By Elise Rutterford
New to natural and organic beauty? Want to change the products you use but not quite sure where to start? We don’t blame you. Sure, with skincare, it’s not hard to find some really great natural alternatives – beautiful face serums, floral toners, natural shampoos and hair oils abound, for example. But when it comes to makeup, it can definitely be trickier to navigate which products are most toxic and should be organic, and of course, it’s also tricky knowing how you can test organic makeup colours in the flesh.
There are some makeup products that most certainly should be organic or natural, whilst others aren’t too bad if they’re drugstore brands. There are also some natural brands that are far superior than others. To help you navigate the makeup maze, we’ve given you our top tips for spring cleaning your cosmetics bag of the most harmful chemicals in makeup.
1. First, know which ingredients to avoid
There are loads of chemicals in most beauty brands, with some being more harmful than others. For example, Carbon Black is a dark pigment used in eye makeup that has been linked to cancer, while mica, which is found in shimmery eyeshadows, blushers, lipsticks and powders, is only harmful if it’s inhaled.
It’s hard to make a short list of the most harmful chemicals in makeup, but the most damaging ingredients to your health include: lead, parabens, mineral oil, CI+ a number (artificial colourings), DEA, Parfum, PEG, coal tar, lake dyes and more. Find out more about which ingredients to avoid here and here. In short, if there are loads of ingredients you can barely pronounce or that you’ve never heard of, toss it in the bin.
2. Learn which products to ditch first
It’s hard to part with your favourite products, and let’s face it – we all get pretty comfortable in our beauty routines. But consider this: you literally eat about 7 pounds of lipstick over a lifetime – of course, not by gnawing on the product, but by having traces of it smeared onto our food. Ever eat an apple whilst wearing lippy? Look at the skin after your first bite and you’ll see what I mean! Lipstick is usually full of not only all those CI+number artificial colourings that can cause cancer, but lead and even parfum too! So it’s definitely one of the first organic products you should buy.
Secondly, anything that covers a large surface area, like foundation, BB cream, primer or tinted SPF cream, should be all natural, since the skin absorbs a lot of what is put onto it. These products often include parabens, which have been linked to cancer, as well as parfum and other nasties that can lead to all kinds of health issues.
Finally, know that ALL major brands – including the well-known ones like Tom Ford, YSL, Chanel, Lancome, MAC, Smashbox and the likes – contain nasty chemicals. Ever wondered why you get a major headache when you spend too much time in the cosmetics section of a department store? That would be why. Sure, their colours and packaging are gorgeous, but is it really worth risking your health to have a posh lippy in your bag? And besides, equally gorgeous alternatives are available. Just read on to see!
3. Discover the biggest and best
After working in the realm of sustainable beauty for several years, one thing’s become clear to me: some natural makeup brands are better than others. The truth is, it’s not easy to make makeup from natural sources that mimic the shades we love. But some brands have done a fabulous job, and are gaining fame for it, too. Here’s a list of some of the best – and the easiest to find online, too.
RMS Beauty: An amazing range of cosmetics founded by makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift who, after discovering her blood contained high levels of heavy metals from years of continual exposure to beauty products rich in things like lead and aluminium, decided to switch to all natural alternatives. RMS is filled with creamy foundations, amazing concealers, lipsticks, cheek balms and their all new ‘master mixer’ which will make you look like a shining, golden goddess.
Kjaer Weiss: Yet another inspiring story from founder and makeup artist Kristen who looked to develop a high performing cosmetic line that wasn’t harsh on women’s skin. Eight years on and the brand is so awesome, it has cult status – award-winning foundations and the first natural mascara we’ve found that actually works.
Lavera: One of the biggest brands and also one of the best, Lavera ensures all of its European made cosmetics are not only fully natural, but gorgeously functional too. Whatever your beauty needs, Lavera caters to it. And best of all, they’re super easy to buy: you can find them at Whole Foods, Amazon, Planet Organic and just about any decent health shop.
Juice Beauty: The Gwyneth Paltrow approved brand has actually just created a range of makeup with the actress that’s free from all chemical nasties. It includes lip glosses and lipsticks, powder and liquid foundations, mascara, eye liners and just about anything you need to look a bit prettier.
Dr Hauschka: Gorgeous packaging, dense colours and all natural ingredients make celebs and beauty addicts rate Dr. Hauschka’s makeup line super high. This German-based company certainly knows what it’s doing when it comes to making women look beautiful in the most natural way. Born from a passion for natural medicine and a commitment to sustainability, this all natural line of makeup and beauty products is loved by women all over the globe.
Sephora Natural & Organic Range: As one of the largest and most well-known makeup companies, Sephora has an amazing line of natural and organic makeup (sold alongside all the chemical crap they carry too, but hey, it’s a start!).
4. Forget patriotism, for now
So you’ve tossed out your nasty old foundation and lippy and…now what? Where can you buy something new? This isn’t only about stores, it’s about countries – the same brands may have different formulations depending on where they’re made. For example, many harsh chemical ingredients that are permitted in the USA are banned in Europe and Japan, so if you live in the United States, it’s best to order your makeup online from Europe – even if it’s the same brand you buy in the USA. Also, if you’ve bought something in China or even a local brand that’s sold in China, you should know that it has been tested on animals to gain market entry in that country. In short: be aware that makeup regulations change from nation to nation, and shop in the healthiest place you can – because you’re worth it, right?
5. Test drive before you buy
Makeup purchases are highly personal, depending on which shades suit every individual. Unfortunately, natural beauty and makeup shops are still few and far between. There’s a load of great online retailers but the obvious issue there is you can’t test the shade of a lippie when it’s on a computer screen. But it is important to test, especially when you’re investing money and planning on wearing this stuff all over your face, every day.
Requesting samples is another great idea, and most natural brands or online retailers are still small enough to provide awesome customer care and send you a little smidgen of what you’re looking for. Our favourite online retailers Love Lula, Amazingy, Eco Diva Beauty and Naturisimo all have samples available across many of their makeup brands. Why not select a few of each product before you decide to invest in a full size product?
So there you have it: the best way to attack your makeup bag. Focus on one product at a time, familiarise yourself with the brands that are available and always try before you buy. Once you’ve found the products that work for you, you’ll be delighted with the results. They honestly make such a difference to your skin and you can be safe in the knowledge that they’re doing both your looks and your health a whole lot of good.
About the author: Elsie is one of the head honchos at Clean Beauty.
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