I Tested 5 Zero Waste Mascaras, So You Don't Have To
I know I’m not alone when I share that one of the most challenging areas to go plastic-free is makeup.
Yes, we’ve all seen those mascara DIYs promising "great results!" But, I’ve come to accept that while I’m very committed to reducing plastic waste in my lifestyle, I have to draw the line when it starts to feel like a burden. Going zero waste should make my life easier and bring me joy, not the other way around. And, as a small business owner and mom to a one year old, I don’t have much desire to spend my free time blending activated charcoal with various essential oils.
I will say that since going zero waste, I’ve embraced a makeup-free face 90% of the time. I used to wear piles of foundation, concealer, mascara, bronzer, eyeliner, shadow, etc. I also used to have really bad breakouts which caused a vicious cycle of caking on concealer to cover my blemishes, that in turn clogged my pores worse. After I learned how to heal my skin through a combination of diet and acne-safe products from SkinSalvation, I mostly wear makeup for special occasions.
A few months ago, I asked for zero waste mascara recommendations on Instagram. I received many responses, but even more requests to share what I learned. I set out to find the impossible— a zero waste(ish) mascara option that didn't cake or smudge and worked just as well as a mainstream brand. Let's get to it!
Like any good project, I started by doing a ton of online research. While there are many zero waste mascara options on Etsy, I’ve found quality issues with some of their beauty products and decided to limit my search to the more mainstream options.
I’ve heard some good things about cake mascara, like this one from Besame, but when I looked at the packaging online I noticed that it comes with a little plastic brush applicator that’s wrapped in plastic. I also have a feeling that cake mascara isn't my thing, and decided to focus on mascaras that come in a tube.
DabHerb on Etsy has a couple options for mascara. They come in glass tubes that are either premixed, or in separate glass jars (oil and pigments) with a silicon mixing pad, complete with a bamboo wand. You can also return for refills. Mascara lasts all day and stays on better than the other natural brands that I’ve tried. Their shipping is zero waste and carbon neutral also. Highly recommend!
In Glass: Organic Mascara Zero Toxic Mica & Oxide Free | Etsy
I discovered Elate last fall and ordered some of their eyeshadows which were great, and zero plastic in the packaging!
Mascara-wise, my lashes are so short and straight that unless I curl them, they’re invisible. Of the ones I’ve tried, only the commercial waterproof ones hold a curl for me. I would love to switch to a more sustainable mascara. Can you comment if any of these held a curl well for you?
While I love the idea of old mascara wants helping a wildlife sanctuary, doesn’t putting it in an envelope and transporting it by train, truck, or other means add to the carbon footprint? I ask in honest sincerity, not trying to be snarky.
What do you think about The Body Shop’s recycling scheme (and incorporating of community trade recycled plastic into their packaging)? Legit option or greenwashing?
Hi! For Elate Cosmetics you can request zero waste/plastic free shipping and they will do their best to accommodate your lifestyle!
Anything over $8.00 is off the table for me. There’s got to be a better — and more affordable — way.
It appears they use them to groom tiny animals!
Origins recycles their make-up containers.
I use Kush mascara. Not only is it made of all natural ingredients, the outer tube is made out of aluminum! ALSO it works amazing and lasts for so long. And it’s about $25 at Sephora!
Do you know why some brands are using plastic encased in bamboo? Does this allow them to use less plastic in manufacturing?
Thanks for what you’re doing :)
Thanks, very useful info! However, putting plastic tubes in household recycling is probably useless. My county doesn’t recycle plastic anymore, the US has almost no capacity to recycle plastics and they end up in landfills and incinerators even when carefully sorted.
I currently use the Pacifica Dream Big 7 in 1 Mascara. I like it a lot! It is vegan and cruelty free (and only about $16). It comes in a plastic tube BUT it is part of their recycling program. When you are done with it you send it back in whatever old envelope and they clean and fully recycle the material. They actually do this with most of their products. I hope this helps someone!
Elate just switched our their sample jars so they’re totally aluminum now <3
Thanks for the thorough and concise article! I’ve been trying to go more zero waste with my makeup, but the information out there can be overwhelming and misleading. It’s nice to get information from a source you trust! Any tips on how to clean the metal tubes for recycling?
What do wildlife refuges do w/the wands?
What do wildlife refuges do w/the wands?
Thanks so much for this! Such a big challenge and you’ve given us really good options. Have you found that any of these wash off well with just water? I found one good one that did but then they stopped making it. So that actually exists and makes it so you don’t have to consume removers or deal with drying soaps or eye irritating oils. Thanks so much again!
Thanks for reviewing all the mascaras! The 100% Pure sounds pretty amazing <3