However, a few brands have come out with some decent (some more than decent) clean mascaras. Let's take a look at the natural mascaras I've tried out so you don't have to suffer through the not-so-great ones!
Dr. Hauschka Mascara
This is the first natural mascara I tried, and admittedly, it was a while ago. It's possible that they've changed their formula, so please keep that in mind.
- The pros: good staying power, coats lashes well to add some length, readily available at places like Whole Foods.
- The cons: dries very slowly, still felt wet and tacky after hours of wear, easily smudged, high cost ($29.99).
- Removal: fairly easily removed with a mild cleanser.
This mascara kinda skirts the edge of "natural." tarte isn't necessarily the cleanest of the clean, but all of their products are formulated without parabens, mineral oils, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, and gluten, so it's most definitely a step in the right direction. I actually tried this mascara knowing nothing about the brand, it was simply recommended to me at Ulta.
- Pros: great staying power, fantastic volume, really dramatic look, readily available at Ulta.
- Cons: difficult to remove, questionable ingredients, strong smell.
- Removal: difficult to remove with cleanser, leaves residue around eyes.
Obviously, this is another tarte mascara. I admit, I was duped by the fancy bamboo packaging and "Amazonian clay" on the label. This is a really fantastic mascara, but unfortunately it contains propylene glycol, which is a big no-no for me. I don't know if it's the "smart" clay or whatever, but I sweat my lashes were curlier when I wore this. It was pretty great.
- Pros: basically everything, good volume and length, curls lashes, staying power, no smudging, dries quickly, easily available at Ulta.
- Cons: questionable ingredients, tube didn't last too long.
- Removal: easily removed with oil-based makeup remover, little to no residue.
I really liked this mascara, but it had some problems. My biggest issue was that it left little bits of residue around my eyes after application, especially on my lower lashes. It also tended to clump together.
- Pros: good length, dries quickly, readily available at Sephora.
- Cons: smudges easily, flakey, clumps occasionally, higher price ($22).
- Removal: does not remove well with oil-based makeup remover, better removed with gentle cleanser, can leave a little residue, but nothing bad.
Gotta be honest, I hated this mascara. I've heard good things about the Physician's Formula Organic wear mascaras (there are several in this line), especially as a decent drugstore alternative, but I was really disappointed by this mascara. The wand poked me in the eye every time I tried to use it, the mascara burned when it got in my eyes, it didn't coat my lashes well, and flaked off, leaving lots of gross residue.
Pros: cheap ($9.95), easily available at drugstores/grocery stores.
Cons: smudges easily, flakes off, don't like the wand, difficult to remove, leaves residue.
Removal: unable to fully remove with either oil-based makeup remover or cleanser, leaves residue.
ZuZu Luxe Mascara
This is the mascara I'm using right now, and it's definitely my favorite so far. Does a nice job of separating the lashes, too. It's a good balance between noticeable length and volume and a nice, natural look, especially in the espresso color. It's also one of the only clean mascaras that I can layer without much clumping.
- Pros: length, volume, staying power, smudge resistant, easily removed, build-able, lower price ($16.70), readily available at Whole Foods.
- Cons: not very dramatic, if that's what you're looking for.
- Removal: can be removed with oil-based makeup remover, but easier with a gentle cleanser, leaves little to no residue.
EDIT: I revisited a couple of these mascaras...
Namely Josie Maran and Organic Wear. I've definitely warmed up to the Josie Maran a bit. I found that priming my lashes with a bit of powder -- whether it's foundation or a light base of mineral eyeshadow -- is really the key to keeping flakes away and ensuring hours of wear for this mascara. All in all, Josie really provides some nice length and more volume than most natural mascaras. I also tried the Organic Wear again and I have to (grudgingly) admit that it's not so bad. It provides more volume with one swipe than ZuZu Luxe, but still has a lot of problems. My main issue is the weird brush which is way too big for my eyes and the horrible burning if any of it gets in your eyes. It also doesn't layer as well as ZuZu. Definitely not my favorite, but I may keep it around as a back-up.
I also broke down and tried conventional, toxic mascara again, and I learned something. Something big. You know what it was?
Conventional mascara is not nearly as magical as we green beauty bloggers make it out to be.
I tried a very popular, recognizable brand, Maybelline's Great Lash. You know the stuff. It's in a bright pink and green tube. I was prepared to be amazed and also disappointed in cleaner mascaras, but honestly, it was mediocre. It performed about as well as my favorite ZuZu Luxe. It provided a little more volume in one coat than ZuZu, but it turns out that the toxic stuff isn't much better than the clean stuff. Who knew?