I believe that toxin-free, sustainable, and ethical fashion should be accessible to all. And I think the same should go for the products we put on our skin. Credit where credit is due, GOOP has done an amazing job at bringing conscious consumerism to the mainstream. They may have gotten all of us talking about toxic free lifestyles, but their recommendations for ethical makeup are not realistic for most of our wallets.
I created this guide based on what I like to use everyday to help keep my makeup clean, without putting me into debt. All of our ethical makeup selections are toxin and cruelty-free.
My Ethical Makeup Journey
I first realized how many toxins were in our makeup when my boyfriend introduced me to the EWG website and the Think Dirty app. That was a game changer. I literally threw out every piece of makeup I owned and vowed to keep it clean and cruelty-free.
Thankfully the clean beauty store Credo is in my neighborhood so making the switch wasn't too difficult. Credo also has one of the best return policies, and thanks to that I was basically able to try out everything in their store until I found products that worked for me. I found some amazing products that helped me get all the chemicals out of my morning makeup routine.
But, my ethical makeup habit was becoming seriously expensive (you’ll notice GOOP and Credo stock a lot of the same brands). So I did a little more research and found that there are some awesome and affordable drugstore brands that are toxin and cruelty-free too.
What is ethical makeup?
For me, ethical makeup needs to check three major boxes.
First, were animals hurt? If a brand tests on animals I am not about supporting them.
Second, are the ingredients harmful? Ok, so maybe a brand does not test on animals but, if their products are loaded with carcinogens and other toxins I don't want that on my skin!
And third, how are they impacting the planet? Do they use recycled packaging or offer product refils? Are they working to make sure their environmental impact is as small as possible?
What I'm Looking For
For the most part, at the age of 31, I don't wear much makeup, but when I do it's ethical. In my younger years, I rocked a more rock and roll look with dark harsh eyeliner and a smokey eye. But today I am a fan of the barely-there makeup that just makes me look like I actually had a good nights sleep.one of the few times this year I wore makeup - at the airport on my way to speak at SXSW.[/caption]
Kjaer Weis Foundation is basically the gold standard of ethical makeup and is widely thought of as the best non-toxic foundation out there. I tried it, and you know? It was gooood. But, $68 for only .26oz of a foundation is a lot to pay.
Then I found W3LL People’s Narcissist Foundation Stick for only $28.99. Out of all the toxin-free foundations, I have tried (upwards of 20) this is the best non-toxic foundation that leaves my dry skin looking hydrated and dewy. Lastly, as an added bonus you get 0.4oz of foundation! That’s double the makeup for more than half the price!
Instead of Kjaer Weis try W3ll People
My skin is naturally on the pinker side, and I am one of those lucky individuals who at 30+ is starting to show wrinkles but still struggles with acne. The Narcist Foundation Stick helps to even out my skin tone, and conceal my breakouts, without settling into any wrinkles. With the help of this little foundation stick, my skin looks like I just hit the spa, and not like I am wearing a ton of makeup. Plus the stick method is soo easy, swipe it on, blend with your fingertips, and you are out the door in under a minute.
Don’t let these cream concealers fool you. They are light and melt into the skin, giving you a glowy liquid ethical makeup finish that covers up but, looks like real skin. Again, the last thing I want is a thick concealer that makes the fine lines around my eyes look worse.
When I was working 20 hour days overseas in fast fashion, Bobbi Brown’s Correct and Conceal Set was my faces saving grace. I didn’t like that no one in the store could confirm if they did or did not test on animals, and their Think Dirty score of a 7 was a little too high for me.
So, I made the change to RMS Beauty’s “un” Cover-Up at $36 for .2oz. At the time it was winning every magazine beauty award and you couldn’t google toxin-free makeup without the brand popping up. The formulation was just as creamy as my old Bobbi Brown’s but, I wish there was a bit more of an orange tint in the color to really color correct my panda eyes.
A story I can relate to
Plus, RMS has a great brand story that I can totally relate to.
“Top makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift loved her job until a series of health issues prompted her to undergo blood testing, which revealed toxic levels of heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals. The technician conducting the tests immediately asked Swift whether she worked in the cosmetics industry. The experience prompted her to start one of the original clean makeup lines, RMS. The surprise is how far beyond just-clean it goes—the formulas are exquisite, the packaging chicly modern, and the colors wildly flattering. Makeup artists, editors, and stylists everywhere are obsessed; so are we.”
An industry insider who is now an advocate for sustainable, ethical, conscious, toxin-free, cruelty-free lifestyle?! Me too! I feel you girl! The only downside was the steep price tag.
Instead of RMS try NYX
Then I found a cruelty-free concealer without toxic chemicals that beauty bloggers were obsessed with. There must be a catch? Beauty bloggers love the product for its performance. Most customers never realize it's actually an ethical makeup. I am talking about NYX Dark Circle Concealer. For only $5.99. NYX is famous for their professional quality pigments and formulations at low prices. I could not believe that something so mainstream would also be toxin-free. And, like my original Bobbi Brown, the NYX version has orange undertones to really erase dark circles.
