close-up of woman applying non-toxic liquid eyeliner.
June 26, 2024
 in 
Beauty

Line ‘Em Up: Our 13 Favorite Cruelty-Free, Eco-Friendly and Non-Toxic Eyeliners

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or something that we put so close to our eyes, most of us know surprisingly little about what’s in our eyeliners, or what it takes to produce them. The right eyeliner can pack a punch – it can enhance your eyes to stunning effect, but it can also impact your health and even the planet.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at one of the smallest items in your makeup bag to show why it’s worth reading the fine print on labels and picking products that are non-toxic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free. We’ll also share 13 of our favorite high-performance eyeliners that fit these criteria, as well as easy checklists to use when you’re scanning down the make-up aisle yourself. Getting the perfect flick shouldn’t have to cost the earth or your well-being.

Table of  Contents

Why Should You Choose Non-Toxic Formulas Over Conventional Eyeliners?

non-toxic and eco-friendly eyeliners laying on natural colored flat surface with green plants on the side.

The best way to understand why it’s worth choosing non-toxic formulas over conventional ones is to simply look at what is and isn’t going into those formulas. Here are 5 of the most common ingredients that non-toxic eyeliners will avoid, but appear frequently in regular products (and the harm they might be doing):

  • PFAS: We’ve written about PFAS-free period underwear, but many don’t realize that this category of synthetic chemicals also shows up in waterproof eye makeup in the form of Perfluorononyl Dimethicone. It’s a suspected carcinogenic with high immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and allergic reactions. PFAS are also a major issue when it comes to the environment because of how much they linger in our water, soil, and aquatic wildlife. Choosing non-toxic formulas free of these chemicals is truly better for all of us.
  • Talc: It’s more common in powdered make-up products but talc also appears in many conventional eyeliners, despite being very irritating for sensitive skin. It is also considered to be a possible carcinogenic when inhaled, which isn’t an issue when used on your eyes, but is a problem for those who mine and process it. Talc mines in general pose both a human and ecological threat. They require large-scale environmental destruction to exist in the first place and have extremely high carbon emissions.
  • Phthalates: This ingredient is a common preservative in cosmetics and also one of the first things you’ll see non-toxic eyeliners leaving out of their formulas. We’ve all seen items listed as “free from phthalates” but the reason it matters so much is because it’s not only a skin irritant, but it may also be an endocrine-disrupting chemical that poses risks to pregnancy and reproduction. To make matters worse, phthalates have been categorized as a major pollutant for appearing so widely in our soil and waterways. They also may be posing a similar risk to the reproductive health of aquatic creatures as they do to humans.
  • Carbon Black: Super black eyeliner may look flattering but too often cosmetics have only been able to achieve this look by using carbon black sourced from coal tar. The EWG has this ingredient listed as being both a moderate skin irritant and a possible carcinogen. Because of how it’s sourced, it’s also a petroleum-based product which means it’s associated with all the environmental havoc of those mining and processing practices as well.
  • Heavy Metals: Lead is one of the most frequently found heavy metals in eyeliner, but other culprits include aluminum and mercury. Heavy metals are often carcinogenic and linked to issues like hormone disruption and neural toxicity. Regular use of anything containing something like lead isn’t healthy, even if it’s in the small form of an eyeliner.

It's worth noting that the ingredients we’ve listed are all synthetic, non-biodegradable, and mostly made from mined materials that involve a host of environmental and labor-related issues. The mission of non-toxic eyeliners and cosmetics, in general, is to formulate products without potentially harmful ingredients like the ones listed so that you and the planet are better cared for.

Even if the bigger health and environmental issues aren’t your top concern, keeping your skin free from irritation should be. Not all synthetic ingredients are bad for sensitive eyes but the ones that non-toxic eyeliners avoid usually are. It’s why so many people who struggle with weepy or red eyes when wearing conventional liners find switching to non-toxic formulas so life-changing.

What’s the Deal with Eco-Friendly Eyeliners?

Besides picking eyeliners with non-toxic formulas free of pollutants and unsustainably sourced ingredients, three other areas characterize eco-friendly eyeliners:

  • Packaging: Most makeup is packaged in plastic that is very difficult to recycle or completely impossible to. As you’ll see later in this article, however, many eco-friendly eyeliner brands are taking a different route. Recycled, recyclable, refillable, and even compostable packaging are appearing. Since most eyeliners will be thrown out within a year of purchase, it’s so important to choose products that reduce waste and pollution issues.
  • Testing: Cruelty-free makeup is often viewed as a separate issue from environmental concerns, but we’d argue that it’s all connected. Wanting to be kinder to the planet should include being kinder to animals and thus avoiding products that use animal-tested ingredients. Testing laboratories are also environmentally unfriendly because of how much energy they use and how much waste they produce. 
  • Taking Steps to Reduce Their Impact: This can look like partnering with recycling initiatives, giving back through charity work, or offering carbon offset options for shipped products. The thing we most look for from eco-friendly eyeliner brands is whether they’re taking active steps to reduce the inevitable impact of making and selling a product. 

