KIWI Beauty Challenge: Eco-Friendly Swaps

Eco-Friendly Swaps: Cosmetics

For all the lifestyle changes I’ve made since joining KIWI—eating organic, paying attention to food labels—there’s one area that could use improvement: my beauty routine. I’ve always been of the (admittedly old-fashioned) belief that the eco-friendly makeup brands don’t work as well. So when I suggested we find a family to switch over to green personal care products for our next Challenge, my co-workers knew just the person: me.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea—I was perfectly content keeping my head buried in the (not-so-natural) sand. But I took to the Internet, using the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database and Whole Foods Market’s list of acceptable body care ingredients as my guides. Here, what was involved in switching out my daily beauty products with eco-friendly swaps.

The Challenge

Swap out the beauty products used in my daily routine for those whose ingredients earn a hazard score of 4 or lower (out of 10) on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Eco-Friendly Swap: BITE Beauty Lipstain

Ask anyone in our office, rare is the day I’m not wearing a red or orange lip. Not surprisingly, my favorites are full of lead and parabens—and, as I discovered throughout the course of the challenge, even many of the “natural” brands resort to the use of some questionable ingredients.

Enter BITE Beauty: Their lipsticks and pencils come in lots of colors that pack a serious punch, and they got the okay by both the EWG and Whole Foods. The Outburst Longwear Lipstain in Orange Fizz is the ideal shade of orangey-red. ($24,

Concealer and Foundation
After lipstick, these two products were the ones I was most skeptical of; my conventional tinted moisturizer and concealer provide decent coverage without being too heavy. I tried several choices, and not only was I unimpressed with their coverage, I was surprised to learn that their ingredients weren’t much better than my go-tos!

Still, organic is the way to go—they may not cover as well, but they always scored best with the EWG. I loved cult favorite “Un” cover up, by RMS beauty in 11 ($36, as well as Juice Beauty’s Perfecting Concealer ($25,

Eco-Friendly Swap: Tarte Liquid Eyeliner

Eyeliner and Eyebrow Pencil
While there weren’t many eco- friendly liquid liners to choose from, tarte makes a waterproof gel liner that’s made without parabens. Plus, several colors are vegan, including the black I tried ($22,

As for my eyebrows, I like them big and bold, so a decent pencil is a must. Sadly, I had no luck—the few eco-friendly swaps all had hydrogenated palm oil, scoring low on Skin Deep but high in my environmentally conscious brain. I decided on Sante’s eyebrow pencil in Brown—it’s paraben-free and performed most closely to my regular product. ($19,

I thought this would be simple, but again, brands I expected would be natural weren’t—and many of them had synthetic fragrances. Luckily, there are plenty of better-for-you brands to choose from. My favorite? Ecco Bella’s FlowerColor Natural Mascara in Black—it didn’t clump or flake off too much after a day of wear. ($22,

The Takeaway

What was hardest about the challenge wasn’t finding eco brands, or even eco-friendly swaps that worked as well as conventional makeup. The real difficulty was avoiding the trap of the so-called “natural” brands—a rather surprising slip-up, as I know the use of the term isn’t regulated.

The good news is, with groups like the EWG and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics helping bring awareness, finding nontoxic cosmetics is getting easier. Sure, going through ingredients is time-consuming, but if it means finding quality products, it’s a sacrifice this makeup devotee is willing to make.

For even more natural beauty recommendations, check out KIWI’s 2015 Natural Beauty Award winners.