Mascara Review: What’s Non-Toxic, Cruelty-Free & Works?

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Hiya Bright Eyes!

If I were stranded on a desert island and only allowed one makeup item, it would definitely be mascara. That peeper potion is like oxygen—essential to my very survival.

During my days in showbiz, I worshipped the classic green and pink Maybelline Great Lash. But as I wised up to the reality of animal testing and toxic chemicals, I ditched my go-to lash blaster in search of a mascara that respects animals, is safe, and actually works—a shockingly difficult combo to find. Many of the more “natural” brands lack the va-va-va-voom-ba-BLAM!

Like me, I know you gals are on a quest to upgrade your makeup bags, so I enlisted my team to help me research, test and rate some of the most popular non-toxic mascaras on the market today. The results: an epic mascara review! This is our biggest deep dive yet and we really hope it helps you. Let’s get started beauties.

How we selected & evaluated the mascaras

Selection process

Over the course of a year, I polled my readers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at KrisCarr.com. My team collected hundreds of responses, tallied them up and chose the top voted mascaras. We also scoured beauty blogs and magazines to find the trendiest brands. Fourteen mascaras made the cut.

Evaluation process

I combined my personal criteria and standards with what my readers asked for the most to see how each mascara stacked up. To evaluate their performance, my team and I tried each product over the course of several months. I even watched Terms of Endearment and Beaches as part of my rigorous scrutiny. If a mascara can stand up to either of those flicks, it’s a keeper!

Here’s how we analyzed each brand of mascara:

EWG’s Skin Deep ratings: Since I wanted to make sure the analysis of our review was as up-to-date as possible, I asked EWG (Environmental Working Group) to update their ratings for our picks. If a mascara wasn’t rated, EWG did us huge favor by analyzing the ingredients and adding its product rating to Skin Deep. Thank you, EWG! If you don’t know about their Skin Deep database, today’s your lucky day. I use it every time I purchase a makeup or skincare product. Skin Deep contains information and online safety assessments for over 69,000 products.

Cruelty-free certification: All of the products we tested have cruelty-free sourced ingredients and most have been certified by “Leaping Bunny” and/or PETA. Keep in mind that although these are helpful stamps of approval, they are voluntary pledges. Companies that claim to be cruelty-free but don’t have PETA or Leaping Bunny labels may not have tested on animals themselves, but the suppliers of the individual ingredients may have. Leaping Bunny and PETA cruelty-free guidelines:

  • Leaping Bunny: A voluntary pledge that cosmetic, personal care, and/or household product companies make to clear animal testing from all stages of product development. The company’s ingredient suppliers make the same pledge and the result is a product guaranteed to be 100 percent free of new animal testing. All Leaping Bunny companies must be open to independent audits, and commitments are renewed on an annual basis.” Learn more.
  • PETA: All companies that are included on PETA’s cruelty-free list have signed PETA’s statement of assurance or submitted a statement verifying that neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct, commission, or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations, or finished products. Learn more.

Animal products: We did our best to choose mascaras free of all animal products. This is tricky to determine since many ingredient names are deceiving and confusing, so we called each company and asked them about their unique formulations. I’ve noted the mascaras that do contain animal or bee products. Whether you choose to buy these products is a personal choice, which is why I want you to have the details needed to make an informed one.

Performance: Over the course of three months, my team and I wore so much mascara it was a gorgeous fest. We took each product for a spin at least 5-6 times to see if they really worked. We rated them in the infographic below based on volume (thickening & length-boosting), definition (accentuating the number of lashes) and wear (staying power). We’ve also noted the price of each mascara for your reference. Let’s meet your glamourous testers!

The Crazy Sexy Beauty Sleuths

Kris Carr Beauty SleuthWho she is: Chief Unicorn at Crazy Sexy Wellness, NYT bestselling author, green juice priestess, mother of two (Lola & Buddy), forty-something going on thirty something.

Makeup IQ: Years of experience studying makeup artists while in the TV/film/modeling world.

What I’m looking for: Some days I want long and luscious spiders on my eyes. Think Tammy Faye, without the clumps. Especially when I’m working the stage. But when I’m at home hanging around, I love being a country pumpkin-bumpkin and I rarely wear any makeup. A little light mascara is enough—and some lip balm.

