Plastic Free July Challenge Day 17: Mascara

mascara brands plastic

Image Credit

(Back to the challenge summary)

We're very happy to share this blog post written by our partner Madison from the blog Zero Waste California!


I need a 24-hour, midnight blue lash extender. No, wait, I want jet black and waterproof. No I want one of each, just in case, right? I should get a green one too. Because it's only $2.99 and I might want green eyelashes next St. Patrick's Day, in March, 8 months away.

I actually used to think this way.

Mascara Facts

  • All these colorful and alluring products are nothing more than future landfill, with 120.8 billion units of cosmetic packaging being produced each year!!!! (Source)
  • Plastic mascara products are not recyclable, and worse, a lot of these commercial mascara ingredients are harmful, both to you, and the planet!

In fact, oxybenzone, a key ingredient in many mascaras, actually contributes to the destruction of our coral reef. This is also found in sunscreen. Since 2016, over half of Australia's Great Barrier Reef died. Many are hopeful it will come back or can be restored, but the truth is, the ocean has become too acidic to support this type of life. It's a heartbreaking consequence of global warming called a positive-feedback loop, which, despite the name, is a very negative thing.

"Scientists warn 62 parts per trillion of oxybenzone – the equivalent to a drop of water in six and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools – is enough to have a disastrous impact on baby coral." (Source)

dead coral reef australia

I still love mascara, and to a lesser extent, eyeliner. We Anglo folk (you know, the ones that catch on fire when they step into the sun? No, not vampires. But close: the Celtic-ish.) have practically invisible eyelashes. My eyelashes do exist, but they are practically transparent. So, darkening those lashes is essential for me.

Why is it essential?

I mean, it's not air, or water. Yes, I could just say "F*ck it!" to makeup products.

And I have, briefly. But the truth is, makeup gives me confidence. I used to think that my makeup : confidence ratio was an indication of a misogynistic culture (which it is), but there's a LOT more to it than that.

I was watching a documentary on female bodyguards in China. Though their job was physically intense, they wore makeup. When asked why, they explained that it was a sign of respect, to themselves, to those they encountered, and to their employer. 

Now there's a fine line between enhancing your natural features and going full on Kim Kardashian. I am in no way condoning plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery, or anything that injects poison into your body. And yes, even Botox is an extremely toxic nerve-blocker.

plastic surgery botox

So, why am I going into this at all? Because I have witnessed the damage that artificial beauty has created in our society, first hand. It encourages negative feelings about one's self, eating disorders, and false expectations of the human body.  And for those struggling with body image issues, or worse, talking about it does help. (See links at the bottom for more resources)

When I write about make up, I only write this because I encourage everyone to dress in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. Do what makes you happy, and if you can do it sustainably, more power to you.  

One of the most inspiring sayings I repeat as a mantra is this: "No matter how bad you feel, get up, dress up, and show up."

So, without further ado, let's talk mascara.

mascara brush eyes

There are literally hundreds of mascara recipes available on the internet. Some seem more successful than others. Personally, finding all the materials listed on many of the recipes seemed difficult. That I would be creating more waste gathering the ingredients, some only coming in plastic packaging, than just getting a regular thing of mascara.

Many of the recipes included activated charcoal, and putting that near my eye made me weary. Though I couldn't find anything specifically adverse about this listed online, my ophthalmologist advised against it, and that was good enough for me.

DIY Mascara Recipe (No Charcoal!)

However, we did locate a charcoal-free recipe that patron highly recommended, you can find it at


  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel
  • 1/2—1 teaspoon grated beeswax
  • ⅛ teaspoon castor oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black mineral powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon bentonite clay
  • 4–5 drops lavender essential oil
  • Clean mascara container


  1. Place the coconut oil and grated beeswax in a small saucepan on low heat and stir until they are completely melted.
  2. Add the castor oil and the aloe vera gel and stir.
  3. Add the black mineral powder and continue to blend.
  4. Then, add the bentonite clay and the lavender essential oil.
  5. Remove from heat and blend.
  6. Using a small plastic bag or cake decorator with a small tip, place the mixture into the bag.
  7. Push the mixture into the corner with the hole, then place that corner into the mascara tube and carefully push the mixture into the tube.

Zero Waste Mascara Products

zero waste mascara

Photo Credit:

Then I found a few well-rated companies on Etsy that have created their own toxic-free mascara, and sell it in adorable glass or tin containers.

All these products are 100% Vegan.

Keeping It Natural

Clean Faced Cosmetics

Luna Beauty - UK

**Note** Both products come with a plastic mascara wand, but both sellers are happy to ship your mascara completely plastic free. Be sure to request that when purchasing, and simply wash and re-use your current mascara wand going forward. (I handwashed mine with dish soap and hot water, towel dried, then let air dry for a day)

One last note

Euphemistic language is the murderer of a free-thinking society. (Think I am kidding? Watch HBO's 2001 film Conspiracy).

Words are often used to scare consumers. All-natural and Non-GMO does not mean organic, non-GMO is not necessarily a good thing, and don't fear the word 'chemical.'

A few days ago, a woman at a kiosk shouted at me, "You know you put 5,000 chemicals on your face before you leave your home?"

I was a little startled by her approach, but the science-lover in me had to inform her, "Ma'am, oxygen is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Everything you are selling on your display are technically chemicals." And it's true.

Another fun fact? Everything in excess is poison. Water, air, everything in excess is harmful. So don't be scared of words, be scared of euphemistic language.

More Resources:

An interesting thread on Zero Waste Mascara

We're killing the world's coral reefs with SUNCREAM and mascara

Eyes Wide Open: The Story of Makeup Packaging

What are positive feedback loops?

For those who are or know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder:

Call 24/7 for eating disorder treatment.

1-888-232-6949  or Click Here

If not, talk to someone who will listen, talking helps.

Join the conversation!