Maybe you want to be greener – or some of your cabinet staples are past their prime and you’re looking to swap them out with cleaner options – regardless of your reasoning, using clean beauty products does not have to be complicated, or expensive.
Not sure where to start, or how to strategize so you get the biggest benefit for your buck? Read on for a mix of top-rated and expert-approved makeup, skin, body and hair products starting as low as $5, along with a few investment items that are worth the splurge.
But first, it should be noted that there are still a good amount of questions surrounding terminology and regulation of clean beauty products. In the list, we have prioritized products that have warranted clean seals of approval or are formulated without known aggressors. To ensure a clean product, it is best to always read individual labels for more specifics on ingredient sourcing, formulations, and packaging processes (more on what you need to know about clean beauty and where the FDA stands here).
CoverGirl’s Lash Blast Mascara, beloved for its ability to create long, voluminous lashes usually reserved for falsies, without any sticky clumping or messy smudging, now available in a clean vegan formula. It is made without sulfates, parabens, talc and minerals, and instead infused with marula and argan oils for added conditioning.
Undone’s Beauty Light On lipsticks feature special pigments that reflect light for a natural plumping effect. The vegan, paraben-free formula is also enhanced with coconut oil and aloe for added hydration (we’re currently crushing on the Sorbet Pink shade for the warmer months).
This power pick from Burt’s Bees natural cosmetics collection, which is dermatologist-tested and free of parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, talc and other possibly harmful ingredients, comes in 18 shades. It acts like a foundation and highlighter in one, serving up dewy, buildable, breathable coverage that’s like a second (better) skin. The pump helps to keep the formula fresh and makes for more convenient, controlled application.
Pixi by Petra’s hypoallergenic and paraben-free Endless Silky Pencil Eyeliner glides on like a dream—no uncomfortable tugging or pinching—and stays put for hours. We especially love the Black Cocoa (a rich brown shade) as an alternative to classic black for a less drastic, yet still impactful effect.
Achieve a natural-looking radiance with this blush from Honest Beauty, which is made without parabens or synthetic fragrances and can be applied with ease. Unlike some creme formulas, it’s not sticky and can be layered on for a more pronounced flush. It also doesn’t cake or settle into creases, making it great for those with uneven skin or fine lines.
Physicians Formula’s color compacts have garnered a reputation for their rich pigments and soft, buttery textures. This eyeshadow palette in particular boasts 12 shades for creating a range of eye looks (you can also add a pop of pink or bronze to your cheeks in a pinch).
Moisturize and protect with this lip tint from Babo Botanicals, which features 100 percent natural ingredients enriched with cocoa butter, avocado oil and shea butter, along with SPF 15 for added sun protection. The brand also offers tints (such as this Beach Rose shade) for a sheer color wash.
Nails Inc.’s vegan, 23-free Plant Power formula is developed without sulfates and parabens (along with what the brand deems 21 other no no's) and bottled up in minimalistic recyclable packaging. Scoop up Mani Monday (a soft pink) for a touch of color or Time for a Reset (bright red coral) for a bolder option.
Brush for success with this budget-friendly set from EcoTools, which comes equipped with five essentials and rings in at as little as $10. What’s more, each of the brushes is made with bamboo and recycled materials and packaged using 88 percent less plastic. The brand also just released a BioBlender Makeup Sponge for completing the set.
Brighten while you cleanse with these facial wipes from Yes To. They are 96 percent natural and are saturated with grapefruit and vitamin C for helping to smooth and revive uneven, dull skin and made with compostable, plant-based fibers for more conscientious clean-ups. (We’re also liking Garnier’s new SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Eco Pads for a waterless wash.)
For a soothing toner that won’t strip skin of its moisture, experts say this cult-favorite solution from Thayers is worth a swipe.
“Witch hazel helps calm the skin and balance the pH out of the outer skin layer. Think of it as priming the skin for the rest of your skincare routine,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
“This toner is formulated by soaking the witch hazel in an aloe containing solution, like brewing a cup of tea. Because it’s an alcohol-free process, the toner does not cause dryness or irritation the way that previous generations of toners did,” he adds. (The brand also has a new Witch Hazel Facial Cleanser for all skin types.)
The French green clay, sage and lemon peel in this award-winning scrub from Acure work to cleanse and clarify, while blackberry and chlorella nourish and rebuild, leaving skin feeling refreshed and restored. The brand recommends using it three times a week for optimal results.
If you tend to avoid heavier creams, especially during spring and summer months, opt for this refreshing vegan gel-cream hybrid from Versed.
“The formulation is hydrating, yet fast-absorbing and lightweight. It also contains squalane, green tea and aloe to repair the skin barrier and hydrate,” says Dr. Jenny Liu, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor in Minneapolis.
