Is Mascara Bad For Your Eyelashes? Here’s The Truth.

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Woman using mascara

Whether you hate it or swear by it, mascaras have become a huge part of your beauty stash. But is mascara bad for your eyelashes in the long run?

For most avid makeup users, the eyes are the most essential part when enhancing the face, and the eyelashes are the most vital to the look.

The eyes are the central point of the face. It captures attention and releases your expression. While mascaras add a more dramatic flair to any look and help define the eyes.

No spells are needed. With just a few hand flicks and gestures, mascara wands can do magic for your lashes. 

While there are varying preferences, there has been one more issue that antagonizes the popularity of mascaras…

Is having the dramatic, curled, thick lashes worth the potential health risks? Are the potential risks even real to begin with?

Read on to clarify the myths and pinpoint the facts about mascaras.

What Are Mascaras Made Of?

When you swear by a product, it’s important to pay close attention to what you put onto your skin. But let’s be real, not everyone reads the long, hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the labels, right?

So, what’s truly inside those tubes? How do you know it’s safe to put on? 

Here’s an easier breakdown of the key ingredients in every mascara:

  • Color pigment
  • Polymer film to coat the lashes
  • Preservatives to prolong shelf life
  • Thickening agents to give texture

Manufacturers tend to have additional ingredients depending on the type of mascara they produce. Like waterproof mascara has extra ingredients like silicones, waxes, and emollients, all of which help give the product an additional layer of protection and resistance.

Contrary to rumors, mascara is not made with bat droppings. But it is true that some products get away with potentially harmful chemicals in them. 

What Are The Types of Mascaras?

Set with different mascaras and strokes on white background

If you ever feel like the mascara you’re using isn’t doing what it claims to do…

Chances are you’ve been looking in the wrong places and just haven’t found the right one for you.

The wonder of makeup isn’t just adaptive to certain skin types… it also caters to different eyelashes! 

You’ll never know what that tube can do unless you’ve tried all the types of mascaras out there, right?

But would you believe me if I tell you that most mascara formulas are quite alike? What really does the transformation to your lashes are the brushes.

To save you time and money here’s a rundown on the different types of mascara and spoolies:

Different Types of Mascaras:

Different Types of Mascara Brushes and Their Best Use:

  • Thick, oversized brush for curly, dense lashes
  • Long, skinny, and fine-toothed brush for curly, short, and fine lashes
  • Hourglass-shaped brush for sparse lashes
  • Plastic bristle brush for those in a hurry
  • Spike ball for sparse and super dense lashes
  • Pointed tip brush for the even volume

To help you understand what we’re talking about, check this video:

5 Habits That Make Mascara Bad For Your Lashes

One of the biggest revenue generators in the billion-dollar cosmetic industry is mascaras.

Despite women’s patronage of this product, and regardless of its countless attributes in beautification, there are both long and short-term risks you can get from using mascaras.

And these are some of the culprits for that:

Using expired makeup

Every beauty product has a “shelf life” or an expiration date, even mascaras. It’s printed on the label and can be easily seen when you inspect your tools keenly.

With 86% of women using mascaras, it’s time we raise awareness of such a matter…

Mascaras are typically expected to be disposed of every three months, or your eyes may be prone to irritation and infections.

The longer you keep a product, the more opportunities you give bacteria to set up their new home as they breed quickly in those moist tubes.

A study from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science shows that nearly 80% of old mascaras tested positive for staph bacteria.

This bacteria initially turns your eyes sore and puffy, and your lids dry and flaky. The worst-case scenario is indeed as bad as you think. When left untreated, it can lead to damaged tear ducts, eyelids, and cornea.

Sleeping with makeup on

We’re all guilty of skipping a cleansing routine at the end of each day every once in a while, but how bad does it affect your eyelashes?

Not removing your makeup at night hinders the skin renewal process that takes place when you sleep. It clogs the pores and traps dirt which is very risky, especially for the eyes. 

Mascaras make your lashes stiff; it’s part of its job. But leaving it on while you sleep will cause the stiffness to turn into dryness that can trigger lashes to break and soon result to lash fallouts.

Over the course of the day, you may be unaware of rubbing your eyes and having nasty particles cling to your lashes. And while you sleep, the constant rubbing of your skin on the pillow may cause you eye problems.

