Natural makeup has come a long way in the last five years. Where it was once difficult—if not impossible—to find natural products with vivid colors, a wide range of skin tone options, and long-lasting staying power, clean cosmetics is now bursting with innovative brands that has left conventional beauty companies scrambling to keep up.
“One of the things people don’t realise about clean makeup is that it is an extension of skincare,” says Tara Foley, founder of clean skincare retailer Follain. “A truly clean makeup product is going to nourish your skin.”
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As with any makeup product, it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right one for you. But to give you a head start, we’ve curated our favourite, editor-tested and makeup artist-approved natural cosmetics that actually work.
Key: V (vegan), O (organic), S (sustainable)
1. Mascara 101
In a world where “clean” can be just a meaningless buzzword, Saie makes products with rigorous makeup ingredient standards (there are over 2,000 ingredients they won’t ever touch) at affordable prices. Founder and CEO Laney Crowell has tapped a team of cosmetic veterans and wellness-focused influencers to help with product development, branding, and sustainability without sacrificing efficacy and colour payoff.
Our favourite product is the Mascara 101. It has a thick, buildable formula that conditions lashes while lengthening them. Made with 100% natural ingredients, it won’t flake and lasts for hours.
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2. Rare Light Crème Luminizer: Phosphene
Natural beauty with a spiritual twist, Rituel de Fille was founded by sisters Katherine, Caroline, and Michelle Ramos. “We’ve spent years perfecting our formulations by hand, through an alchemical process using expertise earned through years of study and experimentation,” notes the brand. “We produce all of our products in-house to meet our exacting standards, making each colour with the smallest number of ingredients possible.”
All products are entirely natural and made without parabens, phthalates, synthetic dyes, or synthetic fragrances. They are also Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, affirming that we never test on animals, never outsource animal testing, and only source our raw materials from companies that are also 100 percent cruelty-free.
Our favourite product is the cream highlighter. With a creamy consistency, the formula goes on seamlessly and gives you that effortless, natural-looking glow.
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3. Cream Blush Makeup Compact
Known as the Rolls-Royce of clean beauty, Kjaer Weis (pronounced Kaia Vice) is leading the movement with high-performing, luxury makeup that is both certified organic and sustainable.
Founded by Danish-born makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis, the refillable metal compacts boast a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic for even the most design-conscious among us, with each ingredient carefully considered for its ability to work with the skin, not against it. Made in Italy, Kjaer Weis products are Certified Natural or Certified Organic by the Controllo e Certificazione Prodotti Biologici.
“Kirsten wants her products to sit in your vanity like a fine piece of jewelry you can hang on to forever,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose. “Every single product is just as efficacious as you would find in the conventional world. The performance is there, and beyond that, the packaging is as sustainable as it gets.”
Available in seven colors, the Cream Blush Makeup Compact gives you a flawlessly natural glow thanks to its superior blending capability. The best news: Refills are half the price of the original compact.
V, O, S
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4. Oat Milk Foundation
Carbon neutral and UN Global Compact certified, Ere Perez not only focuses on the cleanliness of its natural ingredients, but its commitment to ethics and sustainability is unparalleled. (The brand is audited twice a year to quantify how many carbon emissions it produces. Wind turbine credits are then purchased to offset the emissions.)
The Australian-owned company prides itself on producing healthy, natural makeup with carefully selected premium quality ingredients (oils, plant extracts, and minerals) that are blended with antioxidants. The result is nourishing makeup loaded with vitamins and organic oils.
The long-lasting, buildable Oat Milk Foundation is a lightweight base that won’t clog pores, and its hydrating formula actually helps to improve your natural skin underneath. It’s perfect if you like a dewy skin-like finish.
5. Wild with Desire Lipstick
Created by celebrity makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift, RMS Beauty was one of the first brands to break away from toxin-laden cosmetics and transform the way women use makeup.
Formulated with raw, food-grade, and organic ingredients, RMS’s coconut oil-based products contain enzymes, vitamins, and antioxidants that nourish the skin with maximum color payoff.
