makeupThis post on non-toxic makeup originally appeared at LearnVest.com.

At LearnVest, we believe in investing in your health. Eating right, getting the necessary checkups and taking time for yourself all pay dividends down the road.

But sometimes the information out there about what’s actually good for you can be confusing. Take beauty products, for example: We’ve all heard of “green” cosmetics. But is it worth shelling out more for organic lipstick? What’s all the fuss about parabens? And could the makeup you wear every day actually be hurting you at the same time it’s beautifying you?

Today we tackle green and toxin-free makeup—to help you get to the bottom line about natural and organic beauty.

The Pink Ribbon Conundrum

It’s a timely topic—October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and major cosmetics companies are rolling out products branded with pink ribbons, even as it’s becoming clear that certain ingredients in products we use every day may increase our risk of developing breast cancer.

According to the Environmental Working Group, “Nearly 90 percent of the 10,500 ingredients the FDA has determined are used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the CIR, the FDA or any other publicly accountable institution.” Many of these ingredients, which are known carcinogens, have been linked to breast cancer. Further complicating matters, the United States currently has no system in place to regulate potentially toxic ingredients in cosmetics, although a bill has just been introduced. (More on that below.)

With one in eight American women predicted to develop breast cancer over her lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society, odds are the disease will impact someone you know. That’s why we believe it’s worth looking a little deeper into the products we use every day.

Let’s go take a peek in your makeup drawer, and find out what you need to know to go natural the LearnVest way: wisely and affordably.

The ABCs of Organic Beauty

1. Read the Label

Every makeup product has a list of ingredients, and there are a few red flags that should make you think twice about buying that mascara. Namely, ingredients like “phthalate,” “sulfate,” “paraben,” “triclosan” or “toluene,” listed as either a stand-alone ingredient, or as part of a longer-named ingredient, means you can be sure this product isn’t safe for your health, no matter how natural it claims to be. For more details on how to tell green from “greenwashing”—a phenomenon in which companies trump up their green claims with false labeling—read our post on the subject.

2. Look It Up

You don’t have to commit a list of suspect ingredients to memory. This is such a hot topic, there are two different websites where you can look up the ingredients in your favorite products and get a quick and dirty rating in the form of a single number. The Skin Deep database, by the Environmental Working Group, focuses on personal care items, while Good Guide rates just about every household product out there, and even has a smartphone version by the same name that lets you scan the barcodes of a product you’re considering right in the store aisle. 

3. Support the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

As it stands now, the FDA has no power to evaluate or approve ingredients before they make it into the products you use every day, which is why carcinogenic and hazardous ingredients are in our mascaras, foundations and lipsticks, even in items that are supposed to support the fight against breast cancer (that’s called “pinkwashing”). If this bothers you, you can do something about it. A bill has been introduced to close some loopholes in how companies list their ingredients. To support its passage, go to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website and learn more.

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4. Find Trustworthy Brands You Like

Unfortunately, every single drugstore brand of makeup has at least one of the offending ingredients listed above in some or all of their products. You can look your favorite brand up in one of the websites mentioned above to find their safer offerings. Or you can save yourself time and stress by finding a quality brand of makeup that you love and trust with your health. (Find out other ways to take care of your skin; read this.)

Not all non-toxic makeup is created equal—or exactly like what you’re used to—so we took the time to test six toxin-free lines and reveal our pick for their product we think is most worth the investment. In other words, these picks for everything from lipstick to foundation aren’t just great for being safe, they’re just plain great.

Lavera

In Europe, there are actually stricter regulations for which ingredients can go in your makeup. This German skin and makeup company has exported its high standards to the US with its line of organic, cruelty-free and vegan makeup products. It’s a relief to actual recognize the ingredients on the label!

Price Range: From $14.50 for eyeliner to $25 for mineral powder

Executive Editor Carrie Sloan says: “I’ve never worn organic makeup before, but the foundation smells pleasantly lemony and goes on light and natural, giving me great coverage with a dewy finish. I’m a convert!”

$22.50 at Lavera.com, or your local Whole Foods

Juice Beauty

After learning that your skin absorbs 60% of what’s placed on it, Karen Behnke, who was pregnant with her first child at the time, created Juice: A brand of makeup and skincare products that uses 98% USDA certified organic ingredients.

Price range: From $12 for eyeshadow to $35 for foundation

Editorial assistant Gabrielle Karol says: “I like the blush in organic fig. It’s a nice bronze color—not too rosy—and gives me a healthy glow!”

$16 at JuiceBeauty.com, your local Whole Foods or your local Ulta

Afterglow Cosmetics

This line of makeup has an impressive colorwheel of rich hues for its lipsticks and eyeshadows, not surprising with founder Kristin Adams’ background in fine art and color theory. All Afterglow products are cruelty free, and there are even options for those of you who are vegans.

Price range: From $18 for the eyeshadows to $32 for the organic mineral foundation

Deputy Editor Allison Kade says: “I really like the under eye concealer. It blends well and is creamier than what most other regular brands offer.”

$29 at AfterglowCosmetics.com or at your local Whole Foods

Gabriel Cosmetics

The founder of Gabriel draws his inspiration for this natural and cruelty-free brand from memories of his grandmother concocting traditional remedies from the sea. His modern versions all involve those same healing ingredients … only created in consultation with biochemists.

Price range: From $12 for the lip and eyeliner to $28 for the liquid foundation

Senior Editor Laura Shin says: “I love the lipstick. It goes on smoothly, feels nice, and the colors are amazing.”

$16.75 at GabrielCosmeticsInc.com or your local Whole Foods.

Alima Pure

Alima Pure really does live up to its name with its ladylike line of mineral makeup. Its eyeshadows, which come in subtle, shimmery colors perfect for daytime, score a perfect 10 on GoodGuide—that’s practically unheard of.

Price range: From $11 for eyeshadows and eyeliners to $29 for the kitten makeup brush

LV Moms Editor Cheryl Lock says: “The satin matte powder foundation gave me more coverage than I would expect from something so lightweight. And the eco-friendly brush I applied it with is so soft.”

$22 at AlimaPure.com

Jane Iredale

You’ll find anything you could ever desire in this professional grade line of mineral makeup, from lip glosses to kits stocked with brushes and an array of eye colors. If you’re serious about your makeup routine, and not just dabbling in green, this is the brand for you.

Price range: From $11 for an eyeliner pencil to $52 for pressed base powder

Account Manager Corey Laffel says: “I never wear lip color, but I got so many compliments when I tried the red dual lip stain and gloss that it’s changed my mind. Plus it smells really nice.”

$30 at JaneIredale.com or Nordstrom.com

More From LearnVest

To find out how to buy safe, consciously and green in every aspect of your life, read our guide.

You’ve detoxified your makeup drawer, now detoxify your cleaning supply closet. Read this.

Photo credits: Top – jerine on Flickr; Headshots – Trevor Wilson