2023 Buying Guide: The Best Natural Mascaras

June 18, 2020 (updated March 7, 2023)

Say hello to my current favorite natural mascaras! These are my top three picks taking formulation, sustainability, budget and packaging into consideration while prioritizing performance.

Lisa holding mascara wand and smiling

By: Lisa Fennessy

Reviewed by: Kate Noonan


Mascara. It’s most people’s “desert island” makeup pick and for good reason. Even without doing anything else, throw on a couple coats and it’s drab to fab. Right?!

Per ush, I’ve tried a crap ton of better-for-you mascaras but I wanted to keep this list to my top three picks only, which is NOT EASY! As the ethical beauty realm continues to boom, formulas improve and competition gets tighter and tighter. There are SO MANY great formulas out there now that deliver across all categories making this list a true challenge to curate. 

I love this “top 3 format” which you will continue to see more of here on the blog because giving you a list of “24 natural mascaras that work” just leaves people feeling confused. On the other hand, highlighting just three (very different, yet all high-performing mascaras) helps you narrow down your choice while feeling confident and satisfied. In other words, consider this post a “natural mascara easy button” if you will. 

But before we continue, let’s make sure we are on the same page. Here’s what’s important to me in a mascara:

  1. Performance. I want my mascara to actually work the way I want it to work. 
  2. Ingredients. I want a formula free from concerning ingredients or better yet, I want a mascara that actually works to support and nourish lashes too. 

If that sounds good to you, lessssgo. There is a little something for everyone here including best picks for vegan mascara, budget friendly mascara, volumizing mascara, waterproof mascara, lengthening mascara and more. But first, let’s talk a little more about why ingredients matter. 

RELATED: These are the ingredients we always say NO THANKS to.

a woman smiling as she applies mascara to her eyelashes

Why choose natural mascara?

I’m a proponent of choosing a better-for-you mascara and the only way to help you do the same is to highlight some concerning ingredients you may see in conventional mascaras. LFG.

  • Aluminum Powder (CI 77000): Aluminum is a human biological toxicant that enters the body through contact with skin and eyes, and is stored in nearly every organ, mostly the kidneys and brain (15). Dr. Kawahara, of Kyushu University and the Japanese National Institute of Health, states, “Aluminum inhibits more than 200 biologically important functions and causes various adverse effects…Considering its long half-life in the body, unnecessary exposure to aluminum should be avoided for human health” (6).
  • Diazolidinyl urea: A formaldehyde-releasing cosmetic preservative that is a confirmed mutagenic compound (7,8). Formaldehyde is one of the most documented human carcinogens and it is unsafe at any exposure level (9).
  • Parabens: Parabens are a category of cosmetic preservatives that are genotoxic xenoestrogens (10,11).  More here.
  • Irritants like chloroxylenol, chlorphenesin, tropolone, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, calcium aluminum borosilicate (1221).
  • Carbon black (listed as Ci 77266), contains unacceptable levels of mutagenic impurities called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs cause this nano-pigment to test positive in mutagenicity assays (22,23,24).

RELATED: My Favorite Makeup Brushes.

hands holding a tube of ilia natural mascara

What is a natural mascara made out of?

So what can brands formulate with instead? Check out this skeleton formula from Molecular Biologist and Cosmetic Chemist Kate Noonan. This would be what a basic natural mascara would look like. 

I find this super interesting and helpful to peep because you can appreciate how natural formulas deviate, i.e. adding conditioning and growth promoting agents to their formulas. And at the same time, we can appreciate that a mascara can still function without the addition of concerning ingredients👆.

Kate explains, a typical natural mascara is roughly formulated around:

  • 20-30% plant wax or beeswax
  • 8-15% fatty acids or plant butters
  • 30-40% water
  • 0.4-4% of an Ecocert emulsifier like polyglyceryl-6 distearate
  • 4-6% Ecocert thickener like xanthan, guar gum, cornstarch, cellulose
  • 2% organic glycerin or propanediol
  • 0.4-1% Ecocert preservatives like glyceryl caprylate and phenethyl alcohol
  • 8-12% iron oxide black Ci 77499 (Ecocert approved for purity)

The best natural mascaras for….

