9 Natural Beauty Brands That Actually Work

A few years ago, I started modifying my beauty routine.

Little by little, I began replacing my old standby makeup and skincare products with ones that left a smaller carbon footprint, didn’t test on animals, and didn’t contain a perplexing amount of potentially dangerous chemicals.

Because here’s a creepy fact for you: the average woman absorbs 5 pounds of makeup into her skin every year. The skin is our body’s largest organ, and studies conducted over the past decade have found that a shocking level of what we apply topically gets absorbed into our bloodstream.

Long-term effects of these toxins can range from skin irritation and hormonal disruptions to friggin’ cancer. Parabens, SLS, phthalates, artificial fragrances, aluminum, pesticides, lead, and mercury – the list goes on and on and is filled with a bunch of names I can’t pronounce and now feel that I shouldn’t have to, because not only are they gross but they are also unnecessary.

Through an expensive series of trial and error, I have found some pretty incredible new favorite products by brands that are truly changing the way the game is played.

1. Tata Harper

Tata Harper is the epitome of her brand – beautiful, glowing, and of-the-earth. The majority of the flowers and herbs that serve as the foundation to her company’s products are grown on her certified organic, 1,200-acre farm in Vermont. I can’t help but picture this farm as being filled with magical garden fairies harvesting ingredients for her latest toner while singing joyful a cappella.

Beloved by Gwyneth Paltrow, Jessica Alba and Lake Bell, Tata Harper is a company with a powerhouse of celebrity endorsements behind it. And, to be honest, I usually do whatever Gwyneth Paltrow tells me to do, while silently hating her for it. Doesn’t everyone?

Try: Resurfacing Mask ($58). I know the price is a little steep, but it’s a splurge that is well worth it for super-glowing skin and, with weekly use, will last a reasonably long time. And garden fairies, duh.

2. Koh Gen Do

Japanese brand Koh Gen Do definitely has a cult following. I actually first started using it a couple of years ago when, while binge-watching Community, I got completely preoccupied with how gorgeous Britta’s (aka Gillian Jacobs) skin is.

After a quick Google search, I found an interview with her makeup artist, who talked about her devotion to the company’s Maifanshi Moisture Foundation. I also discovered that my longtime/lifetime girl-crush, Jaime King, uses the their amazing Cleansing Water.

I have honestly been more loyal to those two products than any other skincare items in my life. Adding to the fact that Koh Gen Do doesn’t test on animals, use synthetic pigments or artificial fragrances, and is botanically based, you really can’t go wrong.

Try: Maifanshi Aqua Foundation ($62). Again, steep I know, but please bear with me. This foundation is transformative, beauty crack for your complexion, formulated with minerals from the deep waters of Bretagne, France (fancy!).

Cleansing Water ($39): If you’re anything like me, sometimes the task of actually washing your face with soap and water is super daunting. One pump of this will clean your whole face without drying it out. It’s formulated with white birch sap, harvested only three weeks each spring, and is filled with minerals and xylitol (sugar+alcohol).

3. RMS Beauty

Rose-Marie Swift is an extremely well-known makeup artist who has been in the biz for over 35 years (she can name Vogue, Miranda Kerr, and Louis Vuitton as just a few of her clients). She founded RMS Beauty after a slew of tests showed her blood contained toxic levels of mercury, lead, pesticides, aluminum and other nasty crap. She’s never looked back.

Try: Lip and Skin Balm (25.00) in Simply Vanilla. RMS sources the vanilla in this scent straight from Madagascar. This award-winning product is the perfect size to toss in your purse and apply on the lips, around the eyes, or wherever the brutal winter air is throwing your skin out of whack. Also doubles as an awesome highlighter, and is great for traveling.

4. BeautyCounter

Ah, I love BeautyCounter. The great thing about this brand is that you can pay a nominal fee (29 bucks) and become a member, upon which you’ll get free shipping and 15 percent off your order for a year. The brand is also a major player in fighting for stricter regulations in the beauty industry. On their website, you can find their “Never List”, which includes a condensed version of the over 1,500 chemicals that are banned in the European Union, but commonly found in makeup and skincare in the United States.

Try: Charcoal Cleansing Bar ($24). This bar is as beautiful and basic as its name. Its key ingredients include organic green tea, charcoal powder, and coconut oil. I’m always skeptical of bar soaps, but a friend gave me the tip that you can cut it into pieces in order to make it last longer.

5. Kiss My Face

Kiss My Face is a super accessible brand (you can find it in almost any Whole Foods). It’s also one of the oldest “natural” companies, as it was formed almost three decades ago by a couple of farmer dudes selling bar soaps at the Union Square Farmer’s Market in NYC.

I actually love all their products, but I am here to talk about their deodorant. I have spent an absurd amount of money trying to find the perfect aluminum-free deodorant, and this one wins for me. Seriously, if you swap out one item in your beauty routine for a natural alternative, deodorant should be it. Studies have found a link between aluminum and breast cancer.

