What Is Mascara Made of Anyway?

Photo: Anthropologie

With an endless array of lengthening, strengthening, nourishing, waterproof, and curling mascaras to choose from, it’s likely that you have more than one in your beauty bag. That said, not all mascaras are created equal in terms of performance and ingredients. If you’re curious to know what mascara is made of, keep reading to find out more about this go-to cosmetic item.

What Is Mascara Made Of?

In essence, mascara is made of a combination of oils and waxes that provide its consistency, pigment, and color. Mascara may also include preservative chemicals that are intended to help prevent clumping, smudging, or separation. Interestingly enough, mascara has been used since ancient times. The Egyptians (followed by the Greeks and Romans) used kohl to darken their eyelashes, eyebrows, and eyelids to ward off evil spirits.

While mascara might not be used to banish evil spirits anymore, there are a few that have healthier ingredients than others. Nearly all mascaras contain iron oxidesa chemical compound that is considered to be nontoxic and is often used in conjunction with titanium dioxide. Oils used in mascaras include natural ingredients like eucalyptus oil, sesame seed oil, and lanolin. Beeswax and carnauba wax are often used to help with consistency, and mascaras that sparkle or shimmer may also include fish scales (which is also a common ingredient in lipstick).

If you’re a person who wears mascara every day, it may be worth investing in a version made with high-quality ingredients. No matter what you choose, be sure to take a moment to peruse the ingredient list before purchasing. 

Looking to invest in a new addition to your makeup bag? Here are just a few of our favorite mascaras by brands we love.

Now that you know what’s in your mascara, learn how to remove eye makeup.