Because the FDA doesn’t regulate makeup, pretty much anything goes when it comes to ingredients. In contrast to common synthetic and petroleum-based cosmetics, natural cosmetics contain gentler elements that usually won’t damage skin or cause it to flare up, says San Francisco–based aesthetician Tracey Tate. And they create a look that’s just as—if not more—beautiful. Here, experts weigh in on how to choose the healthiest, most effective products to renew your kit.
How to choose: Foundations should contain a physical sunscreen, like titanium dioxide. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which have small molecules that seep into skin, the active ingredients in physical blocks sit on top of skin, shielding it from full-spectrum UVA and UVB rays by reflecting light. Because they aren’t absorbed, physical blocks are hypoallergenic. Look for products preserved with vitamins C and E rather than parabens, which can irritate skin and are suspected endocrine disrupters. This applies to other types of makeup as well.
Products to try: The color-reflective qualities in Jane Iredale Amazing Base Loose Minerals SPF 20 “make skin look dewy,” says Tate. Also try Ecco Bella Natural Foundation and Natural Cover-Up for light, nongreasy coverage.
When to replace: Every six months. Try not to contaminate it by sticking your finger in the bottle.
How to choose: Consider the type of coverage you need. Thick products with plant extracts, such as green tea, help stave off acne and work well to mask blemishes. A looser concealer with a moisturizer, such as jojoba, covers up circles and overpigmented patches while maintaining skin’s softness. Avoid petroleum-based ingredients and mineral oil, which clog pores.
Products to try: Water-based Gabriel Cosmetics Concealer doesn’t contain mineral oils or fragrances. To conceal major blemishes, try Jane Iredale’s Disappear, a green tea–rich camouflage cream.
When to replace: Thick concealers resist bacteria. Use cotton swabs when dipping into the bottle, and your product will keep for up to a year.
How to choose: Both Tate and Ashley Scroggins, an aesthetician based in Boulder, Colorado, prefer powders with titanium dioxide. To counter the mineral’s whitening effect, says Tate, choose powder that contains mica, a mineral colorant used in natural blushes and shadows. Avoid talc, which has been linked to pulmonary disorders.
Products to try: Dust on Dr. Hauschka Translucent Face Powder, Loose, to hold makeup in place. Its powdered-silk base is antimicrobial and has amino acids similar to your skin’s. Zuzu Luxe’s Dual Powder Foundation goes on creamy if your skin is wet, making it shimmer. Or use it as a dry matte base for blush.
When to replace: Powders may last for as long as year
Blush and eye shadows
How to choose: Whenever you can, choose powder over liquid color—it doesn’t require as many preservatives. Likewise, avoid artificial color or dyes, which, like synthetic scents, can irritate the sensitive skin around your eyes.
Products to try: For a natural-looking flush, blend Dr. Hauschka Bronzing Powder into cheeks. It contains antioxidant-rich carrot extract and witch hazel to bolster your skin’s proteins. Rose-petal extract in Benefit Benetint gives cheeks a delicate glow.
When to replace: May keep for up to two years, but pitch it in a year or if the product starts to crack.
How to choose: Prevent scratches and redness in the thin skin around eyes by using a soft pencil or liquid liner. Look for color derived from mica or iron oxide. And always opt for soothing essential oils, like tea tree, over petroleum bases.
Products to try: Jane Iredale Liquid Eye Liners in black, black/brown, and gold. Or try Ecco Bella’s Soft Eyeliner Pencils with vegetable wax.
When to replace: When it’s time to toss eyeliners—in three to six months—the color might change, and the consistency will turn chalky.
How to choose: Tate notes: “Mascara can be made with ingredients like tar and crushed glass,” which act like fillers to thicken the product. Natural mascaras use botanical and mineral ingredients to accomplish the same effect. Look for a mascara with vitamin B to nourish lashes, but avoid those that contain waxes, which dry out lashes.
Products to try: Dr. Hauschka Mascara Intermezzo contains jojoba to keep lashes supple. Gabriel Mascara uses vitamin B5 to prevent lashes from growing brittle.
When to replace: Replace all mascara—natural or not—every three months. Scroggins recommends cleaning brushes in a 70 percent alcohol solution monthly. And never add water.
How to choose: Lipsticks with vitamin E or beeswax are preferable to those with petroleum bases, which can dehydrate lips. Always stay away from artificial red and blue dyes. And don’t forget the SPF!
Products to try: Hemp Organics Lipsticks come in more than 30 vibrant colors. Ecco Bella FlowerColor Lipsticks use flower wax for a smooth consistency. When on the go, try Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers.
When to replace: “Lipsticks keep for up to a year and will smell rancid when they go bad,” says Tate.
Denver-based writer Katy Neusteter has finally replaced the eyeliner she’s had since college.