Whether it’s in a drugstore, makeup store, or local small shop, choosing the right products can be confusing. The industry is littered with greenwashing, so knowing what to look for or avoid is key. Here's some information from me, Chrystal, to help you find the best makeup for you.
Here’s the thing: I could go through a long list of ingredients that shouldn’t be in your makeup. But what I want to do is empower you to more adequately decipher an ingredient list and know whether it’s something you want on your face or body. More so, giving you the good list and bypassing the nasty stuff.
Let’s get started with water—sweet H2O.
It’s oh so essential, except when it comes to cosmetics, and here’s why.
The first thing to look for in your ingredient list is water. If water is at the top of the list, then it is the highest content in your product. Water is mostly used as a filler (of course, there are exceptions, and just because it is in the formulation doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, but it’s something to note). When the water content of a formulation is over 5%, a preservative is needed.
A very short list of chemical preservatives to avoid includes: parabens, anything ending in paraben, and formaldehyde—it doesn't belong anywhere near your skin or body care, so steer clear. Benzyl alcohol is a popular one you may notice, along with anything else ending in alcohol. I have attached a great reference listing 12 of the most harmful chemical preservatives. It would be pretty useless to name them all and expect you to remember, sadly there are many.
Natural preservatives to the rescue!
There are a number of natural preservatives that can be swapped, so try to be on the lookout for them in your product selections.
Beeswax is a beautiful ingredient; it acts as a natural preservative given its antibacterial properties. Beeswax is anti-allergenic and creates a great barrier for moisture retention, shielding your precious skin from the outside environment while keeping all the good stuff and still allowing your skin to breathe. Witch hazel, Aspen bark, alongside coconut and radish root ferments, are all great natural preservatives to be on the lookout for. Antioxidants are not preservatives, but they help preserve products by inhibiting oxidation, slowing down the rate at which the product goes off. A few examples are rosemary extract, grapefruit seed extract, and citric acid.
What’s in a base?
When it comes to foundation-type products or concealers, there are many natural swaps for conventional thickeners, pigments, and sliding and gliding agents.
Zinc oxide and kaolin offer a beautifully natural base for foundation-type formulas (hello Harlow skin veil). Zinc oxide is great as it offers some moderate sun coverage and is non-comedogenic (very unlikely to irritate or clog pores—unless there’s an allergy). Zinc oxide is a natural mineral and provides a nice glide as well as complexion-blurring properties given the slight sheen it can provide; this is the same for kaolin clay.
The naughty list—say goodbye to these ingredients in your bases:
dimethicone and silicones.
Silicones are generally harmless (jury is still out), they are included to give the product a nice slip but are usually just fillers and tend to build up on the skin, suffocating it and potentially causing issues. They are hardy molecules and hard to remove completely, including from the waterways once you wash them down your sink—more unnatural things in the ocean...no thanks. The silicones and dimethicones are often tested on animals, so if a product claims to be cruelty-free, these or other chemical ingredients could have been tested on animals before arriving at the formulator. Polyethylene glycol or PEGs, these are petroleum-based compounds used as thickeners in cream formulas.
All the pretty colors—let’s talk about pigments.
Mineral color agents, such as iron oxides and mica, are great alternatives to synthetic or plastic coloring agents, plastic coloring agents generally contain phthalates which are known endocrine disruptors. (PSA even though a product may state phthalate free, if it has synthetic fragrance, parfum or anything listed other than: essential oil or absolute for scent then it’s best avoided). Lake dyes are synthetic, and like everything that comes into contact with our natural environment (your body included), they have the potential to bioaccumulate, which can lead to internal and external inflammation (insert autoimmune diseases such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, etc.).
List of the “dirty dozen” cosmetic chemicals to avoid:
When it comes to deciphering and navigating makeup, it’s important to minimize what we can and stick to natural, minimal ingredients, avoiding as much of the chemical nastiness as possible. We have some great brands in the shop (and online) filled with nothing but the good stuff. Check out some of our favorites below.