In the 1930s, lash darkeners contained scary ingredients such as turpentine, lead-containing kohl, and aniline, a hair-dye ingredient, all of which left more than one woman blind. Now regulations strictly limit the ingredients to those that are safe to apply in the eye area, but you should be on the lookout for thimerosal, a preservative that can cause conjunctivitis and eyelid dermatitis (a rash). Thimerosal is still used in some mascaras.
Your eyes are one of the most sensitive places to apply make-up. They are much more vulnerable to bad ingredients and bacteria than the rest of your face. When applying mascara, your wand may touch the mucus membranes of the eye and if bacteria is growing on the wand, you might end up with an eye infection or worse. To limit your exposure to these problems, it is important to discard mascaras about every three months.
Today's mascara's ingredients typically include a carbon black or iron oxide pigment to darken lashes; a polymer to form a film that coats lashes; a preservative; and thickening waxes or oils such as lanolin, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, castor oil, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax. Ingredients that some mascaras contain may be cause for concern, especially those with sensitive skin or allergies.
- Parabens are used to prevent bacteria from growing in the product, but we all know these can be endocrine disrupters.
- Aluminum Powder, used as a colorant, is a neurotoxin considered worse than mercury. It can interfere with a variety of cellular and metabolic processes in the nervous system (study published in the journal of Pediatrics).
- Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A Acetate) can cause biochemical or cellular level changes. The FDA does have guidelines for use of this ingredient, it is prohibited or restricted in most countries.