What Is Mascara Made Of?

What Is Mascara Made Of featured photo

One of my favorite features are my eyelashes because they’re long and thick, but they’re also very straight. To keep them curled, I regularly use mascara whenever I go out. If you’ve ever wondered what mascara is made of and how it’s able to keep your eyelashes molded into place, you’re not alone.

What is mascara made of? Mascara is usually made up of five components: cosmetic pigment, polymer, waxes, and oils, thickening agents, and preservatives.

Mascaras come in different variations of formulas. Some are for volumizing, thickening, or curling; and some are water-based or waterproof mascaras. The differences call for different formula variations, therefore, ingredients and components vary greatly across these different formulas.

In this article, we’ll dive deep on what makes up a mascara, all the good ingredients to look for, the bad ingredients to steer clear from as much as possible, and one famous mascara ingredient myth we’re either going to prove or debunk!

Mascara: A Brief History

Mascara finds its origins dating back to Ancient Egypt. During that time, both men and women can be seen sporting something that darkens, thickens, and elongates their lashes. It was then believed that wearing such eye makeup would protect the wearer from evil spirits. The eyes, after all, are the windows to the soul.

Back then, mascaras were typically made from a sticky mix of kohl, animal fat, soot, honey, burnt almonds, and water. They used ivory and bone as the applicator. And as one can imagine, it wasn’t the most pleasing product to apply back then.

Today’s mascaras are born from the mind of French perfumer Eugène Rimmel. He is credited as the inventor of the world’s first industrial mascara in 1872.

Since then, there have been tons of evolution and reformulations to get us to today’s modern mascara we apply with so much ease.

Is Mascara Bad for Your Lashes?

Not everyone is gifted with naturally long, thick, and voluminous eyelashes. Mascaras become a lifesaver for those who want to achieve exactly that.

Mascaras offer a great way if you want thick, luscious, voluminous lashes for days.

Generally, it’s most definitely safe to use mascaras for your lashes. There are also now mascara options in the market right now that are packed with healthy and nourishing ingredients. Getting one with such formula not only lengthens and thickens your lashes but also nourishes to keep them healthy.

What you need to look out for are allergic reactions. Some people with more sensitive skin tend to react badly to some ingredients and chemicals. This reaction can cause several issues around the eye area and can lead to more serious infections. In some instances, this can also lead to lashes and lash hair follicles to fall out.

If you find yourself reacting badly to a certain mascara, swap it out immediately with a mascara for sensitive eyes. Look at the ingredients list and make sure that next time you’re in the market for a new mascara, get something with a different combination of ingredients.

Is it safe to use mascara everyday to thicken and darken lashes?

While it’s generally safe to use mascaras everyday to level up your look, too much of one thing being bad also applies to this situation.

You can wear mascara everyday as you need to. Just remember to properly and completely remove them at the end of the day. If you notice any changes in the state of your lashes, try lessening the days you wear mascara out.

Using mascara daily also means you need to remove them everyday at the end of the day. Having your eyes and lashes go through this routine too much might cause a few of your lashes to fall out.

Whenever you can go out without mascara, do that! Your eyes and lashes will thank you for that little break.

What is Mascara Made of?

Mascaras are a staple in the beauty world. Many just refuse to start their day without it being part of their routine. Because it’s such a staple, consumers rightfully want to know what exactly is in a tube of the magic that is the mascara.

Mascara ingredients vary from brand to brand, from manufacturer to manufacturer. But generally, a mascara is made from the following essential ingredients and components:

  1. Cosmetic pigment

Cosmetic pigments are what give the mascara its dark color and pigment. Most dark-colored mascaras like black or brown get their dark pigment from carbon black or iron oxide.

While mascaras usually come in dark pigments, there are an array of lighter color options as well like blues and violets. Iron oxide pigment comes to mind when talking about mascaras.

  1. Polymer

The role of the polymer in mascara formulas is to act as a film to coat the lashes. This ingredient covers the individual lash strands to give it a stiffer finish.

This is what helps lashes keep their shape after curling them with a lash curler.

  1. Waxes and oils

Waxes and oils are another staple in most mascara formulas. These two ingredients give mascaras the consistency they’re known for. They’re liquid but solid enough they’re not dripping wet as well.

Waxes and oils help the mascara formula to stick to the applicator well and adhere to your lashes well without clumping and causing a mess.

