clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Clean Beauty Primer: Organic Makeup, Natural Skincare

Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. See our ethics policy here.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

A worthwhile resolution: clean up that beauty routine. Not just organizing all those little compacts and bottles, but taking a second look at what, exactly, is making up your makeup. Skin and hair and nails absorb what you apply to them and there's been a lot of attention around that recently—but what the hell is a paraben, what's five free, and who makes a decent organic bronzer?!

We've started your clean up with some brand and product suggestions across nail, skin, and hair care, plus cosmetics, ranging from the very best drugstore scores to the luxury lines worth investing in.

Nails


Five free's the way to be: no formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, formaldehyde resin, or camphor here, just healthy nails.

RGB
Strong colors a minimalist can live with, like a celery green called Dew, that are cruelty free, vegan, and made in the USA.

Zoya
A humongous range of colors that are vegan and five-free.

NCLA
Bold colors, tons of glitter, and non-toxic nail wraps make this LA brand stand out.

Skincare


Squeaky clean starts with non-toxic ingredients.

Yes to Coconut
From the Yes to Carrots people comes a new coconut extension, which includes everything from lip balm to shampoo, but we're especially delighted by the skincare offerings. The face and hand wipes ($6) remove makeup and moisturize at the same time and the body scrub ($8) pulls away dead cells without being too harsh and while delivering, yes, more moisture. Plus, it's available everywhere from Walgreen's to Walmart.

Kahina Giving Beauty
Luxurious argan oil skincare sourced ethically by women in Morocco. In under ten minutes, the clay mask ($62) instantly brightens up the complexion, and the body serum ($98) is one of the most intensely hydrating skin products we've tried, which your winter skin is probably dying for right now. The line is pricey, but the products are highly concentrated, so they last a long time.

Goldenfaden MD
This dermatologist-developed skincare line hones in on specific skin issues (like line smoothing and hand anti-aging) and clears them up with powerful organic and natural ingredients.

Konjac Sponge
This all natural cleansing sponge ($10) is miraculously effective for clearing up skin, especially for those with an oily complexion, clogged pores, or pimples. You can use it alone or with a cleanser.

Cosmetics


Safe pigments from natural sources for dolling up that's good to your face and the planet.

Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
Their nail polish is fantastic, but highly pigmented makeup (in classic and, uh, unique hues) is what sets them apart from other natural and cruelty-free brands. The lip tar ($18) is one of their hero items, but also check out the tinted moisturizer ($29.50) and concealer ($20) for day-to-day basics.

RMS Beauty
Founded by a makeup artist, this non-toxic cosmetics line promotes skin healing by using raw, organic, food-grade ingredients. The brand bills it as "skin care with mineral color," and includes a dual lip/cheek stain ($32), a sheer bronzer ($28), and cream eyeshadows ($28) in its range.

Kjær Weis
Another result of a makeup artist who got grossed out by what was going on between skin and conventional cosmetics, Kjær Weis uses exclusively natural and organic ingredients in her line, which includes mascara ($38), eye shadow ($45), and blush ($56).

Lips


Where that "food grade ingredients" thing starts to really matter.

Bite Beauty
Made entirely of food grade ingredients, you could eat this lipstick if you desired (sounds gross but you actually do consume a lot of lipstick since it's sitting, uh, at the very top of your digestive tract—just saying). Try their new, tinted lip mask ($26), their amazingly hydrating matte-effect pencil ($24), or stop by their NYC storefront to blend a custom color for under $30.

Burt's Bees
You're probably familiar with this drugstore-ready natural line, which offers stellar makeup removing wipes, face washes, and even baby products. The ultra-conditioning lip balm ($3) is a force to be reckoned with: made with kokum, cocoa and shea butters, it's one of the few lip balms that actually locks in moisture so you're not constantly reapplying. And it's three dollars.

Hair


Healthy scalp + happy roots = good hair, guaranteed.

Alba Botanica
The brand's been around since 1979, so this "natural beauty" thing isn't a fad for them. They win in terms of healthy haircare that can duel, price-wise, with your drugstore go-to: the hydrating, coconut milk shampoo rings in at $10 and the conditioner is only $8.

Avalon Organics
Like Alba, this organic line has decades in the sustainable beauty game (they were founded in 1994), and offers a host of hair care products at not-crazy prices.