- It used to be that swapping your conventional lipstick or eye cream for natural beauty products meant sacrificing quality. But natural beauty is big business these days, meaning there are plenty of better, more effective, and safer skincare and makeup options.
- The cosmetics industry is barely regulated in the US, so it’s up to you to research products and keep yourself safe. This beauty products ingredient guide will help you navigate the beauty aisles.
- Read on to find out what ingredients to avoid and what swaps you can make to clean up your beauty stash, then get recommendations on the best natural beauty products to buy now.
With the current wellness obsession (what some call the Goop effect), more and more people are looking for organic and natural beauty products to complement their clean lifestyle. Natural beauty is big business these days, with millennials leading the demand for better, more effective, and safer skincare and makeup options.
When you start paying attention to your health, you cut out gluten or shop organic produce. The next natural step is to consider what chemicals you’re using to wash your face or lengthen your lashes.
It used to be that swapping your conventional lipstick or eye cream for a natural product meant sacrificing quality. Now you can get super-potent, chic, and affordable natural beauty products that deliver even better results than the traditional stuff.
If you’re on the fence about giving up the beauty products you swear by, consider this. While it’s easy to assume that topical products stay where you put them, the fact is that anything with a molecular weight below 500 Dalton seeps right into the bloodstream. A lot of beauty ingredients need to have molecules that small so they don’t sit on top of the skin. Think about it — you want your moisturizer to absorb so that it hydrates. You want your foundation to melt into the skin so that it looks natural. Lots of beauty products need their ingredients to drop below the surface so that they can do the job the way you want them to.
If a beauty product ingredient gets into your body, you don’t want it to wreak havoc. Read on to find out what to watch out for and how to choose the best natural beauty products that will keep you looking gorgeous — without wrecking your biology. Plus, recommendations on the beauty products you’ll want to stock up on.
Current safety standards for beauty and personal care products
Spoiler alert: There aren’t many.
It’s easy to walk into a store, pick up a well-known brand of shampoo, and lather away without thinking twice about what your suds are doing to your body. You would think that a mass-produced beauty brand would be under the government’s microscope, right?
Not really. The United States government banned a handful of ingredients and barely regulates the safety of cosmetics and personal care products at all. For perspective, the European Union banned over 1,000 beauty ingredients and updates their lists frequently. State governments ban additional ingredients, but for the vast majority of states, anything in the beauty product department goes.
The 3 most important natural beauty swaps to make
No. 1: Choose all-natural deodorant over antiperspirant
Now that you’re in your bathroom, ready to clean out, first ditch your antiperspirant.
You’re built to sweat. Sweat is the body’s natural cooling system and it ushers toxins out of the body. When you stop yourself from sweating, you’re blocking your body’s ability to eliminate the bad stuff.
If you look at your antiperspirant’s ingredients label, chances are you’ll find aluminum as an active ingredient because of its effectiveness at blocking your sweat. Aluminum has a well-established link to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Plus, it rubs off on your clothes, the aluminum oxidizes, and voila! Yellow pit stains. Yep, they come from your antiperspirant — not from sweat itself.
You may be able to skip deodorant altogether. After a stinky washout period of a week or so, everything that’s been plugged up in your pores will have washed away, and you’ll notice you’re much fresher than you thought. Illness and normal hormonal fluctuations change your general level of odor but it’ll hover around your natural baseline.
Not everyone is comfortable going au naturel. Instead, replace antiperspirant with a non-toxic deodorant. Keep reading for recommendations on the best natural deodorants that work.
Or make your own natural deodorant with this DIY deodorant recipe
- 4 T coconut oil
- 6 T arrowroot powder
- 12 drops of your favorite essential oils
No. 2: Use non-toxic sunscreen
Sunscreen is notorious for containing toxic, hormone-disrupting chemicals. Scientists have measured common sunscreen chemicals in blood, urine, and breast milk.
Because sunscreen alone doesn’t reduce the rate of skin cancer, it’s important to cover up with clothing and stay in the shade during peak hours of sunlight once you’ve sufficiently dosed on vitamin D.
Too much sun causes DNA damage in your cells and destroys collagen and elastin, resulting in sunspots, wrinkles, and sagging skin. Plus, sunburns are a literal pain, especially for kids’ tender skin. So, choose a sunscreen option that will prevent burns, skin cancer, and aging, while keeping your hormones and DNA happy.
You can get a recipe for a DIY natural sunscreen here. Don’t worry about looking like a cartoon lifeguard with a white nose. It rubs in and the beeswax makes it water-resistant.
