Natural makeup has arrived. 

Formerly relegated to shelves that catered to the granola crowd, this niche market is going mainstream as more people search for organic and eco-friendly options—for the body and the face. A whole bevy of makeup brands now claim to beautify without the common chemicals and synthetic preservatives that have long been standard in cosmetics. And while the thought of putting pure ingredients on our skin sounds like a great idea, we wondered: How do these natural products perform in comparison to traditional makeup? To find out, we sought the expertise of green makeup artist Paige Padgett to put these products to the test:

100% Pure – With offices run entirely by solar energy and biodegradable formulas packaged in post-consumer recycled materials, 100% Pure is truly a green brand. “What makes them special is that they use fruit pigments for beautiful colors,” says Padgett. While many natural blushes come in loose powder only, we were thrilled to find a pressed version here. Their Fruit Pigemtned Healthy Blush in “Chiffon” created a rosy flush with extracts of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, and cherry, which faded only slightly after 12 hours of wear. We also love the all-natural Fruit Pigmented Mascara, which separated, lengthened, and nourished our eyelashes with a rich black tea tint and provitamin B5.

Aubrey Organics – Founded over 40 years ago, this line was the first personal products brand to list all their ingredients in 1967. All Aubrey formulas forgo parabens and chemical additives in favor of herbal extracts and vitamins. “I love this company – I think they have a lot of integrity,” says Padgett. The Natural Lips Sheer Tint contains organic shea butter and coconut oil that feels light on lips, and the Blush Pearl color is a flattering neutral nude. 

Ava Anderson – Created by a teenager determined to use only the safest products, Ava Anderson Non-Toxic boasts a full line of all-natural makeup, skin, hair, body, and even home cleaning options that are entirely free of chemicals. “Ava is super clean with many organic ingredients, and I like that there are no nano particles,” says Padgett, describing the micronized bits that some experts believe can dangerously absorb into skin. A truly holistic take on the alphabet cream craze, the brand’s best-selling BB Cream is like an airy, whipped mousse. The chemical-free mascara houses an old school jumbo brush that separated, curled and turned our lashes lush with a plentiful dose of organic aloe vera and vegetable-based waxes. We were honestly shocked that a natural mascara could truly produce buildable volume. Plus, it didn’t clump or flake all day. Consider us converts. 

Bite Beauty – Based in Toronto, Bite Beauty’s claim to fame is formulating every lipstick with the amount of resveratrol found in 5 glasses of red wine. No, you won’t get boozy, but your pout will reap the potent antioxidant rewards. While Padgett says the brand uses synthetic dyes like Red 27 that some argue are problematic, she relies on the otherwise nutrient-based range for color options she can’t find in other natural lines. Bite’s bestselling Luminous Crème Lipstick applied with identical pigment to our regular stash of lipstick, and the Cinnamon Plumping Lip Oil is the only natural pout plumper we’ve found that really works. 

Dr. Hauschka – One of the pioneers in the natural beauty category, Dr. Hauschka was founded in 1935 with biodynamic farming methods that ensured pure plant growth in sustainably harvested soil without the use of chemical fertilizers—a high bar even for modern times. Offerings cover the full cosmetic gamut. “I love the Translucent Bronzing Tint,” Padgett says. “I wear it alone in the summer, and with moisturizer in the winter.” Inspired, we mixed the golden liquid with our own lotion for a sun-kissed glow that looked so authentic, it even prompted a “Did you come back from vacation?” from our local Starbucks barista. 

Ecco Bella – Founder Sally Malanga started Ecco Bella as a healthy line of hair and beauty products with the belief that less is more when it comes to formulas. “The brand is extremely sensitive to animal rights, and they ensure every ingredient is cruelty-free,” says Padgett. The FlowerColor Lipstick is a long-wear lipstick that Mother Nature would love. It’s made of a balmy base of vegetable waxes, oils and mineral pigments—one glide is all you need for saturated pigment with soft shine. The color didn’t feather or bleed all day—even after a sweaty workout. 

