(Mostly) Great Product Lines — The following lines are quite good, in my opinion. They mostly have safe and good products and ingredients, in my book, though there are exceptions to every rule. Rather than using a whole line exclusively, I tend to just pick and choose a few products here or there that I like best.
100% Pure — I like some but not all of this company’s products. Winners for me are the scrubs, body wash and lotion/cream (but NOT the body butter!). I also love their caffeinated eye cream. Stay away from the concealer and the eye shadow palette. Still going through the roster on the rest of the stuff!
Devita — This is my latest skincare obsession. I started using Devita entirely for their Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+, which is the most cosmetically elegant physical sunscreen I’ve ever encountered to date. Their body block is also excellent. Unfortunately, every other product of theirs that I’ve tried has been total crap, but these two are such winners that the whole company gets stuck in this section! Internatural.com has astoundingly bad customer service, but the cheapest prices I’ve ever seen on Devita stuff.
Burnout — Also another fantastic physical sunscreen. I get mine via Amazon.
Juice Beauty — This brand gets mixed reviews by others, and I used to adore it. (I still consider it good, but I’ve moved on to Even Better Things.) However, their sun protection is titanium dioxide only, and ideally you want to look for something that also contains micronized zinc oxide (micronized to avoid that whitish cast, and zinc for better UVA protection). Still, I think they tend to be somewhat purer than most things you can buy at Sephora, for example. I think their Green Apple Peel is a nice exfoliator, if you’re into a peel cream instead of something physical. Their Blemish Clearing Serum is also a nice gentle acne remedy, though I’m not so enamored of the sticky texture. It also works better as a preventative serum than a spot treatment. I don’t think much of their lip plumper, personally, but others have said they love it.
The gals from Juice Beauty also have a cheaper version called Juice Organics that can be found online at Drugstore.com — not sure where else. Many products seem inferior to the pricier Juice Beauty, and many seem identical — but it’s easy to try them out, since they’re so much cheaper. Don’t seem to have as wide of distribution though.
John Masters Organics — This brand gets great reviews on EDS, but I personally was quite disappointed with the results I got from their hair products. However, their ingredients are so pure, and others seem to like them so much, that I felt the need to plug them here anyway. I don’t know much about their skin care, since I’ve only tried the Rose and Green Tea Hydrating Serum (which I liked, but wasn’t totally wowed by), but EDS has some reviews. I also got a freebie of their green clay mask and am underwhelmed. Even though I haven’t had great success, this is a line that gets consistent praise by an AWFUL lot of customers. And to be fair, I did adore their Honey Hibiscus Reconstructive Treatment for hair, I just don’t want to get too hooked due to the high price. (But it’s amazing.)
Dr. Hauschka — I like most of Dr. Hauschka’s products, but many contain too much alcohol and can potentially be drying or irritating. However, they still have some terrific formulations, including some of the best natural cosmetics on the market.
My favorite products are the facial Cleansing Cream, Normalizing Day Oil, Volume Mascara and Translucent Facial Powder. I don’t think much of any of their masks or body products (not good value for your money, as they’re too expensive). I don’t think much at all of their concealers, as mine went bad quite quickly and none seem to be a good color for me — but others have raved about it, so again, who knows? Maybe I got a bad batch.
Tip — a lot of places that carry their products also carry small, trial-size samples for free,so you can see if you want to invest in their full-size product — it never hurts to ask! Both Bastyr Dispensary and Whole Foods do carry their stuff.
Lavera — This German brand is relatively high quality, though it can be hard to find here. The only place I’ve seen it locally is at Madison Market in Capitol Hill.
They appear to have exceptionally good and safe sun care, though I believe it may leave a whitish cast since it’s all formulated with titanium dioxide. I’ve only ever tried their Volume Mascara, which I found disappointingly thin, but other than that it was a good formulation, and they have great ingredients. I have heard mixed reviews on EDS. One member posted the ingredients to their body washes, and I was surprised to see some very non-natural ingredients like SLS.
MyChelle Dermaceuticals — This stuff is a bit hard to track down, and they just reformulated a bunch of their products so I’m not sure if I even trust them anymore! But I thought they had very good ingredients and formulations for everything except their lotions (not emollient enough for my taste) prior to reformulation. Here’s hoping they still hold up. Some of my favorites were the Fruit Enzyme Scrub, the Fruit Enzyme Mist, the Sun Shield SPF 28, and the Cranberry Cleanser. (I don’t like the Sun Shield all that much for my face, but it makes a GREAT body sunblock!)
Best Bath Store — As the cheesy name suggests, this stuff is… sort of great. They USED to be great, then they reformulated, and I feel like they may even have reformulated yet again. Their product line is fairly limited, and their packaging leaves something to be desired. I will update if I test their stuff out again, but I don’t trust that many reformulations!
