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With all the pollution, stress, and blue light we’re exposed to these days, a solid skincare routine has never been more important.
Unfortunately, many of the cheap skincare products in the drugstore include reef-killing chemical sunscreens, microbead-laden facial scrubs, and artificially-fragranced moisturizers. They are affordable, but often have negative effects on the environment and the people making them. And because the industry is so poorly-regulated, companies are able to include harmful chemicals in the products they market as clean.
So, how do we find products that are good for the environment, our wallets, and our skin? Whether you’re on the hunt for a cleanser, a moisturizer, or a sunscreen, there’s a few things to look out for.
What to look for in clean and nontoxic skincare brands:
Natural and non-toxic ingredients. Read the ingredients list carefully. Go for brands that use natural, plant and mineral-based ingredients. Stay away from toxins like parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, and sulfates. These are harmful to us, the environment, and the people making them, and many have been linked to cancer.
Cruelty-free. Choose brands that don’t test their products on animals. Opt for vegan products where possible.
Third party certifications. The beauty and skincare industry unfortunately has a lot of greenwashing. Don’t take claims like “organic”, “natural”, and “eco-friendly” at face value. Look out for certifications like Leaping Bunny, USDA Organic, and ECOCERT. Overall certifications like B Corporation are a plus too.
Fair labor. As always, make sure you make sure the brand is following fair labor practices. Go for local brands that provide information about their workers, or look out for labels like Fair Trade and SA8000.
Transparency. Choose brands that prioritize transparency in their supply chains. Do they tell you where and how they sourced their ingredients, and how your skincare products were made? Detailed sustainability reports are a big plus.
Sustainable packaging. Buy from brands that are using either recyclable or biodegradable packaging made from natural or recycled materials. Choose reusable/refillable containers where you can. Less is definitely more when it comes to packaging.
Here are some of our favorite affordable and non-toxic skincare brands:
100% Pure’s cruelty-free skincare line is made of natural ingredients that are free of toxic parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances. The products are naturally pigmented using fruits, veggies, tea, and cocoa, avoiding commonly used chemical colorants and heavy-metal dyes. The products are packaged in glass, post-consumer recycled packaging, and BPA- and phthalate-free plastics.
Price range: $7 – $72
Over 95% of Burt’s Bees’ ingredients are natural, and its skincare line is carefully formulated without phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, or petrolatum. Its products are Leaping Bunny certified, which means none of its products have been tested on animals. The brand is Carbon Neutral certified and offsets its annual water consumption through watershed restoration projects. The Burt’s Bees Foundation has given over $3.5 million in grants to support honeybee health and diversity. The Bakuchiol Serum is a great product for the summer — bakuchiol is a natural alternative to retinol, and by nature is much more gentle.
Price range: $1.99 – $48.76
OSEA carries a wide variety of cleansers, moisturizers, toners, masks, and more—all of which are made of non-toxic, vegan ingredients. The brand’s signature ingredient is sustainably-harvested seaweed, a superfood that is packed with minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 fats. Almost all its products are packaged in glass bottles, and it also has a recycling program in LA.
Price range: $18 – $198
Zincuta makes one product, but it makes it well. Its signature Zincuta Ointment is a specialty skin cream that is used to heal and bring relief to skin conditions like chafes, burns, sores, bites, psoriasis, and eczema (amongst others). It is made in Brooklyn, New York, and only contains natural ingredients, which include lavender, beeswax, bergamot, and zinc oxide.
Price range: $12.50 – $39.95
booni doon is a zero waste clean skincare brand and its products are handcrafted in the US. Its signature vegan CALM cleansing capsules are easy to travel with and are single-use portioned to limit waste. The capsules are made from tapioca-derived starch which dissolves easily in water, resulting in an easy-to-use, zero-waste product. For its packaging, the brand uses reusable glass and bamboo containers—the glass is recyclable and the bamboo lids are compostable. Bonus: It offers carbon-free shipping within the US.
Price range: $32 – $38
Acure stocks everything from cleaners and scrubs, to moisturizers and serums, and hydro-gels and face masks. It’s products are 100% vegan, plus paraben-, sulfate-, mineral oil- and formaldehyde-free, and don’t undergo animal testing. Acure products are manufactured in the US in facilities that are audited by the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit.
Price range: $4.89 – $65.99
Meow Meow Tweet is a Brooklyn-based, small-batch skincare company that is a certified B corporation. Its affordable range of skincare products is made using natural, plant and mineral-based, organic ingredients, and the packaging is either compostable or recyclable. Meow Meow Tweet’s products are meant “for all bodies” — the brand doesn’t have separate lines for women and men.
Price range: $5 – $20
Gua Sha is at the core of Wildling’s philosophy and skincare products, and the brand is all about reconnecting with nature. Gua Sha has roots in ancient Chinese medicine and has been used for centuries to relieve muscle tension, boost the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase circulation. Wildling works with local farms and global fair-trade communities to source wild foraged plants which are extracted with minimal processing following traditional herbal practices. The brand uses glass packaging which is reusable and recyclable, and the products are shipped in compostable shipping materials.
Price range: $39 – $149
Farm-to-face skincare brand Farmacy Beauty sources its raw ingredients from organic, family-owned farms in Southern California and Northeast Brazil. The brand even started its own certified organic, non-GMO partnership with regenerative farms in the Hudson Hemp farm network. Its range of products is made from natural ingredients and is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and formaldehyde.
Price range: $6 – $68