Beyond checking the price tags and labels of my cosmetic products to make sure that they were cruelty-free, I never put much thought into the contents of my makeup bag. When I first began my foray into the world of beauty products, there weren’t many specifications by which society told me to abide. I’d seen displays here and there for natural beauty products, but the perception was always that they were somehow lesser, wouldn’t work as well, and weren’t the real deal. In order for beauty products to be effective, I thought they must be chock-full of artificial ingredients; I wanted bold pigments, I wanted full coverage, and I wanted clear skin while I was at it.
In short, I stayed away from natural ingredients because, when it came to makeup, I didn’t want to cut corners or half-ass anything. But it turns out, I was wrong. Even though it’s only in the last few years that my perception of natural beauty has evolved, it's clear now that green is everywhere and isn't just good—it's great. As a collective society of consumers, we’re starting to realize that natural ingredients and sustainable production processes are not synonymous with subpar capabilities. And as interest in green beauty increases, it’s become easier and easier to get our paws on the good stuff without sacrificing quality and looking too hard, even if it’s still not as ubiquitous as it should be. And while it might feel superficial, your beauty products still have the power to affect you—and the planet—in a deep and negative way if you don't choose them wisely.
Hopefully, over the next few years, green products will become the new standard. And because I believe that education is always the key to moving forward, I talked to a few women who are making a huge impact in the beauty world, so that I could better educate myself on the subject. Not only are these women’s companies bringing incredible products to the market, but they’re helping raise awareness on sustainability and bringing green beauty into the major leagues. Here, then, is some advice on what to look for in products, why they're so important, and a selection of some of our favorite things from each of the following indie green beauty companies.
Owner of Ayla Beauty Dara Kennedy on the importance of going green: “Oftentimes, we’ll be careful about what we eat—seeking out natural and organic products and avoiding those with lots of preservatives or artificial ingredients—and assume that the products we put on our skin and hair are safe. But many people don’t realize that a beauty product can be widely sold with shockingly little testing to ensure its safety for people and the planet alike. And what you put on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream and can, in certain cases, have unpredictable or negative impacts on your body: significant, credible reports and studies demonstrate this irrefutably. Huge companies have adjusted their product formulations to avoid questionable ingredients as a direct result of concerned consumers’ efforts. [When in doubt, always check out] The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Red Lists.”
Further, Kennedy points out a major discrepancy in logic. How can we be so concerned with what we ingest, and yet so quick to blindly trust what we apply topically? And what is it about the term “natural” that sparks a negative connection with effectiveness? It’s a strange mentality considering these companies are doing things for the betterment of our health and the planet. Kennedy says of these very companies:
Green beauty brands tend to have major passion and soul and goodwill behind them. The companies we work with are real labors of love; their founders started their businesses because they wanted to make effective, healthy products in the best way possible. Companies with a foundational desire to improve the health of their customers and of the earth, tend to be devoted to doing the right thing wherever possible.
The Stell's owners on what “clean beauty” really means, and why attention to packaging is essential for mainstream success: "Clean beauty has come a long way. People are more conscious about the ingredients in their products and want more natural options—and 'natural' no longer has the same connotations as it used to. You can get a quality product that’s 100 percent safe to use, that also looks incredibly chic on your dresser or in your bathroom. That’s why packaging and design are also important to us. We want people to think that not only does this product look really cool, but it’s effective. And that’s a winning combination."
Mullein and Sparrow's owner Anit Hora on why green beauty is so effective: “Green beauty is about using products that are natural, plant-derived, and work in tandem with your skin's natural function. They are formulated to work with your body because the natural ingredients are easily recognized by your system whereas your body can fight against synthetic ingredients. That's why all Mullein & Sparrow products are made from organic or wildcrafted ingredients and are packaged in beautiful glass bottles that can be reused or recycled.”
For our favorite products from these companies, scroll through the slideshow below.
LVX Nail Polish Removers at The Stell
The nail polish industry is behind the pack when it comes to sustainability and we have been using acetone-based removers for too long. So when LVX released plant-based color removers, it was a game changer. The pads are soy-based and completely odorless. It easily removes nail polish while moisturizing cuticles with jojoba oil.
Agent Nateur at The Stell
After learning that underarms typically absorb 100 percent of what gets put on them, aluminum and heavy metal ingredients in deodorant became a big no-no for us. Similarly, the Stell was really excited when they found Agent Nateur. The founder makes all her products in her West Hollywood kitchen with organic, GMO-free, food-grade ingredients. The deodorants are literally safe enough to eat, so you can be sure there are no harsh chemicals that could be harmful to your body or the environment. Plus, its packaging is so chic that you'll want to leave it out on display.
Dry Shampoo at Mullein & Sparrow
This dry shampoo is made using natural and organic plant-based powders with lavender oil used to lightly scent the product. All of the products from the company come with high ethical standards, especially the essential oils, originating from a small woman-owned company that ensures that all the lavender is grown sustainably and the farmers are paid a fair wage. The packaging for the dry shampoo is made from paper containing recycled materials.
Soothing Face Mist at Mullein & Sparrow
The soothing face mist toner contains witch hazel and essentials oils of lavender and spearmint, all of which are plants. Lavender is especially high on the list of sustainable herbs as it does not rely on fertilizers. All of their products contain plants grown organically to ensure they are safe for the skin and the environment.
Lemon Rose Face Cleanser at Mullein & Sparrow
The base of the face wash is made from castile soap and organic oils for a wholesome cleanse without any extraneous or unnecessary elements. The cleanser is very gentle on the skin and the environment. Organic essential oils are sourced from plants and herbs that are grown in small batches.
Active Botanical Face Serum at Vintner’s Daughter
This product is an all-natural, non-toxic, botanical serum made by a Napa Valley, California, winery using premium-sourced ingredients and same process wineries use when making wine. Used by top celebrity makeup artists and beauty editors, Vintner's has gained a cult-status following amongst beauty professionals across the globe.
MyHavtorn Body Oil at Ayla Beauty
This Swedish company grows their own sea buckthorn—the key ingredient in all of their products—on their own organic farm in a way that is as sustainable as possible. They make products fresh-to-order to avoid excess waste. And their packaging is simple and minimal while helping to ensure their products stay shelf-stable with fewer preservatives.
Ellis Brooklyn Fragrance at Ayla Beauty
Creator Bee Shapiro worked with the perfumer behind Byredo to develop phthalate-free fine fragrances that are much more sophisticated than the typical essential oil-based scents that you’ll find in the green beauty category. They really do show that you can get cleaner beauty products without making any compromises.
Kosas Lipstick at Ayla Beauty
Yet another example of cleaner beauty without compromise on quality, these lipsticks are among the most weightless, long-lasting, hydrating, beautifully wearable around, but they boast formulas that don’t contain anything that green beauty enthusiasts might object to. The formulas are preservative-free, yet they’re good for up to 18 months after you first use them.