Do you remember the first time you wore makeup? It was most likely sometime around your thirteenth birthday and you were probably totally psyched about the bright blue eyeshadow and sultry eyeliner you just got. Now, hopefully you switched from the blue eyeshadow to something more subtle but sultry eyeliner may still be your go-to…and that’s all good…if it’s the healthy kind.
Since that first experimental day, you have most likely worn some kind of makeup every day for 7 hours a day. If you live until 80, you will have spent 163,520 hours wearing makeup.
If we wear makeup every day, allowing it to seep through our skin and go into our blood, we should be rightly concerned with the ingredients found in our cosmetics. If you’re reading this, you probably know that conventional makeup is filled with toxic and carcinogenic ingredients. Do you know that the chemicals that go into cosmetics have no rules or regulations requiring safety testing? This is even true for eyeliner! A beauty tool that we use right on the edge of our eyeballs.
Brands get away with using toxic ingredients to make products smoother, stiffer, shinier, blacker, longer lasting, and waterproof. But toxic ingredients are not the only options! There are tons of all-natural, organic, and wildcrafted ingredients that are just as effective without the chemical soup. In this article, I am going to go through the issues with conventional brand name eyeliners and then offer amazing healthy alternatives!
Issues with Conventional Eye Liner
This is such an important issue because 1. the average age that a young girl begins to wear makeup is decreasing fast and 2. eyeliner is a staple. Conventional eyeliners contain harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer, hormone dysfunction, infertility, and reproductive issues (1). The population especially vulnerable to these toxins are young girls and pregnant women.
Butylated Compounds (BHA, BHT)
Butylated compounds are preservatives found in your happy hour brew, hot dog stand sausage and the bag of chips you found from a year ago that are still “good”. Oh yeah, and your eyeliner. The toxins that increase the shelf life of a Twinkie are the same toxins we line our eyelids with.
Here’s why we need to stop that immediately:
BHA and BHT are endocrine disruptors meaning they mimic estrogen, throw hormone function all out of whack, and promote tumor growth. In addition to being endocrine disruptors, these chemicals are also irritants and have been associated with organ and developmental toxicity (1).
The problem with these compounds beyond what I mentioned above is that they bioaccumulate. Small use over an extended period of time is detrimental to our health and can lead to serious problems.
The European Union banned BHA and categorized these chemicals as Category 1 priority substance on the endocrine disruption list (1). If the U.S. fails to recognize butylated compounds adverse health effects we need to take our own initiative to use eyeliner with natural preservatives like vitamin E and aspen bark extract.
I know, we all love a good sultry look: the smoky eye wouldn’t be what it is without that defined black line. But did you ever think about where that black pigment comes from? Conventional eyeliner companies use carbon black for pigment– a toxic chemical that we want to avoid at all costs.
Carbon black is a product of incomplete combustion of carbon-based products like coal-tar and has been linked to organ toxicity and cancer (1,2). If the back of your eyeliner box doesn’t say carbon black don’t let out a sigh relief so quickly. Carbon black can fall under other names like channel black, arrow, atlantic, arovel, arotone, arogen, black pearls, pigment black 6, pigment black 7, acetylene black, furnace black, lamp black, thermal black and froflow (1,2,3).
While the use of carbon black in cosmetics may be restricted in the US, that doesn’t really mean much considering there are no safety tests cosmetic companies must pass to prove their product is safe.
Parabens have been making a lot of headlines lately—and not the good ones. You may have recently walked down the self-care aisle in search of a new shampoo or conditioner and saw that a lot of bottles have “paraben free” on them now. And while that’s a good thing, we’re not completely out of the woods yet– a lot of products still use parabens.
Parabens easily penetrate your skin and enter your bloodstream. They have been found in urine, breast milk, and plasma (4). And because they are endocrine disruptors they mimic estrogen and mess with your nervous, immune, and reproductive systems (1,4).
A huge concern surrounding parabens is their association with increased risk for breast cancer. A study found that intact parabens were detected in breast cancer tissue (5). Anything with the suffix-paraben in the ingredient list is an immediate red flag.
Aluminum Powder is a neurotoxin used in some eyeliners for color and hue. It has been associated with organ system toxicity and nerve damage (6). You can find it on your label under aluminum, pigment metal or LB Pigment 5.
Yellow Carnauba Wax
Yellow Carnauba Wax is used in eyeliners to make them waterproof or stiffer. The issue here is that the wax clogs oil glands in the eye and may lead to dry eye disease (7). According to the National Institutes of Health, 3.2 million women 50 and older are affected by dry eye disease.
BAK (Benzalkonium Chloride)
BAK is another preservative that can be found in eyeliner. Ironically enough it is toxic to the epithelial cells of the eye which work to keep bacteria and water out of the eye. These cells also create a smooth surface for the cornea to absorb and distribute oxygen and other nutrients from tears (7).
Lead and other Heavy Metals
You might be familiar with glitter or metallic eyeliners—you might even use them. Well, they are making a comeback for millennials and it’s a huge concern because the way that most eyeliners get their glitter and shine is from heavy metals.
Heavy metals like lead, nickel, cobalt, aluminum, mercury, arsenic and chromium are found in a ton of personal care products including eyeliner. Health concerns associated with accumulation of heavy metals in the body include cancer, organ toxicity, developmental and reproductive toxicity. The most vulnerable populations include pregnant women and young children and teens (8,9).
