Confession: Even as someone who lives, works, sleeps, and writes about beauty practically 24/7, organic makeup (categorically) kind of feels like the twilight zone. A) There's a whole lot of murkiness when it comes to what's "clean," "natural," "nontoxic," "green," and yes, even truly "organic" within the beauty industry, and B) lots of said murkiness entails brands and products that fall very short in terms of their efficacy as makeup products. Blush turns into smudge city, mascara into flake city, foundation into puddle city… You get the idea. In all honesty, it's kind of a crapshoot, especially if you're ultra attached to the "organic" label.
"'Clean beauty' is a much better term for the consumer as the products are non-toxic and still effective," cosmetic chemist Ginger King told Allure. last year. "'Non-toxic' means free from undesirable ingredients listed by the Environmental Working Group. This is better than claiming 'natural' or 'organic' as they are products that perform without compromising safety."
My personal philosophy has always been as follows: If I'm choosing to wear makeup (which, honestly, I only wear 40% of the time), I'm wearing it for a reason. I apply a concealer to conceal, I apply mascara to bring more attention to my favorite features (my lashes), or I apply blush to put a little pep in my complexion. I'm not going to wear a "clean" or "organic" beauty product just because it's "clean" or "organic." It has to actually work, and again, just because of how the industry is right now (i.e., very little regulation), it's hard to ever really know what you're putting on your face. So I just want something that will do the dang job and not leave me with a rash or breakout. (FYI: Some makeup products that are too natural or harsh have done just that.) Food for thought.
However, after lots and lots of testing, I've discovered an intimate number of organic makeup products from amazing brands that not only look great, apply easily, and wear with stamina, but which I trust in terms of their ingredient transparency and dedication to quality. Now, as a quick reminder, certified organic products can be labeled "made with organic" or "contains organic" if they contain (at minimum) 70% organic ingredients, and these products must display the organic and non-organic ingredients on the label and the name of the organic certifier. (You'll usually find these certifications at the bottom of a brand's website, or in their mission statements.) That said, the FDA does not have a definition for the term "organic,” since it's not defined by either the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which it uses as guidelines. So you can see how this all gets a little hairy, am I right?
I recommend doing your research, deciding what your wants and needs are in terms of how clean or natural your product regimen is, and go from there. For the record, while most of the brands below are certified organic, some are not and only feature products with a handful of ingredients quoted as organic. You do you! I've done my best to get you started in the world of organic (or mostly organic) makeup brands that I've truly vetted, love, and would recommend. Keep scrolling! All of my current nontoxic favorites are below.
I've had this organic lip tint in my bag 24/7 ever since I discovered it on Tata Harper's website about two years ago. It's one of the few products in my arsenal that are perfect regardless of whether I'm wearing them with no makeup, a full face, or something in between. The raspberry tint is universally flattering, and it gives your lips that Popsicle-like stain that's so coveted. The consistency is lovely—not sticky or tacky—and thanks to high-quality organic ingredients, my lips feel and look healthier and plumper. Even thrown in with my non-organic makeup, this is the one ride-or-die product I can't ever live without.
Kora Organics creator Miranda Kerr and I agree: This crystal-infused luminizing cream is pretty damn amazing. Unlike so many cream or balmy highlighters, it doesn't leave my skin looking smudgy or feeling sticky. Instead, it melts into my complexion in well-behaved conjunction with any other products I've applied (it layers wonderfully) and gives me the softest, prettiest glow that never turns oily or greasy. There are three different shades. I'm just partial to the Rose Quartz hue, which is a soft and glimmery pink.
I had lost all hope of finding the clean mascara of my dreams until I finally test-drove this highly rated volumizing wand from W3ll People. And the reviews didn't lie! Not only does this mascara deliver the darkest, inkiest black color (which I love), but it also creates lots of volume and length without weighing down my long, thin lashes. The addition of organic, conditioning botanicals is another great perk.
Never have I ever loved tinted moisturizes or tinted sunscreens. The shades are usually all wrong or the consistency and texture are off. However, this fresh-off-the-presses launch from Ilia seems to be the exception. Not only does it offer the perfect hint of coverage for those days when I still want to be mostly bare-faced, but it keeps my quick-to-parch skin hydrated and radiant thanks to organic squalane in addition to hyaluronic acid and niacinamide. It's a makeup-meets-skincare powerhouse!
Meet the organic makeup product that actually turned me into a stick-makeup person. Infused with cool adaptogens from certified organic mushrooms, this highlight stick from Cocokind also boosts your glow with prettifying, moisturizing ingredients and oils like jojoba and castor seed oil. I love the lightt, shimmery pink shade called Mai-Light, but I also love mixing it with the slightly bronzier iteration (shown below) called Chagaglo. It's perfect on top of your cheekbones, around your temples, or right on your Cupid's bow.
Henné Organics is a brand-new find, and I couldn't be more thrilled to discover its chic spread of organic lip products and luxe hand creams. However, since we're talking makeup, specifically, I have to call out my obsession with the brand's gorgeous tinted lip balms. This vibrant pink shade is called Azaela, and I know it's going to carry me well into summer.
One thing you should know about me: I don't do powder eye shadow. Or rather, I can and sometimes I do, but it rarely ends well. And it just so happens that one of my all-time favorite liquid eye shadow formulas comes courtesy of one of the best organic makeup brands, Crop Natural. The colors are shimmery, highly pigmented, and gorge, while application is foolproof—even if you're eye makeup challenged like me!
Leave it to a celebrity makeup artist to create a luxurious makeup brand brimming with high-quality organic ingredients. Out of all the blushes I own (and typically I'm not even a cream-blush kind of gal), I find myself reaching for Jillian Dempsey's easy-to-use cheek tints over and over. The colors are designed to be universally flattering, and the consistency is easy to work into the apples of your cheeks while still playing nicely with any other makeup you're wearing. If you're after a believable, I-just-left-the-gym flush, this blush is for you.
I'm going to put this super bluntly: 99% of organic brow products have left me extremely underwhelmed and borderline mortified. However, not only does this amazing gel formula with tons of organic ingredients not disappoint, but I'm giving it soaring kudos. I keep it right up there in the big leagues alongside my brow products from other (non-organic) brands like Anastasia Beverly Hills or Benefit Cosmetics. I love the invisible clear hue for days when I want to set my brows with a minimal-makeup vibe, and I reach for the Light tint when I'm wearing a full face. (It also has three darker shades beyond that.)
I'm not a huge lip gloss fan, but this slightly tinted, certified organic gloss from Kjaer Weiss is one of the few I not only can stand but actually really love. The subtle colors are so pretty and give my face a little bit of perk and glow when I'm feeling (or looking) sleep-deprived, and it never feels sticky or heavy on my lips. Plus, thanks to the rich infusion of oils like rose hip, castor, and sunflower, it's actually doing your pout some good too. I know spending nearly $40 on a lip gloss seems a tad steep, but this formula is a true diamond in the rough.
Up next: I Tried 37 Nontoxic Makeup Products—These Are the 16 I'll Actually Keep Using