9 Clean Mascaras That Won't Run Down Your Face

We absolutely love the Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara

Photo: Ivan Genner/Stocksy/Adobe Stock

From face serums to eyeshadows, clean beauty products have become increasingly popular in recent years. People love the idea that their products are made only from natural ingredients, especially those who battle sensitivity and can benefit from the absence of harsh chemicals.

This interest in clean beauty has extended to mascaras as well, and there are tons of options to choose from that perform just as well as traditional formulas. That said, what makes a mascara — and any beauty product, for that matter — "clean" is not cut and dry.

Generally speaking, "clean" mascaras are free of many chemicals and preservatives found in traditional formulas. These can include carbon black (a dark powder used for pigment that comes from coal tar and can contain heavy metals), parabens, phthalates, silicones, and synthetic dyes and fragrances. However, with no FDA regulations on what constitutes "clean beauty," brands are able to define the term based on their own standards. Many go with the guidance of third-party organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) or the European Commission's regulation on cosmetics, which has more ingredient restrictions than the U.S.

We set out to uncover the best clean mascaras on the market, looking for formulas that are long-lasting, well-tested, and feature high-quality ingredients. One of our favorites is Ilia's Limitless Lash Mascara.

Ahead, our 9 favorite clean mascaras for every lash look.

Best Overall: Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara

A tube of Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara
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What makes Ilia's beloved lengthening and volumizing mascara so special is the brush. The brand tested over 100 prototypes before landing on the unique design: a tool with dual-ended bristles that ensure no lash gets left behind while simultaneously separating them to prevent clumps.

Reviewers rave about the way it neither smudges nor flakes, as well as how easy it is to remove. It is also ophthalmologist-tested and labeled safe for both sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers. And for an added bonus, it's cruelty-free.

To shop: $28; credobeauty.com

Best Value: Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara

A tube of Burt's Bees Nourishing Mascara
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Made with nourishing ingredients found in your favorite skincare products, like jojoba oil and glycerin, this 100% natural drugstore buy hugs dry, brittle lashes in addition to lifting and lengthening lashes. The formula is ophthalmologist-tested so it's gentle enough for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers.

To shop: $13; burtsbees.com

Best Lengthening: Kosas The Big Clean Mascara

A tube of Kosas The Big Clean Mascara
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Kosas' debut mascara became a cult-classic overnight for good reason: The brand tried 104 versions of the formula before landing on one that's just right. Powered by ingredients commonly found in haircare, the mascara strengthens and conditions lashes on top of providing instant volume and fullness. The brush also deserves a callout, thanks to an innovative rainbow shape that catches every single lash hair. It's also worth noting the formula doesn't contain mineral oil, carbon black, acrylates, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and more.

To shop: $26; sephora.com

Best Drugstore: CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Mascara

A tube of CoverGirl Lash Blast Clean Mascara
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Covergirl's newest mascara delivers the same thick, fluffy, clump-free lashes as the OG Lash Blast, but is formulated without parabens, mineral oil, talc, sulfates, and is vegan and cruelty-free. It comes in packaging made with 80% FSC-certified recycled paper.

To shop: $11; ulta.com

Best with Primer: Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

A tube of Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer
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This affordable dual-ended mascara gives you two products for the pride of one. Use the primer side to prep lashes for even, smooth application, then use the mascara side for dramatic length and definition. Honest has omitted parabens, paraffins, silicones, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances from its cruelty-free formula.

To shop: $18; honest.com

Best Waterproof: Jane Iredale PureLash Mascara

A tube of Jane Iredale PureLash Mascara
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It wasn't long ago when clean mascara options were few and far between. One of the first on the market was Jane Iredale's PureLash, which remains a fan-favorite today. The waterproof mascara is gentle enough for sensitive eyes, but doesn't sacrifice performance. It adds length and volume that stays smudge-free and flake-free all day.

To shop: $22; dermstore.com

Best Flake-Averse: Saie Mascara 101

A tube of Saie Mascara 101
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This EWG-verified mascara is infused with a blend of waxes that keep it slightly wet. While this might sound like a recipe for smears and smudges, a little bit of moisture actually keeps the mascara on your lashes and prevents it from getting flaky. Swipe it on and enjoy longer, lifted lashes for as long as you want.

To shop: $25; saiehello.com

Best for Short Lashes: W3LL People Expressionist Mascara

A tube of W3LL People Expressionist Mascara
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The slim rubber brush of W3LL People's cult-favorite volumizing mascara is perfect for getting those tiny hard-to-reach lashes at the inner corners of your eyes. Choose from four classic and bold shades: black, brown, blue, and purple.

To shop: $20; credobeauty.com

Best Splurge: Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara

A tube of Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara
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Out of all makeup products, mascara has one of the shortest shelf lives. Keeping how often you replace your favorite tube in mind, Kjaer Weis' lengthening mascara comes in a refillable silver cylinder. As for the for actual formula, it includes moisturizing ingredients that allow it to glide on smoothly without any clumps.

To shop: $24; credobeauty.com

From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space.

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