One commonly held belief is that mascara is made from bat poop. But is it true that mascara is made from bat poop? Thankfully, no, it is not true that mascara is made from bat poop. However, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why people believe mascara is made from bat poop. Furthermore, exactly what’s in mascara may still have many questioning using this particular cosmetic.
It’s well known that many widely used cosmetics throughout history turn out to contain harmful chemicals and sketchy ingredients. Queen Elizabeth famously wore a heavy foundation made of lead as was typical of facial cosmetics at that time. Given the reputation of cosmetics to contain such questionable ingredients, it’s normal to question exactly what’s in makeup and other toiletries.
Nor is guanine the only less than appetizing yet FDA approved ingredient frequently found in cosmetics. Lipsticks often contain crushed insects as a coloring agent unbeknownst to most consumers. Vegan lipsticks are specially formulated to use synthetic colorants instead.
Consumers should still be wary and “be on the lookout for thimerosal, a preservative that can cause conjunctivitis and eyelid dermatitis (a rash). Thimerosal is still used in some mascaras.” So while people can use mascara without worrying about any bat poop in their eyes but perhaps remain skeptical of what they use on their faces.
It’s also worth noting that “guanine is used extensively in the cosmetics industry, where it functions as a colorant and as an opacifying (shimmering or light diffusing) agent. It’s found in bath products, cleansing products, fragrances, hair conditioners, lipsticks, nail products, shampoos and skin care products.”
No, mascara is not made from bat poop! So what is mascara made from exactly? According to WebMd “mascara’s ingredients typically include a carbon black or iron oxide pigment to darken lashes; a polymer to form a film that coats lashes; a preservative; and thickening waxes or oils such as lanolin, mineral oil, paraffin, petrolatum, castor oil, carnauba wax, and candelilla wax.”
If it’s not true that mascara is made from bat poop, how would such a rumor develop and take hold? The reputable fact-checking site Snopes.com explains how this misconception originates due to “a similarity between two words that causes them to be confused for one another: guano and guanine. Mascara contains the crystalline form of guanine, a word that derives from the Spanish word guano, meaning ‘dung.’…. The crystalline guanine used in beauty products doesn’t derive from excrement, though, either from bats or from any other critter.”
“Yet there is a bit of a “yuck!” factor to that ingredient, as guanine is manufactured from fish scales.” That means mascara is technically not a vegan or vegetarian product as fish scales are an animal product.
Meanwhile, some strange ingredients are advertised as an innovative selling point of a product. Many people now buy moisturizers and face masks containing snail ooze and bull semen – but not mascara that is made from bat poop!
It’s well known that many widely used cosmetics throughout history turn out to contain harmful chemicals and sketchy ingredients. Queen Elizabeth famously
I was told that all waterproof mascaras have tar.
Bat guano has commercial uses, but not in the cosmetics industry. Instead, highly regarded fertilizer is made from bat droppings because this type of excrement is incredibly rich in nitrogen. (Thanks to its nitrogen richness, bat guano was at one time used in the manufacture of explosives.)
The Personal Care Products Council (formerly the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association) labels the rumor about bat guano in mascara as false: “The color additive guanine is approved by the FDA and listed in the Code of Federal Regulations,” said that organization’s Irene Malbin. “By law, guanine must be derived from fish scales. It is not derived from guano. In addition, there are no guano- or feces-based ingredients used in any cosmetics.”
Bat poop or not, mascara can be a dangerous beautifier if handled carelessly. Application problems routinely cause the product to end up in the eyes of users as well as on their lashes, resulting in numerous emergency room visits (2,390 in 1983, for example). Among the mishaps that bring people into the ER with mascara-related injuries are slips of the applicator, which can injure or irritate the eye, sometimes resulting in infection. Bacterial contamination of the product also can represent a danger. In extreme cases, dermatologists report, mascara has caused allergic reactions or inflammation of the conjunctiva, the mucous membrane lining the eyelids.
This rumor’s origin lies with a similarity between two words that causes them to be confused for one another: guano and guanine.
our shampoo causes cancer, our scrubbing sponges contain formaldehyde, and our lipsticks are loaded with lead (and even go so far as to worry about how much lip goo women swallow in their lifetimes). We also fret (needlessly, it turns out) that our mascara contains bat poop.
The “bat poop” rumor isn’t the only one we’ve heard about mascara, even though it is the most prevalent. Such rumors include the following:
Upon getting ready for school this morning, my 12 year old daughter informed me that her mascara was made with monkey eyeballs.
Is bat guano used in the manufacture of mascara?