While I do think that skincare should be all or mostly natural, I tend to be a bit more flexible when it comes to makeup. (This is partly because I don’t think it matters quite as much, since you’re not always applying it directly to wet skin — there’s a layer of moisturizer/sunblock separating your skin from your makeup — and partly because the selection of natural makeup is very limited compared to what’s out there in the makeup spectrum as a whole!) So here are a few of my favorite brands, products, and advice.
Brows — I think having well-groomed brows can really enhance your overall appearance. Good tweezers, a good brow waxist/threader/stylist and good brow grooming products are all really a must for me now. Make sure to NOT wax if you’re on any kind of retinoid/peel regime!
My fave Anastasia of Beverly Hills tweezers really are better than Tweezerman brand. Many people recommend tweezing right after a shower when the hairs are softer and the pores looser, but I actually find that I’m more prone to accidentally cutting the hair instead of plucking it if I tweeze post-shower. So I do it right beforehand, and just suffer with the slightly unsightly reddening that I sometimes experience. (That’s what concealer is for!)
I also recommend Anastasia brow powders, as they have a good range of colors that seem more natural than many brands (at least for my coloring). Using brow powder is a pretty recent thing for me, but I’ve found it’s great to fill in spots that are too sparse because of over-plucking or whatever. I don’t like overly done-up brows, but I think a little powder/color can really help define your look or tide you over if you got too tweezer-happy. However, I’ve never found a good colored brow gel since Chanel discontinued mine.
As for holding brows in place, I’m a big fan of just plain hair spray! Yes, you read that right. While there are loads of brow waxes and gels out there, I find the gels too goopy and the waxes too breakout-inducing. So I spray hair spray in my palm, and use a clean mascara spooly brush to grab some and brush it through my browns (I brush up and then line the top up cleanly). My fave hair spray at the moment is Aveda Control Force, and it works well for my brows AND bangs.
Eye Shadow — Many eye shadows contain harsh ingredients and pigments that dry out the skin on your eyelids and around your eyes. However, I haven’t ever found a natural eye shadow that was as finely milled, richly pigmented, or otherwise cosmetically elegant as some of the not-so-natural ones out there. On the spectrum of makeup concerns, I think eye shadow falls pretty low, so I tend not to worry about this TOO much.
My fave new eye shadow company is The Balm. However, I don’t actually own any of their shadows, because they don’t have a great color range. But I tried one out for a while, and their formulations are just so rich and finely milled, and they have a great “grip” both on brushes and on your skin.
Second favorite is Stila. I love the broad range, the interchangeable packaging, and the rich finely-milled formulations. And did I mention the packaging? Oh my GOD, the packaging. Stila’s stuff is just so adorable.
Lots of people go nuts for MAC and Urban Decay, and I’m okay with both of those but they don’t make me go gaga. MAC is just unimpressive for the price tag, and UD has waaay to many glittery shades that should never be worn outside of Halloween/youth.
The main thing to prolong your eye shadow is to wear a good primer/base. I personally swear by Urban Decay Primer Potion. It’s not remotely natural, but it’s shockingly effective compared to every other primer/base I’ve ever tried.
I also only recently discovered how much of a difference good brushes make when it comes to applying eye shadow. I bought a full set of Too Faced brushes, just because I loved the texture of their Retractable Kabuki Brush, and I’m so in love! The angled shadow brush makes it a lot easier to shape, and I love the other two for sweeping on color and doing precise application close to the lash line. For cream eyeliner, brushes also matter — read my blog post about this for more.
Mascara — Personally, I’m torn on mascaras. I’ve tried like a million and can never decide between natural and not so natural — both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Dr. Hauschka’s two mascaras, one volumizing and one not, both have a lovely consistency, and no scary ingredients. I love the volumizing formula, because I think it gives you high-end cosmetic performance with minimal scary ingredients. I do wish that they’d make the volumizing one in some of the same colors as the regular one (i.e. blue).
I’m also thinking of trying Beauty Without Cruelty’s waterproof mascara, largely because it’s the only natural company I know of that even makes a waterproof mascara. (I’m prone to raccoon eyes by mid-day, especially in the summertime.) But the ingredient list doesn’t look ALL that natural to me.
A reasonably good brand of natural mascara is Ecco Bella, which USED to cost about $9/tube (now up to FIFTEEN), and has a convenient mirror built into the packaging. But it contains parabens, which normally I’m against (though there is some argument that mascara which often gets super-icky with bacteria fast would be a good place to put such a synthetic preservative). Still, I have a built in knee-jerk reactin against using a paraben-laden product when so many paraben-free natural alternatives are out there.
I’ve also tried Gabriel Natural Cosmetics’ version, which had a paraben-free formulation but a TERRIBLE consistency — dry and flaky and gunky and clumpy and just awful! But then I ran into a Gabriel rep at a big marketing shindig, and she gave me a free tube to try again — and it was fine. Very VERY lengthening without much volume to match, and it was a bit prone to flaking in bigger bits than my trusty Dr. H — but I was intrigued, nevertheless. Turns out I kinda like the stuff!
