It’s no secret that our purchases impact the planet. In a day and age when environmental concerns are at an all-time high, it makes sense that consumers are beginning to think more critically about their choices –– especially when it comes to curating their beauty routine. If you’re eager to embrace a greener approach to your self-care regimen, you’re not alone. According to a 2022 survey by Global Cosmetic Industry, 64% of people say sustainability is “very important” when considering which cosmetics to buy. In recent years, the growing demand for non-toxic, responsibly-made, and eco-friendly beauty products has led to the rise of the clean beauty industry, with the majority of beauty brands now offering “clean” product lines that claim to provide a less harmful alternative to traditional formulas. From a consumer perspective, it certainly seems like a step in the right direction.
Clean vs. Green
Walk into any cosmetics store these days and you’ll see an abundance of marketing for clean beauty products. But what does “clean” really mean, and is it different from being sustainable? The details are vague and sometimes murky, which can make it difficult to feel confident about your purchases.
A 2023 CNN article explores how beauty buzzwords like “clean” and “green” can be surprisingly deceptive. New York dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas, founder and medical director of Union Square Laser Dermatology and clinical dermatology instructor at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, explains that there are no strict parameters when it comes to advertising beauty products in this way. “The US Food and Drug Administration has failed to define ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ beauty, leaving these labels open to interpretation by non-dermatologists and retailers who have set out to define clean beauty for themselves,” she says.
Given the lack of formal guidelines, the distinction between clean beauty and green beauty is not well understood by most people. The CNN article goes on to offer the following explanation, which helps clear up some of the confusion.
“At the most basic level, clean beauty products generally do not include potentially toxic and harmful ingredients, including parabens, which some research suggests may be carcinogenic and hormone disrupters, and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Green, or sustainable, beauty, however, puts a focus on eco-friendly production, from where ingredients are sourced to packaging that can be kept out of the environment. Clean beauty and green beauty often overlap, but not always, which is why conscious consumers should look carefully at the claims being made.”
If you’re anything like me (read: easily overwhelmed), cross-checking the accuracy of sweeping labels like “clean” and “natural” might sound like a daunting task. The good news? I did the hard part for you. From facewash to foundation, here are twelve eco-friendly beauty products that are gentle on the environment and gentle on your body. No gimmicks––just the good stuff.
Recommended for dry and acne-prone skin types alike, this lightweight daily cleanser soothes and nourishes the skin with anti-inflammatory oat milk and antioxidant-rich marula oil. It contains no harmful chemicals or toxic ingredients and is made with 50% PCR (post consumer recycled) materials. A win for your skin and for Mother Nature.
Gently and effectively cleanse and restore dry, brittle hair with this EWG-verified shampoo (EWG stands for Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting human health and the environment). ATTITUDE products and ingredients must meet biodegradability, aqua toxicity, renewable supply, and end-of-life environmental criteria, making them an Earth-friendly choice for high-quality hair care.
For a soft, healthy shine, try this vegan and cruelty-free conditioner. Like all Native hair care products, it’s free of sulfates, parabens, silicone, and dyes. Native is committed to being “Plastic Free by ’23” by providing a plastic-free option for every single product they sell. They also have a collection of plastic-free deodorants that come in recyclable paperboard tubes. Keep it up, Native. We salute you.
This multipurpose body oil is formulated with organic shea butter and lavender to soothe irritation and wild orchid extract to promote deep hydration. Shea Moisture partners with women-led co-ops in Northern Ghana to source their fair trade shea butter. Additionally, Shea Moisture claims its bottles and jars are made of 25%-50% PCR resin, so you can keep your skin moisturized while minimizing your footprint.
Safflower oil, jojoba esters, and Vitamin E are the hydrating heroes behind this eco-friendly lotion. Designed for all skin types and gentle enough to be used on babies, it’s a one-step solution to softer, smoother skin. As far as sustainability goes, Honest Beauty participates in a carbon offset program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by domestic shipments. Their product packaging also includes compostable tree-free paper, recyclable aluminum, tin, and glass.
