The best mascaras for sensitive eyes: our favorite delicate formulations

For those with delicate eyes or skin, finding the best mascaras for sensitive eyes takes a little more care and attention

best mascaras for sensitive eyes main closeup image of two women's eyes
(Image credit: Future/Getty Images)

For those with reactive eyes or skin, finding the best mascaras for sensitive eyes takes a little more care and attention than normal.

Whether you’re going for understated, bare-faced chic, or night-on-the-town drama, you’re almost certain to finish your makeup look with a slick (or three) of the best mascara you have on hand. That said, picking out this makeup essential isn’t that simple for everyone; those with skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea or those who are sensitive to dust, allergies, and contact lenses know this firsthand. 

Want more specifics? Here are some of our favorite mascaras designed for sensitive eyes in mind. We made sure to feature cruelty-free, vegan, and naturally-based formulas that truly run the gamut too.

How to choose the best mascaras for sensitive eyes 

If you're looking for the best mascaras for sensitive eyes and already know which ingredients irritate you, be sure to give the list a good scan before parting with your cash. But, if you’re not actually sure what it is that causes you irritation, going fragrance-free is a good plan of action, as is choosing a mascara that’s labelled hypoallergenic. Here are more buzzwords to look out for:

  • Hypoallergenic: Generally, a product marked as ‘hypoallergenic’ has been created using ingredients that typically cause fewer allergic reactions. It’s worth noting, however, that there aren’t strict regulations around the usage of the term in relation to cosmetics, so while a hypoallergenic product might reduce the chances of a reaction, the absence of irritation is not guaranteed. 
  • Allergy-tested, ophthalmologist-tested, and ophthalmologically tested: More useful terms to look out for on packaging for added peace of mind, indicating that the product has been vetted by an eye professional to have passed an eye area tolerance test
  • Patch-testing: Before committing to a new mascara, it could be worth carrying out a patch test. Simply swipe a little on your outer lashes and leave it there for a few hours. If it doesn’t give you any discomfort, take it as a green light to apply it all over your eyelashes or, if you’re still anxious, apply it from the mid-lengths upwards.
  • Expiration date: As a general rule, you should throw out mascaras that are more than six months old (discard them sooner if they’ve started to dry up or give off an unpleasant smell) and always, always avoid sharing them. Kept too long and mishandled, mascaras can be a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, and no one wants an eye infection! 

How to gently apply and remove mascara

What’s in your mascara is only one piece of the puzzle—another is how it’s applied and removed. According to makeup artist Kenneth Soh, a few small tweaks to your technique could make a world of difference in learning how to apply mascara. “I would always start with a good lash curler,” he says. “You’ll be amazed at how much more defined your lashes will look, which means you will only need a light coat of mascara.” Kenneth also recommends applying mascara as close as you can get to the root, without actually allowing the product to come into contact with the skin of the eyelid. 

When removing your mascara at the end of the day, take extra care and give it time —excessive scrubbing or several rounds of heavy-handed cleansing will only worsen sensitivity. Waterproof mascaras are a great option for those whose eyes water at the drop of a hat (a common occurrence for the sensitive), but try swapping traditional formulas for a tubing mascara instead. They work by wrapping lashes in a fine film of flake-proof polymers and are easily removed with warm water. Your eyes will thank you!

The best mascaras for sensitive eyes

Tarte Lights, Camera, Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara

(Image credit: Tarte)

1. Tarte Lights Camera Lashes 4-in-1 Mascara

Best sensitive mascara overall

Specifications
RRP: $23/£17
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation callouts: Natural waxes, vitamins, emollients
Reasons to buy
+Features long bristles that add volume, more defined lashes+Great for lengthening and curling lashes+Vegan+24-hour smudge-free, flake-free formula
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say the brush could do a
better job at separating the lashes 

Looking for high impact? Then you’ll love this vegan pick. Ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested, it’s a great all-rounder: It volumizes, curls, lengthens, and conditions, thanks to the combination of its super-black pigment and ‘lash-lifting’ brush (made up of both short and long bristles). Rest assured no lash will be left behind. Ed's note: Mascara wands can make a difference as far as the look you want to go for, so might be worth doing your homework there, too.

To prevent irritation, Tarte products are formulated without parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, and gluten.

Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara

(Image credit: Essence)

2. Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara

Best sensitive mascara for value

Specifications
RRP: $4.99/£4
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation callouts: Waterproof version available
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Conic shape fiber brush sculpts and thickens lashes; can be buildable+Paraben-free
Reasons to avoid
-Some shoppers say it's difficult to remove and may clump after long-term wear

Coming in at under a fiver, this mascara provides an ample amount of lash for your cash. It’s conical-shaped, tapered brush makes it adept at a multitude of skills, namely boosting volume, lift, and length in one fell swoop.

It’s ophthalmologically-tested and, unlike mascaras with chunkier wands, is narrow enough to make even the smallest lashes stand out. 

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

(Image credit: Honest Beauty)

3. Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Best two-in-one sensitive mascara

Specifications
RRP: $17/£12.25
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation callouts: Jojoba esters, beeswax
Reasons to buy
+Simple, minimalistic packaging+Versatile function: lengthens, separates, and primes lashes+Double-wand design enables precise application and coating from root to tip+Formula prevents eyes from itching+Holds pigment and intense color
Reasons to avoid
-Brush isn't super feathery and may feel rather stiff than soft and agile-Some shoppers say it feels drying and produces "panda" shadow after long-term wear

This two-in-one option—with its dual-ended packaging, containing both primer and mascara—takes lengthening to the next level.

Also ophthalmologist-tested, it’s stiff competition for the other sensitive mascaras out there: Simply apply the primer, wait 30 seconds, and then flip the tube to swipe on the ultra-rich mascara. It feels surprisingly lightweight. 

Compared to other beloved household names, Honest implements customer-first practices from production to delivery, enabling those with sensitivities to shop smarter. The Honest Company has created a comprehensive NO List™, which outlines over 2,500 chemicals and materials that the brand doesn't use in their formulas. You can also check out the bespoke glossary of ingredients they use and what they do. 

The brand also imparts the importance of packaging, label transparency, and sustainable practices, all of which are driving factors in their branding and product innovation. 

Clinique Lash Power Mascara

(Image credit: Clinique)

4. Clinique Lash Power Mascara

Best smudge-proof sensitive mascara

Specifications
RRP: $19/£16
Cruelty-free: No
Formulation call-out: Thermal technology
Reasons to buy
+Smudge-, flake-, and smear-proof+Lengthens even the tiniest of lashes for more dimension+Stays put for 24 hours; easy to remove
Reasons to avoid
-May get cakey after long-term wear-Some say it could do a better job at curling

This allergy- and ophthalmologist-tested tubing mascara is kind to eyes, from application to removal. Its slim yet dense wand is great at lengthening both the lower and upper lashes, as well as providing smudge-proof and waterproof definition, ensuring that—whether you’re applying or removing it—you don't need to compromise on comfort to get results. 

Clinique understands that the eyes are particularly vulnerable to discomfort, from skin conditions like eczema to perennial or topical allergies, as the undereye area is thin with less natural oils and therefore more prone to irritation. The brand ensures that its mascaras are  allergy-tested and approved by dermatologists and ophthalmologists.

Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Nourishing Mascara

(Image credit: Burt's Bees)

5. Burt’s Bees 100% Natural Nourishing Mascara

Best clump-free sensitive mascara

Specifications
RRP: $9/£13
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation call-out: Jojoba oil, beeswax, glycerin
Reasons to buy
+Brush shape adds dimension, definition, and volume to lashes +Ophthalmologist-tested and safe for sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers+Paraben-, phthalate-, petrolatum, and synthetic fragrance-free  
Reasons to avoid
-May smear, run, or flake with long-term wear-Takes a while to dry-Not full coverage with just one coating

If you’re looking for a clump-free look that’s more understated daytime drama than late-night glam, this one’s for you.

Ophthalmologist-tested, and with a wand that provides great separation, this mascara’s nourishing formula contains a conditioning cocktail of jojoba oil and glycerin to keep lashes hydrated.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Volume Mascara

(Image credit: La Roche Posay)

6. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Mascara

Best sensitive mascara for volume

Specifications
RRP: $25/£18
Cruelty-free: No
Formulation callouts: Texturizing waxes, polymers
Reasons to buy
+Volumizes, lengthens, and thickens lashes+Free of parabens and fragrances+Allergy-tested, specifically designed for sensitive eyes+Dermatologist- and ophthalmologist-tested+Waterproof version available
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best to apply on bottom lashes: exposure to water may cause the mascara to run and "melt away"

When it comes to sensitive skin, La Roche-Posay knows its stuff. One of the best skincare brands around for those prone to irritation and redness, its skills extend to its makeup line too.

