While I believe a beautiful mind and spirit are of greater importance, I do value physical beauty, and feel that aesthetics serve their own divine purpose in the world. Without an inner drive or desire for that which we find visually captivating, creative pursuits such as painting, drawing, fashion, and, of course, makeup, may cease to be. Makeup usage specifically has a long and broad history that can be dated as far back as ancient Egypt, where women would use copper and lead to adorn their faces. Cosmetics of some kind have been used all across the world for purposes such as enhancing ‘beauty’ (changing with society’s subjective definition of that word), ritual markings, or to represent social class and hierarchy. While we may feel that the idea of makeup conflicts with the concept of self-love and self-acceptance, makeup usage has a definite artistry to it, and aligns with our innate creative spirit; our need to explore our inner, abstract selves through a physical vessel. It may allow us to outwardly showcase that which we feel within, or to enhance our natural features in ways we, or our society, deem favorable. Of course, not all makeup is created equal. There are many nasty and toxic ingredients used in conventional makeup. This is counter-intuitive, in my opinion, as these ingredients may place stress on the body, and therefore negatively impact health, and by extension, unfavorably influence your natural beauty. Why would you trade your natural looks- and your health- for an impermanent look?
The Environment Working Group , or EWG for short, has a database in which they rank cosmetic ingredients on a scale from 1-9 in terms of safety/toxicity, 1 representing the safest ingredients, and 9 the most toxic. The Environmental Working Group is, in their own words “a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Unsurprisingly, many conventional cosmetics contain ingredients of questionable (or outright hazardous) safety, which could pose especially concerning if they are used daily- causing exposure time to increase, and the toxic load to potentially accumulate in the body, and lead to serious dis-ease.
Luckily, you can have your cake and eat it too (or, rather, have your mascara and wear it too). There are an increasing number of makeup and beauty brands that offer beauty products without the potentially harmful and toxic ingredients. Of course, we are faced with one important question, which is: do they work?
I’m sure the question of whether or not they’re effective is one major reason (besides cost and lack of awareness) that may hold people back from transitioning from their conventional makeup brands to more natural (and/or safe) options. The good news is that, despite some duds, there ARE effective natural makeup products. After spending a lot of time comparing products, reading reviews, and trying them for myself, I have not only found a few incredibly effective products, but brands, which allow the best of all worlds; uniting quality ingredients, longevity, and physical looks. These brands are Alima Pure, Pure Anada, and 100% Pure. Aside from their shared love of the word “pure” they all offer makeup that I feel is not only effective (in the sense that it is reasonably long lasting, and does as it should) but also generally made up of nice, short, lists of natural and safe ingredients.
How do these brands, and their products, fare on EWG’s ‘Skin Deep’ database?
100% Pure: The vast majority of this brand’s products are listed as an overall 1-2 rating, which is exceptional. The highest rated product is a 6, which is a nail polish. The ingredients Aluminum Powder (4), Butyl Alcohol (4), BENZOPHENONE-1 (4), and D&C RED 34 CALCIUM LAKE RED 34 LAKE (5) are the causes of the higher rating. Nail polish is unfortunately a difficult product for any brand to formulate without including some questionable ingredients, while also having it last and offer the correct consistency. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the database does not include ratings for all of 100% Pure’s products, but rather an assorted handful of them. This brand is dedicated to providing safe and natural cosmetics, with a an incredibly admirable commitment to sustainability; using 100% solar power, recycled packaging that is BPA and Pthalate-free, and ingredients that are vegan and biodegradable. They do not use fillers or thickeners in their products. Because the term ‘natural’ can be left to interpretation, Alima Pure defines it as “Natural ingredients originate from nature and ONLY undergo chemical changes due to biological processes such as fermentation, distillation, and cold processing.”
Alima Pure: Out of the products listed within the EWG database, Alima Pure’s products do not exceed a ‘2’. With that said, the rating for many of these products are listed as being based on an ‘old formulation’, although upon further inspection it doesn’t seem as though the ingredients have changed, when compared with the current formulation. Their products are free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes, phthalates, dimethicone, petroleum, talc, bismuth oxychloride, and nanoparticles. They also do not test on animals.
As for Pure Anada, this brand is not listed in the database whatsoever, however it is still possible to search the individual ingredients in their formulations. As an example, their pressed eyeshadow is about a ‘2’, the worst ingredient listed as a ‘1-3’, which was Titanium Dioxide. Pure Anada focuses on providing safe and natural cosmetics, and is also concerned with the ethics of their ingredients; buying from fair-trade sources, including a woman’s co-op in Africa for their shea butter, and Mica that is mined in India without the use of child labour. In addition, their products are Canadian-made, manufactured in their own laboratory in Morden, Manitoba. They are a certified cruelty-free brand, which means they do not test on animals, and do not purchase ingredients that include animal testing.
