The Ultimate Guide to Green Makeup

By Melisse Gelula / September 7, 2011

Just what makes makeup “green”? Cosmetics that don’t have any chemical emulsifiers, binders, synthetics, fillers, or paraben preservatives and that use botanicals and minerals, says Jessa Blades, a professional green-makeup artist, based in New York City. (And some purists say this should also mean no talc, no animal products, and no bismuth oxychloride, a luster-lending mineral that may cause skin irritations.) “Green makeup does not have the chemical ingredients that make mascara waterproof or lipstick last all day, so you’ll have to reapply more often,” she says. “Long-wear products are a red flag.”


Photo credit: Jay Wennington via Snapwire

Of course, minerals are the cornerstone of many foundations, loose powders, eye shadows, and blushes—but don’t call them “organic”. The USDA only grants that term to food-grade cosmetic ingredients, if they meet the same strict farming and processing regulations used for, say, your Whole Foods apples and peaches. Minerals aren’t farmed or food. “No one can guarantee that minerals haven’t been exposed to chemicals while they’ve been in the earth for thousands of years,” explains Kayla Fioravanti, an organic formulator and founder of von Natur and Essential Wholesale Labs. The same goes for water and seaweed.

Right now what most brands call organic makeup is really a combination of minerals and non-toxic naturals, as well as a smattering of organically grown botanicals.


Afterglow Cosmetics just debuted new, gorgeous organic lip-glosses, eyeliners, and mineral shadows, but their remarkably natural Pure Soul Mascara ($21, is a perennial favorite thanks to its highly interpretable ingredients: Organic fructose (made from corn), wild-crafted candelilla wax, and loads of botanicals.

Lavera is one of the best-selling beauty lines in Germany, and their natural formulations have the seal of approval from the BDIH, which strictly regulates cosmetics. A simple black Eyeliner is made with organic beeswax and palm oil and Volumizing Mascara gets a boost from organic jojoba and rose ($28.50 for both,

Kroma is the brainchild of Florida makeup-artist Lee Tillett, whose chic cosmetics in refillable packaging leave no color untapped. There are 150 rich mineral shadows ($19,, plus four new gorgeous shades for fall (Picasso blue is sure to be a cult favorite), so let Tillett and her team custom match you. (They nailed my shades even via e-mail.)

Warm or cool? Those are the new, natural fall-color collections from Minerologie, a popular spa makeup line, which includes two Pressed Eye Shadow palettes with three-colors made to work together ( Sweet almond oil in the formulation gives lids a bit of hydration, and the pigments their staying power.

With E.L.F. Mineral Eye Liners ($3,, the mainstream, budget-conscious cosmetic line has defected to the natural side with twist-up, glide-on pencils containg “no parabens, chemical additives, or dyes” in recyclable packaging.

Josie Maran’s newest Mascara in brown ($22, is a paraben- and fragrance-free formula that contains a handful of organic ingredients like jojoba and argan oil to condition and strengthen, and beeswax to lengthen and define.


Niche natural products are still hard to find. That’s why GloLip Filler Pencil ($18, is a big deal. The lip primer ingeniously smoothes the lip line, preventing lipstick bleeding and feathering by imparting key hydrators. Wheat proteins and vegetal spheres fill in creases while hyaluronic acid draws moisture and ceramides lock it in.

A lip-loving debut from the comprehensive Australian cosmetics company Nvey Eco, which is certified organic by two Down Under regulatory bodies-an Organic Lip Exfoliator ($38, with finely ground cranberry seeds, and the Organic Lip Plumper ($40) with menthol and cinnamon bark.

Natural glosses, organic pencils, and demurely sized plant-based lipsticks are the forte Primitive Makeup, a line wholly dedicated to adding luster to lips. New fall standouts include Taj Mahal Natural Lipstick ($16,, a gorgeous gold, and a not-a-bit sticky berry gloss called St. Lucia ($18).

Proof that UltraPure founder and makeup artist Tracy Marshall thinks like a green chemist: Her new Omega Brilliance Lip Glosses ($18.95, and reformulated Lush lipsticks ($17.95) are made up of essential-fatty-acids, which help skin cells hold water and become more plump and supple. That’s a boon for lips, since they’re notoriously low on oil glands.

La Bella Donna Moisturizing Lip Sheer Baci Baci in Nude ($26.50, means no dry lips, and just a natural hint of color to accentuate your own, thanks to this hydrating hyaluronic acid-based clickable sheer.

Revolution Organics Freedom Gloss ($26, is a “revolutionary” 100-percent natural and 85-percent certified-organic gloss that comes in five lush colors.

One of the best beauty bargains is Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Natural Lip Gloss ($7 each,, which comes in two new shades, Juicy Peach and Sheer Lemon. Better still, the all-natural all-star glosses use castor-and-sunflower seed oil, same as pricier brands.

