A Mascara So Good You Can't Tell It's Natural — A Beauty Editor's Review
When the majority of your makeup and skin care routine involves natural, natural-leaning, or clean beauty products, sometimes you can be met with skepticism from those who don't follow this beauty philosophy. For so long, "natural" was associated with less effective—and this is no truer than for makeup. Natural and clean makeup was associated with light washes of foundations, barely there tinted balms, sheer pigments, and, well, not-so-great mascara.
Now, if you've paid attention to the beauty space for the last several years, you know this not to be true. Clean makeup brands started embracing bold colors and high-coverage finishes that, too, had staying power. And yet, the reputation for less-than-stellar mascara still lingers. I just can't give up my favorite mascara, I'll hear with some regularity. I've never tried a natural one that looks as good, they'll tell me.
Well, the one mascara that fools nearly everyone who sees it is Ilia's Limitless Lash Lengthening Mascara. It lengthens, lifts, separates, and thickens lashes so well that I've had people outright tell me, "There's no way it's a natural mascara," and guess what? They're wrong.
Why it's this beauty editor's go-to mascara.
To start, the formula nixes a number of ingredients typically found in mascara: parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, and coal tar and contains less than 1% of synthetic fragrance. The end result is a mascara that is an astounding 99% natural (a highly respectable percentage for a mascara—especially one this good).
And while I do, of course, care what's left out of it—I honestly care more about what goes into it. Namely, this has arginine, an amino acid that is found in keratin. (Keratin is the protein that makes up our hairs, be it on our heads, brows, or lashes.) By infusing the formula with the amino acid, you can help fortify and nourish your lashes. There's also a rich base of fan-favorite shea butter, a rich ingredient full of antioxidants to protect delicate lashes from free radical damage (not only that but it will help soften the formula while also providing a bit of thickness). Finally, they round out the formula with beeswax, which will give lashes a bit of holding and staying power.
But what makes this mascara so hoarding-worthy comes down to three characteristics, I've deduced: The silky texture of the formula, staying power, and multifunctional brush.
Much like any beauty product, mascaras come in a variety of textures. There are some that are thin like liquid, others are thick and tacky, and still others are soft and fully. These different textures help achieve different results, be it barely there lengthening, megawatt fullness, or fluttery wisps. The silky, smooth texture in Ilia's is on the thinner side, which helps the formula glide on the root to tip for maximum length; but it's not too liquidy or sticky that the lashes slink together forming clumps.
It also sticks around all day: So many mascaras bleed and smudge to the surrounding eyelid. In fact, it's so common, many switch over to waterproof just to avoid sporting raccoon eyes on the regular. This I can attest to: For even the hottest and longest of days, stays put. And this is coming from someone who a makeup artist once told "You have very oily eyelids" and can seemingly never keep eyeliner on for longer than a workday. If it sticks for me, I wager it can stick for most.
Then there's the brush. Oh, how I adore this brush. On one end of the wand, you have a few rows of dense, short bristles to really help load on the liquid. Use this side first to layer it on thick. Then use the comb end (a single-file line of long prongs spaced out) to define and separate. If needed, go back and add another coat right before they're all but dry.
This natural mascara holds up, take my word for it—a word from someone who has tested mascaras (clean, natural, and decidedly not) for years and could clock testers up into the hundreds. Or take the word from my friends and confidantes: The amount of compliments I get on my lashes is more than I get with any other mascara. If you're looking to make the switch to a natural mascara, this one is not to be missed.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.