I’ve also tried both of the Aveda mascaras and enjoyed both – the Mascara Plus Rose has a lovely rose scent (surprise!) but is a VERY wet formula that never seems to dry fully, so it’s not good for folks who rub their eyes or, like, blink ever. And the Mosscara is okay but nothing special at all.
Lavera’s mascara is very thin but has good ingredients. I just was infuriated that it was labeled as “volumizing” when it’s probably the least volumizing mascara I’ve ever tested in my life…
Except, that is, for Miessence mascara — which was hands-down the VERY WORST PRODUCT EVER. Aside from the fact that the packaging broke in two different ways on the second usage, this stuff just sucked even if you COULD manage to apply it with a broken brush. Spindly, and so watery that it actually flicked droplets all over the rest of your face as you brushed. Gah. Stay away. (No wait, go look at the link! The brush is already starting to unravel in the STOCK PHOTO! And for what it’s worth, stay away from their lip balm, too!)
More than anything, it’s important to throw out mascara after three months due to the potential for infections. I’m terrible about this myself, but trying to be better, as I really do think it’s important – and I’ve had some pretty severe eye infections in my life, so I’m more than a bit paranoid now. Three to six months if you REALLY wanna live on the edge.
A good trick is to apply your eye shadow BEFORE your mascara, or at least save the last mascara coat until after you’ve done your shadow. That way the powder won’t cover up your still-wet lashes and disguise your lovely mascara job.
Lips — Most non-natural lipstick brands contain lanolin and/or petrochemicals, which can sometimes cause you to break out around the lips. And some even contain lead! Head for natural formulas (see below) for better alternatives. Also, many traditional companies use pigments that are known carcinogens, but the FDA doesn’t do much to regulate cosmetics – think about the fact that you might be ingesting these things! Natural formulas will usually use natural minerals and/or plant pigments instead of synthetic chemical colorants.
Lip Stain — Ever since I started dating Grant, I’ve been frustrated with lip color. He simply can’t stand the taste/feel of the stuff at all, and I don’t love kissing anyone when I have gunk on my lips, so I don’t blame him! I started switching to stains, and I must say, I’m SO much happier now. I still use the occasional gloss or lipstick, but it’s much rarer, and I hardly ever need lip liner now. I’m bummed that not many natural stains exist, but I may try and create one someday soon!
The VERY best lip stain brand is Vincent Longo, by a long shot. Their wand-tip applicator stains are just so richly pigmented and long-lasting, I truly consider them one of the best makeup products I own. Sadly, they don’t offer very many colors.
Some other stains I’ve tried are Benetint and Lorac, and both of those were OK but nothing special on my lips. (I like Benetint more on my cheeks.) Thought I complained about VL’s color palette, they actually have a much broader range for stains than most companies. I have no idea why more people haven’t gotten on the stain train, but I guess for now VL will have to suffice!
All that said, here are some of my tips from back in the days when I wore lipsticks:
Lipstick — Gabriel’s liners are creamy and wonderful and their lipstick is great too. I also liked Burt’s Bees lipsticks and liners before they discontinued them. Now their only cosmetic-like lip product that’s worth a damn is their lip shimmers, which are still pretty meh. Ecco Bella has a fun and wide range of lipstick colors and mostly good formulas. I’ve also tried and enjoyed one of their chubby Long Lasting Lip Crayons.
Aveda’s lip products are fine and all, but I think you can do better price-wise, though they do have really great formulas with yummy essential oils. They’re not nearly as natural as they used to be, and I find their packaging to be kind of insanely ridiculous. No, I’m not going to spend an extra $4 on a refillable lipstick case which makes the already-packaged lipstick even bulkier in my purse. Thanks for the tip, though.
And Dr. Hauschka’s lip products of course seem delectable, but expensive. So much so that I’ve never actually owned one, save the balms that I sometimes get as free gifts from EDS. The testers are delightful, though!
A brand that I like the look of is Cargo (though I do believe their glosses contain mineral oil, which means a blackhead-ringed mouth for me). I have yet to try their Plant Love lipsticks, but they sound divine, and I’m currently working on a swap for one right now on MUA. Not super-duper-natural, but a cute detail is that the box is made of biodegradable cardboard infused with wildflower seeds, so you can actually plant it! Haven’t tried most of their other lip products, but they do seem full of innovation what with the individually sized daily gloss tabs and whatnot. I CAN recommend that you steer clear of the reverse lip liner, or at least find a tester you can actually try around your lips before you spend money on it. It’s a very odd shade that does not match most skin tones. Try DuWop’s instead.
Lip Gloss — I’m not a huge gloss girl, myself, simply because I find the texture of many glosses to be kind of icky. But my very favorite thing that’s really more of a tinted balm is Mama Coco’s Red Hibiscus Lip Rouge — now discontinued as they’re out of business (!?). It’s made with natural pigments of hibiscus and rose petals, and it imparts just the slightest rosy tint, with a not-too-sticky texture. You can Google and probably still find it at some online vendors.
