Is e.l.f Mascara Bad For You? Our Comprehensive Guide

elf mascara

Every woman wants those gorgeous Elizabeth-Taylor-esque lashes. But at what cost? Is elf mascara safe for your skin and overall health? Does it contain harmful chemicals like lead or formaldehyde? 

This article will explore the components of elf mascara. It will probe into its safety, along with any possible side effects. 

E.L.F. mascara ingredients

These are the common ingredients across the mascara varieties.

  • Styrene / acrylates / ammonium methacrylate copolymer

This plastic-like compound creates a water-resistant layer. It prevents the mascara from smearing. 

  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

This combo of coconut oil and glycerine is an adhesive. It is also a preservative with antioxidant properties.

  • Candelilla and Carnauba Wax

Both these plant-based waxes make eyelashes thick and glossy. They add volume and stop smudging. 

  • Synthetic Beeswax 

This artificial wax keeps the mascara emulsion stable. This is so it doesn’t separate or become lumpy. This allows for effortless application and for a smooth finish.

Synthetic beeswax has a high melting point. So the mascara sets well, without becoming too stiff. So the lashes maintain their lush definition but remain flexible.

  • PVP and Triacontanyl PVP

These two compounds are fixatives. They help the lashes retain their shape. So the lashes stay in place longer. A delicate coating protects the lashes from humidity, heat, and sunlight.

  • Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Peg-100 Stearate

All these compounds are emulsifiers. They help the ingredients to combine, without congealing. They are also surfactants and lubricants. They make the mascara velvety. 

  • Ozokerite

This earth wax regulates viscosity. It adds body and luscious consistency. This enhances adhesion to lashes. It also strengthens the lashes which makes it long-lasting.

Each mascara may also contain other extra ingredients. These include castor seed oil, algae extract, Senegal gum, and rice bran wax.

Is elf mascara safe for eyes? Especially sensitive eyes? 

Yes, elf mascaras are fairly safe for your eyes. It does away with several nasty chemicals. It is also non-comedogenic. They don’t clog pores or make your skin greasy.

For normal skin, elf mascara mostly doesn’t cause or aggravate acne or breakouts. They are mostly gentle and light.

Elf mascaras don’t usually irritate or inflame the eyes. But sensitive eyes may react to even safe ingredients. So be cautious of possible allergens like waxes, dyes, and oils. 

Some elf mascaras are eyelid-safe. So you may opt to use those. 

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Is elf mascara safe for pregnancy?

Yes, most elf products including mascara are quite safe for pregnant women. They do not contain ingredients like antibiotics, hydroquinone, and ethoxylates. These harmful additives can cause birth defects and hormone imbalances.

Some elf mascaras also contain essential oils. These are not recommended for pregnant and nursing women. Too much absorption can affect the baby’s development. But many elf mascaras don’t contain these oils.

So other than this component, elf mascaras are a low-risk and low-toxicity option for pregnant women.

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Is elf mascara hypoallergenic? 

Yes, elf mascara is hypoallergenic. On most skin types, it doesn’t cause hives, redness, rashes, or inflammation. It is also suited for those who wear contact lenses. But if your eyes are hyper-sensitive, you may want to consult an ophthalmologist. 

Some ingredients in elf mascaras may cause watering or stinging. These include iron oxides and carnauba wax. They may rarely trigger inflammation, blisters, or infections. But largely, it doesn’t work up the skin around the eyes. Most are free of lanolin, which is the main reason for the aggravation. 

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Is elf mascara toxic? 

No, elf mascaras are largely non-toxic. It isn’t perfect, for sure. But it is cleaner than most options. It doesn’t contain toxic ingredients like nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclocarban, parabens, phthalates, hydroquinone, or triclosan. 

Most mascaras from e.l.f also don’t have fragrances, essential oils, or very harsh chemicals. These chemicals can cause dermatitis, infertility, and organ damage. Some are even suspected of causing cancer. There is definitely room for improvement.

But elf mascaras are always reinventing. They constantly try to replace noxious components with healthier substitutes.

Does elf mascara contain the following ingredients? 

Bat Poop

No, elf mascaras do not contain bat poop. The confusion stems from the use of guanine. This is extracted from fish scales. It adds shimmer and sparkle. It is also found in bat poop, called guano.

