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If you’re anything like us, mascara is a non-negotiable staple in your daily makeup routine. Even on the most bare-faced of days, you better believe our lashes are getting a swipe from our trusty tube. And while products like deodorants and face moisturizers may be more talked about in the clean beauty space, clean mascaras deserve a place at the table, too.
The inky formulas that lift and lengthen your lashes are often filled with a laundry list of potentially harmful ingredients. We’re talking parabens, a petroleum derivative called polybutene, carbon black (a dark powder used as a pigment that’s made from coal tar and contains heavy metals), as well as synthetic colors and dyes—and that’s not even mentioning the preservatives used to keep these formulas from becoming bacteria breeding grounds. But now for the good news: While it’s still a fairly new category in the clean makeup arena, there are plenty of mascaras that don’t contain these questionable ingredients but will still leave you with the long, full, fluttery, glossy fringe you crave.
Need proof? Read on for the best clean mascaras and see for yourself.
Best Overall: ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara
Byrdie Commerce Editor Avery Stone raves about this mascara, an innovative option that is beloved in the clean beauty world. The brand tested more than 100 different brushes before they landed on the final design of this unique wand. Look closely and you’ll see that one side has curled, shorter bristles that pack on more product for lots of volume, and the other touts longer, straight bristles that pull through each lash for mega-length. Couple that with a formula that doesn’t smudge or flake and is easily buildable, and this is one of our favorite mascaras, ever, clean or not.
What Our Testers Say
"When I opened the ILIA mascara, I was immediately drawn to its design: I don’t use mascaras that have a brush on one side and a comb on the other too often. I immediately knew this product placed emphasis on having clearly defined, separated lashes." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester
Best Budget: Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Primer
Our wallet-friendly pick gives you get two products for the price of one. The dual-sided tube houses a primer on one end—the perfect prep step to ensure the mascara on the other side goes on smoothly and stays put. Brush through lashes with the primer first, wait 30 seconds, then apply the mascara. It’s free of parabens, synthetic fragrance, silicones, and mineral oil, but does have jojoba esters, which help condition the hairs.
Best Drugstore: Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Nourishing Mascara
As a general rule of thumb, there aren’t that many clean mascara options to be found at the drugstore; this is one of the exceptions. It’s made of 100% natural ingredients, including jojoba oil and glycerin for plenty of hydrating and conditioning benefits, and imparts both defined length and impressive lift. Bonus points for the fact that it comes in both black and a very natural-looking black-brown, and is ophthalmologist-tested and safe for even sensitive eyes.
Best Volumizing: Kosas The Big Clean Volumizing + Lash Care Mascara
Team Byrdie is, in a word, obsessed with this lash-boosting mascara; it's one of our favorite newbies to hit shelves this year. It took the brand 104 iterations to get the formula just right, an effort we think was well worth it. One swipe leaves lashes super full, fluffy, and noticeably more voluminous (sans clumps). Credit both the mascara itself and the brush, which boasts a unique rainbow-shape and different length bristles to catch and coat every lash. It’s also super clean, free of carbon black, mineral oil, acrylates, and more.
Best Lengthening: Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Ultra-Natural Mascara
The slim, spiral brush of this option coats lashes from every angle, all while separating them for maximum length and definition. (And if you prefer more volume and lift, just swipe on a second coat.) It’s made with 60% organic ingredients, relying on plant-derived pigments instead of traditional carbon black and petroleum derivatives. Also noteworthy is the fact that it’s not water-based, meaning it doesn’t need the same amount of preservatives as other formulas. And thanks to the creamy and non-drying consistency, you don’t need to worry about it flaking off throughout the day.
Best Versatility: W3LL People Expressionist Volumizing Mascara
Despite the fact that this may be called a volumizing mascara, it can do much more than that. One coat of this plant-based formula leaves lashes soft and fluttery, ideal for those who prefer a more feathery, lengthened look. But swipe on a second layer and you instantly have dramatic, va-va-voom lashes. A dense, hourglass-shaped brush packs the product onto every lash without clumping—plus, not only are the ingredients clean, but it’s also made using sustainable energy. You’ve gotta love that.
Best Conditioning: Westman Atelier Eye Love You Mascara
This pick is pricey, yes, but consider the fact that it does double duty as both an excellent mascara and a lash-conditioning treatment. Made from 96% natural ingredients, it touts a tree-derived sugar that hydrates and conditions the delicate hairs, while chicory root and natural waxes impart thickness and volume. Rather than relying on traditional, chemical-based preservatives, this uses a natural alternative that comes from coconut oil.
Best Waterproof: Ere Perez Avocado Waterproof Mascara
Finding a formula that’s both clean and waterproof is no easy feat, but this one checks both boxes. The stay-put color—it touts a 24-hour wear time— is infused with avocado oil, considered to promote lash strength, and which also gives it a nice glossy finish. And the minimal list of only seven ingredients is squeaky clean.
Best for Sensitive Eyes: Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara
Not the newest kid on the block—it’s been a fan favorite for over a decade—this is a staple for those with easily irritated eyes. It’s both ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic, and safe for contact lens wearers, too. Mineral oil, paraben-, and phthalate-free, it’s also just a great all-around formula that lengthens, curls, volumizes, and conditions.
Best Vegan: CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara
Clean, vegan, cruelty-free, and affordable, this newbie is definitely worth checking out. It offers the same majorly volumizing (and smudge-proof) effects as the brand’s beloved OG Lash Blast variant but has now been formulated without parabens, sulfates, talc, or mineral oil. Plus, not only is it vegan and cruelty-free, it’s also Leaping Bunny certified and is housed in FSC-certified packaging made from 80% recycled paper.
What Our Testers Say
“Overall, this addition to the Covergirl Lash Blast mascara family definitely delivers on its promise of clean volume, and the fact it seems to care for lashes only makes it even more appealing.” — Emily Algar, Product Tester
Best Shade Range: 100 Percent Pure Fruit Pigmented Mascara
Using totally natural pigments that come from black tea, berries, and cocoa, this lengthening mascara has the added benefit of coming in four different shades. Yes, you’ve got your classic black, but there’s also a denim blue, deep plum, and chocolatey brown, all of which are surprisingly wearable and flattering on a wide array of eye colors. It’s also water-resistant and free of toxic petrochemicals.
Best for a Natural Look: Roén Beauty Cake Mascara
There are days when you want ultra-bold, ultra-dramatic lashes—and then there are days when you just want a little something to make your fringe fluttery and fanned out. For those days, reach for this tube, which offers a completely natural-looking volume, length, and lift. Moisturizing olive oil both hydrates and leaves the intense black color beautifully glossy, further complementing the natural effect. And if you do want to up the ante, the formula is also clump-free and buildable so you can easily add more coats.
Traditional mascaras are full of potentially-questionable chemicals, and, happily, there are more and more clean alternatives than ever before. When in doubt, try the ILIA's Limitless Lash Mascara, a true standout in the space with a unique dual-sided brush that imparts both length and volume. Speaking of volume, the new Kosas The Big Clean + Volumizing Mascara is a Team Byrdie staple and will leave your lashes extra full and extra fluffy. And if you’re a drugstore mascara fan, check out both Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Nourishing Mascara or CoverGirl's Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara.