I’ve been using natural cosmetic and cleaning products for several years now but before then, I had assumed that mainstream beauty products were safe. After all, why would a company knowingly put chemicals that are carcinogenic, interfere with our hormones, and / or disrupt our endocrine system? I still don’t have the answer to that question, but thankfully there are now lots of companies that are driven by moral, ethical values. In fact, I sense a shift happening where such companies will take the place of those that only care about the bottom line, and not our well-being or that of animals and the planet. All you have to do is observe the crowds at Whole Foods to see that this movement is afoot.
Issues with mainstream makeup
As I discussed in Natural Hair & Body Care, Natural Skin Care, and Natural Body Care Continued, there are loopholes in the FDA that allow for carcinogenic chemicals to make their way into mainstream beauty products. These synthetic chemicals include phthalates, parabens, lead, and other substances that have been linked to cancer, disrupt hormones and the endocrine system, and increase estrogen levels, putting us at risk for breast cancer.
When looking for natural makeup products, look for “Natural” or “Organic,” as well as labels saying that it’s phthalate and paraben-free. Check the ingredients to see if it has “parfum” or fragrance, as well as any super-complicated chemical names. Generally speaking, the simpler the ingredient list, the better. Also, I recommend checking in with your gut instinct / intuition to determine if this product comes from a company with integrity, or a company that cares exclusively about the bottom line.
Beeswax and natural makeup
Beeswax, which comes from honeycombs, is often used in natural makeup products. From a general ethical perspective, I don’t believe in beeswax. This is because I don’t support the mainstream culture’s ideology that all non-human beings should be considered ours to use and exploit. And according to PETA, farmers will sometimes cut off their wings for efficiency purposes.
Still, insects have a much different nervous system than vertebrates and their ability to experience discomfort is limited. Like plants, they respond to stimuli, but they don’t have pain receptors the way animals do.
And for better or for worse, some of the best natural makeup products I’ve found do contain beeswax. My personal take on this matter is to do my best to avoid beeswax, while allowing for exceptions when a product really stands out from the crowd.
My roundup of natural makeup products
For eyeshadow, I always use Modern Minerals – they have such a beautiful collection of shimmery colors. I bought a bunch of shades when they were on sale at Pure Citizen, including Jaipur, Brooklyn, Lola, and Shanghai. As a primer, I use my cover-up (RMS “Un” Cover-Up).
Since I started wearing natural makeup, I had a few misses with buying natural eyeliners because the pencils didn’t draw on properly. I actually had to go back to mainstream eyeliner because I couldn’t find anything that worked. Finally, I bought Gabriel’s eyeliner, and was amazed by how easily the color went on. I’ve found Zuzu Luxe’s eyeliner (Zuzu is a sub-brand of Gabriel) to be equally effective. I have Gabriel eyeliner in Chocolate Brown and Zuzu eyeliner in Obsidian Black.
RMS Mascara is the best mascara – natural or mainstream – that I’ve ever used. It glides right on without clumping and makes my eyelashes look much longer than they actually are. I use the volumizing version.
I’ve found most foundations and cover-ups to be too heavy, and that they don’t allow my skin to breathe. That’s why I love RMS “Un” Cover-Up, which gives my skin great natural-looking coverage but isn’t heavy at all. Its organic ingredients – including coconut oil, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil – nourish and hydrate the skin, making it feel more like a light moisturizer than foundation.
My complexion is fair to normal, so I use #11 and it blends with my skin perfectly.
As a blush, I usually add some of RMS Master Mixer to my “Un” Cover-Up when I’m applying makeup every day. Master Mixer is a rose-gold hue that doubles your makeup collection, because you can mix it in with anything – foundation, lipstick, eye shadow, lipstick, etc.
In the summer, I wear RMS Buriti Bronzer to give my skin a more sun-kissed look, as I usually wear sunscreen on my face but don’t want to appear pale.
RMS Living Luminizer is an amazing highlighter that makes my skin have a subtle, natural glow. I add it on top of my “un” cover up and master mixer, to my forehead, nose and cheekbones, and in the corners of my eyes.
I use RMS “Un” Powder to set my “un” cover-up and eliminate shine in my T-zone. Like “un” cover-up, it’s very natural-looking, and effective.
I use Dr. Hauschka Cover Stick (Beige 02) when I’m breaking out and want to cover specific areas. Because it contains healing ingredients such as calendula, vitamin E, and tea tree oil, the cover-up also helps to repair the skin.
Right now, the natural brands I’m liking for lipstick are Zuzu Luxe and Ilia, which are both vegan. Due to my light skin and hair color, I usually go for more berry tones like Galaxy (Zuzu) and In My Room (Ilia).
When I was a bridesmaid at a wedding recently, we had our makeup done with BareMinerals / Bare Escentuals products and I was introduced to their Marvelous Moxie lip gloss, which I wore in the Renegade. The gloss itself has great minty taste, and kept my lips feeling nice and moisturized the entire night.
I don’t usually wear lip gloss – not personally a big fan of the sticky texture – but when I have a special event I’ll break it out.
As a nail strengthener, I really like Nutra Nail’s Green Tea Strengthener.
You know that smell when you walk into a nail salon? Yes, that is unfortunately the smell of toxicity.
Mainstream nail polish usually takes the cake for being among the most toxic and least eco-friendly of all makeup products. The three most toxic ingredients in nail polish are formaldehyde (carcinogin), toluene (neurotoxin), and dibutyl phthalate / DBP (hormone-disruptor).
Nail polish remover
Typical nail polish removers contain highly flammable chemical solvents like acetone, methyl acetate, and methyl ethyl ketone, in addition to a cocktail of other eco-nasties. Take Cutex’s ingredient list for instance: Acetone, Propylene Carbonate, Water (Aqua), Dimethyl Glutarate, Dimethyl Adipate, Dimethyl Succinate, Glycerin, Fragrance, Denatonium Benzoate, Benzophenone 1, Gelatin, FD&C Yellow 11.
Aside from water, acetone, and gelatin (which is not vegan by the way), I don’t know what most of the other chemical names mean, and honestly, I don’t care to know. One thing that’s for sure is I would need to be in seriously dire need of nail polish remover before I voluntarily let that stuff anywhere near my body.
It probably doesn’t even occur to most people that their makeup brushes are sourced from animals – animals that were uprooted from their natural habitat to live out the rest of their lives in tiny cages. Common “hairs” used in makeup brushes are from sables, minks, and ponies. As documented in the film Earthlings, animals used for fur are basically abducted from their natural environment and forced into movement-restricting cages, where the sensory deprivation often drives them insane. Hair derived from horses, on the other hand, come from horses that have been killed for their meat. Is this really necessary? Given that companies such as Ecotools have managed to figure out a way to make vegan and eco-friendly makeup brushes, I should think not.
I just use my fingers to apply my “un” cover-up and Ecotools’ Eye Brush Set for eyeshadow. If you would like to purchase a set of vegan and eco-friendly brushes, Ecotools and Modern Minerals both have great selections to choose from.
Other natural makeup brands
You get what you pay for
Some of the natural makeup products I use are a bit more expensive than mainstream beauty products found at places like Rite Aid and Walmart. But which is more economical – buying lots of cheap makeup, most of which you never wear, or having a small selection of quality, natural makeup products that you use until you run out? In my experience, it’s usually the latter. I think it’s important that we’re as discerning as possible when buying anything, because not only is it easier on our wallets in the long run, but it’s also better for our ecological footprint. Finally, knowing that the products we use weren’t tested on helpless animals or contain ingredients that are damaging to our bodies and the environment will make us feel better because we’ll be living in greater alignment with our values.