I bought a mascara yesterday.
It took me 2 weeks to buy a mascara. I have never spent that much time thinking about a beauty product purchase in my life. It’s always been what I saw in a magazine, an influencer recommended it, or I saw it in Sephora or a drug store and liked the packaging and just bought it.
But now that I know so much about the palm oil industry, how much waste we have created, and how impossible it can be to recycle beauty product packaging.
I ended up buying the Ilia Beauty Limitless Lash Mascara, it’s not an option that really decreases the waste potential. It doesn’t have less packaging or not use a mascara wand, but I don’t want to have to mix my own mascara and make a mess or have it run down my face if I get the slightest amount of moisture on my face. This has even more importance now that it is cold outside and hot air is being forced up towards your eyes with face masks and then condensing because it’s cold outside. The product has to work well, be easy to use, and generally functional. And yeah, maybe some convenience should be sacrificed to help save the planet, but to be really truly sustainable, it should work with your life, that’s what makes it possible for us to be able to make these changes.
These were the options I gave myself:
This one has amazing reviews, even people who think clean beauty doesn’t work like this mascara. Mascara is my favourite product, and since masks are likely a long-term item in our lives, eye makeup is where it is at. Ilia Beauty is also certified cruelty-free and there are no palm oil products in this mascara. They also taught me about the ingredient Carbon Black, which is a by-product of burning petroleum products, including tar products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) categorizes various substances and products in terms of their degree of carcinogenic. IARC has classified carbon black as Class 2b, or potentially carcinogenic based on animal studies but insufficient epidemiological studies. This means that no trials have been done on humans (because no Research and Ethics Board would ever allow it) so we can’t say for sure that it would cause cancer in humans. The second part, insufficient evidence in epidemiological studies, could mean a couple different things. Either that there hasn’t been enough natural exposures that scientists are aware of and able to follow the people through their lives and see if we can connect cancer to their carbon black exposure or we haven’t been able to connect cancer in people that we have been able to follow to carbon black definitively. This is why epidemiology is so frustrating! The company also states that the packaging is fully recyclable. I’m not sure how you can recycle a mascara wand, but I’m willing to give it a shot!
I am a big fan, in theory I guess because I haven’t actually bought anything from them, of Elate Cosmetics. I love their refillable palettes and that the products are in metal trays and when you hit pan everything is recyclable. But, I think the packaging of this product is slightly unnecessary. I understand why they are doing it from a branding/marketing perspective but there are essentially two tubes on this mascara and that just seems so wasteful. So there’s a typical, plastic mascara tube encased in a bamboo casing. From a waste production perspective, just have the plastic tube. We don’t need the bamboo casing and it seems a little green-washy and wasteful to me. It could be a great product, but the unneeded aspect of the bamboo casing is the #1 reason why I didn’t go for this product. They do have disposal instructions on the website, but you have to break off the bamboo casing and then recycle the tube, why not just have the plastic tube. The more steps there are to recycling a product the less likely us humans are actually going to recycle said product.
In terms of other characteristics it is not a palm oil free product, however in their FAQ section they talk about where they source their palm oil and the inspection and certification process of their palm oil source. They also have two cruelty free certifications and are even 100% vegan. Overall, I think their FAQ section is really useful and seems to be very transparent about where they source some of the more problematic makeup ingredients.
Bésame Cake Mascara
Of all the truly zero waste mascaras (powders that you mix yourself, glass tubes, waxes, etc). I think a cake would be the only one I could really get behind. This product has almost 800 (!!) reviews and has a 4.7 star rating which is pretty impressive. They also have the option to only buy the cake and continuously refill the metal container. It seems pretty cool. And it seems like you basically just wet the applicator and apply. From the pictures I’ve seen of people using it, it seems to give you spidery lashes, which isn’t really my vibe. But I would definitely give this product a shot. I’m just kind of moving slowly from brands like Revlon and Benefit which are the mascaras I’ve used in the past, to clean beauty, and then ideally to zero waste beauty.
Kjaer Weiss Refillable Volumizing or Lengthening Mascara
Kjaer Weis is a legendary low-waste beauty brand. Their packaging is designed to be completely refillable, including this mascara, which definitely bump Kjaer Weis above Elate Cosmetics. It’s currently sold out, or I would have gone with this product but I don’t want to wait for a product to come in and then buy a drugstore brand out of desperation while I wait. The mascara packaging is their “Iconic Edition” packaging, which means that it is intended to be a life-long product, which I think is very cool. Although the reviews suggest that it might be difficult to figure out how to recycle the refill. It is also unclear to me if the mascara wand is intended to be lifelong as well. It seems unlikely to me, because the bacteria build-up on eye products is pretty high and no one wants a sty, pink eye, or conjunctivitis from their mascara.
It’s a cruelty free, not vegan brand. But I’m not vegan, so animal testing is largely where my concern is. It appears to be palm oil free, and is on several lists of palm oil free make up brands.
Those were the products that I narrowed it down to after looking at various sustainable brands. There were several options from Etsy shops. This is a me thing, but I don’t know how I feel about buying eye products from somewhere like Etsy. I also don’t buy make up on Amazon or other kind of “random retailer” websites. I don’t know where exactly where it is coming from, it just skeeves me out.
So TL:DR, I bought the Ilia mascara, would have bought the Kjaer Weis mascara if it was in stock, would try the Besame cake mascara in the future.
- Kuempel, E.D. and Sorahan, T. IARC. Carbon Black. IARC Monographs Volume 93.