Safe, Effective DIY Mascara

Today, I’m sharing a homemade mascara recipe with you.  My skin is fairly sensitive, particularly around my eyes, so I have to be careful when selecting eye makeup or my eyes will burn all day.  Before I share my recipe, I want to quickly go over the most common ingredients in commercial mascara and their properties.

Typically, commercial mascara is made of:

1.  Colorants

Colorants, of course, darken the eyelashes.  In commercial mascaras, carbon black or iron oxide pigment are commonly chosen colorants.  While iron oxide is fairly safe, carbon black is considered a moderate concern by the Enviromental Working Group (EWG) because it can cause organ toxicity.  In a more minor, but concerning, role, aluminum powder can also be added as a colorant, but can also be neurotoxic and is deemed a high concern by the EWG.

2. Polymers

In commercial mascaras, polymers form a film that coats the lashes.  Polymers vary widely in form and function.  Some are natural; some are synthetic.  Some are safe; some are not.  I recommend searching the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database to determine the safety of all the ingredients in your beauty products, polymers included.

3. Preservatives

Preservatives are added to prevent bacterial and fungal growth in cosmetics.  Typical preservatives in mascara are parabens and propylene glycol (a few even still contain thimerosal).  Parabens can act as endocrine disruptors by mimicking estrogen in the body and are considered a moderate to high concern by the EWG (depending on which paraben is chosen).  Propylene glycol (aka antifreeze – yes, the kind you put in your car) is considered safe by the FDA and the EWG, but is a source of skin irritation for some.  And, even though its not a typically chosen perservative, it’s worth mentioning that some mascaras still contain thimerosal.  Thimerosal is an organomercury compound, which is considered a high concern by the EWG because it can cause organ system toxicity and neurotoxicity.  Thimerosal is also has the tendency to bioaccumulate and is persistent and difficult to excrete.

4. Thickeners

Mascara also typically contains thickening waxes or oils such as lanolin, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, castor oil, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax, all of which are considered fairly safe by the EWG.  It’s worth mentioning here that retinyl acetate is a common thickener/conditioner, which enhances the appearance and feel of eyelashes, increasing body, sheen, and suppleness; however, it can cause biochemical changes at the cellular level (aka mutations) and is also considered a high concern by the EWG.

I actually didn’t intend to go into quite that much detail about commercial mascara, but I found the ingredients and concerns of them interesting and worth sharing.  Since mascara and all cosmetics for that matter are loosely regulated by the FDA, it’s wise to consider the ingredients in your beauty products and your use of them.  Today, I want to talk more about DIY mascara.  It turns out IT IS possible to have fuller, longer looking lashing without exposing your skin to commercial mascara’s harmful chemicals AND without breaking the bank.  Natural mascara provides a safe and healthy alternative for your skin and it’s SO EASY to make.  My inspiration for this recipe came from this post by Marie Rayma at Humble Bee & Me.  In this recipe, Australian midnight black clay and pink/red clay serve as the colorants (and also play same role as the polymer in commercial mascara).  Lavender essential oil is the preservative.  Guar gum is the thickener.  And, the vegetable glycerine and water dissolve everything and bring them together to form a liquid mascara that dries relatively quickly yet washes off easily.


2 1/4 tsp. Australian Midnight Black Clay

1/4 tsp. Pink or Red Clay or Red Mineral Oxide

1/16 tsp. Guar Gum

1/4-1/2 tsp. Vegetable Glycerine (plus extra for moistening hardened mascara over time)

3/4-1 tsp. Water

5 drops Lavender essential oil (optional)

Preparation and Use

1.  Stir the dry ingredients (clays, optional mineral oxide, guar gum) together in a small bowl or tin jar.

2.  Then, add in the wet ingredients (vegetable glycerin, water, and optional essential oil) and combine well.  If the mascara is too thick, gradually add more vegetable glycerin or water.