No. 3: Avoid anything heavily fragranced
If a product has a strong smell, there’s a solid chance it’s full of hormone disruptors and chemicals that damage your cells. If an ingredient is volatile enough to emit an aroma, you get the double whammy of the molecules entering the body through inhalation as well as through the skin.
The exception is if the aroma comes from essential oils — fragrant natural plant compounds. While essential oils are natural, they’re certainly not inert; every one of them has a weak- to strong medical action associated with it. Know what you’re doing. Here’s an intro on essential oils.
How to find the best clean, natural beauty products
Buy the brands you trust: The lack of oversight in the beauty industry means that as the consumer, you have to look into the company’s practices and examine ingredients at the product level — even when it comes to natural beauty products. Some beauty brands ban harmful ingredients on their own so you don’t have to check every product.
Shop at non-toxic boutiques: Natural beauty boutiques like Follain, Credo Beauty, CAP Beauty, and even Whole Foods have developed their own set of production standards and banned ingredients, and will carry a range of brands and products that meet their criteria. So you can trust whatever products they choose to put on their shelves.
Download on-to-go apps: Tools like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database rates products based on ingredients. They did your homework for you and will rate products so that you can make informed purchasing decisions. For extra convenience, you can open their Healthy Living app while you shop, and just scan barcodes of products to get an instant safety score before you check out.
Toxic beauty product ingredients to avoid
The most common offenders you’ll see on ingredients labels include:
- Propylene glycol
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate
- Triclosan, Triclocarban
- Heavy metals
This isn’t a complete list of everything that’s harmful, but it will get you accustomed to reading labels and gathering information about what is in your products.
Best natural beauty products to stock up on
Ready to clean up your beauty stash? Here are some natural beauty products that both perform well, and don’t have questionable ingredients.
Best natural sunscreens
Farmacy Green Screen Daily Environmental Protector Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, $36: On the hunt for a daily moisturizer that contains sunscreen? Most hybrids don’t contain enough sunscreen to provide adequate protection. Instead, use this non-greasy facial sunscreen in place of your daily moisturizer. It leaves skin nourished and prepped for makeup — and leaves no white cast.
Blue Lizard Sunscreen, $19.99: Blue Lizard has sunscreen types for every skin type and activity, just like the big brands have. They differ in the quality of their ingredients — Blue Lizard doesn’t use the yucky stuff that will disrupt your hormones and DNA.
100% Pure Everywhere Body Stick, $20: If you’re looking for a sunscreen you can toss into your bag without worrying about finding a greasy mess later, you need the Everywhere Body Stick. It looks like a solid deodorant, so it’s highly travel-friendly. Not only does their formula leave out the toxic chemicals you want to avoid, it also leaves out a lot of the more common allergens and skin irritants that you might be concerned with if you’re more sensitive.
Best natural lipsticks
Ilia Beauty Lipstick, $26: Complete your look without microdosing on lead and cadmium all day long. Rich and pigmented, Ilia lipstick is comfortable and long-wearing, just like those other high-end brands — but without all the yuck.
Rituel de Fille Enchanted Lip Sheer, $24: If you want a ton of moisture with a touch of vibrant color, Rituel de Fille’s Enchanted Lip Sheer comes in 10 colors that give just enough pop — like you’ve been eating a popsicle. Again, you get all the goodies of a quality lip sheer without the heavy metals.
Vapour Organic Beauty Siren Lipstick, $25: For those looking for a more matte finish, Vapour’s luxe botanical line comes in every shade you could possibly wish for. It also manages to do the impossible: provide stay-put wear without drying out your lips.
Best natural face cleansers
Annmarie Gianni Aloe Herb Cleanser, $30: Annmarie Gianni Skin Care has astronomical standards for the ingredients they’ll use in their hand-crafted natural beauty products. Not only do they exclude the worst offenders, but they also audit the ingredients they do use for purity and performance. This gentle, creamy cleanser leaves skin nourished and refreshed, not stripped.
Acure Organics Brilliantly Brightening Cleansing Gel, $10: This foaming, antioxidant-rich cleanser will leave your skin truly clean while nourishing it to boost natural defenses from the elements to come. Best for normal to oily skin types.
Best natural acne prevention and spot treatment
Nerd Skincare Acne Treatment Lotion, $85: Instead of wiping out all skin bacteria, Nerd Skincare aims to naturally keep you clear by supporting your skin’s natural defense mechanisms. That includes the good bacteria on your skin. Use the entire system, or just use this daily serum to prevent breakouts without any harsh or drying side effects.
Indie Lee Blemish Stick, $28: Even people who have the most enviable skin see an eruption every now and then. Food, pollutants … your face fends off a lot every day. The Indie Lee Blemish Stick is a fantastic natural spot treatment to have in your stash because you never know when these things will happen. Apply this fast-acting, clear solution over or under your makeup and watch pimples disappear.
