In the not-so-distant past, clean beauty symbolized a compromise.
Formerly a totally niche industry, clean products typically contained plant-based ingredients, free of buzzy controversial additives like parabens and sulfates, and were purchased by a stereotypical "granola" crowd, who were happy to trade a bit of efficacy for the comfort of putting a clean product on their skin.
But fast forward to 2020, and the non-toxic and eco-friendly beauty world is larger and more in-demand than ever - and you don’t have to compromise a thing.
From strong formulations to smoother-feeling textures or richly pigmented hues, clean products are now just as effective as their counterparts, with an added feel-good bonus.
So whether you’re a clean connoisseur or just looking to give the green category a whirl, we rounded up our favorite clean beauty brands that don't just talk the talk - they walk the walk.
A true clean-beauty pioneer, Weleda launched in 1921 as a pharmaceutical lab. Complete with a plant garden, the brand has been producing non-toxic skincare products filled with flower, fruit and root extracts, potent minerals, and antioxidants to nourish the skin ever since. Their super emollient cult-classic Skin Food has been healing dry, rough skin across the globe since 1926.
You can feel great about nearly everything from this brand. All products are created with natural ingredients, plant-based food-grade cold-pressed oils, GMO-free soy wax, and therapeutic-grade essential oils - all bottled in recyclable and reusable packaging. And their Prism Exfoliating Glow Facial is a dream for sensitive skin types. The fruit-based actives are calmed with soothing aloe vera and rose water to gently dig deep into skin, sloughing away dead skin and grime, without the harsh tingly or burning side effects of other exfoliants.
Founded by two self-styled mountain men who joked that between the biking, hiking, and overall west coast adventuring, regular soap just didn’t cut it. Their super green - they’ve pledged to use no new plastic - and super concentrated all-organic body wash combines nourishing wild-harvested essential oils with hydrating aloe vera, shea butter, and coconut oil for a squeaky-clean feel, complete with a Redwood Forest aroma. So even though you’re clean, you'll still smell a little woodsy - in the best way.
Certified non-toxic by MadeSafe, meaning the line is free of an exhaustive list of controversial ingredients - 5,000 items, to be exact - True Botanicals is instead powered by plant-derived peptides, antioxidant-filled natural oils, and hydrating ceramides. All of which both support skin health and heal specific skin concerns, from acne, to anti-aging, to dryness. And their Moisture Lock Overnight Mask couldn’t be easier to use. Simply slap it on after cleansing and go to sleep. In the morning, bestow a more hydrated, brightened, and supple appearance, thanks to the plumping hyaluronic acid, hydrating squalane, and mango butter.
Youth to the People
This family-owned clean brand prioritizes social and environmental activism almost as much as their nutrient-dense and pro-grade vegan actives formulations, which they call “superfood blends.” Their foamy Age Prevention Superfood Cleanser helps with your daily dose of greens: cold-pressed vitamin-packed kale and fatty acid-rich spinach are brewed with anti-inflammatory green tea to gently wash off the day’s impurities without leaving skin feeling stripped or tight. But the best part is that the ingredients are sourced by local California suppliers, and not to mention, they’re all free of the EU’s list of 1,300+ restricted cosmetic ingredients.
Clean doesn’t mean no-fun! By blending skincare and makeup, Ilia’s color products are vibrantly pigmented, long lasting, and great for your skin. Fatty butters and oils help the tinted lip conditioner feel like a hydrating balm, but each of the eight shades look like a regular, buildable lightweight lipstick. Nourishing, saturated, and no fuss? Game over.
Odele is the only proof you need that clean, salon-grade hair products are possible at a drugstore price. Their super streamlined range - grand total of nine products - is no nonsense and organized by hair type and texture to suit the entire spectrum. While being free of the controversial ingredients you’d expect from a clean collection, Odele takes it a step further by observing the EU’s clean standards. Specifically designed for curly and coily hair types, the intensely hydrating Curl Defining No-Lather Shampoo + Conditioner is a blend of amino acids, amaranth, and rice tein actives to control frizz, fortify strands, and moisturize curls. Pro tip: the moisture boosting collection is heaven for anyone with thirsty strands - curly or not.
Founded by Stanford biotech entrepreneur and researcher, Dr. Barbara Paldus, Codex Beauty isn’t your average clean beauty brand. Their revolutionary patented plant-based preservative system is food-grade and sourced entirely by wild harvesting or straight up foraging. And it's overseen by the brand from seedling to bottling, using pharma-grade clean processes for the ultimate quality control. No matter your skin type, their new Day Cream will improve skin hydration with soothing calendula, skin-strengthening serrated wrack, and sebum-balancing green mandarin oil, which all work together with sodium hyaluronate, which preps skin for maximum absorbency, to brighten and soften skin.