19 Best Natural Makeup and Clean Beauty Brands Your Skin Will Love
Bring out your natural beauty by using natural makeup that's as good for you as it is for the planet.
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via Sephora.com (2), via athrbeauty.com
Be a natural beauty
Make no mistake—natural makeup and clean beauty brands are gaining fans by the day. “Interest in the clean beauty space is growing and not going away as we see people seeking out clean ingredients, cruelty-free and vegan products,” says Deney Adam, Ulta Beauty Pro Team makeup artist. “People are becoming more aware of what they’re putting in and on their bodies and want to make informed product choices that align with their values,” he explains. Add to that all the interest in natural makeup looks and clean skin care right now, it’s only logical that you want to get there with natural ingredients, too.
But there’s a lot to choose out there in the green/clean/natural beauty space. That’s why we narrowed down the field of the best natural makeup and clean skin-care lines (including minority-owned lines like black-owned makeup brands and skin-care lines) to find the best face moisturizers, most natural-looking foundations, best face serums, and more from the all-natural and natural-leaning world.
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What’s the definition of a clean beauty brand?
This can vary, as there’s no one official definition of what makes a brand “clean.” Typically it means a line that leaves out certain synthetics that can be harmful or harsh like phthalates and sulfates that make lists like MADESAFE’s Banned List and Ulta Beauty’s Made Without List, and instead focuses on natural and sometimes organic ingredients. There’s often a kindness element there too, in that the products tend to be vegan and cruelty-free and frequently keep environmental impact lower with sustainable farming and packaging. In fact, says celebrity makeup artist Suzy Gerstein (who educates clients on clean beauty by offering one-on-one lessons), “That is largely how I define clean beauty these days—the most conscious treatment of the people and resources used to create it, with the least environmental impact possible.”
What are clean beauty ingredients?
Depending on the brand, think natural (meaning plant-based and mineral-based), often organic, and, increasingly, able to be harvested in a way that’s kind to the earth. Just like the ingredient list, it’s also important to pay attention to the symbols on your beauty products before you purchase them.
How is clean beauty packaged?
Often in alternative packaging like reusable pots that cuts down on waste or in plastic that contains at least some portion of post-consumer-recycled plastic.
Clean highlights: Natural USDA-certified ingredients with few “safe” synthetics
Best for: Rich pigments and inclusive shade choices
Ilia is proof you don’t have to sacrifice quality to go “clean” thanks to its potent, mostly organic formulas. The line also scores points for partnering with recycling organization TerraCycle to make recycling its packaging by mail a no-brainer. The star product: The Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, an innovative formula that wears like a serum but gives your skin a tint to blur perfections. Oh, and it comes in 30 shades—hello, inclusivity!
Clean highlights: Certified organic ingredients and refillable packaging
Best for: Luxe makeup finishes
Gerstein calls makeup artist-founded Kjaer Weis “an OG [clean] brand continually at the forefront of eco-luxury.” Gerstein’s fave from the line: The Cream Blush, formulated with sweet almond and jojoba seed oils to melt beautifully into the skin. “My new favorite shade is Inner Glow, a stunning sandy pink that looks kind of plain in the compact but transforms on the skin to give an ethereal, Zoom-worthy flush.” Psst…find out how to pick the best blush for your skin tone.
Psst! This is the most popular makeup brand in America.
Clean highlights: Chemical-free formulations
Best for: Mineral sunscreens that work on dark skin tones
This Black-owned beauty line started by Katonya Breaux offers a non-toxic alternative to chemical sunscreens for deep skin tones. Unlike other mineral formulas, UnSun’s reef-safe Mineral Tinted Face Sunscreen is made to go on completely invisible so it doesn’t leave that tell-tale cast on the skin—making zinc oxide- and titanium dioxide-based sun safety an option for everyone.
Known for: Cruelty-free, clean ingredients
Best for: High-tech skin perfectors and moisturizers
This AAPI-owned brand (started by Sarah Lee and Christine Chang) harnesses the good-for-you benefits of fruit to create highly effective natural skin-care options that work. Need another reason to get on board? It’s also Leaping Bunny certified and gives to charities that help the environment and further women’s empowerment. A must-have: The Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask that boosts radiance via hyaluronic acid and amino-acid-packed watermelon extract.