Review faves: It was so hard to narrow down my favorites! I chose two for fancy times and one for down home daily wear. For my fancy days: it’s a tie between Kjaer Weis & W3ll People. When I’m down-home on the farmette: Ava Anderson.

Corinne Bowen Beauty SleuthWho she is: Managing Director at Crazy Sexy Wellness, mama to Audrey, Instagram addict, avid plant-based cook & cookbook reader/collector in her early thirties.

Makeup IQ: I usually feel like I have two left hands when putting on makeup, but Kris and Ashley have been coaching me (I almost passed out from all the attention during my first makeup how-to lesson in Kris’ bathroom!). I’m discovering that wearing healthy cosmetics can actually be fun, but I still have a lot to learn.

What I’m looking for: I’m an impatient gal but I also want to look like I’ve got my shiz together (hello, video conferences), so I gravitate toward low-maintenance beauty. My makeup routine needs to be 10 minutes or less and super-easy to remove at the end of the day, especially when my 3-year-old wants my attention (always!).

Review fave: Physician’s Formula Organic Wear: I love that it gives awesome definition and volume to my lashes and the brush doesn’t get clumpy. My only complaint is that it smudges under her eyes a bit as the day goes on, but that happens with most non-waterproof mascaras. The very first application wasn’t stellar, but superb moving forward. I also love that’s it’s inexpensive!

Ashley Zink Beauty SleuthWho she is: Marketing Director at Crazy Sexy Wellness, dog-lover, beginning backyard gardener & artist in her late twenties.

Makeup IQ: I’ve been a beauty loving “girly-girl” since the first time I got my hands on my grandmother’s makeup mannequin. I know what I like and enjoy keeping up with the trends.

What I’m looking for: I’m a bit of a ‘volume-vixen’ when it comes to mascara, a.k.a. I can’t get enough lash volume. That means I’ve got to have a mascara that lets me pump things up for an evening look. Killer lashes bring the focus to my eyes so that I can balance the rest of my face with a more natural finish. I’m also the sensitive skin tester of the group!

Review fave: bareMinerals Lash Domination: The plastic wand helps to define your lashes and gives me va-va-voom volume at the same time. It even has lasting power for all day wear. For a night out on the town, I put on two coats to add some length. This is as close as you’re going to get to a “false-lash” look without all the work.

Now that we’ve reviewed our process for selection and evaluation, let’s get to the main event—the results! Check out the infographic below for all the dazzling details.

Mascara Review Infographic

Non-Toxic Cruelty Free Mascara Smackdown

Bonus: Mascara Application Tips

Makeup artist and green beauty expert Rebecca Casciano sent us these 5 mascara tips to help you make the most of your gorgeous lashes.

  • Start from the base of your lashes and comb through mascara from root to tip.
  • To add more volume, lightly move brush from side to side at the middle of the lashes.
  • It’s best to apply mascara after eyeshadow and face powder. That way, any powder that accidentally falls on the lashes can be used to build volume.
  • Apply pressed or loose powder under eyes with a puff or small brush to prevent smudging.
  • You can use a bit of raw coconut oil on a tissue for removal. To avoid getting it in your eyes, lightly pull the mascara from lashes, rather than rubbing the whole eye area.

And we have some Crazy Sexy Tips of our own!

  • Kris’ Application Tip: Avoid applying mascara in taxi cabs or while drinking.
  • Ashley’s Application Tip: Since I love my volume, even with the best non-clumping mascara, sometimes I like to do a little extra to smooth things out and separate a few lashes that stick together. My go-to method is with a lash comb—it’s super easy and just takes a couple swipes while the mascara is drying. You can also use an old application wand that you keep clean for the same effect.
  • Corinne’s Removal Tip: Sometimes the best volume boosting mascaras require more than a cleanser at the end of the day, but you don’t want to use any old chemical-laden remover on the shelves. I wash my face first and then use a safe makeup removal product like Ava Anderson’s Non-Toxic Eye Makeup Remover.

Your turn: Let me know what your favorite mascara is in the comments below.

Peace & winks,

Kris Carr