But guanine isn’t taken from bat poop. The similarity in words throws some people off. In any case, you needn’t worry about ELF.

Elf products are all vegan and cruelty-free. So they won’t use it in any case, be it from fish or bats. 


Yes, elf mascaras do contain metal compounds. Elf doesn’t use lead and mercury. But they do contain oxides of iron, zinc, and titanium. Some also contain mica and cadmium. Most of these are used as pigments or tints. Mica gives the mascara a shiny look.  

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxides are sunscreens. They protect the lashes from UV Rays.

Of the metals present, only cadmium is toxic. Cadmium hurts the nervous system and can cause kidney failure. It is also a high-risk carcinogen.


No, elf mascaras do not contain latex, whether rubber or synthetic. It is not added to the mascara. It is also not added to the brushes or containers. It does cause allergies and respiratory issues. In extreme cases, it can lead to anaphylactic shock. 

The acrylate polymers may resemble latex. But they are actually a type of plastic. Latex is used in mascara for multiple purposes. It is an adhesive, and it holds the lashes in place. It also adds a shiny finish. 


No, elf mascara does not contain Paraphenylenediamine (PPD). This chemical is not supposed to be added to facial cosmetics. It functions as a dye or pigment. It is used to color hair and lashes. But the use of PPD for permanent or temporary coloring has side effects. 

There could be hair loss. A general discoloration or bleaching of hair occurs. Eyelashes and brow hairs may also fall in clumps. It also aggravates the scalp, causing itchiness and lesions. 


No, elf mascaras do not contain any added gluten. Even ingredients like rice bran wax or wheat proteins are gluten-free. But the company may share equipment with other manufacturers. So, there may be traces of gluten contamination. 

You can also opt for the elf mineral range of mascaras. These are completely vegan and gluten-free. There is no risk of cross-contamination in this variety. Perhaps because they use different mechanisms for their vegan products. 

Elf is not certified or labeled gluten-free.


No, elf mascaras do not contain nickel. This means the concentration of nickel is less than 1 ppm. This makes it safe for women who have nickel contact dermatitis allergies. But it may still cause swelling, patches, and burning on hyper-sensitive skin. 

Nickel is found in any cosmetic that gives color. It is used to provide tints to the make-up. It may be found in traces in iron oxide. But in elf, it is minimal and not a cause for worry. 


Yes, elf mascaras do contain alcohol. These include phenoxyethanol, panthenol, and Cetearyl alcohol, among others. Some of these alcohols moisturize and lubricate. Others are soothing anti-irritants. They leave your lashes soft and healthy. 

Some are preservatives, with anti-microbial properties to increase durability. Benzyl alcohol is primarily used as a solvent. Aminomethyl propanol regulates pH. A balanced pH is crucial for sensitive skin around the eyes. 

It also promotes better absorption of the liquid on the eyelashes. 


No, elf mascaras do not contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing compounds. They are free of phthalates, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, and quaternium-15. These are the main sources of formaldehyde contamination.

None of these are found in elf mascaras. This is a relief because formaldehyde is a proven carcinogen. Elf mascaras do contain triethanolamine. But this compound is only unsafe if it reacts with formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. The reaction releases cancerous nitrosamines. 

But elf mascara doesn’t contain preservatives that can cause damage. 


No, elf mascara does not contain lead. It doesn’t have active ingredients like lead acetate which is banned. But trace impurities may find their way in. This is mostly through ingredients added for color like carbon black dyes. But this is unlikely. 

The FDA regulations require lead concentrations to be less than 10 ppm. Elf complies with this. Lead is used to lengthen and smoothen lashes. But it is very poisonous. It can severely affect brain functioning. 

Does elf mascara contain animal products? Is it vegan and cruelty-free? 

No, elf mascaras do not contain animal and animal-derived ingredients. They are completely vegan and cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals. Neither do their suppliers. They don’t buy from third-party vendors whose equipment may be contaminated. 

So both raw materials and finished products are 100% animal-free. 

They even use synthetic beeswax instead of natural beeswax. Elf is certified by PETA. It also does not sell its products in countries where animal testing is conducted. Even the brushes for application are vegan.