Vapour Aura Multi-Use Blush. Founders Krysia Boinis and Kristine Keheley work together in the mountains of Taos, New Mexico where their home inspires their vision. I have never been to Taos, but the photos on Instagram look magical. Vapour boasts an ethical makeup brand that blends art and alchemy. And, this makes sense considering Krysia is a botany specialist and Kristine is an internationally known fine artist. But, if $36 is too much to spend on a cream blush (FYI I have tested it, and unfortunately, they dry out before you can use all the product - what a waste!) I have a dupe for you.
Instead of Vapour try 100% PURE
Try out 100% PURE’s Pink Grapefruit Glow Lip & Cheek Tint, that is $10 cheaper than Vapours. And, as a bonus, it doesn’t dry out the way Vapour does so you can use it to the last drop.
I love the 100% PURE cosmetics line in general. I have found most makeup’s you could eat, don’t really perform and would be better off eaten than on my face. But, 100% PURE packs a punch.
What is cool about 100% PURE cosmetics is that they use fruit, vegetables, tea, and other plant pigments to get their coloring. Plants naturally contain things that are good for our skin like vitamins, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients instead of synthetic chemicals.
If you are really into skincare, I am, you might have heard that natural ingredients do not actually penetrate the skin layers, and therefore don’t actually work. Sorry, that beauty mask you made out of avocados and raw eggs was probably little more than a placebo. Because natural ingredients do not really work on their own, many cosmetic companies add polymers (which is actually liquid plastics) into their formulas to help ingredients penetrate the skin. Instead, 100% PURE uses a method they invented to change the molecular size of their active ingredients in order to help the skin absorbs them better. Pretty cool.
Are you still using bronzer and highlighter? Let Gwennie introduce you to the luxury world of luminizer, to help give you that lit from within look.
Just kidding, luminizer, bronzer, highlighter - they are all the same thing, we use them to contour and give our faces more dimension by highlighting our best features.
Juice Beauty’s Phyto-Pigments Flash Luminizer that includes a bronzer and highlighter will run you about $32. The product is luxurious and creamy but is a little more then I would like to spend. Especially since I wear luminizer so rarely.
Have you heard of Juice Beauty? Juice Beauty shot into the mainstream a few years ago with the launch of their now patent GREEN APPLE Peel. Through an intensive PR and marketing campaign aligning with conscious celebs and mainstream fashion magazine, Juice Beuty was everywhere.
I really want to like their products because they are so clean, but when I tried them they just didn’t perform. Juice Beauty is definitely a line that overpromises and underdelivers. A few hours of wearing their serum foundation and the formula oxidized leaving me looking like an Oompa Loompa. The Flash Luminizer is actually the only product I like from the line and I feel performs at a professional level.
Instead of Juice Beauty try NYX (again)
This is the hardest ethical makeup to find in both cruelty-free and non-toxic. While I was testing every single mascara on the market trying to replace my Benefit They’re Real Mascara tube, I had a handful of embarrassing encounters at work. Where, by lunchtime, I had black streaks running down my face, looking like I had been crying. 100% natural products will literally melt off your face.
I tried them all, RMS, W3LL People, Juice, Ilia - they didn’t just leave me looking like a raccoon, they left me looking like I was lowkey watching The Notebook instead of working.
Instead of literally every other mascara, try Tarte
The only product I found that works and stays put is Tarte Lights, Camera, Flash Statment Mascara in Black. It’s dark, it volumizes, it lengthens, and most importantly it stays on!
While Tarte began totally animal-friendly they were bought by Japanese company KOSE, which does test on animals. To date, Tarte Cosmetics still does not test on animals (although their parent company KOSE does). They are certified cruelty-free by PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies PRogram and Logical Harmony.
The decision to buy ethical makeup brands that are owned by non-ethical parent companies is a personal one. How hardcore are you? Is it enough that the company does not test on animals? Or, should they be avoided because the company that owns them does not share their values for cruelty-free practices?
That is up to you.
For me, if something better than Tarte comes along I am happy to make a switch, but for now, they are the best I have found performance wise, and while the company that owns them doesn't align with my values, for now at least, they will do. If you think there is something better out there, PLEASE, let me know!
Each pot of Ash and Amber Eye Soot sold by the Goop Team will set you back $38. That’s a lot of cash for only one color! Because makeup isn’t a uniform, if you are looking to switch up your look it is going to cost you!
For a cheap alternative with variety, I like to use Pixi Mesmerizing Mineral Palette in Sunset. You get six colors for $16.
Instead of Ash and Amber try Pixi
Pixi is another ethical makeup brand that makes cruelty-free and toxin-free makeup accessible to the masses. You might recognize the brand from your local Target. Target helped launch the brand into stardom across the pond over here in the USA. Most people that buy Pixi products purchase them for their low price and high-quality pigments, they don’t even realize that the brand is natural and cruelty-free. That is just an added bonus.