Before we dive into my faves, if you are looking for something specific, check out these TNK category winners. Here are my top recommendations for:

 🏆Best natural waterproof mascara (this actually wears more water-resistant than waterproof but it’s the only one in clean beauty marketed at “waterproof ” and most likely the closest you will find right now)

 🏆Best natural oil free mascara 

 🏆Best mascara for volume AND length 

 🏆Best natural vegan mascara

 🏆Best natural budget mascara

 🏆Best natural lengthening mascara 

 🏆Best natural mascara that also treats and conditions lashes 

 🏆Best eco friendly / most sustainable mascara

My favorite natural mascaras

And, here they are! My current favorite natural mascaras. These are listed in order with my top pick listed first. (We update this post annually so be sure to bookmark it and check back!)

The B List

I was going to leave this part out, but then I thought it was important to see what I measured my top 3 against and why these didn’t make the cut for me. Keep in mind what doesn’t work for one person could be another’s holy grail. Hopefully this will help bring clarity to your process or inspire a new fave.

  • Antonym Lola Lash Too Mascara – I actually really like this mascara. Volume is a strength here so when I have it on hand I will apply one of my faves and then top it off with this and BAM. So much volume.
  • Clover Maxed Out Mascara – Nicolle’s top budget pick. She loves it because it’s super liquidy and the wide bristles deliver a ton of product. I like Honest better because it’s not as goopy and I get more separation. (Nicolle jumping in here: “I’m allergic to beeswax, and it’s HARD to find a killer mascara that uses plant waxes instead of beeswax AND has a brown shade for those of us with lighter coloring. Clover’s has become my fave for daily use. Well, I don’t use any mascara daily, but I take this one when I travel, and that says A LOT.”)
  • Erin’s Faces Matcha Mascara – Great volume and length. Love the addition of green tea to help promote lash growth. Also love the recyclable glass tube. One of my top picks. 
  • Fitglow Vegan Good Lash+ Mascara – The wand on this mascara got updated and it is now similar to the ILIA Limitless Lash wand. Good length and volume plus helps condition lashes. This is a dry formula and is tough to layer. 
  • Hynt Beauty Mascara – This was a favorite for a long time. Super feathery and pretty application. I still love this formula; it’s just not as bold as my top picks. Could be perfect for you.
  • Izzy Zero Waste Mascara – The Rent the Runway of mascaras. Once you use up your tube, you send it back in a zip bag, Izzy cleans, refills and reuses the stainless tube and you get a refill sent back to you. Flakes a little and I don’t love all the ingredients but this is by far the most sustainable option on the block. 
  • RMS Straight Up Mascara – Love the wand which brings all the drugstore fatty wand feels. Decent performance. Just doesn’t compare to my top picks when it comes to volume or length. (Nicolle jumping in: “This is my top pick for a beeswax-free black mascara. I find that I can get it to give me great volume, but I don’t need much length support—my lashes are LONG.”)
  • Zuzu Luxe – A good budget pick. Honest Beauty is just way better. (Love that it comes in Navy).

chart of tips for using mascara


What is the safest mascara to use?

Look for mascaras that are formulated without the use of aluminum powder, Diazolidinyl urea, parabens, carbon black and irritants like chloroxylenol, chlorphenesin, tropolone, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, calcium aluminum borosilicate. Learn more here.

How can you get the most out of your natural mascara?

Swirl, don’t pump the wand into the tube.
Don’t add water to your mascara.
Try layering different mascaras.
Toss mascara after 3 months.
Recycle your mascara once done using.
Learn more here.

What should a natural mascara be formulated with?

Per Kate Noonan, Molecular Biologist and Cosmetic Chemist, a natural mascara should be formulated with:
20-30% plant wax or beeswax
8-15% fatty acids or plant butters
30-40% water
0.4-4% of an Ecocert emulsifier like polyglyceryl-6 distearate
4-6% Ecocert thickener like xanthan, guar gum, cornstarch, cellulose
2% organic glycerin or propanediol
0.4-1% Ecocert preservatives like glyceryl caprylate and phenethyl alcohol
8-12% iron oxide black Ci 77499 (Ecocert approved for purity)
Learn more here.

