Eyeliner is the easiest of ways to make it look like you’re trying, without actually doing much work. Lining your lids with pencil and liquid liners help create depth and definition but, like eyeshadow, they come into direct contact with one of the largest gateways to your bloodstream: your eyes.
What’s more, for a real pop you usually apply liner right to the inside of your eyelid, making it almost 100% definite that it’s going to seep into your eyes. You know that goopy buildup in the corner of your eye that always seems to be there by the end of your night out? Chances are that’s heading right into your blood.
Despite the fact that eyeliners almost always end up in our blood, and so too do the chemicals that go into making them, there is no regulations around what can and cannot go into their formulas. Like all of our cosmetics, this means that brands can get away with using potentially harmful and toxic chemicals in our eyeliners to protect their bottom line, but not your health and safety.
BEST NATURAL AND ORGANIC EYELINERS
We’ve gone ahead and recommended some of the best natural and organic eyeliners that do their best to avoid many of the problematic ingredients found in mainstream formulas.
W3LL PEOPLE Hypnotist Eyepencil $17.99
If you tend to have skin on the sensitive side then you likely find that eyeliners cause you more irritation then they are worth, but this EWG certified non-toxic eye pencil is safe for all skin types including skin prone to sensitivity and allergic reaction! Four highly pigmented shades offer the color you’re looking for as well as the nourishment your skin needs. Botanical ingredients like jojoba oil help create its creamy texture and smooth finish while keeping your lids hydrated.
Zuzu Luxe Liquid Eyeliner $15.60
For those of you interested in a liquid eyeliner then look no further then Zuzu Luxe’s natural option. Not only does the formula come in an assortment of colors from (purple, black, blue, green , etc) but it is made without gluten and is also vegan. Other key benefits include its quick-drying nature, ability to provide long-lasting wear while delivering precision.
Ecco Bella Natural Eyeliner $17.95
Since 1992 Ecco Bella has been creating natural products that make your health and the health of our environment their top priority, and their soft eyeliner pencil is no exception to that rule. Formulated without talc, fragrances or dyes, this eye pencil is made with natural preservatives, vegetable waxes, and absolutely no animal or chemical ingredients. Palm, coconut and castor oils nourish and moisturize your skin while gliding on smoothly for a flawless matte finish. Available in seven different shades, this health and earth-conscious eyeliner is a perfect fit for sustainably-minded consumers.
Jane Iredale Eye Pencil $15
Pigmented naturally without compromising on long-lasting wear, this eye pencil by Jane Iredale is so soft and delicate it won’t tug on skin, even if you decide to blend it (which you totally can!). Available in three different shades of black, two shades of brown, a blue and a grey, Jane Iredale has all the traditional liner colors covered. You’ll find that the conditioning ingredients like shea butter and macadamia seed oil make all-day wear not only possible but comfortable, and with a little vitamin E added into the mix, your lids are extra-protected.
Jillian Dempsey Natural Khôl Eyeliner $20
We’re all about products that can be used in more than one way and this luxury liner hits all the right notes as both an eyeliner and, when smudged and blended with its built-in smudging tool, as an alternative to eyeshadow. Organic ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, and marula oil not only provide nourishment that your lids will love, but they also make it waterproof without the toxic chemicals that usually come along with that label. For a skin-beneficial natural liner that’s a two-in-one perfect for creating the much-sought smoky eye, you can’t find a better deal!
Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Precision Eye Pencil $20
For those of us with less than a steady hand, this precision eye pencil makes for easy application that will define and contour your eyes in ways you only thought possible in makeup tutorials. It’s soft tip and creamy, soft texture helps to guide it across your skin without any pull and with total control. Made in three traditional shades, the Phyto-Pigmentation is bold but can also be applied lightly for a more subtle effect. Jam-packed with organic and natural ingredients, including its preservatives and pigments, the long-lasting formula also protects your skin from environmental aggressors with vitamin C and E.
Vapour Organic Beauty Mesmerize Eyeliner $20
Another high-performance two-in-one, this eyeliner comes with a soft sponge tool on one end for blending your liner into a beautiful smoky eye. A little easier to wipe away then it’s waterproof counterpart, Vapour Organic Beauty brings us a certified organic eyeliner that’s full of the vitamins and minerals that your delicate skin needs and wants: coconut oil, sunflower oil, and palm oil are the ultimate in hydration while botanicals like chamomile soothe skin and calm any irritation you get with your conventional eyeliner.
Avril Organic Eye Pencil $6.05
This Ecocert certified organic eyeliner is an incredibly affordable alternative to conventional liners. It’s available in thirteen wide-ranging colors from your basic black to metallic gold and even greens – not colors you see every day but ones that definitely come in handy for the more creative MUA’s.
Kjaer Weis Eye Pencil $30
Danish-born makeup artist Kristen’s namesake luxury brand Kjaer Weis is known for its high quality. In fact, their certified organic eye pencil has become a cult favorite within the fashion crowd. Made with skin-beneficial ingredients like coconut oil and naturally occurring mineral pigments, the eyeliner glides on smoothly and is available in 4 shades (black, purple, blue and brown).
