Clean beauty is famously complicated. Despite being such a hot topic, defining what those words actually mean isn't exactly easy, especially since it’s usually something different from brand to brand. And since no official government regulations specify what "clean" means (in the US at least), it can feel overwhelming to sort through hundreds of products claiming to be non-toxic, sustainable, eco-conscious — and the list of buzzwords goes on when it comes to clean beauty brands.
But one underlying definition reigns true — as True Botanicals founder Hillary Peterson previously told TZR, "I consider beauty products clean if every ingredient and sub ingredient in that product is proven safe for people and the planet." As you search for clean beauty brands to try in the new year, keep in mind that although this definition may sound surface-level, it's right on point.
To help consumers shop for clean beauty, retailers like Sephora, Ulta Beauty, and Credo have implemented standards that brands must abide by to be labeled “clean” in their respective stores. In a former interview with TZR, Ulta’s chief merchandising officer Monica Arnaudo attributed this decision to "a rising interest in clean beauty and sustainable practices," adding that "consumers are increasingly more conscientious about making informed product choices."
Ahead, TZR rounded up 10 trusted clean beauty brands to consider trying in 2022, from a makeup brand dedicated to the unique needs of melanin-rich skin to a skin care brand produced exclusively on a Vermont farm.
We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
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Clean makeup brand Ami Colé was designed for melanin-rich skin. It’s new to the industry, having launched in May with three hero products: Skin-Enhancing Tint, Lip Treatment Oil, and Light-Catching Highlighter. “Unfortunately, research by the E.W.G (aka the environmental working group) found that women of color are disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals, with one in 12 beauty products marketed toward this group considered toxic,” says the brand. Ami Colé has set out to be a part of the solution, banning an extensive list of potentially dangerous ingredients for all of its products.
Saie was founded in 2019 by former fashion editor Laney Crowell, who sought to create a "clean, chic, and unforgettable" makeup line after noticing a white space for them in the market. It’s free of ingredients that are potentially harmful to the environment and human health, and for that, it’s earned Sephora’s Clean seal of approval.
Founded in 2011 and launched in 2013, Beautycounter was founded by Gregg Renfrew after learning that the States ban only 30 ingredients from personal care products (as opposed to over 1,400 in Europe). The brand bans 1,800 ingredients from all of its beauty products with the mission “to get safer products into the hands of everyone.”
Chemist and biologist Sheena Yaitanes launched Kosas in 2015, and its products — which range from foundation and concealer to body wash and deodorant — have since exploded in popularity. Dubbed “makeup for skin care freaks,” it uses minimal ingredients that adhere to Europe, Sephora, and Credo’s famously strict clean standards.
Tata and Henry Harper founded the luxury skin care brand Tata Harper on their organic farm in Vermont in 2010, quickly amassing a celebrity following. “At Tata Harper, our pledge is 100% natural and nontoxic in our entire skin care line,” says the company on its website. “Sustainability and transparency is at the heart of everything we do. By transparency, we mean that each step of our formulation and batching process is done by a Tata Harper employee on our farm in Vermont.”
Victoria Beckham Beauty
Victoria Beckham fans went wild when the Spice Girls alum unveiled her makeup collection in 2019, prior to launching her skin care products with famed biomedical scientist Augustinus Bader in 2020. “At Victoria Beckham Beauty, ‘clean’ goes far beyond the basic standard of formulating without materials that are already banned globally,” says the brand on its website. “Our Excluded Ingredients List is constantly reviewed and updated by our internal R&D experts to reflect emerging safety data and concerns surrounding potential toxicity, allergies, and sensitivities.”
Julian Addo's natural hair care brand of four years is minimalist, non-toxic, and gender-neutral. "I pitched a concept [about a modernized haircare brand for textured hair] to Sally Beauty and some of my other clients, but no one really moved on the idea," the founder told D Magazine in May. "That's how Adwoa Beauty was born — out of my frustration with the industry and how it represented Black women, and from my desire to have a clean, modern, gender-neutral brand that caters to textured hair." Now, the top-rated line’s available at Sephora and, of course, it’s stamped with the company’s clean seal of approval.
The mission behind Sasha Plavsic's Ilia Beauty is to create “skin care-powered makeup,” AKA, cosmetics that include active levels of skin care ingredients and SPF protection. The buzzy line’s been around since 2011, and its debut SKU was a lip conditioner dreamt up by the founder after discovering her go-to lip balm contained potentially dangerous ingredients. These days, the brand has an extensive line of products, including its Super Serum Skin Tint, which's amassed a cult following of celebs (hi, Cindy Crawford) and regular people alike since launching in 2019.
Founder Hillary Peterson introduced the world to True Botanicals in 2014, following her years-long battle with thyroid cancer. “It was then that I discovered an unexpected truth — my beauty products were full of toxins,” she shared in a post on the brand’s editorial platform. “I could not believe that there weren’t stricter regulations protecting our health.” So, she took matters into her own hands and founded her company, which became the first beauty brand to be 100% certified by MADE SAFE, which the brand says is “the most comprehensive safety and sustainability standard available, backed by the world’s leading scientists.”
Relatively new to the beauty space, hair care brand Crown Affair stepped onto the scene in January 2020, founded by Dianna Cohen. It’s rooted in a “less is more” approach, with a mission of making one’s daily hair routine an enjoyable, relaxing experience. “For me, haircare is a daily practice, a part of being well and caring for myself,” says the founder on the brand’s website. “But after years of conversations, I realized it was much more frustrating than relaxing for so many people in my life. So I decided to create a new kind of haircare brand — one with clean ingredients, effective formulations, and beautiful handmade tools you’ll look forward to using every day.”
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