Sukicolor Luscious Lips Berry Cream Trio ($28, contains lip repair butter (made from organic jojoba and sunflower oils) and two berry-shade cream stains (also made with organic sunflower seed oil, as well as fair-trade shea butter, and non-GMO vitamin E) in a small, mirrored compact with a lip brush.


After 20 years as a traditional makeup artist (and resulting health problems), Rose-Mary Swift founded her line of chemical-free organic cosmetics. Her best-selling Living Luminizer ($38,, like the rest of her elegant yet unprocessed products, hearkens a raw food philosophy-organic and natural ingredients in their purest possible form.

An easy-to-read list of ingredients is often good indication of green chemistry. The rule applies to Von Natur Liquid Foundations ($38,, made with organic aloe and jojoba and loads of botanicals down to the organic-red-tea preservative system, also a beneficial antioxidant.

Korres Face Primer ($28, is a silicone-free complexion smoother that’s 99 percent natural, paraben-free, and a hot ticket from the popular Greek beauty line.

Don’t just call it a loose powder. Jane Iredale’s Amazing Base Mineral Foundation SPF 20 ($48,, one of the first mineral-makeup lines to launch in spas, is also a concealer, foundation, and sunscreen.

Dr. Hauschka Rouge Powder Duo in rose ($29.95,, containing minerals and biodynamic botanicals from this natural beauty stalwart, is easy to customize to your complexion-think summer to fall or day-to-night.

Organic Glam Liquid Shimmer Highlighter ($37, instant cheekbones, brow bone, all-around illuminator from Organic Pharmacy’s glamorous department.

BareEscentuals’ instructive “swirl, tap, buff” has become a dressing-table mantra for makeup-wearing women. New recruits can now sample the bestselling five mineral-formulation, BareMinerals SPF 15 Foundation, in the Newbie Complexion Kit ($18,

A Brush With Greatness

Depending on which eco-camp you belong to, Urban Decay Good Karma brushes ($15 to $36, use Taklon, a man-made fiber, as does EcoTools, a company that offers a five-piece Bamboo Brush Set ($14.99, featuring sustainable-wood handles. Instead of synthetic fibers, Josie Maran uses shaved animal hair for her set of five bamboo-wood brushes ($65, that come in a sweet woven silk-and-hemp makeup bag.-M.G.

 The Cleaners

Physician’s Formula Organic Wear Makeup Remover Towelettes ($9.95 for 25 towelettes, do the job with organic orange water, aloe vera, and lavender essential oil for a natural approach and scent. To gently remove eye-makeup, new single-use swabs Jane Iredale Dot the I ($22 for 50, are pre-dipped in all-natural lavender flower water, aloe, algae extract, and oat kernel extract. Maxim Organic Cotton Rounds (, $2.49 for 80) get two gold stars: The cotton is organic and instead of chlorine bleach, the company uses whitening hydrogen peroxide.-M.G.

Nailing the Look

Three chemical-free formulations abound now, which mean you can find captivating colors without formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP). Here are some of our favorites:

Forbidden, SpaRitual’s new fall collection of six shades includes Regal, a creamy plum, to a pale smoky gray Mystic-colors made without the use of insect-derived carmine. ($10,

Dr. Remedy’s Enriched Nail Polish ($16, distinguishes itself not on the basis of its colors (its small selection represents polish’s greatest hits, and nothing more) but on the basis of its natural nail strengtheners and anti-fungal, like wheat proteins, tea tree oil, and garlic bulb extract used in the formulation.

Kim D’Amato’s Priti Polish line has been prettifying New Yorkers since 2005 with her organic polishes. Now the line’s available nationally ($12.50, with nearly 100 colors named for plants and flowers and a Princess line for children. Look for three new matte colors this winter.

Big news from CND is the spa-brand’s finger-tip-to-toe re-launch of the entire polish collection-a whopping 66 new creme colors ( meant to be customized with 15 effects-pearls, shimmers, and sparkles that you layer. And new ergonmic handles mean you can twist bottles open with one hand.

Consider Nailtural behavior modification for your nails: The solution-oriented products like Nail Protein Strengthener ($14, and Never Ever Nibble ($12) contain botanical extracts that make your nails look great even without color.


Lauren Hutton is a great beauty, as well as the brains behind her own “age-friendly” beauty product range, which just launched its first natural makeup palette. The new Naturals Face Disc ($70, is a wholesome spin-off of her best-selling compact, and comes with 11 pots of makeup-everything you’ll need minus the mascara. The 95-percent natural ingredients include an anti-aging cocktail of grapeseed and avocado oils, green tea, and vitamins A, E, and C, because “makeup should be not only help us look better, but be good for our skin,” says Hutton, who took out fillers and ingredients that cause the makeup to settle into wrinkles or contribute to dryness. Why the change of heart? “It’s obviously important to use organic ingredients. Chemical water, chemical air, chemical food, and chemical trends since the industrial age have not been proven like nature has.”-M.G.


Melisse Gelula
Melisse Gelula

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