3.  You can store the mascara in a NEW mascara tube or a small pot/jar with a lid.  Use a clean, bristle-y mascara brush to apply as usual.  This recipe makes enough for one tube/tin.

Note:  I’ve stored my mascara in a tin jar as shown below and it does tend to dry out over the course of a few weeks, so I simply add a few drops of vegetable glycerin to the top of the mascara mixture to moisten it.  I don’t combine it throughout the mix, I simply rub my mascara brush over the moistened area and apply as usual and it works great!

Mascara 2


Australian black clay is matte black in color, fine yet heavy in texture, and mixes well with oil.  It’s a non-toxic mineral that helps cleanse, condition, and nourish skin and hair with iron and oxygen.

Guar gum is a resinous material made from the guar bean.  Guar gum can be used as a thickener in natural cosmetics, softener, moderate emulsifier, and also can help add “slip” when combing through hair.
Glycerin is an alcohol, obtained by hydrolysis of naturally occurring vegetable or animal fats, or via chemical synthesis from petrochemicals.  Some sources of vegetable glycerin are coconut oil and shea butter and, typically, if you are purchasing glycerin, the label will say if it is from a vegetable source of glycerin.  However, it’s worth pointing out that some labels may not disclose the source of glycerin (animal, vegetable, or synthetic) unless it is a marketing point.  Synthetic glycerin has received some publicity as being a potential health hazard because it is typically produced from the starting material epichlorohydrin, a toxic chemical classified as a probable carcinogen, which may remain in the final glycerin product in trace amounts (along with other contaminants like 1,4-dioxane).  So, be sure to read your labels.  In any case, vegetable glycerin is a conditioning alcohol similar to other conditioning alcohols, but it has three very hydroxyl (-OH) groups as opposed to one.  Vegetable glycerin has long been used in cosmetics and personal care for its moisturizing properties for skin and hair.  New studies have shown that it may also aid in the repair and regeneration of skin cells.

Lavender essential oil has a sweet soothing and refreshing aroma.  Lavender is an adaptogen, and therefore the most versatile of essential oils, assisting the body where needed.  Lavender is highly regarded for skin and beauty and may be used to soothe and cleanse common cuts, bruises, and skin irritations.  It is also antibacterial and moderately anti-fungal.


As with many other cosmetics, mascara varies widely in cost.  Since I know you can buy makeup at the dollar store, I think it’s safe to say that the cheapest mascara is $1 per tube; however, the cheapest “all natural” mascaras are much more likely to start in the $20 per tube range.  The DIY mascara presented here costs about $0.52 per tube/tin (I’m not joking, double-check my math), making it cheaper in price than dollar store varieties AND it’s made with beneficial ingredients for your hair and skin and free from harsh chemicals and preservatives.  Plus, it’s so easy, so I hope you’ll give it a try.  I hope I’ve shown you in this series that it’s possible to have pure, safe, beneficial and high quality homemade beauty products.

Up next, I’ll do a personal post about our Easter celebration, complete with pictures.  In an effort to take quality family pictures at least twice a year, I almost always take pictures at Easter and Thanksgiving.  The Easter pictures are my family’s gift to me on Easter (since I don’t need candy).  And, yes, I WILL postpone the Easter basket and egg hunt until I get a good picture – so, SMILE!  😉  The Thanksgiving pictures are also my family’s thank you gift to me (uh-hem, for spending 3 days cooking 1 gigantic meal) and allow me to give our extended families an up to date picture for Christmas.  I digress.  Shortly after my Easter post, I’ll take you along on my spring cleaning and organizing journey.  For all you Type A’s out there, it’s going to be amazing!  For all you Type B’s, no worries, I hope you’ll find a tip or two you love and go with that!  😉


5 thoughts on “Safe, Effective DIY Mascara

  1. This is a great recipe! Thanks for sharing. How long does a tube or tin typically stay good (shelf life) after making?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s