A new season of chunky sweaters, Halloween costumes and fall photoshoots has finally approached, bringing along new trends and a new color palette. While experimenting with new makeup can be fun, it’s important to be mindful of the negative effects many popular makeup brands have on the environment.
An obvious factor that goes into choosing sustainable makeup is the packaging, which is often excessive and consists of non-degradable materials. In addition to visible sustainability though, an alarming amount of cosmetics consist of harmful ingredients.
According to Brightly, a few common ingredients to watch out for and avoid include parabens, which are deadly to coral reefs and can cause reproductive issues in animals. Another is synthetic fragrances, which can cause long-term damage to marine life. Lastly are sulfates, which can be toxic to marine life.
Another major problem among makeup brands is the prevalence of animal testing. According to the Humane Society, 500,000 animals are subjected to suffering and death in cosmetic tests. Over 390 companies have endorsed the Humane Cosmetics Act, a U.S. bill that would end animal testing for cosmetics altogether.
With so many complicated ingredients on top of other factors, it can be difficult to know which makeup brands are making an effort to be sustainable. So, in case you find yourself shopping for new products this fall, these four sustainable brands are a perfect addition to your makeup bag:
Best for clean ingredients: RMS Beauty
A reputable brand, RMS has been dedicated to clean beauty since 2009. One major way the brand contributes is through sustainable packaging such as recyclable glass jars. According to their website, the company has converted to 100% PCR, which the US Plastic Pact states reduces energy consumption by 79%, for as many products as possible including the UnCoverup Concealer, Luminizer, Lip2Cheek and Buriti Bronzer.
Additionally, the brand continues to strive for more sustainability. In 2021, for example, the ReEvolve Radiance Locking Primer became their first product to have refillable packaging saving 67% more plastic, with many products such as the ReDimension Hydra Powder Blush following suit and saving even more – 79%.
It’s safe to say that RMS Beauty takes clean beauty seriously, with ingredients that are entirely organic and free of parabens, gluten, synthetic fragrances and GMOs as well as forestry-certified unit cartons made of 80% post-consumer recycled mohawk paper printed with vegetable ink.
Best brand for sensitive skin: Merit Beauty
Since being founded in 2021, Merit Beauty’s success has skyrocketed.
According to the brand’s website, Merit strives to recreate the appeal of luxury beauty with its minimalistic products while using ingredients that are beneficial for both the skin and the environment.
For those who prefer a “no-makeup-makeup-look,” Merit Beauty provides a plethora of vegan and cruelty-free products intended to enhance natural beauty.
Merit Beauty is free of artificial fragrance as well as many acne-triggering ingredients such as coconut oil. In fact, the brand works with aesthetician Biba de Sousa to eliminate any ingredients that are potentially irritants.
Additionally, Merit products are Sephora Clean and free of parabens, sulfates and over 1,300 other ingredients.
Merit offers high-quality products at an affordable and fair price with product sets. While it’s not entirely budget-friendly, products such as the Shade Slick tinted lip oil, a non-sticky, generously pigmented and hydrating oil, set the bar high in comparison to other mainstream brand’s products.
This fall, make sure to check out Merit’s Solo Shadow, a cream-to-powder eye shadow that comes in eight neutral and statement matte colors perfect for autumn.
Best work-in-progress brand: Glossier
Glossier was founded in 2014 and since then has appealed to people of all ages with products that give a glowy, natural look while benefiting your skin.
In recent years, Glossier has also adopted a much more environmentally-friendly approach. For example, in February the company completely rebranded its most popular product, Balm Dotcom, in partnership with Sephora.
The new and improved formula for the skin and lip balm is petrolatum-free, vegan and made with castor jelly along with synthetic beeswax, vitamin E for hydration and a natural emollient blend in place of lanolin, which is non-vegan.
All of Glossier’s products are cruelty-free with a number of them being Sephora Clean such as the Futuredew Facial Oil-Serum Hybrid, Super Bounce Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin B5 Hydrating Face Serum, Milky Jelly Gentle Gel Face Cleanser and the After Baume Moisture Barrier Recovery Cream.
This fall, consider investing in a Monochromes Essential Eyeshadow Trio Palette, one of Glossier’s vegan products, for a subtle pop of color in your makeup look, or the Balm Dotcom to keep chapped lips in check.
While the brand’s sustainability is a work in progress, Glossier has made significant strides in sustainability and many of its products are great, sustainable options with customizable product bundles offering affordability.
Best sustainable packaging: Ilia Beauty
Ilia Beauty has risen tremendously in popularity since its start in 2011, however, many people are unaware of how high Ilia has set the bar for sustainable cosmetics.
Not only does Ilia have responsible packaging but, it also partners with Pact Collective to break down beauty packaging in order for it to be recycled.
The program, which accepts beauty products from any brand including Ilia, offers U.S. consumers free shipping labels to send in up to 10 empty products each month for Pact Collective to break down, ensuring empty bottles, palettes and more don’t end up in landfills.
On top of this, all Ilia products are Leaping Bunny Certified (cruelty-free) and free of gluten, parabens, phthalates, petroleum, mineral oil, talc, BHA/BHT, propylene glycol, PEG, Cyclomethicone and chemical screens.
Ilia is budget-friendly with products such as the Multi-Stick, which is a palette comprised of blush, bronzer and highlighter for just $42. This fall, make sure to try out Ilia’s Limitless Lash Mascara for an instant, clump-free lift.
Overall, there are plenty of options for affordable, high-quality makeup that you can invest in to do your part to be sustainable.