Foundation and Blush: While I very seldom wear foundation or blush anymore, as I find it not only time-consuming to apply, but also less preferable than allowing my skin to ‘breathe’, I enjoy using this brand’s Satin Matte Foundation and blush. The foundation specifically comes in a wide variety of shades, and looks extremely natural while offering a ‘naked’, bare-faced feeling. I eventually found my best match to be Straw 2. The products, which come as a loose powder, offer light to heavy coverage, depending on how much you build, as well as the method of application. Generally, I applied it with a damp beauty blender when seeking more coverage and buildability, and used a slightly damp brush when seeking a lighter application. The best part is that the foundation and blush have minimal ingredients which all appear to be safe and non-allergenic, or irritating. Let me say, I have EXTREMELY sensitive, acne-prone skin, and not once did either of these powders cause any irritation or additional breakouts, which is a definite win in my books.
Satin Matte Foundation: Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Zinc Oxide (CI 77947), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)
Score of ‘2‘ in EWG Database.
Score of ‘1‘ in EWG Database.
Eyeshadow/Brow Powder: I also enjoy using Alima Pure’s eyeshadows, which are long-lasting and highly pigmented. They offer both matte and shimmery eyeshadows (my preference generally being for the shimmery), and, like the foundation, these are made up of minimal ingredients, which have not caused me personally any irritation or allergenic reactions (and I can be quite clumsy and prone to getting some in my eyes/waterline). I purchase the eyeshadows as a loose powder, although Alima Pure also offers pressed powder (which unfortunately does contain a few more ingredients). The eyeshadow delivers in pigment and lastability, and I even sometimes use it as an eyeliner on my lower lashes, applied with a thin, damp brush. Alima Pure offers eyeshadow in quite a few neutral matte shades, such as ash, mahogany, and auburn, and for this reason, it can also be used as a brow powder, to help fill in and define the brows.
Both the Luminous Shimmer, Satin Matte, and Pearluster eyeshadows contain the same ingredients as the blush with the addition of ‘May Contain [+/-}’: Ultramarines (CI 77007), and Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510).
All of these eyeshadows are listed as a ‘2‘ on EWG Database.
Eyeshadow/Brow Powder: Pure Anada offers a range of effective, and natural, cosmetic products. Like Alima Pure, I have tried and found success with their mineral eyeshadows. They have a wide assortment of colours, and also offer both matte and shimmery options. For this brand, I ordered the pressed eyeshadows, and found them to be extremely pigmented with long wear. Due to the amount of pigment in the pressed eyeshadows, they may also be especially effective as makeshift eyeliners along the lower lid.
Pressed Mineral Eyeshadow: Mica (CI 77019), Iron Oxides (CI 77492, CI 77499) Calcium Carbonate, Caprylic Triglyceride *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba seed oil) Ultramarines (CI 77007), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891) * Certified Organic Ingredient
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘3‘ in the EWG Database (Titanium Dioxide representing the sole ‘3’)
Lipstick: While I don’t wear lipstick often, I have purchased Pure Anada’s petal lipstick in the shade Hibiscus, and was pleased with its texture and pigment. With that said, when compared to some conventional lipsticks, the colour may be on the subtler side. The lipstick itself is very moisturizing, and seemed to stay on my lips reasonably well (although I dabbed off the excess, as well as some of the moisture, to help it stay put). The ingredients are fantastic, as it is made from “100% organic and mineral ingredients”, as listed on their site, which I personally feel is somewhat important for a product going directly on your lips, and, presumably, prone to coming off on drinks/foods and being ingested (even if it’s just a minuscule amount).
Pure Anada Lipstick: *Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, *Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit (Shea) Butter, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, *Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, *Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Mica, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citrus Tangerina (Tangerine) Essential Oil, May contain: CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 77491 (Iron Oxide)
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘3‘ in the EWG Database (Titanium Dioxide representing the sole ‘3’)
Mascara: This product is, according to their website, 97% natural, although it does contain Aminomethyl Propanediol and Phenoxyethanol, neither of which are derived from nature. Despite this fact, I frequently use this mascara, and still consider it a safe option, especially when compared to most conventional ones on the market, which often contain a grocery list of ingredients that are potentially hazardous. Finding a natural mascara that does not smudge is incredibly difficult, and this one overall fits the bill. I myself am prone to quite oily skin, which includes my eyelids, so I consider this mascara to be a great option. However, if you want a mascara that is completely natural, I’ll be recommending another which I also use, down below.