Some of the more common mascara waxes are beeswax and carnauba wax. Wax is also a common ingredient found in waterproof mascara, making it a bit difficult to remove. Learn how to remove waterproof mascara without frustration.

  1. Thickening agents

Thickening agents in mascara formulas are responsible for giving your lashes a thickening effect. This results in thicker, voluminous lashes.

  1. Preservatives

Chemical preservatives in mascaras are a must to keep shelf life longer. No one wants to buy a mascara that goes bad too quickly. At the same time, no one wants their mascara to clump or lose its perfect consistency after only a few uses.

The Good Mascara Ingredients to Look For

Though mascaras usually vary formula-wise, there are a good number of ingredients that remain the same across different formula variations. Below, we list and explain some of the good mascara ingredients to look out for:

  1. Biotin

Biotin is a common active ingredient in many mascara and hair serum formulas. It’s a B vitamin that is known for assisting new hair and cell growth. If you have issues with fallen and falling lashes, this is one ingredient you want to ensure your mascara has plenty of.

Biotin is a conditioning agent that helps nourish and improve lash health by strengthening the keratin component.

  1. Panthenol

Panthenol is often derived from meat or honey. Used in mascara formulas, this is a provitamin B5 that  works to nourish and moisturize as it coats the strands of your lashes.

This keeps lashes healthy and at the same time helps them appear thicker and fuller.

  1. Beeswax

Another common mascara ingredient, beeswax allows the formula to bind to and shape the lashes without hardening or clumping up. Beeswax is also packed with vitamins and nourishing components that help moisturize and keep lashes healthier.

  1. Castor oil

Castor oil works as a thickening agent in many mascara formulas. This gives your lashes a thicker, fuller appearance all the while offering moisture and nourishment. This ingredient is ideal for dry lashes.

  1. Lanolin

Lanolin is a waxy, oily substance from a sheep’s sebaceous glands. It’s known for moisturizing properties to keep the mascara from drying on your lashes, while applying, and in the tube itself.

  1. Glycerin

Another conditioning agent, glycerin in mascara helps the formula moisturize and nourish lash strands. The ingredient also keeps mascaras smooth for easy and non-sticky application.

  1. Guanine

Guanine or pearl essence comes from fish scales. When used in mascara, this gives lashes the sought-after, beautiful shine.

  1. Shellac

A binding ingredient, shellac helps the product stick to lash stands. It’s also a curling agent that gives your lashes a boost in height.

The Bad Mascara Ingredients to Avoid

While there are ingredients you want in your mascara, there are also harmful chemicals you might want to steer clear from. Below are a few of them:

  1. Thimerosal

Thimerosal is mercury-based and can be very toxic and dangerous to the skin.

  1. Coal tar

Though often used as a colorant for that dark color payoff, coal tar contains heavy metals and can be very toxic.

  1. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is carcinogenic and can be very dangerous once it enters the body.

  1. Propylene glycol

An emollient and petroleum-based ingredient, this allows for smooth application. It is, however, a huge skin irritant and can cause allergic reactions.

Animal Products as Ingredients

Many mascaras contain animal-derived ingredients. Some of them are beeswax, guanine, shellac, lanolin, and panthenol.

Vegan mascaras

Veganism is a lifestyle choice and it extends to products consumed, including cosmetics. If you’re vegan, make sure to check on your cosmetic’s ingredients list. There are also vegan mascara alternatives to keep an eye out for.

Mascara Ingredient Myths: Real or Not?

If you’re an avid mascara user and enjoy wearing mascara almost everyday, then you’re probably aware of the rumor that mascaras contain bat poop. But is there any truth to it?

This rumor is a total myth and entirely false. This misconception stems from a mix-up and confusion between two terminologies: guanine and guano.

Guanine is what gives mascaras their shine. Bat poop is called guano and this is where the mix-up and confusion comes from.

You can rest assured your favorite mascara doesn’t contain any icky bat poop.


Mascaras – both water-based mascara and waterproof mascara – are a staple in the beauty and cosmetics industry. Many refuse to go out without a layer of mascara that gives their lashes volume, length, and lift.

Because they’re such an everyday staple, many often wonder what exactly mascaras are made of. Mascara formulations are made of five staple ingredients: cosmetic pigment, polymer, waxes and oils, thickening agents, and preservatives.

And that has been our guide on everything mascara ingredients. If you have any questions about today’s topic, hit us up right below!

Michelle Jackson
Michelle Jackson