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Cruelty-free isn’t just a bonus these days; it’s the standard. So there’s no surprise that some of your favorite brands are making sure that their products don’t harm our furry friends. If you’re in the process of cleaning up your beauty cabinet to include cruelty-free products, your mascara is a great place to start.
We know that finding a mascara you love can be quite the battle, but also ensuring that it’s cruelty-free makes the hunt a bit harder. So we’ve done the research for you to find ones that lengthen, curl, darken, condition, and add volume without testing on animals. Because aside from choosing a mascara that is certified cruelty-free, you'll want a mascara that fits the bill as far as your aesthetic. We also caught up with clean beauty expert and makeup artist Sammie Kolk to get her recommendations on the category.
Check out the best cruelty-free mascaras on the market.
Best Overall: ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara
When it comes to ingredients and results, this cruelty-free mascara hits a home run. It offers length, lift, and curl without sacrificing ingredient quality. “It's honestly my most reached-for mascara and I recommend it to everyone who’s looking for a green beauty mascara that actually works and stays," says Kolk. "It's not waterproof, but it is oil-free and water-resistant, so it won’t smudge or flake. Plus, you don't need to tug on your eyes in the evening to remove it. It just washes right off!”
What Our Testers Say
"My lashes were defined, curly, and had great length and volume. I’ve found that a lot of mascaras I’ve tried over the years make my lashes look crunchy and dry; ILIA Beauty’s Limitless Lash Mascara gave my lashes the look of being shiny and nourished." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara
This mascara is effective on multiple fronts. It increases volume by more than four times in a single application and acts as a push-up for your lashes, too. Bonus: It also lengthens, curls, and conditions with natural botanicals and waxes without any parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, gluten, or sulfates.
Best Budget: Essence Cosmetics Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara
At under $5, this budget-friendly mascara definitely rivals its more expensive peers. The fiber brush is shaped perfectly to deliver volume and sculpted length to even the shortest, wispiest lashes. It’s safe for sensitive eyes and contact wearers, and of course, it’s cruelty-free.
What Our Testers Say
"The biggest takeaway was how long my lashes looked and the instant definition. I also really liked the wand, which was easy to use, and even after applying it a few times on my lashes, the finish was very smooth." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best Drugstore: CoverGirl Flourish Mascara
This mascara doesn’t just define your lashes—it conditions them with lush ingredients including coconut, avocado, and papaya oils. The creamy formula volumizes lashes from root to tip, offering clump-free length and definition. It’s also ophthalmologically tested to be safe for contact lenses.
To take your look to the next level, Kolk recommends curling your lashes before you apply mascara. "It can also be good to use an eyelash primer," she explains, "as it holds the lashes in place really well for a longer-lasting hold.”
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara
Hello, instant gratification and long-term benefits! This mascara delivers big, fluffy lashes with plenty of volume and curl while also supporting the natural lash growth and repair cycle. The oversized brush has flexible yet firm spiraled bristles to ensure every lash is lengthened and curled. It's also non-irritating and ophthalmologist-tested to be safe for sensitive eyes.
Best Natural: Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Nourishing Mascara
If ingredients are your number one concern, this 100% natural formula is the way to go. It’s full of nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil and glycerin to strengthen and condition your lashes while lengthening for a natural look.
Best Lengthening: Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara
This award-winning mascara has a reputation for creating the look of lash extensions with length, definition, and curl that lasts all day. It’s powered by the brand's Flake-Free Tubing Technology for lashes that won’t clump or flake, yet wash away seamlessly. Plus, the formula also supports longer natural lashes over time.
Best Applicator: Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara
Maximize your lashes with this volume-boosting mascara. The curvy brush delivers volume to hard-to-reach center lashes and has a defining tip to style your lashes to perfection. As if the applicator wasn’t enough, the super-concentrated black pigment delivers smudge-proof length and volume in three strokes or less.