I used to adore their Dead Sea Facial Scrub and their Revitalizing Eye Cream, and I liked their acne serum and their moisturizing shampoo okay. Not a big fan of their shave gel, and I personally had an allergic reaction to their old unscented body lotion. But now, every single one of those is different. The new scrub is meh, the new eye cream ew, and the new lotion worthless.
Also with the old formulation, I had two jars of the eye cream over time, and both times the creams went moldy before I’d even used up a quarter of the contents. I had a bit of an exchange with Justin there, who sent me the second jar for free, but since both went moldy now I’m at a loss. I’ve truly never found such a great cream from any other company as their OLD formulation, so I wanted to keep using it, but I refuse to pay $35 a jar for something that I barely get to use any of and it’s totally different now anyway.
Jurlique — This Aussie brand always struck me as being very similar to Dr. Hauschka, but since they’ve changed their packaging and reformulated and added a bunch of stuff, they seem crappier and crappier. (Plus their marketing firm keeps pestering me with emails about their stuff that they want me to feature on my blog. Um, no; my opinions are all that gets featured here, thanks!) I haven’t tried many of their products, but I do adore their Rose Silk Dust — it’s the best oil-absorbing powder I’ve ever found (almost drying). However, I didn’t really dig their Blemish Cream — it actually seemed to break me out worse! And the sample I tried of their Herbal Recovery Gel was just gross to me — sticky and not moisturizing at all. But others have raved about it, so who knows? They do have samples available from EDS so that may help you decide before you commit to a full-size spending spree. And I think Sephora carries them now, but NOT Hauschka, which shocks/irks me.
Other misc. brands — Some natural and natural-leaning brands I don’t know well but that EDS folks love are PSF, Eminence, Decleor, Osea and Yonka. I’ll post updates as I sample them. I do love PSF’s Green Tea Cleansing Milk, but that’s the only thing I’m wild about from them. I go on and off about their mud mask — good on zits but icky smell and texture.
Good Product Lines — these are all lines that are mostly good, though some products/areas may be less great than others. Detailed notes on each follow.
Burt’s Bees — These guys have gone through a major overhaul in the past few years after getting bought out by Clorox, adding a bunch of new products with updated formulations. The really good news is that with this marketing revamp, they don’t seem to have added on a bunch of unsafe ingredients in order to make their new formulations more cosmetically elegant. (You’d be amazed how common that is, no matter now “natural” the company!) I think they have a few great items, but I admit I haven’t tried a ton of their newest stuff. So I’ll review the tried-and-true ones I love.
Their Orange Essence Facial Cleanser is just divine to me. It’s relatively cheap, compared to most of the skincare items I indulge in, and it has a lovely texture and smell. It stings a bit when it gets in your eyes, but it’s so great for removing even stubborn waterproof mascara that I consider a little stinging a small price to pay. I used to use this with my Clarisonic until I realized it made the brush heads go eh faster. I also like their Apricot Baby Oil, Avocado Hair Butter, Coconut Foot Creme, and Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream.
I’m so-so on their newer shampoos (I’ve only tried the grapefruit one), but it does seem that all their new washes and shampoos are formulated with safe surfactants, and no SLS. I also have always enjoyed their Feeling Flaky shampoo, though it doesn’t lather very richly so you often have to use it twice.
I’m really NOT a fan of their Apricot Face Scrub — the formulation of the base is fabulous, but the formulation of the base is fabulous, and the ingredients are stellar, but the bits of apricot seed themselves are FAR too big, sharp, and abrasive. Sadly, this otherwise lovely product is a recipe for broken capillaries, and it’s safe to use on the body, just not delicate skin like the face. Here’s hoping they reformulate with smaller particles! I’m also not a fan of their pot lip glosses — the consistency is really off, almost like just putting vegetable oil on your lips. Way too weak and runny and just weird-feeling. And I’m not a fan of their sage spray-on deodorant or their insect repellent. And lastly, their facial soaps have a VERY high pH, so those are best avoided.
Ecco Bella — This is a good product line all-around, though I don’t love their conditioners — yummy smell, but not the best actual conditioning ever. They make a decent inexpensive natural mascara (though it does contain icky preservatives), and it has a built-in mirror to boot! Good facial care line, though a bit pricey, and still not as nice as some others at that price point. Their body lotions are wonderfully moisturizing and smell great. That’s all I’ve tried so far!
Uncle Harry’s Natural Products — This is a hodgepodge of different products, and the guy who makes them is based in Washington State so I don’t think they’re very widely available. But they’re all very natural and great and some very unique. Try their tooth powder/breath freshener, and their essential oil blends.
Medium Product Lines — These are all lines that have some good stuff, and some sketchy stuff too. Detailed notes on each, but don’t consider this a carte blanche to go nuts just based on these brands. These all have caveats of some sort.
