Since making the switch to clean beauty products years ago, I have done a lot of research about clean beauty brands and tested hundreds of different clean beauty products. Some of them have been incredible, while others have been the actual worst.

Back when I started searching for clean beauty brands, I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t entirely sure what ingredients to avoid, and I often had trouble finding ingredients lists for individual products. It also seemed like a lot of brands that claimed to be “clean” or “natural” contained known harmful ingredients in them, such as fragrance and PEGs (examples can be seen in the guide below!).

But the most frustrating thing of all was that I didn’t know which products actually worked. And who wants to waste money on expensive beauty products that do nothing? NOT ME.

So—as I do—I buckled down and got to work. After a lot of research, I figured out what harmful ingredients to avoid that are often found in skin care and makeup products. (Interested in my research? Check out 10 Harmful Ingredients to Avoid in Makeup and Skincare Products.)

I also had many conversations with clean beauty brands about their ingredients, EWG rating, and how they test for contaminants like heavy metals. There is almost zero federal regulation of the cosmetics industry in the United States, so it’s up to clean beauty brands to disclose ingredients and test for contaminants.

And lastly, I did a lot of research on active ingredients, especially when it comes to safe, active ingredients that have proven effects. For example, vitamin C is great for brightening skin tone, while bakuchiol can help reverse fine lines and wrinkles. YES PLEASE!

After being asked about different clean beauty brands for the the 100th time, I decided it was finally time to compile all of my research in my comprehensive Guide to Clean Beauty Brands.

In the table below, I’ve included a list of all of the current and popular brands in the clean beauty industry, and where each stands in terms of transparency, harmful ingredients, and testing for contaminants. I’ve also included my personal “Top Picks”, which are brands that check all the boxes and make safer products that actually work. Based on what’s important to you, you’ll be able to make some quick decisions about where to start, and what to buy.

But Do Clean Beauty Products Actually Work?

Back in the day, I felt like I had to choose one: clean beauty products or products that worked. Especially when it came to makeup! Now, that’s not the case.

The best clean beauty products should not only hold high standards for the quality and safety of their ingredients, they also need to work and/or have proven effects.

Foundation should have buildable coverage that doesn’t clog pores, lipstick should be creamy and long lasting, and anti-aging moisturizers should improve collagen production and help to reverse the signs of aging.

An important lesson I learned: A product doesn’t have to be 100% “natural” or organic to be safe. There are a lot of synthetic ingredients (specifically, active ingredients) that are safe and necessary, especially when considering the preservation of a product and making sure it doesn’t become contaminated with bacteria or mold.

Bottom line: we don’t have to compromise safety and health for beauty anymore. There are a number of different clean beauty brands that make products that are both safe and effective that are free of known harmful ingredients, including endocrine disruptors and carcinogens, and test for contaminants like heavy metals.

No Endocrine Disruptors, Fragrance, PEGs, Oxybenzone, and More!

All of the brands included as my “Top Picks” in my Guide to Clean Beauty Brands do not use any of the harmful ingredients listed in my 10 Ingredients to Avoid in Makeup and Skincare Products. These brands do not use known endocrine disruptors, such as parabens and phthalates, which are linked to breast cancer and birth defects. They do not use chemical sunscreens, such as oxybenzone. And they don’t use undisclosed Fragrance or Parfum, which can be a cocktail of carcinogens, allergens, endocrine disruptors, and irritants.

Keep in mind: While some brands claim to be “clean” and “natural”, they may still use known harmful ingredients. I’ve included these details in the guide below.

A note on Fragrance: One of the biggest issues I found with clean and “natural” beauty brands is that many use “Fragrance” or “Parfum” as an ingredient. Sometimes, this is a blend of natural oils. Other times, it’s not. I’ve annotated this difference based on what each company told me. Either way, I don’t love the lack of transparency with this, especially given the fact that Fragrance and Parfum has been a vehicle for carcinogens, irritants, and endocrine disruptors in the cosmetic industry. I don’t think this is reason enough to write off a brand entirely, so if a brand was transparent and confirmed it was a natural blend of oils, this information is included in the table.

