A Guide to Clean Beauty: Makeup, Skincare, Haircare + Bodycare
I was always fascinated with makeup + hair products, and spent a lot of time and money on nice products during high school and college (I treated my first Chanel eyeshadow quad palette like it was made of gold lolol). Doing my friends hair + makeup was always so fun for me, and I literally had friends making appointments with me before formal events because I was the go-to beauty girl. This continued on when I worked on a bunch of beauty accounts at my first PR job (Revlon, Living Proof, etc) and I got to play in a plethora of products all the time. I never thought twice about the ingredients because I trusted that if the products were approved to go to market, they must be safe, right?
I wish. I still wish there were much harsher regulations on products we put in and on our bodies, but that’s a conversation for another day!
Why I switched over to non-toxic, clean beauty
I got slammed with my autoimmune diagnosis and after desperately researching for anything that could help ease the massive load of stressors on and symptoms of my body, I dismayingly realized just how INSANELY toxic some of these ingredients in these products are. I liken it to smoking cigarettes— if you smoke, it’s hard to realize just how much it’s affecting your body in the short-term, because there isn’t much to the naked eye you can see of its harmful effects. But it’s in the long-run that these toxic ingredients get you.
The BIGGEST thing is how it affects your endocrine system— aka your hormones.
Think that might not be a big deal? Well, your hormones are responsible for everything from your sleep, weight, digestion, stress, mental health (like anxiety + depression), metabolism (energy), sex drive, reproductive abilities, skin health, mood, and more…. So yeah, it can be quite impactful.
I don’t say this to scare you! I say this to show you just how much of a positive effect you can have on your health by wisely choosing the products you use. And here’s the thing— I will never guilt anyone for using conventional products because it is TOTALLY understandable that the entire transitioning process can be super confusing, intimidating, and expensive. So I want to tell you why I made this guide for you guys:
Why I am making this guide for you guys + a note on accessibility
My standard expectations for natural products when I first switched over was just “as long as it’s not complete shit🤣.” Thankfully, the industry has come SUCH a long way and now there is a plethora of amazing (and I think better than conventional, even in performance!) options.
While nothing in this post is sponsored (not that it should matter anyway, since I really only tout products + brands I genuinely love!), I have been fortunate enough to be able to try a massive assortment of natural, clean beauty products because of my job that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.
I recognize that testing out natural products to see what works for you can be an extremely costly process that is not economically accessible for the majority of people out there— SO that is why I want to be able to use these perks I’m afforded as part of my job to help YOU narrow down what is right for you. I also know that it’s hard to wade through the sea of beauty content that you see on Instagram from your favorite influencers— so rather than singular scattered posts, I wanted to comprehensively put everything in one place!
☝️This is also why this guide includes products I’ve tried, but maybe don’t use because it’s not right for my skin / hair type, but they are brands + products that are wonderful and could be just perfect for you! Not everyone has my skin type or hair type, so I don’t think it’s fair that I tailor this just to people with similar physical attributes as me. This guide is meant to help inform you of my experiences with these products and descriptions that will hopefully help you identify the things you might want to try!
For people completely overwhelmed, just first transitioning over to non-toxic products, or maybe can’t afford to shop at some of the flashier non-toxic beauty stores, I love this “dirty dozen” list of ingredients to avoid here as a helpful starting point. Just make sure the products you’re using don’t have the major heavy-hitters of no-no’s to start, and then when you’re comfortable with that, maybe try to take the next step from there 😊
Haircare + Bodycare
Shampoo, Conditioner, Styling
Seed Phytonutrients: My current absolute favorite for shampoo + conditioner, it leaves my hair super soft and clean. It lathers up decently well, smells amazing, and the packaging + ingredient sourcing is also much more eco-conscious than most (learn more here). Each are $24.