Best natural moisturizers
The Alitura Moisturizer, $49: This moisturizer from Alitura Naturals contains 95.4% organic ingredients, and they package it in a bottle that only allows in light wavelengths that enhance the product. Check out this episode of Bulletproof Radio in which founder Andy Hnilo shares his story about how he used diet and his own skincare products to help re-grow his skin after a car crash.
Herbivore Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Crème, $48: There’s a reason this dewy, fast-absorbing moisturizer is always on back-order. It’s just that good. The mousse-like texture feels ultra-light going on but melts into skin for immediate soothing and hydration. Perfect for sensitive, acne-prone and combination skin.
Kora Organics Noni Glow Body Oil, $58: A little Kora Organics body oil after a shower gives your whole body a dose of antioxidants and essential fatty acids. The result is hydration without a greasy residue, and of course, without the toxins.
Best natural eye creams
Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel, $54: Biossance uses natural ingredients to plump the skin to minimize wrinkles, firm skin and reduce puffiness around the eyes. The Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel has the EWG Verified seal, which means it meets the EWG’s highest standards of purity.
Goop by Juice Beauty Perfecting Eye Cream, $90: This eye cream uses rich emollients to increase the skin’s elasticity and snap back sagging skin. All Goop products adhere to strict ingredient standards so you don’t age your skin faster by damaging your cells.
Best natural anti-aging serums
Tata Harper Elixir Vitae Ultimate Wrinkle Solution, $380: If money is no object, this anti-aging serum smooths wrinkles while plumping the skin to take years off of your face. The ingredients are beyond legit — they grow almost everything they use on their own farm in Vermont.
Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, $34: Vitamin C is a tried and true wrinkle-fighter and radiance-booster. It’s also a potent antioxidant that helps fight free radicals that lead to collagen breakdown, i.e. wrinkles and other skin damage.
Biossance Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum, $78: The retinol that you typically see in anti-aging serums can cause biochemical changes at the cellular level, and it increases photosensitivity which accelerates aging and development of skin tumors. Biossance solved that problem by developing a formula containing Bakuchiol, which has a retinol-like effect on the skin without the irritation and increased sensitivity. To boot, it’s just as hydrating and effective as the rest of the Biossance squalane line.
Best natural face mask
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, $80: This powerful mix of glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids gently but effectively exfoliate skin to slough away dead skin cells and encourage new cell turnover for more youthful, radiant skin. Niacinamide and chickpea flour brighten skin while antioxidants from matcha, apple fruit, and milk thistle soothe reactive complexions.
Best natural shampoo and soap
Mother Dirt Shampoo, $17, and Foaming face Cleanser, $24: Chances are, you’ve heard that you have friendly bacteria in your gut. Did you know you have a community of bacteria, or microbiome, on your skin, too? Mother Dirt products are formulated to restore a healthy skin ecosystem and maintain the good bacteria to keep skin and scalp healthy, balanced and irritation-free — without any detergents or preservatives.
EO Botanical Shampoo, $8-$13: If you like to have a lot to choose from, EO carries a wide variety of soap and shampoo products. Choose for scent, or in the case of shampoo, choose for the formula depending on your hair — you can get one that balances, volumizes, or nourishes.
Best natural hand sanitizer
Everyone Coconut & Lemon Hand Sanitizer Spray, $18 for 6: Stow these travel-sized sprays in every handbag, diaper bag and glove compartment to fight on-the-go germiness. You never thought you’d care much about a hand sanitizer until you try this one, which all your mom friends will ask to borrow.
Best natural deodorant
Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant, $14: Essential oils and beta-glucan fight odor with powerful antioxidants, anti-bacterial agents, and polysaccharides. If you struggle to find a natural deodorant that keeps you dry and stink-free, give this one a go.
Fatco Stank Stop Deodorant, $12: Fatco women’s and men’s deodorants do not have the toxic ingredients you’ll find in conventional antiperspirants and deodorants, and you can choose a spritz, jar, or tube.
Herban Cowboy Maximum Protection, $8: Herban Cowboy carries a variety of men’s deodorants that perform, without nasty aluminum or mineral salts. You can choose solid or dry spray.
Whatever products you choose to go with, know this: Companies reformulate often, so give the label a once-over before you buy.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea that you have to empty your bathroom drawers and cabinets into the trash and drop mad cash on natural products. Swap out the highest-impact products first, then you can either opt for the clean versions of products you use as you run out, or make the commitment to swap out one or two beauty products a month.