The Shockingly Dangerous Beauty Product You Probably Have in Your Makeup Bag

When it comes to makeup, it’s safe to say that most of us can’t live without mascara. That said, this common beauty product is actually a huge threat to your eyes and can cause a lot of harm.

From its chemical-ridden formula to its ability to damage your cornea, we share the everyday dangers of using mascara, ahead.

1. Its formula contains gross chemicals

Woman applying mascara on her eyelashes

Read the labels carefully. | ValuaVitaly/iStock/Getty Images

One of the biggest concerns? The gross — read: dangerous — chemicals found inside mascara formulas. Here are some to watch out for:

  • Petroleum distillates: Used as a cheap emollient in mascara (and other beauty products), petroleum distillates are a mixture of unpredictable hydrocarbons sourced from petroleum. And while it ranks moderately for cancer and overall hazard concerns, it can still be linked to contamination, organ system toxicity, and bioaccumulation.
  • Aluminum powder: Considered a high concern on the EWG’s Cosmetics Database scale, aluminum powder could be lurking inside your favorite formula. Used as a colorant in beauty products, the potentially dangerous ingredient can cause neurotoxicity, enhanced skin absorption, and more.
  • Parabens: While these preservatives help keep bacteria at bay, they can also cause some serious damage to your body. According to the Breast Cancer Fund, the preservatives are a known endocrine disruptor — meaning they can mimic or disrupt estrogen.

2. If shared, it can give you a stye

Friends applying makeup

Don’t share makeup. | Aurelie and Morgan David de Lossy/iStock/Getty Images

When it comes to mascara, one thing’s for certain: Do not share it. Sharing your mascara can cause some major side effects, as bacteria can get into your tub (and on your eyelashes) and cause ailments, such as styes. If you must share, make sure to use disposable wands and don’t double dip!

3. It can cause allergic reactions

Woman eye with long eyelashes

Your eyes are sensitive and need extra care. | IngaIvanova/iStock/Getty Images

Because of its gross chemical ingredients, mascara can also cause allergic reactions. Before trying a new formula out, we recommend patch testing it on the top of your hand or inside of your wrist first. That way, if you experience any discomfort, you’ll know ahead of time whether it will cause an eye irritation.

4. It can poke you in the eye and scratch your cornea

Woman with Mascara and Make-up Mirror

Especially for makeup newbies, be careful of poking your eye out. | iStock/Getty Images

Another dangerous threat? If you’re not careful, the applicator wand can poke you in the eye and may even scratch your cornea.

That said, it’s extremely important to practice caution when applying the dangerous beauty product. Instead of rushing through, take your time and pay close attention to where you are applying. For added assistance, you can use a magnifying mirror when applying the wand to your lashes.

5. Mascara tubes are a breeding ground for bacteria


Mascara is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. | Selensergen/iStock/Getty Images

In a study by the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers took a look at 40 different mascara samples taken from real women. The verdict? A whopping 79% of said samples contained staph bacteria. Gross.

That said, new tubes aren’t what should concern you — it’s the old ones that act as a breeding ground for bacteria. In an interview with Bustle, Dr. Jody Krukowski of the University of Kansas Medical Center’s Department of Integrative Medicine explained, “the moist, dark environment inside of the mascara tube combined with normal daily eye secretions that get transferred from the mascara wand to the tube creates the perfect place for bacteria to grow.”

What’s more? Because there are “many pores where eyelashes come out of the eyelids, as well as glands and tear ducts, our eyes become very vulnerable to infection.” To play it safe, replace your tube every three months.

6. It can transport bacteria into your eyes

woman using mascara in bathroom

Be wary of an eye infection. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Speaking of bacteria, whether you’re using an old tube or you shared your wand, the bacteria living in your tube can get in your eye and cause some serious irritation or worse, an infection. As we previously mentioned, the easiest ways to avoid this beauty faux pas is to replace your tube every few months and avoid sharing at all costs.

If you do experience an eye infection or stye, use a disposable wand to apply and don’t double dip!

7. It can flake into your eye and cause irritation

Young woman applying makeup

Avoid dry, flaky mascara. | iStock/Getty Images

Bacteria isn’t the only way to cause eye irritation. Flaking can cause discomfort, too. To avoid this, make sure to replace your tube every few months, as old formulas tends to be on the drier, flakier side of the spectrum. Also, try applying an eyelash conditioner before your mascara.

8. Removing it can cause eyelash loss

Woman removing makeup

Be gentle with your lashes. | Marko_Marcello/iStock/Getty Images

While losing eyelashes isn’t exactly dangerous, it is still a huge bummer. When removing mascara from your eyelashes, the two most important things to remember are be gentle and use a gentle remover. Instead of rubbing your eyes aggressively — we’ve all been there — try placing a cotton pad soaked in eye makeup remover over your eye, holding it in place for a moment, then gently wiping it away.