As many of us become more conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies, we’re also turning to clean makeup brands as we’re becoming more aware of what we’re putting on our bodies. While the performance of these cosmetics used to pale in comparison to products from our favorite makeup counters, there are many 100% plant-based makeup brands creating products that are richly pigmented, apply beautifully, and wear as well as their more synthetic competitors. You may already be using some of them without even realizing they’re labeled as clean or natural beauty.
But before we get into our favorites, let’s get a couple of things straight: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has nebulous criteria on just what constitutes a natural product (“natural” isn’t regulated for cosmetics, so it can be used purely as a marketing term). That means that a product that’s classified as “natural” in brand marketing doesn’t automatically mean a product is better or safer for you.
Cosmetic chemist Ginger King tells Allure that though there isn’t much regulation on the term “natural” in the beauty industry, a more accurate term might be “natural-based,” as long as the bulk of the ingredients are naturally derived. “The true naturals have seals like COSMOS Natural or Ecocert — European organizations that allow up to five percent synthetics,” King explains.
The FDA does not have a definition for the term “organic” either (let alone organic beauty or organic makeup), as it is not defined by either the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, which it uses as guidelines. “‘Organic’ usually means USDA-certified food grade. There are limited numbers of products you can make to be classified as organic green,” King says.
“‘Clean beauty’ is a much better term for the consumer as the products are non-toxic and still effective,” says King. “‘Non-toxic’ means free from undesirable ingredients listed by the Environmental Working Group.” She adds that this is better than claiming ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ as they are products that perform without compromising safety.
This brings us to another point: An ingredient might be naturally-derived or organic, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no chance you’ll have an adverse or allergic reaction to it, so it’s important to be aware of what you’re using and how your body responds. “People want natural because they assume natural ingredients are safe, which is not necessarily the case,” King explains. “They also may not be as effective as synthetic materials.”