Innersense: Also one of my favorites, this is definitely a luxurious product that makes you feel like you’re at a spa with the refreshing scents (citrusy). It’s all organic, color safe, lathers beautifully, and I also use their hair masque for deep conditioning. While pricier, (shampoo is $31 and conditioner is $33), these are super rich and a little product goes a long way. With some shampoos + conditioners, I feel like you need massive amounts to properly cleanse + detangle your hair, but this is very concentrated. I’ve also heard great things about their styling gel!
Intelligent Nutrients: This was the first natural shampoo + conditioner I tried. I really enjoy it but it’s definitely pricey— I included it on this list though because I wanted to note it’s really good for treating problematic scalp issues (i.e. dandruff, overly greasy, dry, aka all pH balance issues) because of the tea tree in it. It’s cleansing without being stripping, and it’s super tingly for you morning showerers to wake up with!
Puracy: Also one of the first brands I tried, this brand is super conscientious about their ingredients, is vegan, and more affordable than some others ($21 for 2-pack of shampoo, $24 for 2-pack of conditioner) . I still use their shampoo and conditioner when I’m out of testing products, and I also use their baby body lotion + household supplies! Their shampoo is definitely cleansing but it can initially feel a little stripping when you rinse it out— I wouldn’t recommend it for super dry hair, but mine tolerates it very well.
Dr. Bronners: I used to be strictly a body wash girl, but I am a 100% fan of their bar soaps and that’s all I have mainly used for the past 4 years. It’s also incredibly affordable ($25 for a pack of 6), gives you just the right amount of “squeaky clean,” lathers beautifully (I use a Korean scrub towel— highly recommend this for exfoliation and lathers any product up extra well to make small amounts go a long way, so you’re being less wasteful), and it’s easy to travel with. I can also use this as a shampoo in a pinch! I also really do like their Castille all purpose soap too for travel, as it can be used for everything.
Deodorant: This is a MUST for clean products— above all, to be honest. Aluminum is in most conventional deodorants… and not only is it linked to breast cancer, it is a heavy metal that just puts a crapload of stress on your liver + kidneys to detox.
I cannot recommend one singular one because for this, I truly believe it’s just like Goldilocks for each person— you just gotta try them all before you find the one you love. And then you may need to switch it up occasionally to keep efficacy. For those of you new to natural deodorant, please know that the first 3-4 weeks are totally awful— it’s the detox/purge period where your pits are basically getting rid of all the aluminum and metals from traditional deodorants, and you may sweat + smell more for a little while. Also keep in mind— these are DEODORANTS— NOT antiperspirants. You’re meant to sweat. This just keeps you from smelling and no pit stains!
Moisturizers / Lotions: I mainly use Puracy’s baby lotion (love the clean + soothing scent), but those of you into dry oils, I recommend The Detox Market’s new Altogether Oil. For an amazing all-purpose oil (I literally bring this while traveling to soak in my bath or whenever I’m getting massages to make sure it’s a clean oil), I adore Saje’s Apres Sport.
Get that SLS (foaming agent used in industrial agents, yay!) + fluoride (hormone disrupter) outta your mouth!
Dental Floss: I used to (and still sometimes because I have them already and don’t want to waste) use the single-use floss picks, but that floss and traditional floss is filled with chemicals to flavor and coat the floss— so I switched over to this floss AND it’s biodegradable with a refillable container! Win win.
Oh my gosh, skincare. I have tried the world’s entire collection of products and then some, thanks to my hormonal acne. While I’m going to keep this section to just products, my extensive post on my hormonal acne is going to be coming later this week!
There is honestly too much amazing clean skincare out there and it would take 10 hours to go through it all— honestly, bioClarity’s Clear Skin routine is my major thing (use code MINNA FOR 15% off your entire order + half off the routines!) I use every single day, but I’m a skincare freak so here are the other recommendations of stuff I’ve liked and would recommend:
Cleansers: bioClarity’s Cleanse (3 step kit is $29) is just the right combo of foaming, cleansing without stripping, and gentle for me! For oil cleansers, I recommend One Love Organics Vitamin B oil cleanser ($42) (which I use to take off my makeup), Kari Gran Cleansing Oil ($35)
Serums + Moisturizers: I use bioClarity’s clear salicylic acid + floralux (3 step kit is $29) as my daily moisturizers, but I have a bunch of favorites I’ll rotate in for extra treatments. I use this plain + pure hyaluronic acid serum ($15) for extra moisture.