I did recently start using 100% Pure’s Lip Gloss, which I’ve blogged about here.
Lip Liner — I’m not gaga over liner, either, but I’ve already mentioned some nice ones are made by Gabriel, Ecco Bella, DuWop and Dr. Hauschka. I do try to use natural lip liners if I line, since I’m prone to blackheads and tiny pimples right around my lips, and many not-so-natural companies use petrochemicals and other occlusives that block my pores. But Stila does a Glaze Lip Liner that’s specially formulated with less pigment to work well with glosses instead of lipsticks, and I must admit I like that stuff, though I’ve never found a color that quite fits me.
Concealer — I’ve had a lot of trouble coming up with a good concealer shade, and I finally decided to cave and buy a broad palette of different colors to mix and match. Because my complexion isn’t identical on different parts of my face, this has really helped give me the flexibility I needed to get a good color match. I use a different shade for undereye circles than for acne, for example.
There are lots of concealers out there, but very few with formulations I trust. So many are chock-full of comedogenic ingredients that I wouldn’t want to put on my acne. My concealers right now are all mineral powder concealers from Everyday Minerals, and I occasionally combine them with some kind of oil to make a cream if I feel I need one. I think many breakout-prone people worsen their acne by applying scary occlusive concealer to it.
Powder –I’ve found a couple of powders that seemed just magical, and they’re all items I’ll re-purchase.
My favorite for extremely oily times is Jurlique Rose Silk Finishing Powder — this stuff sops up oil better and for longer than any other powder I’ve tried, but it can be a bit whitish/powdery looking. My favorite for drier times is Dr. Hauschka Translucent Loose Powder, which is a bit less oil-busting but more natural-looking for less melty weather. I also carry a compact of their pressed powder in my makeup bag, but I honestly can’t recall the last time I used it. (…Ew.)
I always prefer loose powder over pressed, though I do try and tap off as much excess product from my powder brush as possible, and I sweep an empty brush over my face after applying to get rid of any extra powdery residue.
Foundation — Personally, I don’t wear foundation at all — I don’t think healthy skin needs it! But many people are all kinds of nuts for mineral makeup, and I think this stuff is better for your skin than many liquid foundations. That’s pretty much all I can chime in here, but I’ll update if I start using it!
Tinted Moisturizer — I’m not big on this stuff either, but I do sometimes add a tiny bit of tint to my regular moisturizer. So I guess that counts! If you feel like you need more tint or less moisturizer, don’t be afraid to add a little moisturizer or facial oil or whatever. You can create a custom blend pretty easily, and save money by combining two existing products that you know work well for you.
Blush — I never was a big blush wearer, but I recently tried dabbing on some Benetint and I love it! It’s a liquid stain that comes in a nail-polish-like bottle, and I just dab a bit on each cheek and rub it around with my fingers. This shade definitely won’t work on everyone, but it’s nice on my fair pink-toned skin.
I also had a Stila powder blush that I received in a Makeup Alley swap and didn’t hate, which is saying a lot for me! (My pink-toned complexion taught me to eschew blush from a very young age, but I got this for free and had to at least try it!) It was called “Hint”, and it was a nice, soft, neutral-to-rose, finely-milled matte powder. I swapped it away because the color was a little bit too warm for me, but I would definitely repurchase a Stila powder blush based on that experience, and that’s saying a lot!
I’ve also tried a powder blush from Bésame Cosmetics. The packaging is what sold me, but I’m liking the extremely matte blush in summer months. I think it’ll be too dry looking for cooler times, though. And I did get hooked on Too Faced Pink Leopard Bronzer, used as a blush. And I do also enjoy using 100% Pure’s cheek stain, which I’ve reviewed here.
Bronzer — My bronzer of choice is the above-mentioned Too Faced Pink Leopard Bronzer. This stuff is ideal for someone super-pale like me, as it’s a lot less brown and more pinky-golden. I like that it doubles well as a blush or a bronzer. Once upon a time I used to use Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronze Concentrate, but I finally figured out that the stuff kinda sucks. The product separates easily, and it dries up in the pump so you can sometimes get little gobs of bronzer that you have to fish out of the liquid before you can apply it. It’s meant to be mixed with a moisturizer, but it’s a really specific tone that doesn’t necessarily flatter all shades of skin, and the formulation doesn’t allow for more targeted application on areas that would actually get tan if one were in the sun.
One of my pet peeves is people who don’t know how to apply bronzer right, and wind up looking orange or dirty or just plain weird. Bronzer is best applied with a light hand, and I think it can be VERY hard to get it right with a powder bronzer, but all-over liquid bronzers don’t really replicate how sun-kissed skin really looks. SO if you bronze, subtle is definitely better — most people look best in their natural skin color!