Ingredient Transparency

I want to know exactly what I’m putting on my face and skin when it comes to makeup and skincare products. And the only way to know that is to have clear and easy access to ingredients lists.

While most clean beauty brands are authentic and transparent with their ingredients, some who say they are “safer” or “clean” are not. This is why I’ve included a column to designate that each clean beauty brand in the guide has ingredient transparency. Reputable clean beauty brands will also have clear information on their website about the ingredients they do not include in their products. If they don’t, it’s a red flag.

Heavy Metal Testing

Should we be concerned about contaminants like heavy metals? The short answer is YES.

Chronic heavy metal exposure, which happens when you’re exposed to low levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and aluminum over an extended period of time, has clear links to cancer, birth defects, kidney disease, and lung damage.

Heavy metals can contaminate cosmetics in one of two ways: they can be present in raw materials used to make a product, and/or they can contaminate products in the manufacturing process. For more information on this, check out Does Your Makeup Contain Heavy Metals?

The Food and Drug Administration has published acceptable levels for heavy metals in cosmetics, but doesn’t require companies to abide by these standards or test products for safety. The problem? A recent federal analysis found that over 400 shades of lipstick from popular brands like L’Oreal and Maybelline were contaminated with trace amounts of lead.

In the table, I’ve included information about whether a company tests individual ingredients and/or end products for heavy metal contamination. The only company I’ve found that tests both is Beautycounter, although I hope many brands follow suit!

There are some clean beauty brands that do test raw materials (the ingredients themselves) and end products, and you’ll find that annotated in the guide below.

Some companies do self-funded testing, while others rely on third-party testing to make sure products are within FDA recommended limits. This can be misleading, however, as the FDA doesn’t have limits for certain heavy metals. Also, some people consider the current FDA limits in the US to be too high. For example, the current FDA upper limit for lead is 10.0 ppm, whereas some companies like Beautycounter who perform their own testing and set the limit at 0.2 ppm.

Safe, Active Ingredients

OK, so we now have a list of clean beauty brands to purchase from! YAY! But, HOW DO WE KNOW IF THE PRODUCTS ACTUALLY WORK?

This, my friends, is the most challenging part of all.

I’ve tried a lot of “100% natural” products in my day that only made my skin worse or just performed horribly. (Don’t even get me started on the clay powdered eyeshadow I tried that was tinted with vegetable extracts. #fail). So, just because a product doesn’t have any of the bad stuff doesn’t mean it will be useful or actually work.

In my Guide to Clean Beauty Brands, I’ve included a column to confirm that each brand uses safe, active ingredients in their products. Active ingredients are isolated compounds that have a predictable effect. Many of them (specifically, the ones found in plants) are like broad spectrum nutrients for your skin. Examples include vitamin C, fruit extracts, salicylic acid, and pure CoQ10.

In my research and testing, I’ve found that some clean beauty brands focus on natural formulations (with antioxidant rich oils, for example), while others put more focus on creating clean formulations that contain high end active ingredients. Personally, I much prefer the later. The clean beauty brands in my “Top Picks” are ones that I know produce safe and effective products that utilize the latest in clean science. In other words, I am confident they perform well and actually work.

My Guide to Clean Beauty Brands

Below you’ll find a comprehensive guide to all of the clean beauty brands I’ve researched. I’ve been in contact with each brand to discuss this information. If a specific brand chose not to respond to my questions, there’s an “X” there for the lack of transparency.

Note: The information in the table is continually being updated! If you work for a brand on this list and know that formulations/ingredients/testing has changed, please comment below so I can work with you and the brand directly to make the appropriate updates!