Osea’s Atmosphere Protective Cream ($48) is also really good for everyday use. Their Sea Serum is also raved about for sensitive skin ($88). Odacite makes amazing concentrated serums to mix right into moisturizers (between $32-42)— I like their clarifying one. My mom loves Kari Gran’s Essential Serum ($60). For a neck serum, I recently fell in love with Skin Owl ($68)- it’s pricey but I’ve been kind of sensitive in that area for my skin, so it works for me. For a major splurge that’s worth it, True Botanicals makes this cellular repair serum ($140) and their face oil ($110)is the best thing I’ve ever smelled and massaged into my face in my life.
Makeup Remover: Kaia bamboo cloths are great (an biodegradable), but in an effort to go lower waste, I have mostly been using One Love Organics Vitamin B oil cleanser— it’s one of the few oils my skin tolerates well, dissolves ALL my makeup so easily, and it rinses off SO well for an oil. Use a warm washcloth with it if you want extra cleansing.
Masques: I used to use lots of sheet masques but I try to not, to stay environmentally conscious— for an everyday type of use, I love bioClarity’s Clarifying Masque ($25) and then One Love Organics Charcoal Masque ($49) for something a bit more luxe.
I love Tata Harper, but just think it’s really expensive— her Clarifying Mask ($70) though is the one thing I will save up and splurge on because it’s exactly true to it’s name. I sparingly use it whenever my skin feels congested and needs some gentle exfoliation via acids (which my skin doesn’t normally tolerate well).
Eye Creams: I love 100% Pure Coffee Bean Eye Cream ($25) for daytime, immediate dark circle relief, and it also smells divine. I use One Love Organics Vitamin E Eye Balm though for intensive nightly eye cream— it’s also unique that it’s a balm texture, but it also nourishes my eyelashes and I swear it helps them grow longer with less breakage.
Suncreen: Biossance Squalane + Mineral SPF45 — honestly this is the only thing my skin tolerates that is a clean formula. Every sunscreen makes me break out or irritates the heck out of my skin, so I honestly can’t recommend anything else except for that and Kari Gran’s (my mom loves this one for daily use).
Oh man, when I was first transitioning over to natural products, the non-toxic options were absolutely terrible compared to now and I didn’t let go of my Essie + OPIs right away… but traditional nail polish is truly one of the more toxic products that make their way into your beauty products— the gasses that let off when you’re applying the polish, to it chipping and making its way into your mouth (biting nails, preparing food).
But the biggest difficulty I’ve had in the whole nailcare arena? NAIL POLISH REMOVER. The traditional neon colored acetone nail polish remover that I grew up with is not exactly ideal for your health— because think about it, it doesn’t only touch your nails; it gets all over your fingers while using it.
Here are my favorites + notes about each:
Sundays Nail Studio: 10-free, vegan, non-toxic. Gorgeous assortment of colors that are most similar to Essie in terms of options, super easy application (I like the brush best!), and the staying power is I think better than traditional polishes! My favorite lately is this gorgeous mauve color for fall. They also have two nail studios in NYC and I highly recommend them if you’re ever here— such a pretty and soothing environment!
Kure Bazaar: I recently discovered this brand through The Detox Market during an event and it became a huge favorite. They remind me of Chanel (no surprise, it’s also a Parisian brand) in their bottle design + color family— think bold, bright, yet classic. They are also the makers of my #1 pick for natural polish remover (t’s based in bamboo + ginger) and top coat polish that makes your nails look like gel! My only thing to note here about their polish I’ve noticed is that it is like super amazing in staying power for the first like 5-7 days, but then absolutely falls apart, and it is also quite expensive— so it’s a good gifting item for sure!
