Good all-natural and clean make-up is hard to find. But clean beauty products that use a combination of natural ingredients and safe synthetics are springing up everywhere. Below are the natural and clean make-up brands that look and feel better than their toxic competitors.
Why ingredients in make-up still matter
The Environmental Working Group started calling out personal care products in 2004 for containing toxic ingredients linked to cancer and endocrine disruption. Today we know a lot more about the ingredients that go into our products. But if you take a trip to your local beauty counter it's still almost impossible to figure out what's safe and what's not.
Ingredients to look out for in conventional beauty products
A few ingredients stick out in cosmetics such as:
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) - Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by The National Toxicology Program.
Parabens - Commonly used preservatives used in personal care products. Parabens are regulated in the European Union, but not in the United States. Commonly used parabens are propylparaben, and butylparaben and both have an EWG score of 7 (high hazard).
Clean beauty products
You can learn more in What is Clean Beauty but if reading ingredient lists feels like too much trouble, here are a few clean beauty products you'll love.
(Side note: I'm an Amazon affiliate. If you buy these products on Amazon I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.)
Clean make-up by 100% Pure
Safety: “Natural ingredients originate from nature and ONLY undergo chemical changes due to biological processes such as fermentation, distillation, and cold processing,” according to the company.
Sustainability commitment: “Our 8 acre headquarter property is 100% solar powered, and we extend this emphasis on sustainability to every aspect of 100% PURE®,” according to the company.
100% Pure: Fruit Pigmented Mascara* Blackberry is by far the best natural or conventional mascara I've used. It even passed my ugly cry test. The tears came down black as expected, but the mess wiped away easily without turning into a black sticky sludge. At the end of the day, the mascara is still on my lashes and not under my eyes.
The Lip and Cheek Tint and the Fruit Pigmented Cheek Stain stay on and give a pretty opaque color as well. However, you may need to buy them on 100PercentPure.com to find the best colors. When you buy direct they offer free samples and discounts. If you're serious about going all-in on natural this brand is a good one-stop-shop.
Clean cosmetics by ILIA
Safety: Has the clean at Sephora seal. [note] "All brands with this seal qualify as Sephora Clean and are free of these ingredients: sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban." [/note]
Inspiration: “Being mindful that not every natural ingredient is good for the skin, nor is every synthetic bad. It usually requires a combination of both to achieve a truly exceptional product,” according to the company.
I love that quote. Yes! Natural ingredients are not always better and synthetic ingredients are not all toxic. Thank you to Ilia for being willing to say this. Excluding a class of ingredients because they are not “natural” is not always better. They even gave me a new phrase - safe synthetics.
Favorite: ILIA Arabian Knights* Beauty Tinted Lipstick. It feels like lip balm, but looks like a glossy lipstick. The color looks bright red inside the tube, but it goes on opaque. The more layers you add the darker the color.
The ultimate clean lipstick brand: Bite Beauty
Safety: Has the "Clean at Sephora" seal. [note] "All brands with this seal qualify as Sephora Clean and are free of these ingredients: sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban." [/note]
Highlight: This brand has a huge selection of lipsticks, lip pencils, and glosses. When you buy directly through their site they often offer free samples with your purchase.
Favorite: Glace Matte Creme Lip Crayon looks and feels like lipstick. I usually go for a glossy look, like the Ilia Tinted Lipstick above. This is matte which gives more definition. Nice for an evening out.
Clean lip oil by Au Naturale
Safety: "Each of our products is entirely non-toxic - meaning that every single ingredient included in our formulations has been carefully vetted to ensure that it is pure and in no way harmful to consumer health," according to the company.
The Lip Slick Tinted Lip Oil is addicting and the brand is also available at Wholefoods if you need a quick make-up pick-me-up while you're grocery shopping.
Other ingredients to look out for in conventional and "clean" make-up and skin care brands
Vitamin A (usually labeled retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate) - The EWG recommends staying away from make-up with Vitamin A. The concern is that Vitamin A increases the risk of sunburns. Vitamin A can be a natural or synthetic ingredient and many natural brands still use it.
Alpha hydroxy acids, AHAs (usually labeled glycolic acid and lactic acid) - These ingredients are used to decrease wrinkles and acne in skin care products. They are also occasionally used in make-up. The risk is due to an increased risk of sunburn according to the FDA.
I've used Vitamin A (AKA retinol and retinyl) and AHAs (glycolic acid and lactic acid) a lot. They are both effective anti-wrinkle and anti-acne ingredients. Which is why they are so popular. Many "natural" companies use naturally derived Vitamin A and AHAs. But even if they are natural, they still increase the risk of sun damage. So keep in mind that just because it's natural does not mean it doesn't have risks.