Zia — If you can afford it, most of their products seem relatively good and use mostly safe ingredients. However, read carefully about their SPF products — moststill use bad chemical sunblocks instead of safe physical ones. Other than that, you’re mostly safe, but I honestly feel money is better spent on one of the above lines. I don’t think Zia’s quality is at all in line with its prices.
Aveda — Aveda used to be a real pioneer in the natural personal care industry, but it’s been going downhill in quality every day since they sold out to Estée Lauder. (Since then, their new product releases have been crappier, and they discontinued some old staples that many people loved — myself included). Now, I think you pay more than most of their products are worth, as they do use many very questionable ingredients. But for the most part Aveda is better than any drugstore or department store brand, so that’s something.
The smells are what I love most. Aveda’s products all used to have a very distinctive and strong aromatherapy fragrance blend. Some recent releases, like their Smoothing stuff for hair, have just been STINKY — which I NEVER exepcted from them! Ah, I suppose all good things must come to an end.
Aveda was the main force behind the movement to get away from petrochemicals and lanolin, but now they’re very slow to get with the times about certain scary ingredients. For example, they are unwilling to jump on the reformulation bandwagon — I suppose some could admire them for that, but I’m more of a paranoid type when it comes to new ingredients that contain potential hazards, so for me it’s just annoying that they don’t meet the same standard that many other (and much cheaper) brands do. I constantly find parabens and harsh surfactants in their ingredient lists, even the newly formulated stuff.
But for what it’s worth, I love Aveda eye shadow, I found their smoothing hair stuff to be quite effective despite the odor, and I really really loved Curessence, their now-discontinued deep conditioner. I haven’t used any of their skincare products in ages, but their lipsticks are still some of my favorite ones out there.
Beauty Without Cruelty — I’m not sure about all of their products, but I noticed that their face wash I like (with AHAs) reformulated to get rid of the parabens, so they may have done that across the board. I can’t say for any other products, but I really like that face wash (and I actually use it as a body wash)! I’m fairly certain their SPF stuff is all chemical.
Earth Science — Other than their sunblocks, this stuff is pretty good. I particularly dug their cream facial cleanser. However, I seem to recall that their shampoos/conditioners contained parabens. Their SPF stuff is all chemical and should be avoided. The Azulene Eye Treatment didn’t do much for my eye area, and the container didn’t seal out air so it dried out really quickly.
Avalon Organics — This company, whose parent company owns Alba and Un-Petroleum as well, is generally a pretty good line. They don’t use SLS or parabens anymore, and they have quality products that are fairly affordable. I don’t adore all their formulations, and I wish they would quit using dimethicone in their conidtioners and lotions, as well as making their lotions richer and coming up with a deeper conditioner too. But I’ve never seen anything that uses unsafe ingredients, except their SPF products — last I checked, all still use bad chemical sunblocks instead of safe physical ones. Everything else is A-OK. Some of their shampoos are too stripping for every day use, but I use their Lemon Verbena shampoo as a buildup-removal treatment.
Kiss My Face — These guys used to be unfortunate paraben and SLS fans, but that seems to be changing as they’ve begun to reformulate many products. Sadly, the new formulas don’t have as good a consistency as the old ones, but at least now they’re starting to be paraben-free — but check the labels to make sure you get the new versions. They have good body lotions, not so good body wash (contains SLS, last I checked; not sure that they’re reformulating that) and not so good hair line in my opinion (also SLS and lots of filler ingredients like cetyl alcohol, and I just never thought it performed well). Face stuff is hit-or-miss, with the green “Obsessively Organic” line being much higher quality than the rest. They used to make one of the more potent natural AHA creams out there (Peach Alpha-Hydroxy 8% Lotion) but it’s hard to find (possibly discontinued), and has parabens also. Their “Obsessively Organics” Alpha Hydroxy face wash was nice, but didn’t foam as much as I like. Still, it was effective and safe. SPF products = still bad chemicals.
Alba Botanica — This company, a subsidiary of Avalon, still uses parabens and some other icky ingredients in certain products, which I find incredibly hypocritical given Avalon’s company line of never using those. However, Alba also has many products that are very high quality. In their Hawaiian line, I have introduced many people to their Jasmine and Vitamin E Moisture Cream, and everyone goes NUTS for it (better for drier/more mature skin, or as a night cream, but it does contain dimethicone which makes me break out). I also love their Hawaiian line conditioners for the smell more than the actual conditioning, and they make a great Vanilla Mango Shave Cream (that has been reformulated to kick out the parabens, and that smells insanely good). However, read carefully about their SPF products — many still use bad chemical sunblocks instead of safe physical ones. They do seem to be in the process of not exactly reformulating many products, but only bringing on new paraben-free stuff, so anything with a “NEW!” sticker on it is likely free of parabens now. I’m hoping they reformulate the old stuff eventually, too.