Jane Iredale – One of the original leaders in the mineral makeup revolution, Jane Iredale has since expanded her arsenal to a vast line of vibrant cosmetics and face products. “I use Jane Iredale foundations in my professional artist kit—they score a low 2 on the Environmental Work Group Skin Deep database and look very natural,” says Padgett. We tried the Liquid Minerals Foundation, which had moderate coverage with a luminously hydrating finish that would likely work best for normal to dry and aging skin types. The signature PurePressed Eye Shadow formula has an impressive shade palette range, blends on smoothly, and is forgiving on those fine lines around the eye. 

Pacifica – Originally conceived as a scent brand made of essential oils, Pacifica has now developed into a cosmetics, skin, and home fragrance line. The gold Mehndi packaging is so luxurious, you’ll want to pull it out of your purse for public touch-ups. The Enlightened Gloss is infused with coconut and antioxidants. “It has manganese violet dye that is synthetic. However, it only rates a 1 on the EWG database, so it’s overall safe,” observes Padgett. That was welcome news, since this smooth gloss stayed comfortably put on lips and felt moisturizing for hours. We also like the Smolder Eye Lining Gel, which isn’t waxy like regular gel formulas, but instead strokes on with a sensually soft finish. The charcoal Tahitian Pearl shade can also be applied all over lids for a shimmering smoky eye.    

RMS – This line prides itself on using food grade, organic ingredients in their naturally raw state. Nutrients are kept alive with manufacturing processed at the lowest possible heat. We were most impressed with “Un” Cover-Up, a lightweight coverage product that can be used as foundation or concealer. “It’s so clean, feels amazing on the skin, and blends well under eyes!” says Padgett. With a convincingly natural finish that was neither too matte nor creamy, this product performed even better than our regular concealer. It slipped onto skin, blended easily, and didn’t look the least bit cakey—a true feat after several hours. The metallic collection of Eye Polish shades are unlike any cream shadow we’ve tried. Lunar is a champagne color that applied weightlessly over lids and glimmered without creasing for hours. 

Tata Harper – Inspired by her father’s harrowing bout with cancer, Tata Harper cut toxins in her own life and began a 100% natural skincare brand that’s entirely grown and manufactured on her own farm in Vermont. More recently, Harper launched color in her line. “The products are organically certified by EcoCert, so you know they’re as eco-friendly and high quality as it comes,” says Padgett. The Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint in the coral Very Vivacious shade gives an impressive pop of color while nourishing with ingredients like Spanish lavender.

Beautycounter – Many have been critical of how the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) regulates cosmetics – especially compared to Europe, where hundreds more chemicals are banned. Beautycounter self-regulates with a “Never List” of over 1500 ingredients that is overseen by their Head of Health & Safety, Mia Davis, formally of The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “This is a line with high performance products and they’re very honest,” says Padgett. We tried Lip Sheer for a sophisticated sheen that marries pretty color with hydration. Try dotting and blending the swivel stick on the apples of cheeks to turn it into a lovely, warming cream blush. 

Sources:

  1. Paige Padgett
  2. 100% Pure
  3. Fruit Pigmented Mascara
  4. Aubrey Organics
  5. Ava Anderson
  6. Bite Beauty
  7. Luminous Crème Lipstick
  8. Cinnamon Plumping Lip Oil
  9. Dr. Hauschka
  10. Translucent Bronzing Tint
  11. Ecco Bella
  12. FlowerColor Lipstick
  13. Jane Iredale
  14. Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database
  15. Liquid Minerals Foundation
  16. Pacifica
  17. Enlightened Gloss
  18. Smolder Eye Lining Gel
  19. RMS
  20. “Un” Cover-Up
  21. Eye Polish
  22. Tata Harper
  23. Volumizing Lip and Cheek Tint
  24. Beautycounter