My Top Picks:

1. Beautycounter: Best High-Performing Clean Makeup + Skin Care

Beautycounter is the only brand that meets all criteria and tests both raw materials and end products for contaminants like heavy metals. It’s why I use Beautycounter now exclusively for skin care and makeup. Recommended products: The Countertime line (high performing anti-aging skin care), the Overnight Resurfacing Peel, and the All Bright Vitamin C Serum. What drew me to Beautycounter was the makeup—its the only clean makeup brand that was high-performing, long lasting, and had deep pigments/colors. They also do rigorous testing in their color cosmetics for heavy metals like lead.

2. Jane Iredale – Best Mineral Makeup

Jane Iredale is a great option if you prefer a more natural look. Jane Iredale tests all cosmetics for contaminants like heavy metals, which is so important when it comes to mineral makeup. While they’re not EWG certified, they meet all criteria otherwise. Recommended products: The PurePressed Mineral Powder Foundation.

3. RMS beauty – Best Natural/Organic-Based Makeup

RMS beauty is another great option if you prefer lighter, more natural makeup. Most of their ingredients are organically sourced, and they test raw materials for heavy metals. I don’t have any personal recommendations here, as I haven’t found any makeup items that I love—but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice or won’t fit your specific needs.

4. Primally Pure – Best Organic/Natural Skin Care

Primally Pure is a great option for people who want to stick with paleo-friendly and organic skin care. While they don’t test for heavy metals—they do source their organic ingredients carefully. Recommended products: The Everything Spray is the best toner on the market! Also love the Dry Shampoo, and Gua Sha Stone (check out my Gua Sha (Natural Botox) Facial Massage Tutorial!)

5. Wellnesse – Best Body Care

Wellnesse is relatively new to market, but gets mention from me because I’ve been searching for clean body care brand for quite some time. Recommended products: Wellness makes the best toothpaste on the market (and I’ve tried a lot).

(To view entire table, use the scrolling feature to scroll right)

BRAND
*My Top Picks

TRANSPARENT WITH INGREDIENTS?

HEAVY METAL TESTING

UNDISCLOSED FRAGRANCE

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS

EWG CERTIFIED

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients + end products

No

Yes (high performing clean skin care and makeup)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes (high performing clean makeup)

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

Yes: "Parfum" with clarity it's only natural essential oils

Yes 

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes 

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes 

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes: individual ingredients

Yes: Parfum (Fragrance) with clarity it's organic extracts and essential oils

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes (high performing clean skin care and makeup)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes (high performing clean makeup)

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes (high performing clean skin care)

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

Yes: "Parfum" with clarity it's only natural essential oils

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

Yes: "Fragrance" with clarity it's only natural essential oils

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes: "Aroma" with clarity that it's an essential oil blend

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes, but use with caution. Some products contain retinyl palmitate

Yes: individual ingredients, but use aluminum packaging

No

Yes

No

Yes

No: Parfum

No

Yes: Some say natural, others don't—need more clarity

Yes

No

Yes

No: Chemical Sunscreens, Synthetic Fragrance

Would not answer

Yes: "Fragrance", clarified it is synthetic and natural, does not contain any of their "banned" 1500 ingredients

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs. Some products also contain retinyl palmitate

No

No

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

Yes

No: Parabens, Synthetic Fragrance, SLS + more

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: Synthetic Fragrance

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: Synthetic Fragrance. Some products also contain retinyl palmitate

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance, Chemical sunscreens

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: Chemical Sunscreens, PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

No

No: PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance, + more

No

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs, undisclosed fragrance

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance, Chemical Sunscreens

Yes—"Some end products are tested by third party company to make sure they meet FDA guidelines."

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Sometimes. "We typically test finished products that could naturally have trace heavy metals (ie clay based.)"

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

Yes

No: PEGs

Yes—"Some end products are tested by third party company to make sure they meet FDA guidelines."

No

Yes

No

Yes

No: Chemical Sunscreens, PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance

Would not answer

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Would not answer

No

Yes

No

What clean beauty brands do you love? Got questions about a specific brand? Ask below!

Be strong,

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