By sleeping with your mascara on, you’re inviting all the dirt from your lashes, into your eyes. Mascara particles and other build-ups may slide into the eyes, and lead to concretion. 

beautiful woman with red hair wearing a pink sleeping mask

Using other people’s mascara.

Let’s say you’re careful and abiding by the expiration dates, but often share mascaras with your besties.

Bacterias cling to those wands and can be passed from one eye to another. The skin around your eyes, and the eyes, themselves are vulnerable to infection. 

By constant sharing, you’re putting your eyes at risk for infections like a stye, conjunctivitis, warts, and even eyelash lice… yikes!

Consider yourself hygienic rather than selfish, and keep everybody’s lashes healthy instead. Your sisters will thank you for it in the future. 

Wiping your face aggressively

Your skin should be treated delicately. And as much as waterproof mascaras keep your lashes budge-proof, the horror of removing them may be traumatizing to the skin.

If your lashes keep falling out and breaking despite using the appropriate products, you should evaluate your application and removal techniques. 

Absurdly stroking the mascara wand against the roots of your lashes, regardless of the formula you use, may cause damage and may pull out your natural eyelashes. 

The same goes for aggressively wiping it off.

Aside from that, the sensitive skin around your eyes is usually thinner, and ungentle tugging can induce premature aging over time.  

Improper use of tools and exposure to harsh chemicals

Eyelash curlers go hand in hand with almost every eyelash makeup there is. It is basically used to prep your natural lashes before any makeup sits on them. 

Despite making your lashes look more appealing, there is also some trouble you can get from these curlers.

Frequent use can cause dirt and other particles to get stuck on the rubbers of your eyelash curler. This heightens the risk of eye irritations and infection. Aside from that, too frequent and aggressive use may also cause your lashes to break. 

And when you’re not cautious of what you put on your face, chances are exposing your skin to harmful chemicals, and the long-term effects of your mascara could be tragic, instead of magic. 

Mascara Ingredients to Avoid

Health authorities may be on the hunt for manufacturers who produce cosmetics with shady ingredients. However, some users still overlook hazardous ingredients and choose beauty over safety.

In the past, mascara formulas were often infused with dangerous chemicals that could even lead to blindness. Although these are strictly prohibited in modern times, there are still harmful ingredients that are sneaked into our mascaras.

Aluminum Powder

Aluminum powder on white

This metallic powder is responsible for giving color to the mascara. 

Long-term exposure to this chemical results in the body’s inability to excrete mercury. It also interferes with the nervous system and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Not worth the pigmentation it provides!

Benzalkonium Chloride

Also known as BAK, Benzalkonium Chloride is the preservative found on mascaras to prolong their lifespan. 

However, studies show that BAK has toxic side effects associated with developing eye infections and dry eyes, that could even affect the tear film and cornea.


These are another mascara preservative that doesn’t result in the preservation of the user’s health. These are associated with endocrine damage and cancer and can result in tumor growth and birth defects.

This isn’t just extremely bad for humans, but for animals as well. 

Carbon Black

From its name, you can tell it’s something associated with color. 

It gives black pigment to the mascara but like coal tar dyes, this had been linked to several incidences of cancer and harmful effects on the organs.


This emulsifying agent isn’t just present on cosmetic products such as your mascaras, it can also be found in personal care and cleaning products.

Ethanolamines are composed of amino acids and alcohol. These may leave the product with a great texture, but it is not safe for humans since it stays on the upper layer of the skin after exposure. 

It has carcinogenic compounds and is commonly linked to liver tumors.


This is another preservative you would want to stay away from if you don’t want to experience allergic reactions that may lead to eye irritation such as inflamed eyelids, and lash fallout. 

It is also carcinogenic and is something you would want near your skin, especially your eyes.


When fragrances are listed as one of the ingredients, keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily have to be in there, especially for mascaras. 

It may be there to cover up foul smells from other toxic chemicals. Fragrances can also irritate the eye and nose, and cause dizziness, allergic reactions, and acne. 


Although it’s excellent that parabens are used to prevent bacteria from growing, they can also be quite dangerous.

High levels of parabens have been found to cause breast cancer tumors and while more research is needed to confirm this, it’s best to avoid mascara with this ingredient altogether.

Propylene Glycol

This chemical is a great liquid-absorbing agent but its petroleum-based formula can trigger dermatological and respiratory issues. Ian’s allergic reaction slows down eyelash growth.