“The lipstick shade ‘RMS Red’ is my go-to,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose. “I wear it every day. It’s a true red with a natural satin finish to boot.”
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6. Limitless Lash Mascara
Born and raised in Vancouver, Sasha Plavsic founded ILIA Beauty when she set out to recreate her favourite lip balm to be safe, effective, and natural.
More than a decade later, ILIA Beauty is leading the charge with clean makeup infused with skincare. Transparent about ingredients, Plavsic is 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,” she explains.
With sleek packaging crafted from recycled aluminium and recycled paper printed with vegetable-based dyes, each product is designed with a mix of natural and organic botanics as a base, and at times, safe synthetics to ensure products go “above and beyond the expectations of natural.”
ILIA’s Limitless Lash Mascara is a flake-free formula that is 99 percent natural and 25 percent organic. It curls, lengthens and volumises—and helps to boost and enhance lash health. Welcome to your new favourite mascara.
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7. Mai-Light Highlighter Stick
Started by Priscilla Tsaia, a former Wall Street investment banker, cocokind was originally created as a holistic way to treat hormonal acne.
Each food-grade formula is crafted with 10 plant-based ingredients or less, and several products are USDA certified organic by CCOF. (Products that do not contain organic beeswax are certified Vegan Action through the Vegan Awareness Foundation.)
In its commitment to girl power, cocokind has also set up an impact foundation to provide financial grants to female entrepreneurs in the health, wellness, and sustainability industries to help more women create social impact through business.
Brimming with powerful adaptogens and nourishing oils, the Mai-Light Highlighter Stick delivers on-the-go radiance, without looking overly sparkly. A bonus? Its organic maitake mushrooms stimulate collagen production and improve cell turnover.
8. Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer
W3LL PEOPLE (pronounced well people) was founded by makeup artist Shirley Pinkson, cosmetic dermatologist Reneé Snyder, and eco-entrepreneur James Walker to create toxin-free cosmetics made in small batches, with premium natural and organic ingredients.
The Austin, Texas-based brand uses a modern approach to beauty that is built on simplicity and performance, with plant-based formulas that contain hydrating and therapeutic botanicals, including organic aloe, organic chamomile and organic green tea. Whether you’re after flawless, light coverage or soothing protection, W3LL PEOPLE is perfect for those who like a “no makeup” makeup look.
With a mousse texture that blends onto skin with minimal effort, the Bio Correct Multi-Action Concealer is half eye treatment, half concealer. Green coffee seed oil eliminates puffiness, pumpkin seed brightens, and coconut oil hydrates—all with a creaseless finish.
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9. Velvet Eyeshadow Palette – Iconic
Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfre doesn’t mince words. “As I applied sunscreen, lotion, and any number of beauty products on myself and my kids, I never thought for a second they might not be safe: After all, I thought, we live in a country that regulates everything,” she explains. “But I learned that when it comes to the personal care industry, that’s simply not the case. Companies are allowed to use harmful ingredients and make their own judgments about safety.”
Enter Renfre’s Beautycounter, a Santa Monica-based brand that has created its own high standards in pursuit of clean beauty, with more than 1,500 questionable ingredients never used in its formulations. The brand, a Certified B Corporation, also advocates for stricter guidelines and regulations to shift the personal-care industry away from using harmful ingredients. (With the brand’s commitment to transparency, it’s also working with How2Recycle and other packaging industry experts to formulate, educate, and advocate for more sustainable packaging.)
Its Iconic Velvet Eyeshadow Palette is, well, iconic with clean makeup diehards thanks to its nine long-wearing shades that transition effortlessly from day to night.
10. PureLash Lash Extender & Conditioner
“Jane Iredale has been around forever,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose. “She knows her stuff.”
Indeed, Iredale launched her mineral makeup line in 1994, when the idea of makeup with skincare benefits was still revolutionary. Paving the way for brands that would eventually follow, Iredale has long focused on effective and nourishing mineral makeup that embraces natural beauty.
