Eco-Friendly Mascara Options: Homemade Vs. Store-bought - Zero Waste Outlet

Eco-Friendly Mascara Options: Homemade Vs. Store-bought

Posted by Anika Bennett on

Store-bought mascaras are far from ideal because they’re almost never sustainable. Your makeup drawer need not be filled with plastic and harsh ingredients. There are a few ways you can cleanse your cosmetics cabinet of wasteful products and restock with a small number of versatile, earth-friendly makeup options. 

Ever considered making mascara at home or having it delivered to your door? Handmade mascara can have great quality and be absolutely zero-waste. Here's a guide to the best eco-friendly mascaras!

The Trouble With Buying Eco-Friendly Mascara

Row of Plastic Mascara Tubes and Brushes


When you are first looking for a way to avoid overpriced, wasteful mascaras, you may start by scouring department store shelves in search of earth-friendly labels and minimalistic product design. Your instincts to do so are absolutely correct. However, there are better markets than big stores for finding sustainable mascara.

Most places that sell cosmetics, from drug stores to high-end makeup brands, do not carry many truly eco-friendly products. Many shelf brands make no effort to be sustainable in their supply and distribution chain, and some don’t try to advertise themselves as such. However, now that being earth-conscious has become more mainstream, it’s in most companies’ best interests to at least look like they have environmentally viable practices. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to identify greenwashing when it comes to mascara or other makeup products.

If you’re looking for an easy way to tell if something is actually eco-friendly or not, look for one material in the product: plastic! If you’re eyeing a sleek and “eco-friendly” mascara at the store, simply look at what the packaging is made of. Is it made of plastic? If yes, it’s simply not a good option for zero-waste makeup because it will remain as waste in a landfill for numerous years.


Smiling Woman Holding Mascara Tube

Some types of plastic makeup packaging can be reused, but is it worth it to do so? Cylindrical tubes of mascara are possible to keep after the product is out, but they require a deep cleaning process that entails many hours of soaking and scraping out old makeup (yuck). Even when you can reuse plastics that were meant for single-use, they’re a pain to clean and their lifespans are still much shorter than packaging designed with the environment in mind.

That’s the trouble with “Eco-Friendly” mascara on store shelves-- it’s usually not formulated and packaged with intention. So again, your instincts to look for some signal of sustainability are absolutely correct, but it’s hard to know where to look for a market of honest and well-made products. But you don’t have to worry about finding the right places to look: We’re going to walk you through two ways you can switch to a high-quality and zero-waste mascara.

Best Zero-Waste Mascaras

The two best alternative options for store-bought mascara are creating your own makeup with whole ingredients or buying it from a local or online source. Let’s break down each option so you can decide which is best for you.

DIY Zero-Waste Mascara

Charcoal Capsules and Chunks


A simple way to switch to truly eco-friendly mascara is to make it yourself! Plus, you can extend the versatility of this homemade blend by using it as an eye or lip liner for a bold look. This mascara can be stored and packaged in an old makeup container that has been cleaned out, ideally a flat palette with a closing lid. The product can be applied with an eyelash wand, either a new one or a thoroughly cleaned mascara brush from a previous tube. 

To make this DIY zero-waste mascara recipe, you will need activated charcoal and bentonite clay. You can find charcoal capsules at the store and online. Bentonite can also be found at few stores like vitamin shops or certain grocery stores, but your best bet is buying it online. Here's the steps to making your own mascara.

  • Start by adding 3 parts charcoal powder and 3 parts bentonite clay in a heat-proof glass container.
  • Set the jar in an empty pot and fill the pot with water so half of the glass container is submerged. Turn on the stove and begin heating the water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, add one part beeswax and one part shea butter to the glass container along with the charcoal and clay. Allow the water to heat the mixture inside the container until it is well combined.
  • Then, carefully remove the container from the hot water and pour the product into your desired packaging.
  • Allow it to cool until thickened. Swirl a mascara wand in the mixture and apply several layers for thick, voluminous lashes!
The shelf life of this mixture will be about the same as that of store-bought mascara’s; it will keep for around 2-3 months and after that, you should make a fresh batch. If you love this method and you know you’ll want to keep making it, you could find a reusable glass or metal container online or at a store to keep it in.

If you’re not about DIY projects or you just don’t feel like spending time making your own version of mascara, you can also buy thoughtfully designed, zero-waste options.

Where To Buy Zero-Waste Mascara

If you’re in the market for a zero-waste mascara, skip the store and look no more! While virtually all store-bought makeup is packaged with plastic, you’ll find that well-made alternatives are truly sustainable because they come in refillable packaging like glass or metal tins. There are two ideal places for finding the right option: your local community and the internet.


Woman Shopping For Cosmetics and Soap

There are several places in your area where you could look to find eco-friendly makeup. Farmers’ markets are always great places to find versatile, handmade products from small businesses, but makeup selections may be limited depending on your location and the size of your local market. A handful of locally-owned stores in your area may also have refillable makeup options.

The quickest way to find out if there are local businesses selling sustainable mascara near you is to search online. Search on Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sources with keywords such as “zero-waste mascara” followed by the name of your town, city, or state.

If you still can’t find any local producers or if you’d rather streamline the search right from the beginning, you can find plenty of refillable and reusable mascara options on the internet. Look for handmade products packaged in metal or glass, and bonus points if you can find a seller who offers to let you ship the package back for recycling when you’re done with it! It’s very easy to find sustainable mascaras on Etsy and other platforms such as the websites of small businesses if you stick to the simple principle of avoiding single-use items and plastics.

What’s Your Favorite Eco-Friendly Mascara?

Woman Applying Mascara


Now that you know how wasteful store-bought mascara is and how much better alternative options are, you’re ready to create your own mascara or begin searching in your community or on the internet for earth-friendly makeup. What will be your next step toward consolidating your makeup cabinet into sleek and sustainable storage for the most well-made and earth-conscious cosmetics?

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