Pixi launched 15 years ago in Soho, London by makeup pro Petra Strand. What's cool is that Petra was at this before ethical makeup was a trend. Pixi products generally run in neutral colors with the goal of giving wearers that “just had a good night’s sleep” look.
Jillian Dempsey Khol Eyeliner comes in at $20. Does the name Jillian Dempsey sound familiar? If you haven't heard of her makeup line you have probably heard of her ultra-famous husband Patrick Dempsey - aka McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy.
What you might not have known about Jilian is that she is a professional makeup artist, best known for beautifying young Hollywood on the red carpet. Jillian refers to herself as a painter "making up" the faces of celebrities. For her brand formulations, she hand selects organic and naturally-derived ingredients.
While I want to use the same makeup that celebs use on the red carpet, there are cheaper ethical makeup options out there that work just as well without toxins or harm to animals.
Instead of Jillian Dempsey try Wet N Wild
Did you know that drugstore brand Wet N Wild is cruelty-free? And,Wet N Wild’s Color Icon Kohl Liner Pencil is less the $5.
Wet N Wild was some of the first real makeup I ever purchased from my local CVS in elementary school. I felt I was ready for something more than Bonnie Bell Lipsmackers, and Wet N Wild looked so cool back in the 90's to a tween like me.
Throughout college, I continued to use Wet N Wild eyeliners when I wanted to try out a funky color but didn't want to financially commit to something expensive. I had no idea the brand was also an ethical makeup company, but I am glad they are!my old college roomie and me back in 2010 rocking some electric and eclectic eyeliner, little did we know we were already part of the ethical makeup movement[/caption]
The only brow enhancer on the Goop website is Beautycounter Color Define Brow Pencil $24. Personally, I prefer a gel, like Glossier Boy Brow, I use color brown. I do my brows religiously before leaving the house because if I don't I look like Lord Voldemort.Actual footage of me when I forget to put on my Glossier Boy Brow - meme made by Melanie DiSalvo - virtue + vice[/caption]
When I began cleaning out my makeup kit to replace everything with ethical makeup options, I was sure this cult favorite would have to go ( FYI my other college roommate Alex introduced me this brand - when I find something that works I like to stick with it). I had to wait on a line in Chinatown that wrapped around a city corner to just get into the Glossier flagship store to buy it. It was too cool, too mainstream, and worked too well. It would definitly have to go. But, I was wrong. Glossier is a cruelty-free company, and their Boy Brow eyebrow gel is only a 3 on the EWG’s website.
Glossier proves that the mainstream wants ethical makeup
The company gives a strong message that their makeup was made for the people that wear it, touting that many of their employees were first customers. Do you know what that tells me? People want ethical makeup. They don’t want to spread toxins on their skin or buy into companies that torture animals for testing. Glossier's success and decision to incorporate ethical standards into such a mainstream business model, especially one that has become popular from made for millennial facebook and Instagram advertisements, gives me hope and shows me that change is happening. And, people don't just want it they are demanding it.
I like to keep most of my makeup looking natural and gravitate towards neutral pallets. But when it comes to lips I want pigment that packs a punch. When I first was looking for ethical makeup options I chose ILIA lipstick because of their wide range of colors. But, each lipstick costs $28. And, like Vapour products this lipstick was completely dried out before I could get halfway through the tube. I also want something more than just a tint or stain that many ethical makeup companies offer.
Then I found out about Lime Crime Lipstick, they are cruelty-free and vegan! And it’s $10 cheaper than ILIA at $18. Lime Crime comes in natural pinks and nudes, bold reds, but also electric blues, greens, and other out-there colors. Lime Crimes slogan is makeup made for unicorns, and it definitely is with the vibrant color range they offer.
ethical doesn't have to be bland
A popular complaint I hear about ethical and sustainable fashion is that it’s too basic and generic. The same rings true for ethical makeup up. Brands tend to play it safe. With higher price points they are trying to offer something that people can wear every day and feel like they are getting the most use out of. What I love about Lime Crime is that they are anti-basic and encourage women to shine, sparkle, and express themselves with bold colors all without harming animals or themselves.
Is it possible to forgive and forget?
Then I became aware of Lime Crime's controversial past. Complete with Nazi Uniforms (the founder of the company is actually a Russin Jew), and law-suits against 13-year-olds. Was I a victim of corporate greenwashing? Was this really a horrible company that was capitalizing off of their ethical makeup in the conscious lifestyle community?
I specifically chose to talk about Lime Crime in this post to start a conversation. Lime Crime has been working hard to rebrand and clean up their reputation to match their clean ethical makeup products. But, is it too little too late?
How long should brands be hated on for past mistakes? If they are making a real and conscious effort to be better, should we still continue to ban and hate them? I would love to hear your thoughts.
If you enjoyed this roundup, let us know. I will be sharing my super affordable on the go toxin-free and cruelty-free skincare routine. After years of living in hotels and on planes, this is what works to keep my skin fresh and dewy, even after 30+ hours of travel on a plane... in economy class.