Iredale’s PureLash Lash Extender & Conditioner is the secret weapon of the makeup industry. “If you use it underneath any natural mascara, it acts as an anchor,” says Rose. “It’s a white lash primer that holds any natural mascara, so it doesn’t smudge or flake, and it also builds volume and holds curl. Any natural mascara can withstand an entire hot July humid day if you’re using the PureLash.”
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11. Weightless Lip Color Lipstick
Founded in 2015 by Los Angeles-based scientist and artist Sheena Yaitanes, Kosas uses prestige ingredients and botanically-rich formulas to create effective makeup that flatters a true range of skin tones—it just so happens to be made of clean ingredients.
Yaitanes’s fascination with makeup led her to study chemistry at UCI, while completing a painting apprenticeship with artist Stephanie Pryor. The result? A game-changing, clean lipstick formula that stays on throughout the day. Made from hydrating botanical oils and safe synthetics, the Weightless Lip Color Lipstick comes in eight shades.
“They’re a six-hour wear and super hydrating,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose. “They don’t smudge.”
12. Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation
Based out of Taos, New Mexico, Vapour founders Krysia Boinis and Kristine Keheley combined their respective specialties in botanical alchemy and color theory to form an organic beauty brand that combines skincare with makeup. The result is high-performance cosmetics formulated using the purest, active ingredients from the earth—and nothing else.
Sustainability is also a focus. Products are made in a USDA organic-certified facility, using passive solar daylighting and renewable energy in their lab, offices, and warehouse. They also use a flood-fill system to reduces waste. When it comes to packaging, their product boxes are made from managed forest paper stock, printed with soy ink in a wind-powered facility. Meanwhile their solid products are packaged in recyclable aluminum, and liquid products are packaged in glass.
With 27 shades, Vapour’s Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation has become a cult favourite as the go-to medium to full coverage option among clean beauty fanatics. Designed to balance normal, sensitive, and combination skin types, its satin finish creates dewy skin, while putting imperfections into softer focus. “This foundation is something that I will forever use, always, without a doubt on myself and on every single bride,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose.
13. Lip Whip
When Kari Gran was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in her 20s, she started to think about the connection between her health and what she put on her skin. Unable to find performance products that met her clean standards, she set out to develop a natural, back-to-basics line using premium organic and naturally-derived ingredients, with safe formulas.
Today, all of Kari Gran’s hand-poured products are made using organic, wild harvested, and non-GMO ingredients that gently—and safely—nourish the skin.
The brand’s Lip Whip—a tinted glossy balm containing peppermint oil to enhance microcirculation with a plumping effect—is “life changing,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose.
14. Brow Defining Crayon
Not long ago, natural brow products consisted of pencils and powders that looked either too ashy or too fake. Enter Ecobrow, founded by expert brow threader and celebrity makeup artist Marco Ochoa in 2013.
With a long-lasting, cream-to-powder finish, Ecobrow’s mineral-based and smudge-proof line comes in six shades. Its latest product, the duel-sided Brow Defining Crayon, is known for a non-waxy, natural, matte finish. A unique slant tip gives precise definition, while a spoolie brush helps blending for effortless application.
14. Conceal +
“Fitglow‘s concealers mean business, they’re so good,” says clean makeup artist Sarah Rose. “They’re high pigment and semi-matte so they’re good for under eyes or blemishes. They’re my everything as far as concealers go.”
Founded by Canadian Anna Buss, who for years suffered from the redness and inflammation that comes with rosacea, Fitglow aims to improve and transform skin with evidence-based formulas derived from plant stem cells to rebuild skin health.
The key, Buss says, is not just clean ingredients, but how they work with the skin. Crafted from ethically sourced, organic ingredients, the Conceal + is full coverage to camouflage problem skin.
A blend of organic green tea, vitamin K, and licorice root diminishes the look of blemishes, pigmentation, and fine lines, while the creamy texture blends easily into the skin.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s Bazaar US.