Out of all ethical lifestyle categories, revamping my beauty routine has been the most difficult.
It continues to be a challenge for brands and consumers to trace raw materials, but even when the product is mostly organic, it’s likely not ethical from a labor or wage perspective. It’s not surprising considering the immense variation and number of ingredients in a given elixir. Unlike a cotton t-shirt, you have to sort out the origin of a half a dozen oils, fragrances, and minerals just to verify the ethics of a single beauty product.
That being said, I’ve got a decent thing going with my current routine (with a few notable exceptions). As I’ve mentioned before, I have sensitive, combination skin that will react to almost anything – natural or not – if it’s too potent. I can’t slather on natural products that are too rich in concentrated essential oils, so I tend to mix them with unscented lotion to keep my skin calm and balanced.
This list contains some affiliate links.
My Go-To Products
Whole Foods Skin Cleanser
Hypoallergenic and unscented. Whole Foods generally has a higher standard for trade than conventional retailers.
The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner
Palm oil free, and the tea tree is fairly traded from The Kenya Organic Oil Farmers Association.
Whole Foods Skin Lotion
Hypoallergenic, unscented, and oil based. This item contains palm oil (the palm oil industry has destroyed thousand of acres of forest habitat and contributes to extreme violence against workers and activists) so I want to phase it out.
Desert Essence Restorative Face Oil
Organic, gentle ingredients. I mix 3-4 drops with my moisturizer at night to reduce flaking.
The Body Shop Tea Tree BB Cream, Shade 01
Not the most natural in the bunch, but this product has really helped calm my acne-prone skin and smooth my complexion without heavy foundation. I blend a very small amount in with my moisturizer in the morning and apply as a tinted moisturizer.
The Body Shop All-in-One Face Base, Shade 02
Finely milled in my perfect shade. The sponge is also thick and sturdy. The Body Shop prides itself on trading fairly across the board, which is why I’ve turned to their products in recent years.
The Body Shop Baked-to-Last Blush, Petal
My preferred shade is currently sold out, but I love the soft shimmer on this blush and that it perfectly mimics the natural blush of my skin. I might try Root’s Petal blush if it doesn’t come back in stock.
The Body Shop Color Crush Eyeshadow
I’ve tried many shades in this product, but my favorite – a pearly beige – is out of stock. If it doesn’t come back, I’ll try Root’s Peach Pearl Eyeshadow.
Root 100% Natural Lash Mascara
This 83% organic, palm oil free mascara is the first natural mascara I’ve tried that doesn’t flake or get cakey. It’s superior to nearly any other mascara I’ve tried.
Glossier Boy Brow, Brown
I responded to Glossier’s aggressive targeted ads and purchased Boy Brow during their Black Friday sale. While not particularly natural, the effect is understated but satisfactory. I like that this product defines my brows and keeps them in place without making me look like a Kardashian.
I need your help!
I want a palm oil free option for moisturizer. It must be free of fragrance and potent essential oils. Plain oils don’t do the job for me, so a lotion consistency is preferred. Do you have suggestions?
I’d also love your suggestions for a more natural BB cream and eyebrow tint option.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.