Clean beauty is something I’ve become increasingly interested in over the last few years. The more I learn about the lack of regulation in the industry and the shady chemicals and ingredients that are commonly found in products, the more determined I am to detox my entire routine. There are over 1300 ingredients banned in the EU, compared to only 11 in the U.S. That’s insane! I’ve done a good job of cleaning up my skincare products, but makeup has proven to be more difficult.
I’ve had a much easier time finding clean, high-quality skincare products that actually work than finding makeup products of the same vein. I don’t want to choose between performance and clean ingredients—I need makeup products that provide beautiful, long-lasting results that also don’t contain any toxic ingredients. I have sensitive skin and mild rosacea, so clean ingredients help keep my skin calm and reduce inflammation. I believe makeup brands can meet both of these requirements, so I went on a mission to find the ones that deliver on this. To my surprise and delight, I found quite a few that are completely comparable in performance to my vanity staples, but without all the questionable additives. Below are the six best clean-makeup brands I’ve tried and a few of my favorite products from each.
Launched in 2019 by former fashion editor Laney Crowell, Saie has quickly become one of the buzziest clean-makeup brands around. Its mission is to raise the standard in clean cosmetics by using only the purest, safest ingredients and banning 2000 harmful ingredients typically found in beauty products. I was shocked by how well Saie’s products work and by how reasonable its price point is compared to most contemporary or luxury brands. I’m particularly fond of the Glowy Super Gel (seriously, it makes your skin look downright radiant) and the Slip Tint, a tinted moisturizer without the chemical SPFs most of the brand’s competitors have. I’m also obsessed with the packaging. Not only is it chic and minimal, but it’s also sustainably made and recyclable.
Kosas was actually the first brand I tried that made me feel like clean-makeup brands could be comparable to my staples. It has banned over 2700 questionable ingredients and instead focuses on including good-for-skin ingredients like hyaluronic acid and aloe vera. Its Big Clean Mascara might be my favorite of all time. I know that’s a bold statement, but my lashes have never looked so naturally full.
I had always heard amazing things about Beautycounter but waited until recently to try it, and now, I’m wondering why I slept on this for so long. Its goal is to create clean makeup and beauty products that actually work, and well, mission accomplished. The brand has over 1800 ingredients on its “Never List,” meaning its products are always formulated without these. I’m partial to the Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, which contains non-nano zinc oxide to protect against UV rays in a way that’s safe for both skin and coral reefs. (I learned that non-nano means the particles are larger and don’t penetrate into the skin and, potentially, the bloodstream.)
Ilia looks at skincare and makeup as one, so the brand formulates its makeup products with active skincare ingredients that shield and protect skin against environmental stressors. Its new Super Serum Skin Tint is another staple I’ll be permanently adding to my routine. It’s basically your skin but better. It has the consistency of a serum with some of the same skin benefits but also delivers a light coverage that’s perfect for Zoom calls or those times when a true foundation feels like too much. I pair it with the Illuminator for the dewy complexion of my dreams.
Like the other brands on this list, Tower 28 Beauty has an extensive list of banned ingredients, but the brand takes it a step further and formulates all products to adhere to the National Eczema Association guidelines, meaning they contain zero potentially irritating ingredients like natural fragrances or essential oils. This makes it an ideal brand for people with ultra-sensitive skin, as you can rest assured there are no irritants or allergens hidden in its products. I love the SOS Facial Spray, which uses the healing power of hypochlorous acid to treat any inflammation (think acne, eczema, rashes, sunburn). I use this on clean skin before makeup to really calm my skin down and prevent any redness from peaking through my makeup.
It’s happened—I’ve officially traded my longtime (we’re talking 10 years) hero concealer for a clean version from RMS Beauty. These products deliver the performance I’ve been looking for while adhering to the standards I believe in. RMS formulates without soy, gluten, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicone, talc, petrolatum, or polyethylene/PEGs. Instead, the brand uses ingredients containing nutrients that are actually good for your skin, like buriti oil and rosemary extract. I’ve been using the “Un” Cover-Up concealer and Luminizing Powder for all of my Zoom calls lately, and they’re making me actually look forward to them.