Do you know the number of chemicals you put on your skin every day? Unfortunately, cosmetics in the U.S. can contain a number of toxic ingredients that could be harmful to your health. Here are 10 clean beauty makeup swaps you can make right now to keep your skin safe.
I don't know about you, but I found those numbers alarming.
More alarming though is the wildly relaxed approach the FDA takes towards reviewing and monitoring how those chemicals are used in U.S. cosmetics and disclosed on product labels. For example, the European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals commonly found in makeup. By contrast, the FDA has banned or restricted only 11 in total.
The FDA's approach to the use of these chemicals is essentially innocent until proven guilty.
Thankfully, a corner of the U.S. makeup and cosmetics market has committed to higher safety standards than the FDA requires. Clean beauty brands, like Beautycounter, as well as other organizations, like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), are working hard to help consumers make safer makeup and skincare choices.
With product verification resources like EWG's Skin Deep, ingredient information has never been more accessible to consumers. But where to start? Whether you shop your local drugstore, Sephora, or online, it can still be difficult to feel confident in your understanding of what's truly inside your makeup.
This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links, I may receive a commission at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.
What is clean beauty?
Clean beauty is typically defined as makeup and skincare products that are thoughtfully created and produced without including toxic ingredients. Sometimes, depending on the brand, this can also include ingredients that are ethically and sustainably sourced.
Above all else, when we talk about clean beauty, we're talking about prioritizing safety over source. For example, “natural” ingredients like lead are not safe. Likewise, not all synthetic ingredients are unsafe.
So, while the term “clean beauty” is not regulated, it speaks to a wide group of brands and products that fall under an umbrella of nuanced commitments to our safety as well as our planet's safety.
Use these 10 clean beauty makeup swaps to overhaul your makeup bag's most problematic products. These swaps are so easy to make you can start right now or upgrade as you replace or add new makeup products to your beauty routine. Either way, you'll feel more confident about the products you rely on every day.
Choosing Safe Eye Makeup
The skin around our eyes is sensitive, so choosing safe eye makeup is so important. Otherwise, you could put yourself at risk for a variety of skin irritations and allergic reactions, like swelling, rashes or itching.
Here are some clean eye makeup swaps to consider:
1. Ditch Old Mascara Tubes for a New Clean Mascara Formula
Tubes of mascara should be replaced every 2 to 4 months, so this swap is quick and painless. If you're like me, you probably look for a mascara formula that doesn't clump, stays smudge-free while wearing, but is easy to remove at the end of the day. Whether you're after a volumizing mascara or a lengthening mascara, this swap is simple.
I love these clean beauty mascara formulas because not only do they deliver on all of those requirements, but they also include nourishing plant-based ingredients that actually condition your lashes!
2. Trash Eyeshadow Palettes & Eye Pencils With Unsafe Color Additives
The good news about eye makeup: the FDA has regulations around color additives.
Here's the bad news: despite these regulations, the eye products in your bag may still display this rather ironic safety disclaimer in the fine print:
“Not intended for use in the immediate eye area.”
Yes, you read that right. It's up to you as the consumer to read the fine print on your products. Even when the product is specifically sold to you as eye makeup.
Luckily, there are safer clean eyeshadow palette alternatives. This classic eyeshadow palette is the perfect option for beautiful everyday looks–it's filled with buttery neutrals and nudes that look great on every complexion.
If you're looking for something a little more suited to event-worthy smoky eyes, this romantic eyeshadow palette is the perfect mix of elegance and sparkle. I love that the shades in this palette are suited to all skin tones. They bring a little glamor without being over the top.
Finally, this EWG-verified eye pencil (with a smudging tip) comes in a handful of universally flattering shades. It's well-loved for its beautiful long-lasting formula and creamy consistency–no eye primer required! The application is super smooth, so you don't need to worry about fussing with an uneven first sweep.
3. Tame Brows With Eye-Safe Brow Gel & Clean Brow Pencils
Taming unruly brows can almost instantly pull a look together, even if you've spent less than 5 minutes getting ready!
Because this product is used relatively close to your eyes, it really needs to be vetted for clean ingredients. These safe brow formulas make prepping beautiful face-framing brows a snap. Whether you prefer a brow gel or a brow pencil, these easy-to-apply formulas are built for quick brows. And with ingredients like cocoa seed butter, shea butter, and coconut oil, I feel good about these products going on my skin.
The Best Clean Foundations, Concealers & Other Face Makeup For Healthy Skin
Makeup products that fall into the “face makeup” category, like foundation and concealer, are particularly prone to contain dangerous ingredients like ethanolamines (also noted as MEA, DEA, and TEA) and parabens. They're often used in these products because they can help prevent bacteria growth, but they're also both noted as hormone disruptors and can contribute to allergic reactions.
