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The best mascaras for sensitive eyes as we finally start wearing it again

PHOTOGRAPHY BY SEUNG-ROK

WORDS BY CAIT EMMA BURKE

Fussy eyes? Try these babies out for size.

Mascaras are the beauty product I live and die for. Whenever I receive a beauty PR package for work or am trialling a new brand’s makeup range, my first thought is always ‘But what’s their mascara like?’.

If a brand can really nail a mascara, arguably one of the hardest products to perfect (primarily because everyone has such different expectations and requirements from it) then I have faith that the rest of its product line will also deliver.

I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of money on mascaras (I once forked out for a 3D printed one by Chanel), and I’ve tested tubing ones and ones infused with blueberries and gold flakes and some with intricate twisty brush mechanisms – you name it, it’s probably graced my lashes.

But over time, as numerous tubes have piled up in my cosmetics drawer, I’ve always maintained that cheaper, mainstream beauty brands do a much better job of nailing long-wearing, results-driven mascara formulations.

If the packaging is a garish shade of neon and the product has a laundry list of indecipherable ingredients and smells suspiciously like formaldehyde, for some reason I’ve always felt confident that it would deliver on that elusive, dynamic duo of volume and definition. And generally, it has.

Unfortunately, my eyes have betrayed me. In the last few months, they’ve become unbearably sensitive. Whether this is due to using so many mascaras over the years, or a sudden rejection of some of the (definitely problematic) ingredients that mainstream beauty brands use in their mascaras, I’m not sure.

What I do know is that, for the first time, it’s meant that I’ve had to give up my old favourites and commit to mascaras with cleaner formulations. And after trawling the internet and obsessively reading review after review, I discovered that sensitive, mascara-hating eyes are a much more common issue than I realised.

If you also find that most mascaras induce a watery, itchy, bloodshot eye-related meltdown, I’ve narrowed down four of the best natural ones for fussy eyes, so you can go forth and pack on the product (minus the allergic reaction).

 

Kosas The Big Clean Volumising + Lash Care Mascara

 

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Price: $42.00

Mascara says: “A clean mascara for instantly big, fluffy lashes, powered by hair care actives that help support stronger, healthier lashes. Distilled down to only what’s needed to keep the formula lightweight and full of goodness: beeswax for body, a high concentration of lash care actives, and max pigment for major effect. Cruelty-free and gluten-free. Formulated without: carbon black, acrylates, mineral oil, talc, silicones, fragrance, parabens, sulphates, and phthalates.”

I say: There are two schools of mascara wearers: fluffy brush-fanatics, and plastic brush-worshippers. I fall firmly into the second camp, and really do not believe you can get both definition and volume from a fluffy brush. But this mascara pleasantly surprised me – it delivers big time on volume, but it also provides some nice definition. The curve of the brush allows you to really get at the base of the lashes, but beware – it gets super voluminous and clumpy fairly quickly. My eyes were slightly watery the first few times I used this, but they’ve adjusted and I haven’t had any adverse reactions since. Also, the packaging has a really lovely weight to it, and the pink and orange colourway is just *chef’s kiss*.

Rating: 4/5

Get it here.

 

W3ll People Expressionist Mascara

 

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Price: $35.00

Mascara says: “A clean mascara for instantly big, fluffy lashes, powered by hair care actives that help support stronger, healthier lashes. Distilled down to only what’s needed to keep the formula lightweight and full of goodness: beeswax for body, a high concentration of lash care actives, and max pigment for major effect. Cruelty-free and gluten-free. Formulated without: carbon black, acrylates, mineral oil, talc, silicones, fragrance, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.”

I say: This is a great little everyday mascara and its formula is super clean and non-irritating – no adverse reactions here. Does it provide the extravagant, buildable volume that I know and love? No, but it’s great for when you want a natural, low key look that still provides some definition. It’s also a handy mascara to have on hand if, like me, you’re a layering lady. If you’re using a voluminous mascara, this plastic, spiky brush can be used overtop to provide some separation and to prevent things from getting clumpy.

Rating: 3.5/5

Get it here.

 

Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara

 

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Price: $45.00

Mascara says: “An award-winning clean mascara that goes above and beyond the expectations of any natural mascara. Buildable and flake-free, this 99 per cent natural mascara lifts, curls, lengthens and adds just the right amount of volume. Gentle enough for sensitive eyes, the 99 per cent natural and 100 per cent safe formula also contains organic shea butter and fortifying arginine (keratin) to help boost and enhance your lashes.”

I say: This is the one. It’s the natural mascara to end all-natural mascaras. Hyperbole aside, I’ve never found a natural mascara that does what this one can do: it seriously lengthens and separates lashes, and it provides the ideal amount of volume and a lift that miraculously stays in place all day. The dual-sided brush lets you customise how intense you go with it (if you keep layering, things can get super full on) and allows you to really get into the corner to do that fluttery-eyelashes-at-the-corner-of-your-eyes situation. But most importantly, it doesn’t irritate my moody little eyeballs. In fact, it’s the least irritating mascara I’ve ever used. Absolutely zero redness, itchiness or watery eyes here – an absolute winner.

Rating: 5/5

Get it here.

 

Eye of Horus Goddess Mascara

 

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Price: $36.00

Mascara says: “Highly awarded and acclaimed, the Goddess Mascara is cruelty-free, ethically sourced and was most recently voted ‘Best Natural Mascara for Sensitive Eyes’ at the 2020 Beauty Shortlist Awards. This gentle, long-wear and water-resistant formula will coat your lashes without clumping and is a cult favourite amongst beauty editors and industry professionals worldwide.”

I say: So this one comes with some serious credentials (the fact that it won an award for sensitive eyes particularly impressed me), and it didn’t disappoint. My lashes were insanely long after one swipe of this (as in, hitting my glasses long), and it really delivers on definition. I would suggest using this one if you’re a sucker for length over volume, as it really nails it in that department. I did find that out of my four favourites, this one did make my eyes feel a tad watery and itchy at times, but generally that feeling disappeared fairly quickly.

Rating: 4/5

Get it here.

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