Eco-Friendly Makeup: Everything You Need to Know
Happy Earth Day, beauty lovers! Technically, Earth Day is tomorrow, but we’re posting a day early to get you ready. And what better way for a makeup artist to celebrate the greenest day of the year than by learning a little about eco-friendly makeup?
Organic makeup, vegan makeup, natural makeup, cruelty-free makeup… those are a ton of conditions to keep in mind when you’re shopping for beauty products. Are they all the same? Does eco-friendly makeup cover them all? And—the question everyone wants to know—can eco-friendly makeup produce the same high-quality results as your standard classics?
Well, grab your favorite makeup brushes and pull on your one-hundred-percent natural fibers tree-hugger t-shirt. Our crash course in eco-friendly makeup is the perfect way to show the earth a little love!
First things first… what does “eco-friendly makeup” actually mean?
Green, organic, all-natural… those words get thrown around a lot in product branding, and that includes makeup. But what actually makes a beauty product eco-friendly? And why does it matter?
Let’s start by clearing up some basic terminology…
- Vegan makeup doesn’t contain harsh chemical ingredients or ingredients derived from animals.
- Cruelty-free makeup doesn’t harm or kill animals in its production—that includes avoiding animal testing.
- Natural makeup is a general (and unregulated) term, but in general it uses ingredients only from natural sources.
- Organic makeup contains only plant-based ingredients grown without chemicals or pesticides.
Sometimes eco-friendly makeup covers all of these bases. Sometimes it doesn’t. Basically, eco-friendly makeup just includes products that are toxin-free and don’t release harmful chemicals into the air when they’re produced. Good for the earth? Yep. Good for you? For sure. And good for creating a killer look? Well, like any other kind of makeup, that depends on finding products that work for you—but it’s definitely doable!
Pro Tip: “Vegan” and “cruelty-free” are pretty straightforward labels, but be careful when buying products marked “natural” or “organic.” These terms aren’t always strictly regulated, and unless a product states that it’s 100% organic it can still contain non-organic ingredients.
The “Dirty Dozen”
From the packaging to the product to the ways you wear it, makeup is downright pretty. But what’s not so pretty are some of the ingredients that go into it. Many big-name products are made with industrial chemicals that include carcinogens, pesticides, and other gross stuff that messes with both your body and the planet.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, there are twelve common chemicals (the “dirty dozen”) you should try to avoid when you’re shopping for makeup:
- BHA and BHT: Used in skincare and makeup products.
- Coal tar dyes: Look out for p-phenylenediamine and colors listed as “CI” followed by five numbers.
- DEA, MEA, and TEA ingredients: Watch out for these in creamy, foamy products.
- Dibutyl phthalate: Found in some nail products.
- Preservatives that release formaldehyde: DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazoliodinyl urea, methenamine, and quarternium-15 are the major culprits.
- Parabens: Used as preservatives in many makeup products.
- Parfum: It might smell sweet, but some fragrance ingredients set off allergies or asthma.
- PEG compounds: Found in many cream-based cosmetics.
- Petrolatum: Used in some hair products, moisturizers, and lip products.
- Siloxanes: Look out for ingredients that end in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.”
- Sodium laureth sulfate: Found in foamy products like shampoos and cleansers.
- Triclosan: Found in some antibacterial beauty products.
Are you having flashbacks to high school chemistry yet? Luckily, you don’t have to memorize the whole list—the David Suzuki Foundation has created a handy wallet-sized print-out for the truly dedicated eco-makeup artist to take with her on the go.
Pro Tip: Yes, the dirty dozen may be bad for you and for the earth—but that doesn’t make all synthetic ingredients evil! In the same way, organic products and ingredients can still cause irritation or allergic reactions. Keep your makeup kit eco-friendly by knowing exactly what ingredients to look for—and what to avoid. Keep your makeup kit eco-friendly by knowing exactly what ingredients to look for—and what to avoid.
The Eco-Friendly Makeup Artist’s Starter Kit
Gone are the days when eco-friendly makeup was a tiny niche market for hippies and hardcore environmentalists. Nowadays, tons of women have made the switch to help keep their bodies (and their planet) at their healthiest—and that means you’ve got tons of high-quality eco-friendly makeup products to choose from!
But where to start? Well, you can take a look at EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, which includes over 60,000 eco-friendly brands and products. But we’ll set you off in the right direction with five eco-friendly products to add to your kit.
- Burt’s Bees Lipsticks: These lipsticks pair the traditional moisturizing power of Burt’s Bees lip products with bright, long-lasting color, available in 14 different shades. Easily available at many drugstores, this product is also easy on your budget. Plus, how cute is that honeycomb packaging?
- Alima Luminous Shimmer Eyeliner: Finding eco-friendly skincare and cleansing products tends to be easy, but pigmented beauty products can be a little trickier. This shimmery loose powder liner is highly pigmented and, yes, eco-friendly. Bonus: it can easily double as a shadow for a show-stopping smoky eye.
- Ilia Mascara: Mascara made from organic, sustainable ingredients in four enticing shades.
- Josie Maran Argan Color Stick: Available in five shades from a nude brown to a peachy coral, this color stick can easily become a kit staple. This is another product that does double duty—use it to gives lips or cheeks a natural flush.
- Vapour Halo Illuminator: Whether you’re into strobing or just looking for a little bit of glow, this illuminator stick provides an eco-friendly way to highlight your best features.
Your Carbon Footprint
Consider your newly-purchased makeup’s journey to get to you and the carbon footprint it has left behind. Where was this product made? Where did you purchase it? How did it get from Point A to Point B?
If your favorite liquid lipstick is made in Italy and you purchased it at your local Sephora in the United States, how much fuel needed to be burned to get there? If you’re concerned about the carbon footprint you and your makeup products are making (and, let’s face it, we could all be a little more conscious), consider equipping yourself with some local makeup products that didn’t have to travel across the world to get into your kit.
Now, let’s be real. No makeup artist is going to go out and buy a totally new kit just to make sure all their products are eco-friendly. For one thing, every artist has those extra-special products they just can’t bear to part with. For another, most of us don’t quite have the budget to handle that! Instead, celebrate Earth Day by picking one or two eco-friendly products to test out. That’s where every eco-friendly habit starts!