Mascara contains the crystalline form of guanine, a word that derives from the Spanish word guano, meaning “dung.” 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. 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, which means you’re likely finding a little bit of Nemo in your cosmetics drawer.
Origins: One of the less appetizing aspects of modern life is having to entrust our personal safety and wellbeing to those responsible for churning out household and personal care items. Precious little of the process of bringing these items to market is transparent, and the products that end up in our hands arrive emblazoned with lengthy lists of polysyllabic ingredients that make the task of working out exactly what went into them almost impossible. Ultimately, we have to cross our fingers and hope that the manufacturers have done right by us. But even so, there is always that little nagging sense that all might not be entirely well with many of the items we use on a daily basis.
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.)
I was told that all waterproof mascaras have tar.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association offers these safety tips on mascara use:
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.
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.”
This rumor’s origin lies with a similarity between two words that causes them to be confused for one another: guano and guanine.
Is bat guano used in the manufacture of mascara?
“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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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