Organic U.S.-grown hemp and avocado oils work together to keep your skin smooth and supple. Dr. Bronner’s is committed to becoming a zero waste company, and has set the goal of sending just one dumpster to landfill each month. They also use regenerative agriculture practices in their supply chain to create healthy soil, which helps sequester carbon.
Say hello to HiBAR’s all-natural, aluminum-free, plastic-free deodorant. It comes in a recyclable cardboard tube, is Leaping Bunny Certified, and made in the U.S. HiBAR uses 100% compostable, recyclable, or biodegradable shipping materials and has eliminated 5 million plastic bottles to date, according to their website. Their tagline? “Save the planet and smell good doing it.” You can’t argue with that.
Enhance skin tone and texture with Juice Beauty’s proprietary blend of fruit stem cells and Vitamin C. This ultra-lightweight anti-wrinkle serum contains no parabens, petroleum, sulfates, or artificial dyes, so you can feel good about adding it to your daily routine. Juice Beauty sources its ingredients from local organic farmers and also has its own sustainable, solar-powered farm. The company is working toward eliminating the use of virgin plastic packaging and transitioning to recycled plastic, glass, and bioresin. Right on, Juice Beauty.
Make blemishes a thing of the past with this fast-absorbing toner from Peach & Lily. Formulated with 95% snail mucin and cica, it helps clear pores, zap zits, and reduce redness. Although it’s appropriate for any skin type, this blemish-busting formula is especially helpful for oily and acne-prone skin. Here’s the cherry on top: Peach & Lily products are 100% cruelty-free and sustainably packaged. Can I get a SNAIL YEAH? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist).
Coconut water, fig fruit extract, and snow mushroom extract help improve your skin’s texture and elasticity with this organic, ultra-hydrating mask from BioRepublic. BioRepublic slays in the sustainability department with 100% biodegradable, vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free products. They are also a certified organic, minority-owned company with an official EcoCert Certification, making them a true power player in the conscious cosmetics game.
Radiant, youthful-looking skin is right around the corner. RMS Beauty’s three-in-one concealer, color corrector, and tinted moisturizer covers dark circles, blemishes, and redness, providing medium all-over coverage without overdrying or settling into your pores. Coconut oil and beeswax leave skin with a healthy, natural-looking glow. RMS Beauty uses raw, organic, food-grade, non-GMO ingredients in all their products. Additionally, their packaging is minimal, recyclable, or reusable, so it’s gentle on the environment and gentle on your skin.
Crunchi’s vegan and toxin-free foundation offers “unprecedented coverage, unparalleled quality, and unsurpassed wearability” –– which sounds pretty good, right? Striking the perfect balance between a satin and semi-matte finish, what makes it even better is that it’s gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, and Leaping Bunny Certified. Boasting a long-wearing formula and a buildable finish, this is a clean and green solution to a clear complexion and a clear conscience.
This is a roundup of some of my favorite eco-friendly beauty products, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’re looking for more options or want to see how your favorite beauty brands stack up in terms of sustainability, I highly recommend checking out these helpful tools.
According to their About page, Ethical Elephant is “a modern-day ethical consumer guide to navigating…conscious and cruelty-free living.” Featuring a brand directory and countless lists of safe and eco-friendly beauty products, this is a great resource to add to your toolkit.
Find out what’s really in your personal care products with EWG’s handy online database. With a catalog of over 90,000 products, the user-friendly setup consists of a search engine that ranks cosmetics on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least harmful and 10 being the most.
Quickly and easily scan and analyze eco-friendly beauty products from your phone with this convenient mobile app. Similar to EWG’s Skin Deep Database, Yuka assigns products a health score from 0 to 100 and offers a comprehensive breakdown of how different ingredients impact each outcome. It indexes both food and beauty products, so you can try it out in your pantry as well as your medicine cabinet.