Non-Evil Makeup?
July 24, 2007 5:08 PM   Subscribe

What kind of makeup is the safest, most natural, and least chemically toxic?

I'm trying to re-vamp my makeup collection (foundation, bronzer, mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow) with an eye to makeup that's as natural and least toxic as possible. Realizing that the healthiest thing is to simply wear *no* makeup-- but that sometimes a girl's just gotta do it-- is there a line of makeup that comes close?

I've heard good things about Jane Iredale and mineral-based makeups. Are these safer than the department store brands? What's best for the skin? What about nanotech? Has anyone sifted through the research about this?

Mascarally yours,
posted by airguitar2 to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm not sure what you mean by nontoxic (do you mean "won't cause break outs" or "won't ruin the environment"?) but skin deep, a project of something called the Environmental Working Group, has a searchable database of cosmetics which looks at environmental toxicity of products, including whether or not an ingredient may be a carcinogen.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:32 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's worth poking around on It's run a group of cosmetic scientists, and questions like this come up a lot there. Terms like "natural" and "toxic" get thrown around a lot in the beauty industry; sometimes the mean something, sometimes they don't and even when they do, not everybody who uses them means the same thing. More info might help you define the terms and narrow your search to what's real and what's just marketing gimmicks.
posted by mostlymartha at 5:46 PM on July 24, 2007

Seconding Skin Deep.
posted by salvia at 5:56 PM on July 24, 2007

Big fan of all things Burt's Bees.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 6:20 PM on July 24, 2007

Naturalness is not the opposite of toxicity. The cosmetics which provoke the fewest adverse reactions would be those that contain the least fragrances (natural or otherwise) and preservatives. However, there is no requirement to identify fragrances on the label. The FDA has a cosmetics information page, but I don't think it is very helpful.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:43 PM on July 24, 2007

Check out the Compact for Safe Cosmetics.
posted by necessitas at 7:55 PM on July 24, 2007

Nanotech is really just a buzzword. In the nanotech world (i.e. scientists studying things on the 10^-9 m scale), the word is often avoided because of its persistent use as a synonym for "magical new thing" in a bunch of different industries (aside: it's often also used in grant proposals for the same reason!). I've never heard of nanotech makeup, but I'd be wary of any advertising that uses that as a selling point.

Are you concerned about sensitive skin? The environment? Animal testing? I understand some caution concerning products you'll put on your face every day, but I also tend to be sort of skeptical of the whole organic/natural products industry. I think their hearts are in the right place, but we consumers need to be wary of the whole "chemicals are bad, natural things are good" dichotomy. Some chemicals are great, some plants kill you. As they said in "Proof":

Claire: Whatever. It's something that's good for your hair.
Catherine: Like what? A chemical?
Claire: No. It's organic.
Catherine: It can be organic and still be a chemical. Haven't you ever heard of organic chemistry?
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:56 PM on July 24, 2007

I think Gabriel is a great line of "natural" cosmetics. The food co-op where I live carries this line, and I especially love their matte lipsticks. They stay on all day, are really comfortable, and come in some lovely shades. Their eyeshadows are nice too, but I haven't tried the other products that you are looking for. Zia is another great line, in particular I like their powder and blush. Very soft, pretty colors with a great feel on your skin. To find a brand you like I would suggest checking out a few cosmetic lines at health food stores, and then looking at their websites to learn more about what they mean by "natural". Good luck!
posted by ezrainch at 12:04 AM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I would ask the Beauty Brains girls - they're insiders in the beauty industry and often analyse ingredients to debunk marketing hype. They weighed in on the "natural" cosmetics industry recently.
posted by ukdanae at 1:09 AM on July 25, 2007

I'd second Burt's Bees - the only thing I don't really care for is their tinted moisturizer - it seems a little heavy to me.

Also - I tried Neutragena's line of mineral makeup - the foundation powder, and after a couple of days I had some sort of allergic reaction - lots of little incredibly itchy bumps along my cheeks. I have very sensitive skin though, so YMMV.
posted by kittyloop at 7:35 AM on July 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all! By "safe and non-toxic" I mean for my personal health and longevity, primarily. (I'm not concerned about sensitive skin.) The news I've read about carcinogenic ingredients, parabens, etc., has me concerned about poisoning myself with my cosmetics.

An extreme reaction, I know, but if it's possible to achieve the same beauteous effects w/o ANY negative health consequences, I'm all for it! A friend once said, "If you're not comfortable putting it in your mouth, you shouldn't put it on your skin." True/false?

Thanks for the Beauty Brains tip. I love them already.

Also, is anyone else a fan of EvanHealy? I've been using her cleansing cream, toner, and rosehip seed oil for a month and love it!
posted by airguitar2 at 8:21 AM on July 25, 2007

I've had no experience with Beauty Brains, but a similar site -- -- is run by Paula Begoun, author of Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. I don't wear makeup or use beauty products (lotions, toners, etc.) very often, but getting her free e-newsletter has been wonderful for more information on which products work and which products have potentially damaging ingredients.

She cuts through the hype really well; she has her own private line of products, but she won't hesitate to recommend others in different situations. I really like reading her reviews of new products; she's very specific about ingredients and whether a product is worth the price. In addition, she also talks about the cosmetics industry as a whole, including many concerns similar to what you're looking into (toxicity, new research, "natural" cosmetics vs. simple cosmetics with good ingredients).

Her books are usually available in libraries if you want to give them a look.
posted by Madamina at 8:56 AM on July 25, 2007

It's expensive, but I highly recommend Shiseido. It was originally created for Latin or Asian/Pacific Islander skin, but simply because those types of skin are more prone to break out with other commercial brands. I have never had breakout issues with Shiseido. And its product is so lightweight, you barely notice it is even on.

The great disadvantage is that it is super pricy. I think one powder compact runs about $60, but I think it is super worth it and they are very animal friendly as far as no testing.
posted by dnthomps at 7:50 PM on August 3, 2007

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