How to Shop for Eco-Friendly and Non-Toxic Eyeliners

Make-up shop filled with various eyeliner options. Highlighting the importance of understanding how to shop for eco-friendly eyeliner using the correct criteria.

While we have a comprehensive list of eco-friendly and non-toxic eyeliner brands to shop with, new products are launching all the time. Next time you’re weighing up the sustainability aspects of an eyeliner purchase, you can use these checklists to refer to:

Eyeliner Ingredients to Avoid:

  • Parabens: Like phthalates, this synthetic preservative has become a pollution issue in waterways and can damage coral health, as well as human health
  • Silicones: This ingredient is known to accumulate in our bodies and water. It’s also a common irritant.
  • Glitter: Almost all glitters in makeup products are just microplastics and thus pose a pollution threat. 
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): Generally used as an antioxidant in cosmetics, it’s also an ingredient that is a possible carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.
  • Polyethylene glycol: Though regarded as safe for some, it is petroleum-derived and irritating for those with eczema or sensitive skin.
  • Heavy metals: Lead, aluminum, cadmium, and mercury are all ones to watch out for thanks to their toxicity.
  • Phthalates: This preservative is linked to pollution issues and reproductive health risks for both human and aquatic life.
  • PFAS/ Perfluorononyl Dimethicone: This suspected carcinogen also has a high potential to cause immunotoxicity, reproductive toxicity, and allergic reactions.
  • Talc: It can be irritating on the skin and is a very environmentally damaging ingredient to produce.
  • Carbon Black: Like talc and the plastic or petroleum-based chemicals on this list, Coal Black is another mined ingredient that involves environmental harm to produce. It’s also not great for sensitive eyes and may be carcinogenic.

What Makes an Eyeliner Eco-Friendly:

  • Certified Cruelty-free
  • The brand is part of sustainability initiatives e.g. carbon-neutral program, 1% for the Planet, etc.
  • Sustainable packaging e.g. made from recycled, recyclable, or refillable packaging.

Our Criteria for The Best Eyeliners

What makes for a great eyeliner in our eyes? For us, it comes down to these main factors:

  • A non-toxic formula free of big ingredients like phthalates, parabens, and talc.
  • No animal testing.
  • Eco-conscious packaging. Every effort matters in minimizing how much waste and plastic goes to landfills.
  • Great performance. Just because something is eco-friendly, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t work as well or even better than regular versions.

13 Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Eyeliners That are Cruelty-Free

Contrary to the beauty products of 10 years ago, you no longer need to sacrifice performance for sustainability. We’ve got the best clean eyeliner pencil for you, the best liquid version, and the one that will give you the sharpest cat eye without any animal testing or toxic ingredients involved.

Let’s get lining:

1. Ilia Beauty

Ilia Beauty is a multi-award-winning clean cosmetics brand made famous for its simple, chic approach to make-up. In general, we’d say that if you prefer lighter make-up, this is the brand for you. 

  • The Standout Eyeliner: Clean Line Liquid Liner is a black water-resistant liner.
  • Price: $28
  • Best For: Crisp, clean lines. This felt tip on this product makes it very precise so it’s great for drawing on cat-eyes and tightlines alike.
  • Sustainability Factors: Clean, organic ingredients. Leaping Bunny Certified cruelty-free. Part of the 1% for the Planet initiative.

2. Moonrise Creek

This small, charming cosmetics company handcrafts its products from mostly plant-based ingredients. 

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The Botanical Pencil Eye Liner comes in a midnight black shade, and cacao brown.
  • Price: $33
  • Best For: Smudged smokey eyes, or just everyday eyeliner looks. It applies very smoothly but some recommend setting it with eyeshadow or a powder for extra-long wear.
  • Sustainability Factors: Vegan. Cruelty-free. Organic, natural ingredients.