The best option would be to look for hypoallergenic mascara or brands that contain lash conditioners.

Retinyl Acetate

Also known as Vitamin A Acetate, this ingredient causes gene mutation, cancer, and infertility.

Titanium Dioxide

Another carcinogenic compound can be found in mascaras and other cosmetic products— Titanium Dioxide also creates free radicals that may cause allergic reactions and skin irritations such as acne and rosacea.

The Ideal Mascara

Close up view of curly african american girl using mascara and looking at camera

Since we all have different lash types and sensitivity, there’s really no concrete answer to this question.

At the end of the day, it depends on your preferences and needs. 

Here’s a quick guide:

If you have dry lashes, get mascara with these ingredients:

  • Jojoba Oil
  • Castor Oil

If you are aiming for thicker lashes, use mascara with the following:

  • Paraffin
  • Beeswax
  • Carnauba

It is also necessary to have vitamins such as biotin, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin E. These ensure that your lashes are kept hydrated, healthy, and protected.

How To Keep Your Eyelashes Clean and Healthy

Aside from spicing up your look, eyelashes do so much more to the overall health of your eyes. They catch harmful dust and pollutants and protect the eyes from harmful particles that may jam your vision…

This is why keeping your lashes healthy and clean should never be neglected. 

1. Give lashes time to breathe from all the makeup

Do not overuse your mascara. 

Just like us, the skin needs time to rest, that’s why you should never compromise your skin and your lashes’ health for beauty. 

Give your lashes a couple of days off from makeup. And this applies not just to your lashes, but to your entire face, as well.

While you’re skipping the mascara, make use of this time to moisturize your lashes. Applying castor oil, coconut oil, or petroleum jelly will give your lashes a protective layer to save them from further damage.

2. Choose the right mascara

Now that you’ve learned the hit-or-miss when choosing mascaras, this step should always be kept in mind the next time you go makeup shopping. 

Whether you’re on a budget, or not, being cautious of what you let your skin absorb will save you more money than you think. It’s better to look for ophthalmologically tested, and organic mascaras to ensure safety. 

Also, be mindful of when to use harsh and heavy mascaras. Save your waterproof mascaras for the occasions you need them the most, or if they’re an everyday go-to, make sure to remove them properly before calling it a day.

3. Always check and follow the expiration date

Mascaras often come with a shorter life than any of your makeup. From the time you’ve opened that tube, make a reminder on when it’s gonna hit the end of its shelf life.

4. Avoid rubbing your eyes

Avoid rubbing your eyes especially when you have your mascara on. This avoids dirt from getting trapped in those stiff and dry lashes, sliding all over the lids and potentially finding its way in. 

Also, avoid the abrupt smudging and tugging of the lids, and the skin around your eyes when removing makeup. Be as gentle as possible, and make your skin feel the love it deserves.

Refraining from rubbing your eyes also lessens the chances of having your eyelashes pulled out and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

5. Follow a proper eye care

Woman removing makeup

Following proper eye care means not just doing a regime for a week or two. It’s following and practicing several steps of aftercare religiously. 

This starts the moment you face the mirror. Establish strong pre-makeup care, which includes moisturizing and strengthening your lashes before lathering each follicle with mascara.

And when the day is over, remove your eye makeup with healthy and appropriate ingredients for your skin. Use gentle makeup removal formula.

What’s the Verdict? Does mascara ruin your eyelashes?

So the question is this: is mascara bad for your eyelashes? 

Well, there’s the good and bad to using mascaras, but it truly depends on what you use and how you take care of your lashes throughout the process. 

It’s important to establish an eyelash routine and to develop the habit of choosing a good quality mascara with the right ingredients and a makeup remover that provides a gentle cleanse.

Also, remember the dates! Don’t hesitate to throw out what’s not meant to stay.

Your eyes matter, and that means taking care of your lashes as well. 

Have you had any damaging effects from using mascara? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

  • Rebecca Green

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Rebecca Green has mastered the art of makeup. Trained by celebrity makeup artist Debra Macki, she's worked from Macy's to Bobbi Brown, freelanced for high-profile clients, and even launched her own brand, BeccaPink Makeup. Her versatility spans from everyday looks to editorial shoots, and her work has been featured in Greek Cosmopolitan.

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