Why does choosing the right skincare and makeup brands matter?
It was standing in the shower, pregnant with my first child, and squirting a highly medicated shampoo into my hand that I first actually wanted to change what I use on my skin.
I’d heard the fact ten thousand times that “our skin is our largest organ” but honestly I just glazed over whenever I heard it – it was just a fact. “Just a fact” until I was growing another human and reading about cord blood and what crosses over the placenta into my baby and the lack of regulation around what goes into skincare products that is (based on science) not good for us. That was the first point I actually cared enough to DO something.
Switching my shampoo was fairly easy, I took the Environmental Working Group app (which isn’t perfect but makes a perfect starting point) and scanned shampoos at the local shop and found the best one. The rest of what I put on my skin was overwhemling to change – having struggled with severe acne I was very attached to my makeup… but I knew I was more attached to health. So I moved on step by step.
Over the years, my choices have become about more than one step towards better ingredients. I now want ethical sourcing, care for the environment, and well formulated products if I’m going to bring a luxury product into my home. I also want a company that is making products for a full range of skin tones. So many cleaner brands I’ve clicked on to find a range where I would be the darkest skin tone represented. I want to pour my money into brands who are making options for everyone – and brands making a difference beyond just me!
And given those factors, these are my go to and top choices for the US and the UK:
I’ll start here because in my initial overwhelm it was the main company I turned to as we lived Stateside! As a simple way to shop a combination of all those values with products that actually worked and a return guarantee – I fell in love with them. I also really appreciated the advocacy and law making side of what they do.
Who are they? A female founded B Corp with the goal to change the beauty industry. Their focus is on safety of products from the safety of those creating them, to the safety of those who will never even shop the brand, and of course, science based safety in their own products.
Ingredient care: As well as third party testing ingredients for contaminants like heavy metals and asbestos where relevant, they never use anything on THIS list. As well as healthy formulations for the consumer, they choose ingredients that are ethically sourced and sustainable.
Shipping: US + Canada (and military addresses)
How do they handle packaging? They’ll be zero to landfill by 2025, have some refillable, some recycled PCR plastic, lots of glass and minimise secondary packaging. They are also open about balancing different factors – glass is more pricey (so less accessible for more people) and uses more fuel in transport so they balance the packaging with wanting the most widely accessible brand they can!
I felt like I’d found ME when I found this brand! I think this would be my go to for UK shoppers as it’s actually here. Their ethics are spot on, sourcing of minerals is transparent and ethical and their ingredients are well done. It’s also beautiful high performing makeup.
Who are they?! 100% natural and organic, halal, vegan and cruelty free makeup + skincare brand. They always use ethically sourced ingredients, the minerals in their cosmetics are sourced without the use of child labour. And they always ensure ingredients are sustainably sourced and organic where possible.
Ingredient care: No Alcohol, Animal Ingredients, Animal Testing, Parabens, Palm Oil, No SLS / SLeS / ALS, Synthetic Fragrance / Parfum, PEG / Petrochemicals, No Colourants /Dyes, Formaldehyde, DEA / TEA / Phthalates
Returns: free returns for 30 days
My faves! The mascara!
Cocokind was just starting as I began my search and so it didn’t have quite enough (and no makeup) to make it my go to BUT, it’s a truly incredible company I’m in love with for it’s products, leadership, education and values!
Who are they? Female founded skincare company, very well packaged and formulated, simple and effective skincare products from a company built on empowering people with their skin – to embrace whatever your skin is.
Ingredient Care: Ethical labor, fair pay and safe manufacturing, and with a continuous effort towards minimizing waste, energy, and materials used.
How do the handle packaging? They are committed to truly reducing the carbon footprint from sourcing to end of life of products which is the way it should be.
Look at their: Sunscreen, serums, matcha stick
This is my UK go to for skincare! Evolve has the perfect mix for me of really well sourced and packaged formulations but also the actives I want for my aging skin. Bakuchiol, Vitamin C, and peptides all feature, in glass bottles and just everything done well.