Here are some clean makeup swaps for your face products:
4. Swap Foundation & Concealer for Paraben-Free Formulas
This category of products is likely to receive the largest daily application, so it's important you're choosing a safe paraben-free and ethanolamine-free formula.
If you prefer light coverage, this clean tinted moisturizer could be the perfect choice for you. It's a great mix of lightweight hydration and SPF 20 protection. The coverage is beautiful–there's no risk of any caked-on looks here, just natural dewy-looking skin. And it also delivers a mix of ingredients like vitamin C, black currant, and peony flower root extract, that encourage firmer and smoother skin.
If you're looking for a little extra coverage for dark circles, blemishes or redness, this clean concealer pen offers buildable medium-level concealing that provides flawless coverage now as well as ingredients that help to reduce the look of fine lines in the future. As with the tinted moisturizer, this concealer provides a beautifully natural and long-lasting look.
For flexible coverage, this tint skin hydrating foundation can't be beat. It's both buildable and natural-looking, and the way you apply it gives you full control over your level of coverage. And it's packed with sodium hyaluronate, which helps promote hydration and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. The final look? Light, smooth and glowing, just as your skin should be.
5. Choose Skin-Safe Blush & Bronzers to Give You a Natural Glow
Most of us turn to blush or bronzer for a natural glow, even if it's been months since we've seen summer sun or a warm sandy beach! This is one of my most reached for products day in and day out because I'll wear it with or without foundation. I've always found it's a quick way to pull together a polished look. That said, not all blush and bronzer formulas are skin-safe. Like other face makeup products, you might find parabens along with other toxic ingredients in your formulas.
Finding a great blush that's skin-safe can be tricky–getting that perfect flush that still looks natural is no small feat! This satin powder blush is a beautiful clean makeup swap that delivers all that, plus is buildable, buttery smooth for blending and long-wearing. My glow actually lasts all day! I love the Date and Nectar shades. Nectar is similar to NARS Orgasm (for those who swear by that cult favorite).
If you can't go a day without your sun-kissed glow, this clean bronzer is a safe makeup swap to consider. It's buildable with just a touch of shimmer–perfect for both your face and body. Much like some of the eyeshadow palettes already mentioned, this formula is buttery smooth for blending. It delivers just the right amount of pigment for that beautiful back-from-the-beach look.
Clean Beauty Makeup Swaps for Lipstick & Lip Gloss
There might be some nasty ingredients hiding in that little lippy you keep stashed in your purse. Common questionable ingredients in lip products include butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene, as well as toxic heavy metals like lead.
While the FDA has decided that lip products containing less than 10 ppm lead are “safe,” the CDC has stated that there is no safe blood lead level. And just in case you were thinking this only applies to drugstore brands, it doesn't. The FDA lead analysis studies didn't discriminate. Among the highest ppm were products by NARS and other high-end brands.
Here are some great clean beauty makeup swaps for any lipsticks or lip glosses sitting in your makeup bag or purse:
6. Choose Safe Lip Glosses & Lip Sticks
Perfect lip products are hard to come by–sometimes too sticky, or not long-lasting. It can be so difficult to find a formula that's both safe and great to wear.
This sheer lipstick offers the most beautiful wash of sheer color, which is moisturizing as well! I keep Twig in my purse and use it as a lip balm, but I'm also loving the Rosewood shade in this limited-edition lip trio. This sheer formula is ultra-smooth and hydrating, thanks to the jojoba and carnauba wax. Best of all–no synthetic fragrances!
If you prefer a more intense lip color, this creamy best-selling color intense lipstick is a great choice. The formula is super moisturizing, and the color is long-wearing–almost like a lip stain! I love Backstage for an everyday nude shade, and I love 9 to 5 or BC Red for a darker shade. Sometimes highly pigmented formulas sacrifice durability or hydration, but this formula truly delivers a beautiful look that that lasts (without drying or caking).
If you're like to wear lip gloss on its own or as a lipstick topper, this clean lip gloss is a great choice. This safe formula delivers beautiful shine with no stickiness. It's hard to find a gloss that's not too sparkly or goopy, but there's no need to worry about that with this formula. Both moisturizing and high gloss, many of the shades are truly go with anything. (I love Bare Shimmer, Dahlia, and Rosewood.)
Clean Beauty Swaps That Help You Get A Better Makeup Application
It's not just the makeup in your makeup bag that poses a problem. It's also the products we use to prep our skin for makeup or the products we use to remove makeup at the end of the day. Makeup looks and wears best on properly hydrated and clean skin, so looking at your skincare and makeup removal products is also an important part of transitioning to a cleaner and safer makeup routine.
Here are some clean beauty makeup and skincare products to consider:
7. Choose Safe Moisturizers to Prep Your Skin
Moisturizers are one of the worst culprits for toxic ingredients. It's not uncommon to find benzalkonium chloride, oxybenzone, and PEGs (just to name a few) on your ingredient labels. These are all used widely in moisturizers to thicken, improve stability, and with oxybenzone, provide sun protection. Unfortunately, these ingredients are also linked to issues like skin allergies, irritation, possible hormone disruption, and organ toxicity. Yuck!
