Zero-Waste Mascara? First Impressions of Zerra & Co.
Ah, the ongoing quest for those mythical 100% zero-waste products. While zero waste as a concept has flaws, in my opinion (among other things, it can exacerbate perfectionism and eco-anxiety, it requires more time and energy than many of us can allocate on a daily basis, and it can place too much responsibility on the consumer for products’ environmentally sustainability with too much abdication of this responsibility by manufacturers). That being said, I was instantly curious when I saw an Instagram ad for the vegan, cruelty-free, zero-waste mascara by Zerra and Co. I purchased it; keep reading for all of the details of my initial experience with this mascara!
Note that if you buy this mascara via the links in this post, I’ll receive a small commission at no cost to you. Think of it as a referral bonus that enables me to keep on testing products, investigating brands, and publishing my recommendations.
If you prefer, jump to specific sections:
- Zerra & Co. Buying Experience
- Zero-Waste Mascara Pricing
- Zerra & Co. Formula
- Zero-Waste Packaging & Practices
- Zerra & Co. Mascara Performance and Wear
- Final Thoughts
Zerra & Co. Buying Experience
I was more curious about the mascara from Zerra & Co than their other products because mascara is one of the products that is the most difficult to execute according to zero-waste or low-waste principles. I needed to be sure that it didn’t necessitate some outrageously difficult application method, so I watched a quick video on Instagram showing how to apply the mascara. There’s the added step—which the brand also mentions on the mascara’s product page—of wiping the mascara wand against the edge of the mascara vial to remove excess before application. Since the conventional alternative is to include a plastic “reducer” built into mascara tubes to remove the excess, I consider the brief additional step to be worth it.
After reading some additional information about the mascara on the Zerra & Co. website, I took the plunge and bought it. Quick kudos to Zerra & Co. customer service: I forgot to include my apartment number when inputting my shipping address, and frantically accessed the website’s chat after my purchase in an attempt to modify its destination. Within seconds, I was relieved to see a real human begin responding to my messages, telling me that they’d be happy to add my apartment number to my shipping information!
Zero-Waste Mascara Pricing
I noticed a negative comment on a Zerra and Co. Instagram post about its pricing being too high for its products to be widely-accessible.
Here’s a brief sample of mascara prices in the “environmentally-friendly beauty” niche.
- Lily Lolo Black Vegan Mascara: $20
- Kosas The Big Clean Mascara: $26
- Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara: $28
- Beautycounter Lengthening/Volumizing Mascara: $29
- Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Ultra-Natural Mascara: $24
- Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer: $17 (sometimes described as a “budget pick”)
Zerra & Co. mascara’s price is $17. That isn’t as inexpensive as drugstore brands, true, but it’s definitely less than the price of other mascaras by “clean”, “non-toxic”, “natural”, “zero-waste” brands.
Zerra & Co. Formula
I don’t obsessively pick apart ingredient lists or make moralistic judgements about ingredients as “good” or “bad”, because this often disregards important nuance. The ingredients in Zerra & Co. mascara are:
Ingredients: Water, Stearic Acid, Carnauba Wax, Vegetable Glycerin, Gum Arabic, Polysorbate 80, Cetearyl Alcohol, Xantham Gum, Iron Oxide, Benzylalcohol-DHA
Looking at this list, the only ingredient not immediately familiar to me is the Benzylalcohol-DHA. Apparently, it’s a preservative. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep® database classifies benzyl alcohol as a “moderate hazard” (depending on dose). I encourage you to research further if this is a cause for concern, and I’m no expert, but this won’t deter me from using Zerra & Co’s mascara. By the way, EWG has compiled a list of the mascaras on the market that have benzyl alcohol in them (spoiler: CoverGirl, W3ll People, Bare Minerals, RMS Beauty, Yves Saint Laurent, E.L.F., and more).
Zero-Waste Packaging & Practices
On their site, Zerra & Co. lists some eco-friendly and ethical practices. They ship carbon-neutral (can this become the norm already?!) and use either glass, metal, or compostable paper-board packaging. While glass is extremely energy-intensive to manufacture, I support the brand attempting to think outside the single-use plastic box. Zerra & Co. ships orders in 100% compostable & recyclable shipping materials (even the tape is compostable!). My mascara arrived in a paper-board envelope, and the mascara vial itself and its wand were tucked inside a cardboard tube:
The brand uses only sustainably-harvested palm oil (read more about how this ubiquitous vegetable oil commonly contributes to deforestation) and has committed to being 100% mica-free by 2022 (educate yourself about the unethical mining practices—including child labor—associated with mica, which have resulted in some brands removing mica from their formulations entirely).
One additional statement by Zerra & Co. about its environmentally-conscious practices involving beeswax that is worth noting: “Many vegan companies substitute bee products with harsh petroleum products such as mineral wax and silicones, which aren’t any better for the environment. We instead use plant-based waxes and support local bee agriculture to do our part to save the bees.” The mascara includes the aforementioned plant-based wax, carnauba wax, in its ingredient list.
Zerra & Co. Mascara Performance and Wear
I almost didn’t publish this post because I didn’t think the mascara was as visible in photos, lit with natural light, as I’d hoped. I dipped the wand into the mascara and wiped it (firmly) against the inner lip of the vial. The consistency is very wet compared to the waxiness of other mascaras. It darkened the base of my lashes, thinning rapidly toward the lash tips. As a baseline, here are my bare lashes:
I have very short, straight lashes that almost disappear if I’m not wearing mascara. Here’s the result after two coats of Zerra & Co. mascara:
You can see that a strong base of the product is concentrated in the lash line. There was definitely less clumping than other mascaras I’ve experimented with; stroking the applicator gently and repeatedly through my lashes was a good technique to deposit the product evenly. The longevity was very reasonable, without transferring to my undereye or flaking. After use, the product washes easily out of the applicator in 10 – 15 seconds.
One thing I’ll try next is letting the mascara dry completely before attempting additional coats.
Zero-Waste Mascara Final Thoughts
My first impression is that it wears as a thickening mascara on me rather than a lengthening mascara. It readily deposits product near the lash line. My only recommendation for formula adjustment might be to make it a bit waxier so that it lines the lashes more thickly from base to tip. Regarding their business practices and packaging, I think it’s a very exciting new zero/low-waste option from a small brand for people who are searching for completely plastic-free makeup options.
If you have any questions about Zerra & Co. mascara that I didn’t answer in this review, email me at email@example.com, I’d love to hear from you!