Mercury in Mascara?

The importance of eye health goes beyond eye exams and contact lenses.  As consumers we need to be aware that the products we put on and around our eye can have a negative impact on our health.  The  ingredients in personal care products and cosmetics do not need to be proven safe before they are sold to consumers.

We went to The Skin Deep web site of the Environmental Working Group ( and reviewed some of the products used in and around the eye.  This site rates the safety of more than 50,000 personal care products and also identifies toxic by-products that are not on the label.  The Skin Deep database scores products from 0 to 10, with 0-2 being a low hazard product, 3-6 is a moderate hazard product, and 7-10 is a high hazard product.

As expected, all contact lens solutions, cleaners, and re-wetting drops scored in the low hazard category, with a few in the low-moderate category.  These products are approved by the FDA before being sold to consumers.

When it comes to eye creams, eye shadows, and mascara, it is not so clear.  While there are many safe products to choose from, there are many popular brands in the high hazard category.  Upon further investigation, the high hazard products had the same ingredients in common – Parabens, Fragrance, Aluminum powder, and BHA.

Parabens  are a synthetic preservative and antimicrobial agent.  Studies show that parabens mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt hormone function and have been found in breast tumor biopsies.  Parabens can be found in a wide variety of personal care products.

Fragrance is a common ingredient in many personal care items.  Unfortunately, “fragrance” can contain hundreds of ingredients that the manufacturers are not required to disclose.  Fragrance is a common allergen.

Aluminum powder is a human neurotoxin, which means it is poisonous to nerves and nerve tissue.  Aluminum powder, also an ingredient in fireworks, is also an immune and respiratory toxin, and has been linked to cancer.

BHA ( Butylated hydroxyanisole) is used to mask chemical odors and preserve the product.  BHA is a liver toxin that disrupts endocrine function and puts us at a greater risk  for ovarian, breast, and uterine cancer.

As far as mercury in mascara, it is rare, but there are mascaras containing mercury on the market.  They contain the ingredient thimerosal, which is a mercury containing organic compound.  Mercury is a neurotoxin as well. The point is you need to check the labels on your products.

Look for healthy and safe alternatives to the personal care products you use, and as always, make sure to have annual eye exams.

Score your products here!


  1. Helgoe, C. (2009, December) Beauty Beware.  Experience Life.
  2. Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. Environmental Working Group. Web.  05/18/2010.
  3. Gabriel, Julie. BHA: Deadly Ingredient Permitted for Use in Makeup, Baby Products. Retrieved May 17, 2010 from

15 thoughts on “Mercury in Mascara?

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