Mountain Ocean — Unfortunately I have to give these guys a medium rating due to their use of parabens and other creepy chemicals in pretty much everything; if it weren’t for that, they’d be a good product line all-around, especially their hair care. Not a fan of their lip balms though, which use chemical sunblocks and have a funky waxy consistency. Despite the parabens, I do really love their Skin Trip Coconut Lotion and their Hair Conditioning Treatment. Never tried the shampoo, but I want to.
LUSH — These guys claim to be all kinds of natural, but their products are chock full of artificial colors and fragrances, SLS, propylene glycol, parabens, and more ickies. Still, a few select products are worthwhile, you just really have to read the ingredients. None of their soaps, shampoos or body washes are safe in my opinion. I do love their Aromacreme deodorant, but I hate the rash it gives me and many other users, so I’ve created my own substitute with less harsh ingredients. Contact me if you’d like to get your hands on some!
Jason — These guys are unfortunately not as natural as they seem, though they’re improving in some ways. Many of their products still contain parabens, SLS, chemical sunblocks, propylene glycol, and pore-blocking chemicals, though they do seem to be following the recent market trend and reformulating to cut most of these out. However, they do make a few wonderful products, it’s just important to read the labels carefully. Their toothpastes are all good, and their other products are constantly improving. They make a terrific dandruff shampoo. Their SPF products are still a no-no, but they may improve over time. Read labels. They’ve come out recently with a newly marketed hair care line that I personally don’t much care for, but others seem to like it.
Giovanni — This stuff is hit and miss. I like their hair products for performance more than ingredients — the shampoos have save surfactants and most of the formulations are pretty good. Never tried anything else, and I’m not sure if they do facial care at all. This is less than natural at least for hair care, but the formulations are so good that I plug them anyway, and their styling products do seem more natural than many others. For example, their mousse which I love for curly days is totally free of drying alcohol, which is hard to find in a mousse.
(Mostly) Bad Product Lines — Most of these lines are not to be trusted; however, many are in the process of getting better, and many have one or two great products, so exceptions are noted.
The Body Shop — This brand is not as all-natural and healthy as it claims to be. The ownership has changed their formulas a lot over the past couple of decades. While some products are terrific, they are overall not to be considered a “natural” company, in my opinion. Chemicals like dimethicone, petroleum, SLS, cetyl/cetearyl alcohol, and unhealthy pigments abound. Still, they do have a select few products that are just great. It’s hit-or-miss, really; just be label-reading proactive. The only product that I still purchase is their Define and No Frizz Creme for hair, because I’m addicted to the vanilla/caramel scent. Yum! Plus I don’t think it matters nearly as much what you put on your hair as it does what you put on your skin, as hair is just dead keratin that can’t absorb chemicals like skin can (but note that the scalp still can absorb, so styling products are different than shampoos and conditioners, in my opinion).
Clinique — Despite having a hypoallergenic/medical/healthy image (i.e. chicks in white lab coats fawning all over you), many of Clinique’s formulas contain allergens and unhealthy ingredients like petrochemicals and pore-blocking and/or bioaccumulative minerals like talc, and just generally icky stuff. Other than the TWO products I sort of like (Super City Sunblock SPF 25 and Exfoliating Scrub), I generally think they are not to be trusted, and even those two are not very natural at all but I just really like the formulas so I’m somewhat forgiving.
Herbal Essences — there is nothing remotely natural about this line. That’s all marketing. Lots of cetyl alcohol and SLS here, plus synthetic fragrances and preservatives like all drugstore brands. This is just Clairol trying to appeal to a new market — it’s a cheap, synthetic-rich drugstore brand just like any other, it just happens to have the word “herbal” in it. Don’t be fooled.
Kiehl’s — this brand is hit-or-miss with almost everything. They favor petrochemicals and many creepy synthetics, but they also have some terrific formulas. Best bet is to really read the ingredients listings carefully. And don’t bother with their sunblock, it’s all chemical sunblock (which is bad; read on for the “why”). I do love their hair products, though — I adore Creme with Silk Groom and a few of their conditioners (both rinse-out and leave-in).
Tom’s of Maine — Most of their sudsing products contain SLS, and their deodorants use a propylene glycol base. Icky stuff. Not even their toothpaste is safe in my opinion. Good alternative natural toothpastes are Jason Naturals and Trader Joe’s brand imitation toothpaste (TJ’s doesn’t use SLS but is a knockoff of Tom’s of Maine that’s cheaper AND safer!). ToM recently came out with an SLS-free toothpaste, and when I tasted it I almost gagged — the stuff is HORRIBLE! It seems like they’re catching on as far as the natural ingredient trend goes, but they need to catch up with the cosmetically elegant side of things. I was blown away by how foul this toothpaste was — and this is coming from a company that was FOUNDED on making natural toothpastes!