What’s your favorite natural mascara?

xo, lisa in cursive

TNK Team Note: This article contains affiliate links. TNK uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TNK stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.


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11. Hager E.; Chen J.; Zhao L.; Minireview: Parabens Exposure and Breast Cancer; International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2022 Jan;19(3):1873; https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/3/1873/pdf

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By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!


  1. Reply


    First – I LOVE your hair. Second – so so happy that you are enjoying INIKA Long Lash – there is a bit of a craze for it right now – so word is spreading about it…. Thank you!

    1. Reply


      Thanks! I am loving my hair too! I probably talk about this mascara every day! Contributing to the craze! : ) I love it!

  2. Reply


    I’ve been using Hush + Dotti’s mascara now for about two weeks. I have to tell you that I’m presently surprised how well it works. Love the size. It fits into my clutch perfectly.

    1. Reply


      Yes girl! It’s so nice right!!?? Love it. Let us know how long it lasts!

  3. Reply


    Thanks for these great reviews! Mascara is one of my favorite makeup items, and I’m always on the hunt for the best one. I really like the Inika when I put it on, but I have never (among dozens of traditional mascaras and a few green ones) had any mascara flake like it does on me. I’m currently using the Fitglow. I’m not crazy about the brush, but I like the mascara and am curious to see if the serum aspect works.

    1. Reply


      Bummer! Yeah the Inika doesn’t flake on me – and I haven’t gotten that feedback from others – but it does depend on several factors..eye shape, application, oiliness of skin…Sorry to hear that! I love the Fitglow too – the more coats the better! : )

  4. Reply


    I love how detailed you are in your reviews, it makes me feel so much better about a purchase.
    Have you tried Crop mascara? I have only found it at Credo but I absolutely love it!

    1. Reply


      Hi Kate! I haven’t tried Crop but I will look into it – thanks for the tip! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply


    Have you come across a clear mascara option? My 12 year old daughter has been wanting one for special occasions so that she can feel like she’s putting something on her lashes to add a little something extra without being very noticeable. I haven’t come across anything natural.

  6. Reply


    I’m surprised you didn’t try out Kosas new Big Clean. Any thoughts on that one?! I’ve heard good things but really trust your reviews so was hoping you were testing 🙂

    1. Reply


      Hi Leah! I did! I need to add that in. Kosas gives a pretty look with added volume and length but not as much separation. It also didn’t stay as well as ILIA or Erin’s Faces ; )

  7. Reply


    Did you figure out what ingredient in W3LL P3OPLE was stinging your eyes? I just got it to try and I’m having the same problem 🙁

    1. Reply


      Hi Mel! I haven’t…I wonder if it is the castor though. If you read up on castor you will see why it’s a suspect! xo, Lisa

  8. Reply


    Well People makes my eyes burn too!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      I’m wondering if it’s castor oil that makes my eyes burn…I have to look to see if it’s in this mascara too… ; ) Lisa

  9. Reply


    Thank you for this thorough review! I have eyes that water easily – I know that each individual will react differently to each product – curious, do you think the Erin’s Faces Matcha Mascara or the ILIA has better staying power? Are they both for sensitive eyes? TIA!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hmmm, good question. I think the ILIA Limitless Lash might stay the best. And although I like the ILIA Volumizing Mascara, it has stung my eyes before at the end of the day. And I’ve had no irritation from Erin’s Faces. This is so individual…I hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  10. Reply

    Stacy anderson

    I am loving Beautycounter think big mascara definitely should try it! Clean ingredients!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Thanks! I personally don’t love the phenoxyethanol in that formula. You can check out why on our No Thanks List ; ) – L

  11. Reply


    Thanks for this great advice. Just bought Ilia mascara and eyeliner and LOVE them. I love how chunky the tube is too..

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      RIGHT?????!!!!!!! 🏆🏆🏆

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