Pure Anada Mascara: Aqua (Water), Oryza Sativa Wax (Rice Bran Wax), Olea Europea fruit oil (Olive Oil), Vegetable Source Cetyl Alcohol (Coconut), Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba Wax), Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla Wax), Vegetable Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Acacia Gum, Black Iron oxide (CI 77499), Aminomethyl Popandiol (Ph Adjuster), Phenoxyethanol (Preservative).
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘4‘ in the EWG Database (Phenoxyethanol representing the sole ‘4’)
Eyeliner: I personally feel that eyeliner is probably the most essential makeup product in my bag-especially as someone with lighter lashes. I have always been fond of liquid liners because I find that they offer a lot of pigment and staying power (generally speaking), which is why I was so excited to find a natural liquid eyeliner with great reviews. After using 100% Pure’s liquid eyeliner for quite some time (daily for a few years) I can confidently say it is, in my opinion, a quality product that delivers everything you would want from an eyeliner: staying power, pigment, and ease of use. My one complaint would be that, unlike many non-natural options, this one seems to get very, very dry quite quickly after being applied, and is also prone to flaking off if you touch it at all, or stretch/move the skin that it is applied on top off. On the bright side, this means that you really don’t have to worry about smudging once it has dried… it will stay put.
Black Tea Long Last Liquid Eye Liner: Camellia Sinensis (Organic Micronized Black Tea) Leaf Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Aloe Barbadensis (Organic Aloe) Leaf Juice, Xanthan Gum, Extracts of Organum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Lonicera Capri folium Flower, Lonicera Capri folium Flower and Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower -Certified Organic
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘1-3‘ in the EWG Database (Aloe Barbadensis [Organic Aloe] Leaf Juice representing the sole ‘1-3’)
Mascara: This mascara is completely natural, and is great for lengthening and thickening the lashes, and offers a good amount of buildability. However, my reason for not making it my one and only mascara is that it does smudge quite a lot. When I use this mascara, I generally apply very little, and then wipe my fingertips along the lashes to pick up any excess. It’s possible others may not experience the smudging to the same degree I do, and it may also differ from batch to batch, but I think if you opt for this product, you have to be willing to be quite sparse with it, as it never seems to fully dry. With that said, if you hold onto this mascara long enough, and allow it to dry out over time, it does actually work incredibly well, and the smudging lessens by a lot. It seems the formula hits its ‘sweet spot’ once it has been opened for a while, and begun to dry out.
Fruit Pigmented Ultra Lengthening Mascara: Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract (Organic Black Tea)*, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Cera Alba (Honey Beeswax), Rubus Fruticosus Fruit Extract (Blackberry Extract), Ribes Nigrum Fruit Extract (Blackcurrant Extract), Rubus Idaeus Fruit Extract (Raspberry Extract), Hydrolyzed Oat Protein (Oat Protein), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein (Wheat Protein), Pantothenic Acid (Pro-vitamin B5), Fucus Vesiculosus Extract (Seaweed Powder), Coconut Stearic Acid (Coconut Acid), Mica, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter (Cocoa Butter), Pearl Powder, Oryza Sativa Germ Powder (Rice Powder), Theobroma Cacao Extract (Cocoa Powder), Coffea Arabica Seed Extract (Powdered Coffee Beans), Mel (Lavender Honey), Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract (Oregano Extract), Thymus Vulgaris Flower/Leaf Extract (Thyme Extract), Rosmarinus Officinalis Leaf Extract (Rosemary Extract), Lavandula Angustifolia Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract (Lavender Extract), Hydrastis Canadensis Extract (Goldenseal Extract) *Certified Organic
This product is listed as being a ‘2‘ in the EWG Database.
Lipstick: 100% Pure’s lipstick is made up of natural, safe, and quality ingredients. As you can see in the picture to the left, the colour ‘Peony’ is a soft, muted pink tone. The lipstick itself is extremely creamy and ‘silky’ against the lips. It’s very pigmented, and you don’t need to apply much to benefit from the hue, unlike some more ‘sheer’ lipsticks which may require building and layering. If anything, it may apply a little bit on the thicker side. The staying power is decent, although you may wish to dab off the excess and the moisture to help it stay put.