Clean highlights: Avoids 2,700 ingredients “suspect” ingredients
Best for: High-performance, skin care-powered makeup
Price: $$ (foundation is $42)
With no parables, phthalates, talc, and formaldehyde, this brand is as gentle as it comes—yet manages to keep the focus on clean actives. Take, for example, one of the brand’s newest offerings, the Air Brow Tinted Volumizing Treatment Gel ($22). It contains biodegradable plant-based microfibers to pump up brows instantly as well as conditioning castor oil and panthenol to help them grow fuller and put perfect eyebrows within your reach.
Clean highlights: 100 percent vegan cruelty-free formulas based in nature
Best for: Wearable, forgiving makeup shades
This is a great brand for anyone looking to go clean on a budget since most of its products hit between the $10 and $15 mark. Adam loves the Pacifica Cosmic Reflect Hemp Infused Eyeshadow Palette, which, he says, “not only delivers with beautiful matte and shimmer hemp-infused eyeshadow shades but also includes a luxe vegan brush for an extra smooth application.” Oh, and it’s also free of fillers like talc—and gets in on the benefits of hemp derivatives.
Florence by Mills
Clean highlights: No parabens, sulfates, animal testing, or animal by-products
Best for: Vitamin-packed botanical skincare and makeup
Actress Milly Bobby Brown’s line is all about clean beauty formulated for all skin types while giving back to the Olivia Hope Foundation, focused on finding a cure for childhood cancers. One of the products Adam believes works as well as traditional formulas, the Built to Lash Mascara ($14). “It’s all in the name—this mascara is super buildable which is great for customizing lash volume,” he says. Pick up one of the best makeup removers to go along with it.
Speaking of lash volume, you might appreciate these magnetic lashes, too.
Clean highlights: Organic, minimally processed ingredients
Best for: Glowing highlighters
This celeb-favorite brand features food-grade, organic ingredients that are minimally processed and packed with nourishing antioxidants and actives that treat your skin while you wear them. A true must-have from the line is its hydrating Living Luminizer Highlighter, which leaves behind a subtle, irresistible dewy shimmer. Swapping out contour products for a highlighter cream is one of the beauty tips you should know by the time you’re 40.
Clean highlights: Sustainable, ethically-sourced ingredients and zero-waste, recyclable packaging
Best for: Fun, playful makeup colors
One of Gerstein’s picks, this brand was started by Tiila Abbitt, a former Sephora product development exec with an art background. “The shades pairings are evidence of that artist’s eye and the buttery, pigment-rich, ethically sourced formulas reveal the innovation expertise of its founder,” she says. “I also love that the palettes do not contain mirrors or things that are tough to recycle!” She loves the eyeshadow palettes like the Joshua Tree Palette. “The shades are so good that I’ve used them on many an editorial shoot and red carpet.”
Youth to the People
Clean highlights: Vegan ingredients with a side of activism
Best for: Antioxidant-rich skin care
This gender-free family-owned line relies on superfood blends and vegan actives to nourish and pamper across all skin types. Even better: by 2024, its To The People Fund will have donated $1 million to organizations supporting women, families, and BIPOC communities. For a true stand-out from the line, pick up the Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser, which features cold-pressed kale, spinach, and green tea for an exceptionally potent antioxidant cocktail.
Clean highlights: Sustainable farm-to-bottle products
Best for: Skin-loving anti-aging formulas
This brand is all about ethics when it comes to farming, promoting food security, and keeping its carbon footprint low (see: its pledge to have 100 percent zero-waste packaging by 2022). And the rich plant-based ingredients are no joke. To get a sense of the magic you can expect from this brand, try the Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Serum. Packed with a 14 percent AHA/BHA/gentle flower-acids blend, it’s an effective but non-irritating resurfacer.