Best Lifting: Milk Makeup Kush High Volume Mascara
Bring on the volume and lift! In a consumer study commissioned by the brand, 95% of participants saw increased volume and longer lashes while 90% also saw thicker lashes and lift. The secret is in the heart-shaped fibers that lock onto each lash for a soft, feathery effect. It’s also formulated with hemp-derived cannabis seed oil that condition lashes and helps fuse fibers to prevent flaking.
Best Volumizing: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara
Separate, coat, and curl each lash to voluptuous perfection with this volumizing mascara. The hourglass-shaped brush helps to coat every lash and the non-smudging, non-flaking formula delivers deep black color intensity. Plus, it’s made with film-forming polymers that help to lock lash curl into place.
What Our Testers Say
"If you have shorter lashes, The Better Than Sex Mascara product may be a hit or miss. However, if you have average to longer lashes naturally and enjoy using larger mascara brushes, this product will give you amazing definition, volume, lift, length, and curl." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Fiber: NYX Professional Makeup Doll Eye Mascara
Take barely-there lashes to new lengths with this extending fiber mascara. It uses a unique blend of natural oil and nylon fibers to lengthen your lashes and add volume. The small bristles capture even the sparsest lashes for length that lasts all day and washes away effortlessly.
Best Dual-Sided: Honest Beauty 2-in-1 Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
You get a mascara and primer in one with this dual-sided wand. The lash primer enhances the mascara’s lay-down performance and staying power while the rich mascara lifts your lashes and opens your eyes to serious volume, length, and definition.
When it comes to cruelty-free mascaras, ILIA's Limitless Lash Mascara is at the top of our list. It provides the length, lift, and curl that you’re looking for without any harmful ingredients or practices. We also recommend the Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara—its brush delivers serious volume and coats every lash evenly.
What to Look For in a Cruelty-Free Mascara
The type of brush your mascara has makes all of the difference. A comb-like applicator is great for catching short, sparse lashes while a brush with a pointed tip can provide a lengthening boost. Curved brushes are best for curling your lashes, jumbo brushes provide a thickening effect, and hourglass-shaped brushes deliver plenty of volume.
“I prefer to use a naturally derived mascara,” explains Kolk. “I also check to see if it's officially cruelty-free and Leaping Bunny-certified.” In addition to being cruelty-free, consider the conditioning quality that you are seeking. Some mascaras are formulated with vitamins and oils to treat your lashes for long-term benefits.
Some mascaras might “do it all,” but more often than not, you’re going to need to select a mascara that focuses on your specific concerns. Whether it be lengthening, curling, volumizing or defining, choose your mascara based on your needs.
How can you tell if a mascara is truly cruelty-free?
Aside from shopping from the products on this list, all of which are cruelty-free, look for the Leaping Bunny certification as Kolk recommends. If it's not listed on the product page, you can also go to the source and look at Leaping Bunny's certified shopping guide. PETA also puts out a list of certified cruelty-free brands, so you may see this certification on a brand's product page as well. Finally, you can check out a brand's About page to see if it mentions being cruelty-free.
What is the best waterproof cruelty-free mascara?
Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara, our budget pick on this list, also comes in a waterproof version. If you're looking to spend a bit more, Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes, Splashes is waterproof. While our overall top pick, Ilia Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara is not waterproof, it is smudge-proof and water-resistant.
Which other drugstore mascara brands are cruelty-free?
Aside from the top picks on this list, you can find other cruelty-free mascaras at the drugstore. To name a few brands that meet the certification, e.l.f Cosmetics, Flower Beauty, Milani, NYX, Pacifica, and Wet N Wild carry cruelty-free makeup—some with vegan options as well.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Kindra Moné has been creating fashion and beauty content since 2013. Whether contributing to some of the top women’s lifestyle magazines or working in-house with global brands, Kindra has collaborated with some of the most knowledgeable beauty professionals in the industry. When she isn’t writing or trying out Instagram recipes, she’s giving wellness tips and sharing fashion news on The StylingSOUL Podcast.”
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any cruelty-free mascara from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.