The Most Toxic Stuff In Your Drugstore Makeup—And 8 Natural Brands To Try Instead

There are a lot of troubling ingredients in drugstore cosmetics, but with these natural makeup brands, you'll have nothing to worry about.

March 31, 2017
toxins in makeup and organic makeup brands
Ruth Hornby Photography/Getty

You probably don’t even want to know what’s actually in your favorite drugstore makeup—especially if you want to be able to sleep tonight. Really, we’re not exaggerating. According to the Environmental Working group, as many as one in five cosmetic products sold in the US contains an ingredient that releases formaldehyde as it breaks down—you know, embalming fluid, aka a known human carcinogen. (Check out the 5 most toxic beauty products you’re using, too.)

And that’s not all. Heavy metals known to be carcinogens like cadmium and hexavalent chromium are sometimes used as colorants in eye shadow and lip gloss, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, and these heavy metals even turn up as impurities in other ingredients, which means reading the label carefully won’t necessarily keep you safe. And then there are widely-used parabens, of course, those notorious preservatives that have shown possible links to breast cancer in addition to being hormone disruptors.

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Ready to make the switch to clean, worry-free natural makeup? With the natural brands below, you get complete transparency of all ingredients so you know exactly what you’re putting on your skin. Plus, you’ll find some awesome recycled packaging and veggie-based colorants to boot. And we were totally impressed with the high quality of these cosmetics—and we’re sure you will be, too!

Not enough chemical-free brands for you? Check out these 7 organic shampoos that work just as well as the stuff with chemicals!

han skincare organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of Han Skincare Cosmetics
Han Skincare Cosmetics

HAN Skincare Cosmetics gets their pigments straight from fruits and veggies! You won’t find any artificial fragrances, parabens, or talc either. Try their eyeshadows—we think you’ll love them as much as we do.

Buy Now: $13,

hush and dotti organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of
Hush + Dotti

This line of professional-grade makeup is organic, vegan, and PETA-certified cruelty-free. Be sure to check out their organic mascara (a rare find!)—it’s gentle, non-clumping, and doesn't smudge!

Buy Now: $24,

natural makeup brand 100 percent pure
Photograph courtesy of 100 Percent Pure
100% Pure

The name tells you everything you need to know about this brand: its products are 100 percent free of artificial fragrances, colors, preservatives, and other toxins as well as 100 percent natural and cruelty-free. Check out their extensive line of “fruit-dyed” makeup—we're especially in love with the lip and cheek tints that do double duty.

Buy Now: $25,

ilia organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of
Ilia Beauty

Every product at Ilia is at least 85 percent organic and comes in a recycled aluminum case. You can’t go wrong with this line of lip colors—there is something for everyone.

Buy Now: $26,

elate clean cosmetics organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of Elate Clean Cosmetics
Elate Clean Cosmetics

We love the fair-trade bamboo containers Elate uses for their products—and the plantable seed paper boxes for their pressed powders. Any plastics the company uses for shipping purposes are reused—but if you’re taking a plastic-free challenge just let them know and they’ll leave it out. Oh, and with the organic and fair-trade ingredients, your eyeliner game is going to be seriously on-point.

Buy Now: $25,

zuii organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of Zuii Organic
Zuii Organic

Zuii has just about every green certification you could wish for, including almost all certified organic ingredients. Most are vegan, too, and you’d be hard pressed to find a natural brand with a bigger eyeshadow color selection.

Buy Now: $27.50,

nu evolution organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of Nu Evolution
Nu Evolution

Nu Evolution’s organic, cruelty-free makeup line is also gluten-free, and the company is committed to keeping dozens of commonly used artificial preservatives and colors out of their products. Their liquid foundation is some of the best we've tried—full coverage that still feels light, not cakey or greasy.

Buy Now: $47,

erins faces organic makeup
Photograph courtesy of Erin's Faces
Erin's Faces

This one-woman green business features complete transparency of all ingredients used, and products are paraben-free and PETA-certified cruelty-free. Erin’s mineral blushes and bronzers are some of the best around! Bonus: Erin has lots of easy-to-follow video tutorials on her site that make experimenting with makeup empowering and fun, not intimidating and frustrating.

Buy Now: $16-$24