3. Roén

If you’re looking for a vegan eyeliner that still feels luxurious, this clean beauty brand is the place to shop with. The products also include ingredients like chamomile and Vitamin E to soothe and protect the eye area so that you feel extra pampered.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: Eyeline Define Eyeliner Pencil in a rich, matte black, brown, and two shimmers. 
  • Price: $28
  • Best For: The matte shades are great for a variety of everyday looks but if you need a party glam moment, definitely try their shimmer shades.
  • Sustainability Factors: Free of Carbon Black, parabens, etc. Labs are part of the Responsible Mica Initiative. Vegan. Cruelty-free. Partnered with TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box.

4. Erin’s Faces

Not only does this brand make one of the best non-toxic cream eyeliners, but they also donate a portion of profits to various charities. We’d say it’s a pretty good, natural dupe for the Mac eyeliner pot.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: Cream eyeliner in onyx is water-resistant and comes in a small pot to be applied with a separate eyeliner brush.
  • Price: $33
  • Best For: Tightlining and winged looks. Because it’s a cream shadow, it’s not great for smudging but it is very long-wearing and great if you’re creating graphic shapes.
  • Sustainability Factors: Peta-certified animal test-free. Free of phthalates, parabens, fragrance, etc. The packaging is made from glass for easy recycling. Carbon-neutral shipping.

5. 100% Pure

What makes 100% pure such a unique cosmetics brand isn’t just that they steer clear of synthetic dyes but that they use things like “micronized black tea leaves” to create the rich, dramatic color of their eyeliner. No one else is making natural eyeliner quite like them.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The Long Last Liquid Liner is water resistant and comes in black and brown.
  • Price: $30
  • Best For: The small brush and smudge-proof formula on this eyeliner lends itself best to tightlines and delicate wings.
  • Sustainability Factors: Cruelty-Free. Vegan. Free from synthetic dyes and other irritating ingredients. Part of multiple charitable partnerships.

6. Antonym Cosmetics

All-natural eyeliner options are rare, but as Antonym Cosmetics is proving, not impossible to make. They’re a celebrity make-up artist favorite and get bonus points for selling an eyeliner pencil that includes a detachable sharpener so you never have to make do with a blunt tip.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: Eye Pencil noir comes in a black, waterproof shade.
  • Price: $21
  • Best For: Smudged, smokey looks as well as precise lines.
  • Sustainability Factors: 100% natural-origin ingredients.

7. Haus Labs

When Lady Gaga’s brand makes a clean eyeliner, you know it’s going to be a little different to the usual options …

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The Optic Intensity Eco Eyeliner is a waterproof, gel-like liner that comes in a pencil. It includes a small brush on one end to help with application and is available in everything from a matte black to a bright, shimmery pink.
  • Price: $22
  • Best For: While the more neutral shades are great for every day, the expansive color options make this particularly exciting for make-up artists, festival wear, etc. We also love that the formula is quite flexible and gives you time to play before it sets.
  • Sustainability Factors: Fragrance-free, clean formula. Cruelty-free. Vegan. Plastic-free cellulose barrel with aluminum end caps

8. Ere Perez

Plastic-free eyeliners aren’t easy to find, especially ones that are as smooth, and gentle on the eyes as the one Ere Perez makes. This Australian make-up brand is always one to keep an eye on. 

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The nourishing Jojoba Eye Pencil comes in your usual brown and black, as well as a soft lilac, olive green, etc.
  • Price: $24
  • Best For: This is a great everyday eyeliner, but we love that it can be smudged out enough to double as an eyeshadow too.
  • Sustainability Factors: Vegan. Zero waste and plastic-free. Certified cruelty-free by PETA and Choose Cruelty-Free Australia. GMO-free and organic ingredients.

9. Tower28

The issue many confront when shopping for clean eyeliner options is that the price can sometimes be higher. That’s where Tower28 is managing to save the day. Not only is their non-toxic eyeliner suitable for sensitive skin, but it’s under $20 and multi-purpose.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The OneLiner Lip Liner isn’t just for lips. The matte (non-drying) formula can be used on the eyes and cheeks as well.
  • Price: $15
  • Best For: Soft eye definition rather than graphic wings.
  • Sustainability Factors: Vegan and cruelty-free. Clean – free of fragrance and various other irritants. Compliant with California Prop 65 and EU Cosmetic Regulations.

10. Elate

Elate is a clean makeup brand doing all kinds of incredible things but when it comes to packaging especially, they’re way ahead. Their eyeliner comes in a recyclable glass tube with a bamboo lid to help limit the creation of unnecessary waste.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: Liquid EyeLine is a water-resistant, non-toxic liquid eyeliner that comes in both black and brown.
  • Price: $26
  • Best For: The small brush on this eyeliner makes precise, delicate lines particularly easy to do.
  • Sustainability Factors: Non-toxic formulas free of talc etc. Recyclable packaging. Vegan. Cruelty-free. Ethical supply chain.
  • Certified B Corp.