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Is elf mascara waterproof? 

Only one mascara from elf is completely waterproof. This is the bespoke E.L.F. Water-proof and Lengthening mascara. The rest are all only water-resistant. With the water-proof version, no amount of water will cause run-off.

Even if you are swimming, taking a shower, or caught in the rain.

But water-resistant mascara can only take a certain level of exposure. So, if you shed some tears or wash your face it is fine. But submerging your eyelashes in water may leave you with raccoon eyes.

Is elf mascara oil free?

Some mascaras from elf are oil-free; others aren’t. Some are labeled essential oil-free. For example, the Mineral Infused Mascara. But many other types have essential or hydrating oils. These include castor seed oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and jojoba oil. 

Some may also contain paraffin. Paraffin in liquid form is mineral oil. These oils promote lash growth. They nourish and strengthen the hair. Oils reduce brittleness, breakage and prevent fall.  They may also just add color and fragrances.  

Is elf mascara water based?

Yes, the primary solvent in elf mascara is water. It is a universal solvent that dissolves most ingredients. But elf mascaras also contain waxes, paraffin, and oils. So technically it is both water and oil-based.

Other solvents are also added. They blend the ingredients which are partially or wholly water-insoluble. Water also functions as a humectant and emollient in elf mascara. It traps moisture and creates a soft, dewy layer. This keeps the skin hydrated and healthy. 

Is elf mascara paraben-free? 

Yes, all elf mascaras are completely paraben-free. Parabens are used as preservatives. They are antibacterial and antimicrobial. They prevent the growth and build-up of fungus and mold. This extends the mascara’s shelf-life.

Parabens are thought to be damaging to the skin. It accelerates the aging of the skin. It may also cause dryness, cracks, and other skin conditions. It may also lead to issues in women’s reproductive systems. It has also been linked to breast cancer. 

Is elf mascara safe for dogs?

Yes, elf mascara is safe for dogs, but not recommended. We certainly hope you aren’t giving your pooch a make-over! Elf mascaras don’t contain many ingredients that could harm your dog. But it is still a synthetic product that can make your dog ill 

It is not very toxic. But if they swallow a large amount they may experience vomiting or lethargy. Eating the tube and brush are more dangerous. The plastic can splinter inside, puncturing organs.

Is elf mascara safe for hair?

Elf mascara isn’t meant for hair. But it is safe to use in moderation. You can use them to keep stray brow hairs in place. This will nicely frame and contour your eyes. It can also be used as a make-up hack to cover grey hairs.

Elf Mascara can smooth out baby hairs. It can also even out fly-away hairs on frizzy, bad hair days. It even comes in handy if your man needs to tame his scruffy facial hair! 

Is elf mascara safe for tattoos?

No. Mascara should never be used around a fresh eyelid or eyeliner tattoo. Mascaras become breeding spots for bacteria once opened and used. So they should only be used once the tattoo has healed. Or, you risk infection. 

You can use elf mascara as tattoo ink for a permanent or peel-off tattoo. But it might not be very effective. Cosmetics may be subject to more safety standards. But that doesn’t make elf mascara the best option for tattoo ink.

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Is elf mascara safe for babies? 

No, not really. Elf doesn’t contain many common baby irritants like fragrances, bleach, and sulfates. But just because it isn’t toxic, doesn’t mean it is meant for infants. Elf is an adult make-up brand.

The waxes, alcohols, and dyes are more than enough to harm your little one. Even if it is labeled baby-safe, be extra careful. Kids may have adverse reactions like rashes or have trouble breathing. If swallowed, they may experience vomiting or diarrhea. 

Is elf mascara safe for eyelash extensions?

This is a tricky question. Elf mascaras are both water-based and contain oil. So the outcome could go either way. Water-based mascaras are better. If there are waxes, oils, or paraffin, this could damage the false lashes. The oils will weaken the adhesion. This makes the lashes fall out quicker.

But since the main solvent is water, it should be okay. Just make sure you don’t overcoat the extensions with mascara. It will be too heavy.

Elf mascaras have been effectively demystified in this article. Now it’s your turn to dazzle with those expressive eyelashes!


Anand Srinivasan
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