-free all day.
To shop: $22; dermstore.com
Saie Mascara 101
This EWG-verified mascara is infused with a blend of waxes that keep it slightly wet. While this might sound like a recipe for smears and smudges, a little bit of moisture actually keeps the mascara on your lashes and prevents it from getting flaky. Swipe it on and enjoy longer, lifted lashes for as long as you want.
To shop: $24; saiehello.com
W3LL People Expressionist Mascara
The slim rubber brush of W3LL People's cult-favorite volumizing mascara is perfect for getting those tiny hard-to-reach lashes at the inner corners of your eyes. Choose from four classic and bold shades: black, brown, blue, and purple.
To shop: $19; credobeauty.com
Beautycounter Volumizing Mascara
Beautycounter's mascara promises up to 385% more volume and fullness, care of natural fibers and an hourglass-shaped brush that lifts and curls lashes. The formula is also infused with plant-based emollients and bataua oil for extra hydration and softness.
To shop: $29; beautycounter.com
Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara
Out of all makeup products, mascara has one of the shortest shelf lives. Keeping how often you replace your favorite tube in mind, Kjaer Weis' lengthening mascara comes in a refillable silver cylinder. As for the for actual formula, it includes moisturizing ingredients that allow it to glide on smoothly without any clumps.
To shop: $38; credobeauty.com
From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space.
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