Lead is a known neurotoxin that has been linked to behavior, learning and language problems. Not only that but lead has also been linked to infertility, hormonal changes, and menstrual irregularity.
Mercury is well absorbed by the skin and then goes on to adversely affect other bodily systems. It has been associated with nervous, reproductive, immune, and respiratory systems toxicity. A study done in 2013 suggests that mercury-based products can disrupt thyroid hormones. It was also found to be particularly dangerous for fetal development.
While the use of heavy metals in cosmetics is banned in Canada, Japan and the European Union, it is still only restricted in the US.
Best Natural Eyeliners
So now that you know why conventional eyeliners are the last thing you want to be lining your precious eyelids with– let’s get into the good stuff! Natural eyeliners formulated with natural, wildcrafted and organic ingredients are effective and good for you!
When you purchase eyeliner from an ethical company who uses only the best ingredients from the earth, you’re showing your eyes some serious love. Whether you go all out with a liquid cat eye or prefer a subtle classic pencil line– there’s a natural eyeliner for that. Here are some of the best!
You know how that saying goes “first is the worst, second is the best”? Well, I never liked that saying much. In this case, first might just be the best. I’m starting with my favorite liquid eyeliner.
Imagine this: an all-natural liquid eyeliner with a fine calligraphy tip to deliver the ultimate precision. Sounds great, right? Well, how about an eyeliner that delivers beautiful definition to your eye AND dries insanely quick AND is water resistant?! This is no joke.
This gluten-free formula is perfect for watching your little one graduate from kindergarten or going out on the town with your hubby. Go all out and draw a cat eye or just be simple. If you’re a liquid eyeliner girl– this is your new favorite tool.
Formulated with natural ingredients like jojoba oil and with 8 colors to choose from, I promise you’ll find your favorite. My personal staples are black pearl and storm. All of its loyal buyers give it 5 stars and never-ending praise.
The Hypnotist Eye Pencil is an EWG certified non-toxic eyeliner that is ideal for sensitive skin types who are prone to allergic reactions. This eyeliner glides on for a professional smooth-line finish. It also blends well for a sexy smokey eye. Created with botanical ingredients like moisturizing jojoba oil– your eyelids will stay hydrated and nourished (no one likes crusty lids).
The Hypnotist will do exactly what is says so don’t be surprised if you keep locking eyes with people. With 4 great colors to choose from you can start hypnotizing people today.
You gotta love a 2-in-1 product and Jillian Dempsey’s Natural Khol Eyeliner is just that: a luxury eyeliner with a built-in smudging tool for an eyeshadow alternative. It’s toxin and preservative free making the intensity of all 4 colors hard to believe.
Overflowing with antioxidants and organic ingredients like shea butter, marula oil, and jojoba oil your lids will be fully nourished at all times. Oh, and don’t be afraid to cry of happiness when you see how smoothly the color goes on– it’s waterproof.
Super popular and for solid reasons. Ilia Beauty’s Pure Eyeliner is gluten and cruelty-free. Instead of nasty chemicals, this eyeliner is full of healing ingredients like cocoa butter, vitamin E and avocado oil– ingredients that your delicate eye area LOVES. If you want a little sparkle, try the black & gold blend. If you’re looking to make a statement go with the purple or if you want to keep it classy try the black, brown, or classic grey. You won’t be disappointed.
This vegan eyeliner is bold and long-lasting! It’s available in a shimmery taupe, carbon black, and cocoa brown. It’s fragrance and cruelty-free and formulated with soothing and nourishing ingredients like chamomile extract, mango seed oil and meadowfoam oil. Ideal for someone with sensitive skin, this eyeliner will not irritate.
Now that you’ve thrown out your conventional eyeliner, are you excited to try the others?! Are you more of a liquid liner girl or smooth pencil chick? Have you tried a natural eyeliner that you LOVE that I didn’t mention above? Let me know in the comments below!
- Freije. “10 Toxic Chemicals in the Makeup.” Annmarie Skin Care, Annmarie Skin Care, 26 Mar. 2018, www.annmariegianni.com/toxic-chemicals-in-makeup-industry/.
- “Carbon Black.” Safe Cosmetics, www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/carbon-black/.
- “CARBON BLACK.” EWG Tap Water Database, www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient/717467/CARBON_BLACK/.
- Darbre, P. D., & Harvey, P. W. (2008). Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks. Journal of applied toxicology, 28(5), 561-578.
- López-Carrillo, L., Hernández-Ramírez, R. U., Calafat, A. M., Torres-Sánchez, L., Galván-Portillo, M., Needham, L. L., & Cebrián, M. E. (2010). Exposure to phthalates and breast cancer risk in northern Mexico. Environmental health perspectives,118(4), 539.
- “Ingredients in Cosmetics That Are Harmful to Your Eyes · Cliradex®.” Cliradex®, 30 Aug. 2018, cliradex.com/ingredients-in-cosmetics-that-are-harmful-to-your-eyes/.
- Arbor Eye Center – Optometry In Austin, TX USA :: Cosmetics, www.arboreyecenter.com/cosmetics.html.
- “Lead And Other Heavy Metals.” Safe Cosmetics, www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/lead-and-other-heavy-metals/.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Potential Contaminants – FDA’s Testing of Cosmetics for Arsenic, Cadmium, Chromium, Cobalt, Lead, Mercury, and Nickel Content.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductsIngredients/PotentialContaminants/ucm452836.htm.