What Is Mascara Made Of?

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As people are becoming more conscious consumers, they want to know what’s in the products they are buying. The Internet age has brought about an era of information at our fingertips which has given us the ability to look up the stuff that we want to know.

This has seen a whole shift in marketing tactics from the hard sell of “buy this product because it’s great” to “if you want to be a good person, buy this product with all-natural/organic/fairy dust ingredients.”

What does this have to do with mascara? Cosmetics, and mascara, in particular, are products people use every day and that have received a lot of attention online as to what they’re made of. From bat poop to ground-up baby lambs, it’s time we settle this once and for all.

So, what is mascara made of? In this article, we are going to look at what mascara is made of and where the ingredients come from. We’ll shed some light on a few misconceptions along the way.

So the next time you come across the “atrocities” of animal parts in cosmetics, you can figure out whether you should be taking anything they have to say seriously.


What Is Mascara Made Of?

Two Faced Better than Sex Mascara

If you think yourself a savvy consumer, figuring out what mascara is made of sounds easy enough – read the label, right?! Easy in theory, but when the list of ingredients looks like this….

Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Synthetic Beeswax, Paraffin, Glyceryl Stearate, Acacia Senegal Gum, Butylene Glycol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax/Oryza Sativa Bran Cera, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Polybutene, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Copernicia Cerifera Cera/Cire De Carnauba, Aminomethyl Propanol, Glycerin, PVP, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Polyester-11, Cellulose, Trimethylpentanediol/Adipic Acid/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Propylene Glycol, Disodium Phosphate, Polysorbate 60, Acacia Seyal Gum Extract, Sodium Phosphate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-1, Dextran, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Iron Oxides (CI 77499), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Black 2 (CI 77266).

… unless you have a degree in chemical engineering, you’ll probably be like most of the rest of us being hard-pressed to make heads or tails of it.

This is the ingredients list for Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara , one of the most popular and bestselling mascaras on Amazon.

Of course, every mascara formula is different. But in a nutshell, the main ingredients in mascara typically consist of:

  • carbon black or iron oxide pigment to darken lashes
  • a type of polymer to form a film that coats lashes
  • preservatives
  • thickening waxes or oils such as lanolin, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, castor oil, beeswax, carnauba wax, or candelilla wax

Does Mascara Have Bat Poop In It?

What mascara is made of? It’s certainly not bat poop, so no worries there. We put together a whole article on this rumor.

The gist is that some mascaras contain guanine.

The proper name for bat poop is “guano”, which sounds pretty similar to “guanine”. Adding to the confusion is the fact that guanine is actually also found in bat poop! But that’s not where they get the guanine that is sometimes used in mascara.

What Animal Parts Are In Mascara?

Some cosmetics, including mascara, do contain animal products. But let’s take a closer look at the 5 most commonly used animal products that can be found in mascara* to see if all of the fuss about them hasn’t been handed to you from a one-sided argument.

*Note: these are the 5 ‘animal products’ most commonly found in mascaras. These ingredients are not used in all mascaras, and some may use one or two but not all.

We are going to separate these products into 2 different categories: animal products and animal parts.

Animal Products

This category includes the ingredients that are derived from products created by a live animal, not from the animal itself.

1. Beeswax

Beeswax is a natural, renewable product made by bees to form the honeycomb. Beeswax is obtained by melting the honeycomb with water and then straining it, which leaves behind a waxy, sticky residue. It prevents emulsions from separating, keeping your mascara smooth and intact.

Beeswax is not made from crushed bees. When done properly, harvesting beeswax is completely sustainable. Beeswax is not derived from wild jungle bees that have had their homes destroyed by the evil cosmetics industry.

It comes from farmed bees.

The health of the beehive is of the utmost importance to beekeepers as their livelihood depends on it. Properly harvesting beeswax actually encourages hive renewal and bee reproduction.

2. Lanolin

Lanolin is a waxy substance secreted from a sheep’s sebaceous glands. It helps protect their coats and skin from the cold. Sheep are sheared, then the wool is washed, processed and the lanolin extracted from the sheared wool.

So no baby lambs are slaughtered in the making of lanolin.

Sheep need to be sheared to keep them healthy and comfortable as the seasons change. The ability to shed naturally has been bred out of most breeds of sheep, which makes shearing an absolute necessity.

Animal Parts

Animal parts refer to parts of an animal. Whereas milk would be an ‘animal product’, ground beef would be considered ‘animal parts’ for the purpose of this article.

3. Panthenol

Panthenol is a chemical substance made from pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B-5. It occurs organically and can be produced from both plant and animal sources. Panthenol doesn’t necessarily mean it comes from an animal. Panthenol is naturally found in things like meat, fish, egg yolk, almonds, and nuts.

It’s commonly used in cosmetics, food, supplements, and hygiene products.

Panthenol is often used in mascara because of its emollient texture that binds to the lashes, moisturizing them.

Apart from mascara, panthenol is used in a lot of skincare products because it’s a skin protectant with anti-inflammatory properties. It can help improve skin’s hydration, elasticity, and smooth appearance. From skin-softening lotion to creams made to treat insect bites, poison ivy, and diaper rash.

Chances are, you’ve probably used a product containing panthenol in the last 48 hours.

Panthenol is perfectly safe and although it can be derived from animals, it can also come from plants. There is nothing that requires mascara manufacturers to say where the panthenol they use in their product comes from.