Nail Polish Remover- Kure Bazaar has my favorite but it is a bit ridiculously expensive. I’ve used this other one before, but I gotta say— with the cheaper alternative, I have to really put some elbow grease into it whereas the Kure Bazaar one is much less work. I’ve also heard good things about this one.
Foundation + Concealers
100% Pure: I use their Second Skin foundation ($46) and it’s the perfect one for me— it is comparable to the famous Giorgio Armani silk foundation in terms of feel. I have to layer it because it’s not full coverage, but I prefer it this way for everyday use. They also have other fuller coverage ones, but this is my favorite. I also use their concealer ($29)for under my eyes (it’s lighter coverage because that’s all I need, so I’d recommend Vapour for something heavier)
Vapour Beauty: They have the biggest spectrum of skintone shades in the clean beauty realm, and I love that inclusivity. Their liquid ($54) and stick ($46) foundations are super moisturizing (a little rich for me for everyday use and I can get shiny) but great coverage— I’d highly recommend for people with dry skin and those that like facial oils. Their stick concealer ($25) is one of my favorites for travel, with no worries of it exploding in my bag!
Sappho: I was thrilled to find a natural foundation that didn’t have coconut oil in it (hugely problematic for my acne-prone skin and most derms don’t recommend it for problematic skin) and I used Sappho every day during the summer. Loved the feel of this one, not too matte but not at all shiny, and a solid medium coverage. I use the Kate shade ($54).
Blushes + Highlighters
100% Pure: I use their powder blush ($36) and their cream highlighters ($26) nearly every day since discovering it. Their shimmer for the highlighter is not made of heavy metals / synthetics like most are, and I love the ‘healthy’ shade of the blush for a natural, everyday feel. Also, it’s highly pigmented (from fruits) so a little goes a very long way!
Kosas: They make awesome duos ($34) that remind me of NARS cheek duos. Great for travel and if you want to try out a smaller size.
Ilia: Their multi-stick ($34) is super cute and easy to throw in that gym bag to continue that post-workout glow. Their shades remind me of Laura Mercier’s neutrals!
Vapour: They have a lip + cheek stick tint ($36) that is great for minimizing that makeup bag— it’s super creamy and moisturizing.
Eyeliners + Mascaras + Eyeshadows + Brows
Liquid Liner: I only use Zuzu Luxe. It’s the only thing that hasn’t smudged everywhere— sure it’s not waterproof, but it lasts so well. I have it in Raven (black), Azure, and Nile for fun!
Mascara: To be honest, W3ll People is the only one that works for me (to give you a reference point, I used to use Buxom— I prefer a brush that separates like this). Ilia and Juice Beauty smeared eeeeeverywhere on me. I’ve heard good things about RMS, but be warned- it contains wheat protein, so for those gluten-sensitive, I’d stay away. 100% Pure also makes a fruit pigmented one I’ve been meaning to try!
Brows: I just use 100% Pure’s Brow Builder ($22)— my favorite I’ve tried so far.
Lip Product + other makeup brands I love + comparisons to traditional brands:
Kari Gran for basics— I cannot rave enough about her Lip Whip. I use the peppermint tinted ($16) and I panic if it’s not in my bag!
Kjaer Weis (think YSL / Lancome) for classic lips
Ilia (think Laura Mercier) for eyeshadow palettes (noted though their mascara was awful for me, I looked like a raccoon).
Where I shop for clean beauty IRL / online
If my million links weren’t enough 🤣All I wanted back in 2014 was basically a clean version of Sephora. Thankfully now there are a bunch of easy places like Credo Beauty and The Detox Market (my 2 favorites!) and Whole Foods is also an amazing place to find clean, non-toxic products (and they do an annual beauty event in the spring with amazing deals!). Even stores like Nordstrom, Free People, Anthropologie, and Urban Outfitters are getting on the clean product train, so it’s so much easier than it used to be.