Fruit Pigmented Pomegranate Oil Anti Aging Lipstick: Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Extracts of Prunus Cerasus (Cherry) Fruit, Prunus Domestica (Plum) Fruit, Vitis Vinifera (Cabernet Grape) Fruit, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit, Rubus Fruticosus (Blackberry) Fruit, Prunus Persica (Peach) Fruit, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Fruit, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit/Leaf/Stem, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate), Cacao (Chocolate), Rosa Centifolia (Rose Petals) Flower, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Powder, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘1‘ in the EWG Database
Blush: 100% Pure offers a line of blushes in a wide variety of attractive shades- ranging from light pinks to neutral brown tones. They are pigmented enough to be noticeable, but light enough to look seamless and subtle; offering a rosy glow, or extra definition where needed. Most importantly, the ingredients are safe, natural, and non-irritating, which may prove especially important to anyone with sensitive and/or acne-prone skin.
100% Pure Powder Blush (Canada): Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima Oil (Avocado Butter), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Pigmented Extracts of Carica Papaya Fruit (Papaya), Prunus Armeniaca Fruit (Apricot), Daucus Carota Sativa Root (Carrot), Solanum Lycopersicum Fruit/ Leaf/Stem (Tomato), Rubus Idaeus Fruit (Raspberry), Fragaria Vesca Fruit (Strawberry), Prunus Persia Fruit (Peach) and Prunus Serotina Fruit (Cherry), Mica (natural shimmery mineral)
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘1‘ in the EWG Database
Nail Polish- This brand offers nail polish, as well as top coat and base coat, that is free of Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Synthetic Camphor. Of particular concern are Toluene, Formaldehyde, and DBP. Formuldehyde is a known human carcinogen, as well as a respiratory irritant. Toluene is derived from petroleum, and is linked to birth defects as well as liver damage. DBP is a plasticizer linked to cancer, birth defects, endocrine system disruption, and reproductive issues. These three ingredients are considered to be the major ‘red flag’ ingredients used in most nail polishes, and many brands are now marketing ‘3 Free’ varieties. While their products do not seem to be in the EWG database, I reviewed the ingredients used in Kure Bazaar’s nail polishes individually and none came out higher than a ‘4’ (Benzophenone-1) while the rest were ‘1-2’ (not including pigments, which ranged from ‘1-6’). Their nail polishes are marketed as being up to 85% natural, originating from materials like wood pulp, cotton, corn, and potatoes. According to the company’s website, they do their best to avoid the use of chemicals originating from petrochemicals. It is also not tested on animals.
Kure Bazaar Nail Lacquer: Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Isosorbide Dicaprylate, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Alcohol, Stearalkonium Bentonite, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Diacetone Alcohol, Benzophenone-1, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Phosphoric Acid, Alumina. May Contain (+/-): Mica, CI 77000, CI 19140, CI 77891, CI75470, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499, CI 15850, CI 15850, CI 77742, CI 12085, CI 77266, CI 77510, CI 15880.
Some colours are more hazardous than others. CI 77266 is a ‘6‘ in the EWG database, and is linked to the colour black. None of the above ingredients (aside from pigments) exceed a ‘4‘ in the EWG Database (The sole ‘4’ being Benzophenone-1).
Kure Bazaar, First Base (Base Coat): Ethyl Acetate, Butyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Isosorbide Dicaprylate, Alcohol, N-Butyl Alcohol, Etocrylene, Trimethylpentanediyl, Dibenzoate, CI 60725.
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘4‘ in the EWG Database ( ‘4’ being CI 60725 and N-Butyl Alcohol )
Kure Bazaar, Final Touch (Top Coat): Butyl Acetate, Ethyl Acetate, Nitrocellulose, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol/Trimellitic Anhydride Copolymer, Isosorbide Dicaprylate, Alcohol, Heptane, N-Butyl Alcohol, Benzophenone-1, Trimethylpentanediyl Dibenzoate, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, CI 60725.
None of the above ingredients exceed a ‘6‘ in the EWG Database ( the sole ‘6’ being Ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate)
Formulated Without: Toluene, Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Dibutyl Phthalate, and Synthetic Camphor.
If you’re looking for more natural and safe cosmetics, The Detox Market is a great site for both Canadian and American shoppers. They also have stores in Toronto (Yorkeville, and Downtown), as well as California (Santa Monica, and West Hollywood). In addition to makeup, they also offer natural skincare, hair care, fragrance, and bath products. Lilou Organics is another great online supplier of natural and organic cosmetics, and, like Detox Market, also offer products in skincare, bath & body, hair, and fragrance.