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As people become more conscious of what they they put in and on their bodies, companies are getting better at creating clean products that don’t sacrifice quality and aesthetic. The makeup industry might be the most susceptible to this cultural change, as more and more brands center their businesses around “clean” and “natural” products that are finally able to promise the same long wear and desirable textures as their synthetic competitors.
Due to an ever-growing list of clean beauty brands, it can be hard for the casual consumer to sift through products and decipher which ones are actually safe for the body. Which ingredients should people be looking out for? Which corporate buzzwords carry actual meaning, and which ones are plastered onto packaging with little care for the truth?
According to celebrity makeup artist Christin Zito, who’s worked with clients such as Dolly Parton and Billy Ray Cyrus, diligently checking the ingredient list is the most important thing you can do. “FDA regulations in the U.S. are extremely relaxed, so you have to do your due diligence as a consumer to try to avoid toxins. Labels aren’t always transparent,” she tells Variety. “It may surprise you, but just because something is labeled with buzzwords like ‘clean,’ ‘organic,’ ‘vegan,’ ‘natural,’ ‘green’ or ‘preservative-free’ does not mean that it’s non-toxic.”
While there are certain red-flag ingredients to always avoid — things like parabens and fragrance, sulfates and chemical UV filters — makeup artist Gilbert Soliz, who’s worked with Lizzo, Laverne Cox and Rico Nasty, among others, adds that flourine, a toxic PFA and “forever chemical” used in products like waterproof and long-wear mascara, is also a ubiquitous ingredient that can build up in the body and be linked to cancer and weakened immune systems. That, along with microbeads in face scrubs and toothpaste, are too small to be filtered out and end up being washed down the bathroom drains and into bodies of water to be ingested by marine life.
Of course, not everyone has the time or energy to do extensive research before buying makeup, which is exactly why we enlisted Zito and Soliz to give us their top clean beauty picks. From mascara and eyebrow gel, to lipstick and highlighter, here are the best chemical-free makeup products and brands that don’t sacrifice quality in their pursuit to be clean and eco-friendly.
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions
“It’s my holy grail mascara,” Zito says about Thrive Causemetics, which sources entirely from performance-drive, vegan and natural ingredients for their products. Their site features a comprehensive ingredients tab which offers full transparency about what each of their products are made from and information about the cutting-edge technology they use for effective application. Zito recommends the Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara. “It really does make my lashes look like extensions and I love that it stays on really well, but washes off without getting my towels dirty,” she says.
Thrive Causemetics Instant Brow Fix
Thrive Causemetics is also known for its eyebrow gel, which uses buildable smart pigment technology for a perfect color match, and brush-on fiber gel technology for a natural texture that mimics real hair with just one sweep.
Bite Beauty Midnight Mood Power Mini
Both Zito and Soliz recommend Bite Beauty, a Canadian-based brand that promises vegan and cruelty-free products with no toxic additives. Bite’s lip products are a staple in Zito’s kit because of their rich, buttery pigments. Give yourself options with the trio set above or go for their famous Agave Lip Mask for maximum hydration and color.
Bite Beauty Upswing Full Volume Mascara
Soliz turns to Bite Beauty for their Upswing Full Volume Mascara, a vegan mascara that utilizes tree berry wax for full volume without weighing down the lashes.
RMS Beauty Living Luminizer Highlighter
RMS’s Living Luminizer, one of Soliz’s top products, is a creamy highlighter that uses coconut oil to help soften and soothe the skin while providing a satiny translucent glow. The highlighter is one of RMS’s best-selling products for good reason, offering a youthful and dewy texture at an affordable price.
Freck Beauty Cheekslime
Freck Beauty is another top pick for Soliz, who says their popular Cheekslime, a vegan blush that uses liquid plant collagen for a multidimensional wash of color, is one of her favorite products for herself and clients. Freck Beauty is most well known for the Freck OG, the world’s first freckle cosmetic that offers natural, long-lasting faux freckles perfect for the summer.