Where? US, UK, EU, and worldwide. Shop all locations HERE! Also available in the US via Credo HERE, a great site for shopping cleaner products.
Who are they? Simple, vegan, cruelty free, eco friendly, natural ingredients, screen every one of our 150+ ingredients to check it has been ethically and sustainably sourced and it is biodegradable and GMO free.
How do the handle packaging? Everything is packaged in glass which is probably the biggest thing to most people! They take it much ore broadly though: “We have divided our impact into 5 areas we will measure and report on, and we have set goals for each area that we will work on to continue to reduce our impact. Our aim here is not only to become sustainable but to eventually aim to become regenerative.” You can read more on their site.
I’ve had an Athr palette for years, and I LOVE the powder eye shadows. I haven’t tried anything else from them but I love the ethical mica sourcing cos it’s so rare to find in a product that’s also brilliant. And one that is formulated with safer ingredients too, by a female founded company. This is a highly recommend from me and is fairly widely available now.
How do the handle packaging? They’re opted for no mirror so the palette is recyclable.
Plus points: Ethically sourced mica, ethical production, female founded, beautiful, Leaping Bunny and Peta certified vegan.
I’ve absolutely loved the makeup pieces from Inika (mascara, lip/cheek colour/lipstick) and in terms of brands available in the UK it’s what I find myself reaching for. The ethics, ingredients and environment pieces are all there which is key to me! I think their makeup is slightly better formulated than their skincare, with their skincare getting slightly lower results on ratings websites. I’d need to dig a little deeper before I chose their skincare, but their makeup I love.
Who are they? Makeup and skincare with certified Organic, Cruelty-Free and Leaping Bunny Certified, Halal and Vegan values. They ensure all ingredients are ethically sourced, 100% natural ingredients, with no petrochemicals, synthetic substances or mineral oils, sulphates, PEGs or polysorbates.
How do they handle packaging? Packaging is 100% recyclable for all products, including glass and aluminium. Their skincare packaging is sugarcane, glass and aluminium. The sugarcane packaging is fully biodegradable, and a completely renewable resource.
My faves? The mascara and the cheek cream.
I think of Up Circle as the little sister of Evolve. Amazing up cycled food waste ingredients from the food industry, fantastic packaging and really great products. They just have less of the focus on actives I want for my skin. I’d also say a few of the products smell a little interesting – but that’s not at all something that others me, I’d take natural smelling products over artificial fragrance that gives me a headache aaaany day!
Who are they? An in tally crowd funded (and then Dragons Den winning) UK based skincare company with a focus on real sustainability from ingredients to packaging. They started with picking up coffee grounds from shops to use for scrubs and grew from there.
Ingredient Care: They focus on sourcing waste ingredeints from the food industry and formulating simple products that are vegan, with no SLS, SLES, palm pol, silicones, Parabens, mineral oil, perfume or sulphates.
How do the handle packaging? Glass, refills, aluminium and 100% recyclable with the only plastic showing up in a few caps but not all caps!
Two further (UK available) brands that I do like but don’t get my top spot are Ilia and Lily Lolo! Ilia is beautiful and well formulated but very pricey. Lily Lolo comes in with better pricing but just didn’t perform quite as well as the others I love.
Another imported brand to the UK and much more pricey but brilliant! They say: “We learned early on that not every natural ingredient is good for the skin, nor is every synthetic bad. Clean beauty is where those two collide—with conscious, carefully-selected ingredients, and no compromises.”
How do the handle packaging?They use recycled aluminum, glass components, and responsibly sourced paper also partner with teracycle to make sure everything gets recycled!
Look at their: mascara, blue light spray
Honestly in the UK I’d choose Inika or PHB over Lily Lolo having tried their items. But they’re a well formulated, female founded brand “dedicated to remaining free from chemicals, parabens, perfumes or dyes. We’re also proud to say that 90% of our products are vegan-friendly.”
Plus points: Ethically sourced mica, heavy metal tested minerals, price