This hydrating essence is like a toner in its lightweight texture, but way more hydrating. It offers both an instant hydration boost prior to your makeup application and helps to renew and balance your skin with continued use. Your skin might look so radiant that you opt to skip the foundation altogether!
Similarly, this antioxidant soft cream helps to plump your skin and protect it from environmental stressors that you encounter throughout your day. I feel great that this moisturizer has the EWG stamp of approval! It goes on light and absorbs quickly for the perfect amount of moisture (even during cold, wintery days). It's a great base layer for makeup because the light texture won't cause any products layered over top to slide around during the day.
Applying eye makeup becomes infinitely easier once your skin is properly prepped for application with this renewal eye cream. It decreases the puffiness and dark circles around my eyes and fills in any little lines and wrinkles–which makes eyeliner and shadow application a breeze.
8. Clean Lip Prep Products to Help You Achieve the Perfect Pout
Achieving the perfect pout requires more than a great lip color. It also requires great lip prepping products that moisturize and remove any flaky skin.
Full coverage lipstick and high-intensity lip glosses are easiest to apply over exfoliated and hydrated lips. This limited-edition pout perfecter lip care set includes a polish, balm and lip gloss. The lip scrub makes your lips soft, and the balm is so moisturizing. Top off your lip care routine with a little of the lip gloss and you've got yourself a simple everyday lip look!
If your lips need conditioning and extra moisture, this lip conditioner set is a great choice. It's perfect for soothing chapped lips. These formulas are closest to lip balm, with one featuring calendula balm and the other pot featuring peppermint balm. The texture isn't greasy or goopy, and the light natural scents are perfect for everyday wear.
9. Safe Makeup Remover to Prepare Your Skin for Sleep
No makeup routine is complete without considering your makeup remover. This is probably one of the least fun parts of a makeup routine, but also one of the most important! Makeup removers can be harsh, but these makeup removal products are gentle, soothing and work really well.
My favorite cleansing oil feels lightweight yet luxurious as it gently removes makeup without stripping away the essential protective barrier of your skin. Its ingredient list includes vitamin E, fatty acids and other ingredients formulated to help protect your skin's moisture barrier and promote a nourished complexion. This cleanser is gentle and effective, with no oily residue–it rinses off with water!
Removing eye makeup can be especially tricky, even if you're working with formulas that are not specifically waterproof. You don't want to tug or pull at this sensitive skin, but it's difficult to get eye products out of all the nooks and crannies! This best-selling eye makeup remover completely removes makeup with just a few swipes and is free of mineral oil or silicones. Perfect for those with sensitive eyes or wearers of contact lenses.
If you prefer a simple no-fuss one-step makeup removal routine, these remover wipes are a great choice. They clean and cleanse your skin in one go, and the aloe vera offers extra hydration. And for those worried about the environmental impacts of disposable wipes, these are biodegradable! Simply toss them in your home compost. These are perfect for late-night lazy face washing!
10. All-In-One Clean Beauty Makeup & Skin Prep Sets
And if picking out your clean beauty products piece by piece sounds like too much work, these all-in-one clean beauty makeup and skincare sets offer a quick and easy solution.
This flawless in five kit offers six safe beauty products to quickly round-out your makeup bag. You'll have your choice of either a hydrating foundation or tinted moisturizer, and you'll also get a concealer pen, brow pencil or gel, mascara, blush and lip gloss. This kit builder even helps you choose safe beauty products that are perfectly suited to your complexion. So easy!
This full Countertime regimen set is the perfect solution to an anti-aging skincare routine that works brilliantly AND perfectly prepares your skin for flawless makeup applications. This set includes the cleansing oil, hydrating essence, and soft cream, and a radiance serum and supreme cream.
This is the skin care regimen I love–I immediately fell head over heels with the improved look and feel of my skin after using these products. I use it along with this overnight resurfacing peel and brightening face oil–it leaves my skin refreshed, clean, bright and glowing.
Looking for more clean makeup swaps and safe skin care information?
As you can see, there's a lot to learn about clean makeup and skincare. If you want to learn more about how you can protect yourself, your family and your home from toxic ingredients, here are a few more posts to check out:
- How to Makeover Your Makeup in 5 Minutes
- How to Save on Clean Beauty Without a Coupon Code
- What You Really Need to Know About Safe Sunscreen Ingredients
- The 20 Ingredients You Need to Avoid in Skin Care
- The Clean Skin Care & Makeup Routine (That Actually Works!)
- The 5 Easiest Clean Home & Skin Care Swaps to Make Right Now
Want to learn more about safer makeup and skin care? Join my Clean Skin Care newsletter to learn more about choosing safer products for you and your home!