Clean highlights: A no-fly list of ingredients 1,800 strong
Best for: Effective, kind-to-the-earth skin care
Beyond just wants in the bottles, this line goes above and beyond to support the green movement, helping to pass multiple state laws supporting clean beauty and donating over $655,000 to eco-friendly organizations. The big hero product is The Clean Deo, a refillable natural deodorant that manages to find odor and curb wetness while hydrating your ‘pits at the same time thanks to coconut oil and candelilla wax.
Clean highlights: Natural, organic vegan ingredients and sustainable farming practices
Best for: Antioxidant-rich skin care and plant-based makeup
Juice Beauty’s name is a nod to the fact that the core base of the brand’s products is organic juice instead of water, and it gets love for having clinically proven results (especially for its skin care) without offering parabens, petroleum, pesticides, propylene, or butylene glycols, phthalates, sulfates, artificial dyes, or synthetic fragrances. The brand’s Stem Cellular CC Cream is one of Adam’s favorites. “It provides light coverage without being too matte or drying,” he insists. And because of its anti-aging fruit stem cells, he says, “It’s the ultimate multi-tasker—helping to reduce fine lines, smooth uneven texture and improve skin’s elasticity.”
Clean highlights: Formulas based on plant-based science
Best for: Wellness-focused skin helpers
Around since 1990, Origins was into clean beauty well before it became a mainstream buzzword. And with products aimed at boosting your mood as they treat (like the aromatic Gloomaway Grapefruit Body Wash and Bubble Bath), it’s made a name for itself as a true mind-body brand. It also supports eco-conservation via the Origins Green the Planet Fund, which has partnered with One Tree Planted to support the planting of 250,000 trees in Asia, Europe, and North America.
Clean highlights: An innovative solution to dealing with plastic waste
Best for: Totally reusable, sustainable travel containers
If these genius little honeycomb-like magnetic refillable containers haven’t been popping in your social feed yet, well, they’re about to—they’re a darling of Instagram. Made from ocean-bound plastic, the idea is to help the planet and organize your beauty routine at the same time. The design took over 200 prototypes to get right, and the hard work shows in these hard-to-destruct, leakproof wonders that keep your toiletry bag organized. Start with the Build Your 6 Bundle and go from there.
Jillian Dempsey Beauty
Clean highlights: Organic, vegan, and paraben-free
Best for: Sheer wearable non-makeup makeup
This makeup artist brand is based around sheer, forgiving formulas that nourish as they enhance. The Lids Tints have long been a fave of the no-makeup makeup movement, but Gerstein is in love with the Natural Khol Eyeliners. “They’re staples in both my personal and professional makeup bags—as lovely for tight-lining as they are for creating a subtle kitten flick to a full-on rock n’ roll eye,” she says.
Clean highlights: Sustainably sourced Made-Safe certified ingredients
Best for: Suped-up hydraters
What you’ll find in this line: potent botanical extracts found by working with researchers at leading universities like Carnegie Mellon and Cornell. What you won’t: 6,500 suspect ingredients, which makes the brand MADE SAFE certified. To see what the mix can do, check out the best-selling moisturizer, the Pure Radiance Oil. It’s clinically proven to reduce the appearance of fine lines and has a luxe scent thanks to jasmine, neroli, and rose.
First Aid Beauty
Clean highlight: Cruelty-free, no artificial or iffy ingredients
Best for: Simple, effective no-frills skin care
The ethos of this brand is to deliver effective skin solutions without 13 additives including parabens, ethyl alcohol, phthalates, formaldehyde, and oxybenzone. A best buy here is the Ultra Repair Cream, a fast-absorbing moisturizer with colloidal oatmeal to soothe on contact and is safe for skin conditions like eczema.
Clean highlights: Naturally based sulfate-free formulas
Best for: Shampoos that don’t strip
BIPOC-owned hair brand Briogeo was started by Nancy Twinewho and uses a base of natural oils, vitamins, and antioxidants that is also free of sulfates, silicones, and parabens. That translates to incredibly nourishing, gentle hair care that won’t lift away color or dry out delicate strands. One star of the line: The Don’t Despair, Repair Super Moisture Shampoo, a fan favorite for smoothing locks with 95 percent natural ingredients, including shea butter.