A little like natural wine, “clean beauty” is a fairly loosely defined. Very basically, it refers to beauty brands who have dropped the harsher, harmful chemicals in their recipes and, in some cases, plastic packaging in favour of cleaner, more sustainable beauty. Dirty beauty words, like parabens, oxybenzone, fragrances and sulphates are the enemy, and natural, non-toxic, plant-based, vegan, cruelty-free and organic are your new beauty heroes.
While it’s a journey for the beauty space—moving away from plastic and well-established industry-wide ingredients—some new players in the scene are really making waves with must-have cult products that work an absolute treat and are low-impact on the environment and your skin. And, along with the natural ethos, these labels are also championing natural beauty with no-makeup makeup, skincare-style makeup and inclusive rather than exhaustive colourways. All things I can definitely get behind.
So to that end, here are five stand-out clean beauty brands and the hero products I reckon will totally rock your world.
Shop: Net-A-Porter and MECCA
Props for packaging, props for branding—Kosas is an instant eye-catcher. Created by LA-based painter Sheena Yaitanes, Kosas operates in the interchangeable makeup as skincare space, and products are infused with goodies to dial up your experience of the product, both while it's slathered on your face and long after you wash it all off. 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 and creme blush are all epic), but Kosas' Tinted Face Oil is the label's OG hero ($53 at Net-A-Porter). Infused with six active botanicals, like rosehip, avocado and jojoba, it's a no-makeup makeup solution that will brighten, balance and hydrate your skin while you wear it. Self-adjusting pigments match your skin tone with ease too. Shop here.
Shop: Net-A-Porter and Mecca
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 is a staple for many skincare fiends, I found this to be a little too rich and overpowering for everyday use, especially in Australian weather. The RMS highlighter, however, is a catch. Called "Luminizer" ($60 at Net-A-Porter) it's the ultimate glow-up offering a sheer, luminous glow using skin-loving organic oils. Shop it here.
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.
Must-try: Bite has branched out into primer, foundation and pressed powder—but it is the brand's "Amuse Bouche" lipstick that really stands out. It's made with 12 edible oils like avocado, olive, sunflower seed and almond ($20 at Sephora). Shop it here.
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 on the less products is more vibe, the luxurious Lilah B. "Divine Duo" lip and cheek compact has you covered for a blendable, buildable healthy glow for lips, cheeks and even eyes. Win. ($39.60 in the Net-A-Porter sale). Shop it here.
If you're ready to really invest in the clean beauty vibe, 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.
More recently, KW released a "red-edition" range of compacts in recyclable and compostable packaging. Here's hoping it's introduced as a permanent fixture.
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, the proof is really in the pudding. I say if you're ready to treat yourself, go for it. If you want to sample something from the KW range that doesn't cost an arm and a leg but will still blow your mind, Kjaer Weiss lipglosses are lightly pigmented, luxurious lip treatments blended with hydrating and plumping castor and rosehip seed oils ($46 at Net-A-Porter). Shop the whole range here.
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Image credit: Kosas, Kosas, RMS Beauty, Lilah B., Bite Beauty, Kjaer Weiss