Even scarier, when studies in mice found a link between aluminum and tumors, the tumors they found were ones that metastasized throughout the body. Some researchers have even gone as far as to link the risk to that of asbestos, so I’m good on anything to do with aluminum, thanks.

Try: Liquid Rock Roll on Deodorant in Peaceful Patchouli ($5.99). This is the scent that works for me (I can’t speak to the other ones). Even my husband thinks it smells great, and it lasts me from morning to night, with a Pure Barre class sometimes thrown in between. Gluten-free, vegan etc., etc.

6. Kahina Giving Beauty

Kahina Giving Beauty’s founder, Katharine L’Heureux, is committed to running an eco-friendly business, so everything from the ingredients to the packaging in Kahini Giving Beauty’s products are sustainably sourced…

Now, let’s talk argan oil. I literally spent years of my life fighting off persistent acne with every acne-fighting brand I could find. Finally, an aesthetician told me that my skin wasn’t oily — it was just super dry (that knowledge would have saved me a few years of hell in high school, thanks ProActiv). I started using argan oil daily instead of a cream moisturizer or acne treatment and it’s literally like the clouds opened up and my skin was free.

Try: Argan Oil ($36). Do you want clear, glowing skin and a powerhouse product that doubles as a hair serum? Here ya go, you’re welcome! Filled with Vitamin E and antioxidants, this pure, organic, fair-trade argan oil is made up on just one, perfect ingredient. It also lasts forever. Believe the hype – argan oil is the real deal. Unfortunately, you need to be careful about sourcing in order to have the best quality, so this price is justified.

7. Josie Maran Cosmetics

Josie Maran’s motto is “Luxury With a Conscience.” Former supermodel, activist and company founder Josie is all about women’s empowerment — and she practices what she preaches. She is partners with IMAGINE: A Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women (which is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative – Hi, Hillary!) in order to “empower disenfranchised women in developing countries to envision and create new possibilities for their lives by participating in a four-day personal agency training program called the Empowerment Workshop.”

As per the eco-friendly standard, all Josie Maran products are cruelty-free, sustainably-harvested, and without any toxic chemicals. Like Kahina Giving Beauty, argan oil is her shtick.

Try: Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee ($22). Long lasting and easy to apply, this potent little blush gives your cheeks a beautiful, dewy pop of color, and is great at both blending and building.

Whipped Argan Oil Body Butter in Red Rooibos ($35). I am obsessed with this scent, but all of them are pretty awesome. Seeing as I live in the uber-drying altitude of Colorado, it’s safe to say you should trust me when it comes to knowing the best moisturizers — and this one is perfection.

8. Yarok

Yarok rocks. Its name literally means “green” in Hebrew. Need I say more?

I searched high and low to find a natural shampoo and conditioner that didn’t either A) dry my hair out or B) leave a weird, greasy residue after it was rinsed out. Sans any awkward chemicals, Yarok is also into giving back — donating 3% of its annual earnings to The Pachamama Alliance, a non-proift that works to protect over 10 million acres of rainforests in the Amazon.

Try: FEED YOUR VOLUME shampoo & conditioner ($34) This duo is just all-around lovely, and leaves my dry, brittle hair feeling super clean and soft. Yarok uses some sort of 6-step purification process of rare volcanic minerals that I really don’t understand, but it sounds cool. Filled with essential oils and herbs, Yarok also smells like a forest in the springtime in the best way.

9. Vapour Organic Beauty

Vapour is super fun and full of life. I have a feeling it’s about to be the new “it” makeup brand, if it isn’t already.

The founders, Krysia Boinis and Kristine Keheley, consider the beauty and colors of Taos, New Mexico, as the inspiration for their product line, which is filled with depth and fearlessness. Their website even offers a handy “clean beauty swaps” guide for how you can replace your old products for Vapour’s healthier, cooler options. Vapour characterizes itself as the perfect blend of luxury and sustainability, with ingredients that are both organic and cruelty-free…yada yada yada, you get the drill by now…

Try: Siren Lipstick ($25). Filled with organic oils and botanicals including pomegranate, lemon balm, and jojoba, this lipstick is my all-time fav. It is one of the only lipsticks I have found that manages to be a perfect matte, but also super moisturizing and silky. It leaves my lips feeling soft and pretty with a gentle sheen, but without the awkward stickiness of a gloss.

Knockout 405 is going to be my go-to this Fall and Winter, but all of the colors are amazing. Disclaimer: If you like a sharp shine on your lips, you won’t like this. (This may be blasphemous to some makeup gurus, but I hate gloss anyway. Unless you’re in high school, trying to discourage some creep at the bar from trying to make out with you, or on reality TV, I just think lip gloss is kind of a weird product in general?)

A woman is running for president of the United States. Seriously ladies, we no longer need to be pawns of shitty regulations, dumb marketing and a beauty industry gone rogue. Fuck that. An informed consumer is a powerful consumer. The fact of the matter is, awesome alternatives are out there – companies that actually care about you and the world around them.

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