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5 Ingredients to AVOID in your Eyeliner

By Nicole Soo
Professional Makeup Artist

5 ingredients to AVOID in eyeliners

In more recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of beauty products. With so many options on the market, it’s important for us to educate ourselves in the ingredients we put on our faces everyday.


Formaldehyde (aka. quaternium -15, DMDM hydration & urea)

Let’s start with an easy one. You’ve probably heard about the harmful effects of formaldehyde. You’ve been told to stay away from this ingredient in every beauty product. Surprisingly enough, just like many others, I’ve stayed away without really knowing what it did to our body or why it’s in our beauty products to begin with.

Like parabens (also yuck), formaldehydes are used as preservatives to inhibit growth of bacteria in cosmetics. This harmful ingredient is also used in fertilizer, paper and plywood. So why are we using it on our face? Formaldehydes can be found in so many products in the market still (nearly 20 percent!), and the dangers are not so pretty. How ironic?

The most common danger of this chemical is skin irritation. It can even cause irritation to the eyes if the user is sensitive. However, more people are concerned that formaldehyde is a huge carcinogen. With high or prolonged exposure, formaldehyde is an extremely unsafe substance. While the FDA does not prohibit the use of formaldehyde in cosmetics, it’s best to avoid it altogether if possible.

Parabens safety levels according to the CIR.

Parabens safety levels according to the CIR.


Parabens are a tricky one. Although the most common chemical people look to avoid in products, there still isn’t solid evidence that parabens causes any health problems. Typically, one would be advised to avoid this chemical because it can lead to higher risks of cancer. Let’s look into why this substance has such a bad rep.

First of all, why do so many cosmetic products (a whopping 85%) contain parabens? Earlier, we discussed how formaldehyde is used as a preservative. Parabens are a type of synthetic preservative that keep cosmetics sitting on shelves longer. It stops nasty bacteria, mold and fungus from growing in your beauty products. They’re hard to spot on labels, so you really have to look through the ingredients. Note that they can show up as butylparaben, methylparaben and proplyparaben.

If parabens are so bad for us, why are they in so many products we use from a day to day basis? The bad rep behind this controversial product is based off their molecular structure. As it is so close to the structure of estrogen, many came to the conclusion that it would lead to increase chances of having breast cancer or reproductive issues. At this moment, there is no solid evidence that parabens are actually harmful to you, although they are known to easily penetrate the skin.

That being said, we’ve decided that although findings are inconclusive at the moment, great products can be made paraben-free. Therefore, if it doesn’t have any benefits, we would always opt for the version that doesn’t contain this preservative.


BHA & BHT molecules.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) & Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)

There seems to be a common type of ingredient that has gotten lots of controversy — preservatives. Butylated Hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole, or BHT and BHA for short, are material used to fight the deterioration of your products when exposed to air. While they are potential skin allergens, this common preservative has been tested on mice. This study showed the development of kidney, thyroid and kidney problems in the specimens. Furthermore, evidence suggests that BHT and BHA acts like estrogen on overdrive, leading to possible reproductive issues.

You can still find BHT and BHA in cosmetics but you’ll see them with a warning slapped onto the packaging due to the effect it makes on the human body. The regulations are pretty even across the board in the US and Canada in regards to BHT, while the EU is a lot stricter. BHA is not even allowed to be used in the EU.

Carbon black, are often used for pigments in eyeliners.

Carbon black are often used for pigments in eyeliners.

Carbon Black

Have you ever had someone say to you: "If you can’t pronounce something on a label, you probably shouldn’t use it.”? So why does something that sounds as harmless as carbon black, be in a list of ingredients you should avoid?

The issue with carbon black is in the name: carbon. Used as a pigment for eyeshadows, lipsticks, eyeliners and other various products, this substance is actually FDA approved. Although used in a lot of cosmetics for its pure black colour, carbon black is widely used in the manufacturing of tires and printing toner. Disgusting? I think so. Because it is produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based products such as petroleum oil, studies show it is still unsafe to use on the skin in high quantities.

The reason why you can find carbon black in so many beauty products is because the material is very cost effective. While some may argue that carbon in small amounts is not that harmful, studies show that it could build up overtime to more serious health issues such as skin cancer. When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why it’d probably be a good idea to find other great alternatives to these harmful ingredients.

Raw prime yellow carnauba wax.

Raw prime yellow carnauba wax.

Prime Yellow Carnauba Wax

Another product that is really common in eyeliner is carnauba wax. This solid material is commonly used to help products stay stiff and waterproof. Derived from the Brazilian palm tree, carnauba wax is the hardest natural wax. This makes it prone to clogging oil glands especially when used around the eyes and cause dry eye. Not only is dry eye uncomfortable, it can also permanently damage your sight. So forget about leaving your eyeliner on after a long night!

Good news! There are other vegan waxes that are just as great. Microcrystalline wax (aka. vegan beexwax) makes a great substitute. It is much more fluid, non-toxic and non-carcinogenic.

It's 2019, ingredients matter.

We’ve become so health conscious in the last few years with food. It would make sense that we would take a closer look at what we put on our bodies and not just what we put in them. These are just a few examples of ingredients you should look out for in your eyeliners. The point we’re trying to get across is: There are currently only 11 chemicals banned in the US versus over 1400 banned in the EU. That makes it so much more important to educate yourself when shopping for your beauty products. With so many great alternatives out on the market, why wouldn’t you get products that are safer for you?

Finally a liner that is non-toxic, latex-free, with all day wear.

When we first set out to create a better liner, we started by researching all the existing liners on the market, and we were shocked to find that many of them contained some of these harmful ingredients. What's even more shocking is that some of these ingredients don't necessarily improve the performance of the eyeliners.

The Esqido Eyeliner

The Esqido Eyeliner is non-toxic, waterproof, smudgeproof, with all day wear.

We decided we could do better, so we created a blacklist of ingredients we would never include in our product, and we raised the bar for a clean and non-toxic eyeliner that not only rivaled the best out there, but surpassed them in performance in terms of water-resistance, smudge-resistance, pigmentation, and longevity. Meet the Esqido Eyeliner, a gel based liner in pencil form that offers all day wear, waterproof and smudgeproof, and non-toxic.

See the Esqido Eyeliner in action

Discover the Esqido Gel Eyeliner

Water-proof, smudge-proof, non-toxic.

Discover the Esqido Gel Eyeliner

Water-proof, smudge-proof, non-toxic.

"I’ve tried all kinds of eyeliner. They never stayed in. This eyeliner is the best I’ve ever tried. Mine stays on all day until I take it off. I bought the brown and live it! "

Yerri S

"My eyes water constantly, especially during allergy season and I’ve tried every eyeliner there is. I read the reviews and thought I’d give one more eyeliner a shot... I’m a customer for life. I will never buy another eyeliner as long as this one is around. I bought brown and black, no smears, no smidges ,and I don’t look like Alice cooper at the end of a 16 hour day! I’m so impressed! Thank you for actually doing what you claim ESQIDO! "

Ami K

"I’ve bought three of these liners and will never buy another brand again! I have hooded lids and totally struggled to find a liner that I could use on my upper lash line that wouldn’t smudge and transfer into my crease. Liquid liner is great but sometimes it’s a bit much! This liner glides smooth and after its ‘set’ there is NO transfer to my crease! "

Natasha G