Beauty

The Case For Taking A Mascara Detox

Here’s what a two-week-long break did for my lashes.

Experts explain whether mascara is bad for your eyelashes along with the benefits of taking a break from the makeup product.
Getty Images/ Westend61

Consider this article my way of holding a press conference to announce a beauty secret I accidentally stumbled upon: Taking a mascara detox is a great idea. Is mascara bad for your eyelashes? Not really — but your lashes will benefit if you put your volumizing tube down for a bit.

During my skin care and makeup routine a couple of weeks ago, I decided against applying mascara. FWIW, I love mascara — it’s one of three beauty products I’d bring to a deserted island. I skipped it that day only because my eyes looked a little irritated and my lashes didn’t look as full as they normally did, so I figured a day off would do them some good. People can’t really tell the difference over Zoom anyways, so I only had to deal with how disorienting it felt to see my mascara-less self staring back at me in the mirror.

One day turned into two full weeks, and I quickly discovered that a break from the product was something my lashes needed. My lengths were pretty much back in fighting shape. And, as it turns out, experts agree with me: a mascara hiatus can be a good thing. Read on for the intel on how it benefits your lash hairs along with what wearing mascara actually does to them.

Is Mascara Bad For Your Eyelashes?

The overall verdict? Mascara isn’t necessarily harming your lash hair — the damage mainly lies in the removal process. “If you remove your mascara properly, it’s not bad to wear mascara every day,” says Saffron Hughes, a makeup artist and lash expert. “Be gentle when you do remove your mascara, as daily rubbing and tugging can result in brittle, dry, weak lashes.”

According to lash pro Dionne Phillips, founder of D'Lashes, your best bet is to use an oil-based remover or solution. “Castor oil can also help condition the natural lashes as you remove mascara,” she tells Bustle. Without something oil-based, you’re more likely to need more elbow grease to get off your makeup. “If you don’t remove mascara properly you can damage, strip, or pull out your natural lashes by rubbing too aggressively,” she says. “To remove before bed, either use cotton swabs, a Q-tip, or wipes.” Waterproof mascara, BTW, is harder to take off, which is why Hughes recommends ditching it altogether.

For some science-y details, know that your eyelashes are lined by tiny oil glands (called meibomian glands) that help keep the hairs nourished and your eyes protected, explains Hughes. “When you wear mascara every day, you run the risk of buildup if it’s not removed properly,” she says. And when there’s product buildup, the meibomian glands become blocked. “That results in meibomianitis, viral infections, or sties,” says Hughes. Signs of an infection can include watery or dry eyes, a burning sensation in your eyes, blurred vision, and a sensitivity to light.

A basic rule of thumb to keep your lashes healthy is also to make sure you’re not using an old tube of mascara. Hughes and Phillips recommend replacing your product every two to three months to avoid bacterial infection (your tube can get quite dirty, y’all).

How To Take A Break From Mascara

When I told the experts about my mascara detox, neither batted an eyelash to learn I saw notable results. “If you take a break from mascara, you’ll notice significant changes in the density and strength of your lashes as well as hair growth,” says Phillips. Besides not putting your strands through the makeup-removing ringer, you’re also giving your lashes time to go through their natural growth cycle sans product.

Phillips suggests taking a five to seven-day mascara break every two weeks. “This will give time for your natural lashes to grow and stay healthy,” she says. Though I saw my lashes improve without doing anything during my mascara hiatus, Phillips says using a conditioning oil (like castor) can help them stay nourished.

My mascara hiatus went on for longer than it needed to, but — to quote Bob Ross — I’m thrilled about my happy accident. Whenever my lashes start looking worse for the wear, I’ll know it’s time for me and my tube to take some time apart.

Studies referenced:

Aumond, S. (2018). The eyelash follicle features and anomalies: A review. J Optom. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6147748/

Pack, L. (2008). Microbial contamination associated with mascara use. Optometry. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18922495/