Ilia Beauty Pure Eyeliner $24
Ilia Beauty’s popular creamy eyeliner doesn’t contain gluten and is also cruelty-free. Ingredients like rich cocoa butter, moisturizing avocado oil, as well as healing vitamin E help nourish the delicate skin around the eyes. The buildable formula comes in 6 shades that range from the classics (brown & black) to a cool grey, lively purple, and even a glamorous black & gold blend that adds just the right amount of sparkle.
RMS Vintage Cake Liner $24
For something a little old-school, try this vintage cake liner by RMS that offers bold black definition and something a little different in terms of application. Using a thin, short-angled brush you can create a fabulous wing with this vintage liner or grab a thicker brush to apply it as a matte shadow on your darker days. Safe for all skin types and formulated to have the same high pigmentation on all skin tones, the mica in this liner also reflects light particles to make fade any imperfections and restore a radiant complexion to your lids.
Alima Pure Natural Definition Eye Pencil $18
This highly pigmented eyeliner, available in 3 shades ( carbon black, cocoa brown, and a shimmering taupe) is known for its long-lasting performance. The fragrance-free formula is vegan and isn’t tested on animals. Standout ingredients include the nutrient-rich meadowfoam oil,the soothing chamomile extract, and nourishing mango seed oil. The eye pencil should not irritate the eyes as it is made without known irritants including silicone and parabens.
Hush+ Dotti Organic Gel EyelIner $26
This water-resistant gel eyeliner has become a fan-favorite for its ability to last the day. The non-toxic formula works well for those with sensitive eyes and blends nourishing ingredients like grape seed and coconut oils. Eyes are left defined with a natural look that can be built upon for more intensity. Extra points for the container being made from recycled plastic.
Curious about learning more? Explore our in-depth guide to all things organic eye makeup including eye-shadow, mascara and more.
WHY AN ORGANIC AND NATURAL EYELINER MAKES SENSE?
Like other makeup, eyeliners have many of the standard toxic ingredients in their formulas, like parabens and butylated compounds, but because they also tend to be waterproof and come in deep black hues, they have their very own unique blend of harmful ingredients that you need to look out for.
As the most widely used preservative in cosmetics around the world, parabens, of course, are found in eyeliner. They are used to extend the shelf life of makeup products by preventing the growth of bacteria, mold, and yeast. Parabens have a devastating effect on hormones: they have estrogen-mimicking properties which are closely tied to an increased risk of breast cancer and have even been found in samples of breast cancer tissue. At the very least, they can cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis, and rosacea. There are also studies indicating that their reaction with UVB rays can lead to skin aging – so while you think you’re doing good for your skin, anti-age creams using parabens are actually having the opposite effect.
BUTYLATED COMPOUNDS (BHT AND BHA)
These preservatives are commonly found in cosmetics but even more so in your eyeliner. Although prohibited in the EU due to it’s endocrine-disrupting properties and effects on hormonal function, BHA still finds its way into non-EU produced cosmetics under the ingredient ‘fragrance’. BHT, on the other hand, has been shown to mimic estrogen in the same way as parabens do, leading to hormonal disruptions as well as the growth of tumors. Both BHT and BHA are bioaccumulative, so you’re body has no way to get rid of them and they build up. Due to lack of evidence over time, we really don’t know what long-term health consequences this can have.
Specific to eyeliner as well as mascara, this type of coal tar dye helps create the blackest blacks. It’s sometimes listed as CL followed by a five-digit number on the ingredients label. This chemical ingredient is toxic to our respiratory systems and can be contaminated with heavy metals like nickel and chrome. Heavy metals in and of themselves are neurotoxins that can cause brain damage while nickel, in particular, has been identified as a human carcinogen.
Another item that is unique to eyeliner and mascara formulas due to its ability to create very deep black pigments needed in these products, carbon black is a cancer-causing agent that can also cause organ toxicity. As more information comes out about the toxicity of carbon black and its possible effects on human health, brands have begun to re-label this ingredient. Look out for: channel black, pigment black 6, pigment black 7, acetylene black, froflow, arogen, arotone, arovel, arrow, atlantic, and black pearls.
While this ingredient may not be harmful on its own, they have been found to contain contaminates known as nitrosamines which are carcinogenic chemicals. Avoid products that list DEA, TEA and MEA in its ingredients.
Particular to eyeliner, mascara and makeup removers, benzalkonium chloride is a preservative listed under various names: benzalkonium chloride, quaternium-15 or guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that BAK is toxic for your eyes and their epithelial cells in particular. Your epithelial cells are the cells that keep dust, water and bacteria from entering your eye. They also help the cornea absorb and distribute oxygen and cell nutrients properly. In short, BAK disturbs these cells that are essential to the healthy functioning of your eye.
PRIME YELLOW CARNAUBA WAX
This ingredient is used to stiffen your eyeliner and make it waterproof. While having a smudge-free wing at the pool all day sounds enticing, this toxic ingredient clogs the oil glands in the eyes in order to achieve its immovability. This is one of the prime causes of dry eye disease, which can cause constant eye irritation, inflammation and even scarring on the surface of the eye.
Eyeliners are made for bringing deep, black, defining contours to your eyelids and they are often waterproof to achieve long-lasting wear. It’s these two common properties that make them some of the worst culprits in the use of toxic and harmful ingredients, and many of these aren’t often found in other cosmetic products. But for every problem, there is a natural and organic solution. The 8 alternatives we’ve reviewed will give you the same look you’ve always had with none of the harm to your body.