Particularly great for volume, this mascara’s allergy-tested formula is also enriched with a lash health-boosting serum to provide eye-opening results (both short- and long-term). And you could even make your look bolder by pairing this with your best eyeliner. Interesting fact: It was used by makeup artist extraordinaire Val Garland on a very mascara-allergic Dame Judi Dench for her Vogue cover shoot.

Glossier Lash Slick

(Image credit: Glossier)

7. Glossier Lash Slick Mascara

Best sensitive mascara for lengthening

Specifications
RRP: $16/£12
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation call-out: Water-resistant
Reasons to buy
+Brush fibers coat each individual lash hair from root to tip, creating volume and definition+Easily removable+Does not smudge or flake+Great for a natural look+Lengthens and curls lashes+Paraben- and fragrance-free; non-comedogenic
Reasons to avoid
-Some say it could add more volume

With clever Japanese fiber tech for length, vegan biotin for health, and shine polymers for glossy-looking lashes, this mascara offers both style and substance. 

Ideal for perfecting a feathery, fanned-out flutter, its formula is also allergy-, dermatologist-, and ophthalmologist-tested to ensure it’s incredibly comfortable to wear.

Glossier is paraben-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic, and the brand also offers a variety of vegan products in the roster.

Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara

(Image credit: Hourglass)

8. Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara

Best sensitive tube mascara

Specifications
RRP: $29/£29
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation callouts: Film-forming technology
Reasons to buy
+Tube mascara that mimics the look of lash extensions+Brush shape coats each and every lash+Smudge-proof+Easily removable with warm water+Ophthalmologist tested+Gluten-, paraben-, phthalate-, sulfate-, synthetic fragrance-, talc-, and cruelty-free; vegan
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly pricey-Could be more buildable

If your skin is particularly sensitive to eye makeup removers, this fantastic vegan tubing mascara provides the perfect solution. It can be removed with warm water alone, but provides weather- and flake-proof protection to ensure that it doesn’t come off until you’re ready for it to.

Not only does this ophthalmologist-tested product provide brilliant length, lift, and separation but, for those suffering from gluten-related sensitivities, it’s also gluten-free.

Hourglass, a proudly cruelty-free company, also donates 5% of the profits from all Unlocked products to the Nonhuman Rights Project, a US-based organization that aims to "secure civil rights for nonhuman animals."

Covergirl Lash Blast Clean Mascara

(Image credit: Covergirl)

9. Covergirl Lash Blast Clean Volume Mascara

Best vegan sensitive mascara

Specifications
RRP: $10/£7
Cruelty-free: Yes
Formulation callouts: Clean formula; argan oil, marula oil
Reasons to buy
+Clean formula; paraben-, sulfate-, talc-, mineral oil-, and Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free; vegan+Long-lasting formula increases lash volume up to 10x+Great applicator to separate and define lashes+Smudge-free+Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-Some say it flakes and is a bit underwhelming

No-compromise lashes, here we come. Clean beauty is a road that's paved with good intentions indeed, and thankfully it's becoming easier to find products that hit all the marks while also maintaining a clean ethos. That's what we found with Covergirl Lash Blast Clean, which is their nasty-free update to their bestselling Lash Blast.

Aside from volume, it also did a remarkable job in terms of smoothness in application, lengthening prowess, and definition. It's not for those looking for the most dramatic look, but it makes quite the impression for day-to-day wear.

Which brands cater well to sensitive eyes?

As the eyes (and the delicate skin surrounding them) are more susceptible to redness, itching, and puffiness than other parts of the face, it makes sense to spend time finding the best mascara formulated for sensitivities— meaning one that’s gentler and therefore less irritating. Heritage skincare brands such as Clinique and La Roche-Posay, which have reputations for understanding and caring for all types of skin, apply the same rigor to their makeup ranges—the result being some standout mascaras for sensitive eyes. But they aren’t alone in this corner of the makeup market, so it's always best to be diligent with your research to avoid limiting yourself to one or two brands only.

woman&home thanks Kenneth Soh for his time and expertise.