11. Kulfi

This inclusive brand is all about making products that are kinder to the planet, and to you. They were an Allure Beauty winner last year and have partnered with a variety of organizations to help improve access to mental health services.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The Kajal Eyeliner is a waterproof, wind-up, gel formula that comes in black, brown, and some more playful shades too.
  • Price: $20
  • Best For: Both smudged and precise eyeliner looks.
  • Sustainability Factors: Vegan. Cruelty-free. Offer a recycling option and guidelines for their products.

12. Honest Beauty

Honest Beauty has managed to do something that very few others have: create a clean liquid eyeliner that is both long-wearing and EWG-verified for its non-toxic formula. It’s so inspiring to see just how much this brand has done over the years to push clean beauty standards forward.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The liquid eyeliner comes in matte black.
  • Price: $15
  • Best For: Thanks to the flexible brush tip, this eyeliner gives you a lot of control for precise line looks.
  • Sustainability Factors: Non-toxic formula free of parabens, carbon black, etc. EWG-verified. Vegan. Peta certified Animal Test-free.

13. Jillian Dempsey

You know when a Hollywood make-up artist starts a beauty brand, it’s bound to be good, but Jillian Dempsey has taken things to the next level with her high-performance, clean products.

  • The Standout Eyeliner: The Khôl Eyeliner is a waterproof pencil liner that comes in black, brown, grey, and two brighter shades.
  • Price: $20
  • Best For: This is the ultimate clean eyeliner for smoky eyes. It comes with a built-in smudger and has a formula specifically designed to create that more sultry look.
  • Sustainability Factors: Peta-certified cruelty-free. Partnered with various charities. Partnered with ClearforMe and Provenance to provide transparent sourcing and composition information.

Eye on The Future

We know we’re biased on this one, but non-toxic eyeliners will always be the superior choice in our eyes. Here’s why:

  • They’re safer for sensitive skin as they tend to contain fewer irritants.
  • They reduce the negative environmental impact of cosmetics by steering clear of many of the worst ingredients that are mined or flagged as pollutants.
  • Non-toxic formulas are also better for your health in many instances because active steps are being taken to avoid the use of suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

There’s also just far more transparency and care that goes into non-toxic, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly eyeliners. You don’t have to worry as much about hidden ingredients or companies that aren’t taking their impact into account. Instead, you just get to paint on a graphic eye look and be your gorgeous self. You don’t even have to worry if the non-toxic eyeliner will perform as well as the regular kind because there are so many brands ensuring that they do.

Next time you’re looking for a new eyeliner, keep the future of our planet and your well-being in mind and see if you can’t grab a clean version. 

FAQs about non-toxic and eco-friendly eyeliner:

What is the safest eyeliner for your eyes?

The safest eyeliner for your eyes is one that is dermatologically tested for eye safety but is also free of potential irritants such as phthalates and parabens.

Is eyeliner pencil toxic?

Some eyeliner pencils may have toxic ingredients in them such as lead, but not all eyeliners pose this risk. Thankfully, there are many companies like 100% Pure and Honest Beauty making non-toxic eyeliner options.

Are liquid eyeliners safe?

Liquid eyeliners are usually safe but make sure to check the ingredients for heavy metals, BHA, etc. to be extra careful. Non-toxic formulas are usually preferable because they avoid ingredients that might make liners less safe.

What is the best alternative for eyeliner?

The best alternative for eyeliner is very simple: eyeshadow. Just mix a bit of water or setting spray with your eyeshadow and apply it with a brush for an eyeliner effect.

What can I wear instead of eyeliner?

Instead of eyeliner, you can always just stick to eyeshadow. It can mixed with water or setting spray for a liquid look or just applied close to the lash line. You can also press your mascara right to the base of the lashes to stamp the lash line with the product and create a liner look that way.

How can I improve my eyes without eyeliner?

You can improve the look of your eyes without eyeliner by using something as simple as a lash curler and some mascara.

What is a natural alternative to eyeliner?

A natural alternative to eyeliner is mixing some activated charcoal with coconut oil. Some have even used cacao powder for this but make sure to tread gently as the eye is a very sensitive area.

Is there vegan eyeliner?

There are plenty of vegan eyeliner options. Haus Labs, Tower28, and Honest Beauty all make non-toxic, vegan eyeliners guaranteed to make your eyes pop.

Last Update:
Jul 16, 2024