Dermatologists hail hyaluronic acid for its serious hydrating capabilities, and this clean serum, recommended for normal, dry, combination and even oily skin, packs all the benefits for a fraction of the competitor price. Last time we checked, it was approaching 95,000 likes on Sephora’s website alone (see also: The Inkey List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum).
Cocokind’s certified organic and vegan Chia Facial Oil is rich with plant-based omega-3s and known for its moisturizing, soothing and de-puffing capabilities. Use it as a moisturizer once or twice a day after cleansing for a nourishing boost. It absorbs quickly so you don’t have to worry about having to wait a long time for it to dry before finishing your routine.
Hit the recharge button on tired eyes with this 100 percent natural cream from BYBI. It harnesses the power of hyaluronic acid and bakuchiol (a natural retinol alternative) for helping to firm and reduce the appearance of fine lines while you catch some zzz's.
Dr. Liu recommends The Ordinary’s Peeling Solution as an affordable way to perform a superficial chem peel at home. “It contains a blend of AHAs and salicylic acid that provides gentle exfoliation,” says Dr. Liu, who suggests using the formula a few times a month.
Raw’s cold-pressed body washes are like a juice cleanse for your body. This vegan concoction is made using plant-based ingredients and organic formulations (without sulfates, parabens or silicones), lathers on creamy, and smells like a dessert. We especially love it just before bed for its soothing effects.
If what you need is an energizing boost, this paraben- and phthalate-free scrub from Pacifica has you covered. It contains notes of vanilla and lemon, along with jojoba and sunflower, for a citrusy-sweet scrub that buffs away dead skin cells and leaves you with a vibrant, head-to-toe glow.
This new personal care line was co-founded by Jada Pinkett Smith as a commitment to make a positive impact on the environment. The body lotion in particular is formulated without phthalates and parabens, and enriched with vitamin E, shea butter and essential oils for keeping skin supple and soft. The Banana Aloe is like a getaway in a can — one that happens to be made from infinity recyclable aluminum.
Sunscreen is an important staple in any face and body care routine, helping you safeguard skin against signs of premature aging, pigmentation and skin cancers. Alba Botanica’s is human and reef safe, biodegradable, and packs an SPF of 45 (over the typically recommended 30). The brand also offers an unscented and sport versions for the fragrance-averse and fitness-inclined.
This sulfate-, paraben- and colorant-free formula from Herbal Essences contains bamboo and aloe for strengthening and nourishing hair from root to tip. Reviewers have also commented on its lathering capabilities and soothing botanical scent.
This air-powered hairspray from Love Beauty and Planet has notes of coconut milk and white jasmine for a subtly-sweet scent. The medium hold is just enough to keep hair in place without any harsh crunching or embarrassing flaking.
Not Your Mother’s sulfate-, paraben- and phthalate-free Dry Shampoo works like magic to soak up excess oil and leave hair looking freshly cleaned. Scoop it up to extend washes and salon appointments (it also comes in handy for last-minute brunch plans after pilates).
This anti-humidity spray from Shea Moisture promises to strengthen hair and reduce breakage by 70 percent. The sulfate-, paraben- and phthalate-free formula also moonlights as a hair detangler and heat protectant for natural hair.
Worth the Splurge
ILIA’s award-winning skin tint–available in 30 shades–is enriched with niacinamide, squalane and hyaluronic acid for smooth, hydrated skin that looks good with or without makeup, along with reef-safe SPF 40 for protecting skin against harmful UV rays. As of publication, the fragrance-free formula came recommended by over 146,000 Sephora customers.
This certified clean extra-strength exfoliating serum from Drunk Elephant leverages lactic acid and signal peptides to help combat dullness, uneven texture and fine lines for a smoother, more youthful surface. (The brand’s Babyfacial is another beauty industry darling.)
Kosas’ mascara, made without silicones or mineral oils, is another product that combines cosmetics with self care. Not only does it lift, extend and curl lashes, but it contains castor oil, vitamins and botanical waxes for moisturizing fringe, repairing damage and reducing fallout.
Josie Maran’s beloved argan body butter recently got a facelift, now featuring the same moisturizing formula, but with pro-retinol for added smoothing and firming benefits. Snag a tub to help combat signs of aging along the neck, hands and beyond. (The brand’s new Pineapple Enzyme Pore Clearing Cleanser is also worth a sniff.)
Last but not least, treat yourself to a premium buff with this popular polish from Beautycounter, which is made with organic, finely milled sugar, sunflower seed oil and sweet almond oil for hydrating and softening skin. (If you really want to get glowing, we also like the brand’s Shimmer Oil.)
For more stories like this, check out:
- 17 beauty products to try this spring, according to a beauty editor
- These fan-favorite beauty products deliver results – for under $10
- What is lactic acid? How to use the gentle exfoliant for brighter skin