Panthenol may also be listed as dexpanthenol, D-pantothenyl alcohol, butanamide, provitamin B-5 and alcohol analog of pantothenic acid, on the list of ingredients.

4. Guanine

Guanine is a shimmering, light-diffusing material that is used in cosmetics for a few different reasons. Guanine reduces the clear or transparent appearance and gives a white opacity to cosmetics and personal care products.

It’s sometimes used in skincare products for hiding blemishes.

It’s also used to give cosmetics a pearly, iridescent effect, like in eyeshadows, lipsticks, and mascara.

The guanine that’s used in cosmetics comes from fish scales (not bat poop!). The scales are scraped off, soaked in alcohol and crushed to make a crystalline substance that diffuses light, giving a sheen to cosmetics.

That having been said, most companies looking to give their mascara a boost of extra sheen will usually opt for the less expensive synthetic pearl, mica, aluminum, and bronze particles.

There are very few mascaras that actually contain guanine because there are more cost-effective synthetic alternatives.

5. Collagen

You have no doubt heard about collagen. Our own skin produces collagen naturally, but as we age our skin produces less, which is why we get old and wrinkly.

So it’s no wonder collagen is used in so many anti-aging skin creams and plumping cosmetics.

And of our list of animal ingredients, it’s probably the most familiar of the bunch to most of us.

Collagen is extremely important as a healing aid for burn patients, in bone reconstruction and as an artificial skin substitute. It also helps the blood to clot.

Medical collagen is derived from cattle or pigs, as is most cosmetic collagen.

80 to 90 percent of a cow or pig’s value is in the meat people eat. The collagen that is derived from these animals is a byproduct of the meat industry.

These animals are not bred specifically for collagen, but rather collagen is produced from the remnants of what’s leftover after the animal has been processed for food.

The meat industry isn’t going away anytime soon. But rather than throwing out all of the bits no one eats, which happen to be the bits that contain the most collagen, like the tendons, bones, and hooves, isn’t it much more ethical if you’re going to kill an animal for food, that as much as of it is used as possible?

This is a difficult question, and different people will respond differently. You’ll have to make your own choice, here.

Why are people fanning the flames?

As you can see from the list of ingredients above, a lot of the animal products that are used in cosmetics are made out to be a lot worse than they actually are.

Of all the ingredients above, none of them are derived from slaughtering an animal specifically for that particular ingredient to be used in cosmetics.

Part of the reason that people are easily swayed into thinking that the animal products that are used in cosmetics have resulted in the mass slaughter of animals for these ingredients, is that the cosmetic industry hasn’t exactly had the best reputation when it comes to using animals for testing!

Here’s a fun fact: Rabbits are widely used for testing cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos to see how much of an irritant the product is for the eyes.

Rabbits don’t have eyelids, so they can’t blink to help flush out things that get into their eyes.

That’s just straight-up cruelty.

The FDA does NOT require animal testing to get cosmetics approved for sale in the US, but some companies still do it.

The cosmetics industry does not have a good track record when it comes to the ethical treatment of animals, so it’s not a stretch to think that on top of the testing, they are also slaughtering animals to get parts.

But that’s not the case.

A lot of the misinformation about the use of animal products in a lot of things, including mascara, mainly comes from companies selling a ‘vegan’ version of that product.

“Guilt Marketing” is BIG business! Yes, it’s a thing and it can be very effective at changing consumer’s minds when it comes to buying products.

But these companies are often big businesses and know how to present themselves in the best light possible (they’re makeup companies, after all!). For example, some large companies that are not cruelty-free will have cruelty-free sub-brands. This structure allows them to claim to be cruelty-free while not actually being cruelty-free.

How To Distinguish Guilt Marketing Tactics From Actual Facts

If you really want to be a savvy consumer and be able to tell if what you’re reading is just an elaborate marketing ploy or it’s actually legit info, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1.       Was I shocked and appalled to read that something everyone uses is “unethical”, “unhealthy” or “dangerous”? 

2.       Is the website I am reading this information from a product website, or a website selling or endorsing a different brand of the same products they are talking about?

3.       Are they trying to guilt me into buying a product?

4.       Are their “facts” not referenced?

If the answer was “yes” to all of the above, then it’s likely that what you’ve read is employing guilt tactics to try to get you to buy something. That having been said, it doesn’t mean the information is not true, or that there is not some truth to it, but then this is where it’s on you to figure it out.

  • Get your information from multiple sources. Make sure that at least some of those sources are not trying to sell you a product. 
  • Check references. Even articles that are referenced don’t necessarily mean that what they are writing is true. Click on the links and see if what they’ve linked to when they say “Research shows…” or talk about a “scientific study” or quote statistics, actually supports their argument. Any scientific findings, when taken out of context, can be used to support whatever pitch you’re trying to sell.
  • Question things, but use some common sense. Sometimes the only conspiracy that’s going on isn’t what’s happening, but what some people are trying to make you believe is happening. 

What You Should Be Looking For On The Label

If you are really looking to be a conscious and animal-friendly consumer when buying cosmetics, rather than reading labels to look for animal products on the list of ingredients, what you should be looking for are the words “cruetly-free”, which means it has not been tested on animals.

If you are not sure, you can always Google the brand. Here are just a few of the bestselling, cruelty-free mascara brands sold on Amazon:

See also:

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).