A little like natural wine, “clean beauty” is hard to define. Generally speaking, it refers to beauty brands who have dropped harsher, harmful ingredients, and in some cases, plastic packaging, in favour of cleaner, more sustainable beauty.
Dirty words like parabens, oxybenzone, fragrances, and sulphates are the enemy of your bathroom routine, and natural beauty buzzwords like non-toxic, plant-based, vegan, cruelty-free, and organic are your new self-care heroes.
While moving on from plastic and chemicals is a journey for the world of makeup and skincare—clean beauty brands are really making waves with cult products that work an absolute treat and are low-impact on the environment. Along with the natural ethos, these labels are also championing natural beauty with no-makeup makeup, skincare-style makeup, and inclusive colourways.
So to that end, here are six stand-out clean beauty brands and the hero products I reckon will totally rock your world.
100% vegan and free from scary things like parabens, sulfates, SLS, SLES, formaldehyde, mineral oil, or talc—NYC-born Milk Makeup is the fun clean beauty brand you need to get around. Their ethos is centred on high quality meets low maintenance—and the products really do deliver, with many in the line achieving cult status. "When it comes to clean, there is no universal definition," says Milk Makeup co-founder Dianna Ruth. "We will continue to monitor the ever-changing guidelines to ensure we’re constantly evolving and holding ourselves accountable to the highest standards.” Milk currently donates 1% of its own website sales to The Center, an LGBTQIA+ community center in downtown NYC.
Must try: The Vegan Milk Cleanser ($46) and Vegan Milk Moisturiser ($59) are on high rotation for me. The cleanser is gentle enough for sensitive skin and non-drying. And while the moisturiser is on the thicker side, it creates an amazing dewy base for make up.
Props for ultra-cool packaging and branding—Kosas is an instant eye-catcher. Created by LA-based painter Sheena Yaitanes, Kosas operates within the makeup-as-skincare world, treating your skin as opposed to just covering it up. Naturally, Kosas products are free of nasties with 2,700 ingredients banned from the range.
Must-try: There is a lot to love in this range (the bronzer, pigmented lipsticks, creme blush, and wet-look glosses are all epic), but Kosas' Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer ($40) is a smash hit. Part concealer, part eye cream, it's super moisturising and blends easily into your skin. I've repurchased this one several times. Special shout-out goes to the new Air Brow Fluff and Hold treatment gel ($31). Packed with goodies to help your brows grow, it acts as a brow tint but has enough hold to give you that laminated look too.
Created by Rose Marie Swift, RMS Beauty is somewhat of a veteran in the clean makeup space, delivering organic,easy-to-use, minimalist, award-winning products since 2009. When she created RMS, Swift hoped her innovations would inspire the industry towards a more sustainable future and that "eventually the clean beauty industry will just become…the beauty industry."
Must-try: While the RMS Beauty Oil ($139) is a staple for many skincare fiends, I think there are better oils out there at this price point. The RMS Luminizer highlighter ($62), however, is a catch. It's the ultimate glow-up offering a sheer, luminous glow using skin-loving organic oils.
Launched in 2012, Bite Beauty's cult lipsticks are natural, organic, vegan, cruelty-free, and gluten-free. They're a firm favourite with makeup fiends around the world for their creamy, long-wearing, and hydrating formula—a formula that's packed with things like vitamin A and C-rich passionflower oil, coconut oil, and sunflower seed wax. Bite has since branched out into primer, foundation, liquid blush, mascara, and more—all well worth adding to your clean beauty arsenal.
Must-try: While Bite's lipsticks are exceptional, I'm currently loving the Changemaker Supercharged Micellar Foundation ($62). It's light like a tinted moisturiser, but buildable enough to offer medium coverage. It gives you a subtle dewy glow and feels like a dream on your skin. This is absolutely one of the best clean foundations around right now.
Lilah B. founder Cheryl Yannotti Foland follows a less is more philosophy—believing a natural, polished healthy glow can and should be achieved with just a few simple products. Amen to that. Everything in her range is free from parabens, sulfates, and gluten, and instead filled with aloe and natural botanicals.
Must-try: Rolling with the fewer products is more vibe, the luxurious Lilah B. All Glow Priming oil ($132) acts as a serum, moisturiser, and primer in one. Filled with a rich trio of tamanu, jojoba, and sweet almond oil, it's a real treat for your skin.
If you're ready to invest in the clean beauty realm, take a look at Kjaer Weiss. Danish makeup artist Kristen Kjaer Weiss created her eponymous range of simplified, luxurious, organic makeup because she believed her clients were sacrificing the health of their skin using irritating, synthetic makeup. And while KW is definitely on the pricier side, all products are available in refill sizes—meaning you can top up powders, eye shadows, oils, and foundation at a fraction of the cost and without tossing out packaging.
Must-try: The Kjaer Weiss "Beautiful Oil" is hands-down the most amazing face oil I have ever used. It's also the most expensive. Crafted in Italy and infused with a super potent mix of certified organic raw ingredients, it's a magic potion for bouncy, glowing skin.
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Image credit: Kosas, Milk Makeup, Kosas, RMS Beauty, Bite Beauty, Lilah B., Kjaer Weiss
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