The Ultimate Way To “Green” Your Beauty Routine

Did you know that 1 in 8 of the 82,000 ingredients used in cosmetics and personal care products are known hazardous industrial chemicals?

Let me repeat that: your makeup contains HAZARDOUS INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS.

That means that there are 10,500 ingredients in products you use every day that are known

  • Pesticides
    • Used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals.
  • Endocrine Disruptors
    • Chemicals that can interfere with the endocrine (or hormone) system in mammals. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects and other developmental disorders.
  • Reproductive Toxins
    • Chemicals that can cause adverse effects on the reproductive system. The toxic effects may include alterations to the reproductive [sexual] organs and/or the endocrine system (which includes the thyroid and adrenal glands). Includes chromosomal damage.
  • Plasticizers
    • Chemicals (typically a solvent) added to a synthetic resin to produce or promote plasticity and flexibility. Ex – added to concrete to make it soft.
  • Degreasers
    • Chemical product that dissolves water-insoluble substances (such as greases and oils) from hard surfaces such as floors, machines, and tools. Most heavy duty degreasers are made from hydrocarbon solvents such as kerosene and xylene.
  • Surfactants
    • Compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersants. Ex. – reduce surface tension in paints and inks.
  • Carcinogen
    • Substances cable of causing cancer.

Did that last one scare you a little bit?

[First off, if it didn’t, there’s something wrong with you. Second, whether it scared you or not, you should go watch The Story of Cosmetics. It examines the use of toxins in our everyday products; everything from lipstick to baby shampoo.]

The number one ingredient to watch out for (estimated to be in 75-90% of all cosmetics) are called parabens: methylparaben, butylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, ethylparaben, etc.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Parabens are absorbed easily through the skin and are known endocrine disrupters; meaning they mess with your hormones. Once parabens are absorbed, they mimic estrogen in the body which throws off your natural hormone balance.

The oh-so-coveted Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palette? Yeah, that contains two different types of parabens. Bet you’ll think twice about putting that one on again before your next girl’s night out.

Alright, so what’s the best way to avoid these chemicals?

Nix the makeup from your regimen altogether.

*GASP* How dare I suggest such a thing?

Hear me out. With all of those chemicals in the stuff you slather on, it’s pretty easy to connect the dots and conclude that your daily makeup routine is doing more harm to your skin than good.

Swap out your makeup for mineral based sunscreen and I promise you your skin will thank you not only now, but for years to come.

To add to that, no one NEEDS makeup. Here’s what makeup ultimately is: a huge marketing scheme for a business to rake in billions off of girls’ insecurities. If you’ve reached the point where your number one priority in the morning is what your face looks like in the mirror, or where you can’t leave the house for fear of being seen without mascara, then I’m going to be blunt with you: you need to reevaluate. There are bigger problems in the world than what your reflection looks like (which, let’s be honest, should NEVER be considered a problem).

Let me put it this way…

You’re gorgeous without the Urban Decay, dahling.

I get it, not everyone can survive without a fresh coat of lipstick and a killer cat eye. Let’s face it, makeup isn’t always about covering up “imperfections.” It’s about transforming yourself, and it can flat out just be fun.

However, wearing makeup doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your health or the health of the environment just for a red lip that would rival Marilyn Monroe’s.

Here’s a list of beauty products to help green your beauty routine. Added bonus: a lot of the natural versions are cheaper! Oh, and don’t worry, I won’t make you read through all of the ingredients this time.


Mean: Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palette

  • Mineral and chemical eyeshadow
  • Contains known carcinogens
  • Price: $54

Green: Everyday Minerals Eyeshadow

  • 100% mineral eyeshadow
  • Cruelty free
  • Price: $10
  • [Purchase here]


Mean: Clinique High Impact Extreme Volume Mascara

  • Chemical makeup
  • Contains known organ preservative/toxin/carcinogen BHT
  • Contains eye irritants
  • Price: $19.50

Green: Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Fake Out Mascara

  • 100% natural
  • Contains organic ingredients
  • Safe for sensitive eyes and contact wearers
  • Ophthalmologist approved
  • Price: $9.95
  • [See full comparison between conventional mascaras and purchase here]


Mean: Chanel Lipstick

  • Ingredients linked to skin toxicity
  • Unclear as to if they test on animals
  • Price: $36

Green: Burt’s Bees Lip Crayons

  • 100% natural
  • 10% of purchase on their website is donated to the Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation
  • Cruelty free (even though it’s now owned by Clorox which does test on animals, Burt’s Bee’s General Manager Andrew Dixon has stated the company’s commitment to cruelty free products)
  • Price: $9
  • Available at Target, Whole Foods, and other retailers. Purchase here online.


Mean: NARS Blush

  • Chemical and mineral makeup
  • Contains known carcinogen BHA
  • Contains parabens
  • Price: $30

Green: Physicians Formula Organic Wear 100% Natural Blush

  • 100% natural makeup
  • Contains organic ingredients
  • Price: $6.99, free shipping
  • [Purchase here]

Powder Foundation

Mean: Bobbi Brown Powder Foundation

  • Chemical and mineral makeup
  • Contains ultramarines – toxic chemical
  • Does test on animals
  • Price: $48

Green: Body Shop Extra Virgin Minerals Foundation

  • 100% mineral foundation
  • Cruelty free
  • Supports Fair Trade practices
  • Price: $35
  • [Purchase here]


Mean: MAC Liquidlast Eyeliner

  • Chemical and mineral formula
  • Contains known organ toxin phenoxyethanol
  • Does test on animals
  • Price: $20

Green: 100% Pure Black Tea Long Last Liquid Eyeliner

  • 100% natural
  • Made from black tea leaves
  • Biodegradable formula
  • Corporate offices run completely off of solar energy! (Irrelevant? Yes. Awesome? Without a doubt.)
  • Cruelty free
  • Price: $28
  • [Purchase here]


Mean: Orly Nailpolish

  • Claimed to be nontoxic, but an independent study done by the California EPA showed that they still contained one of the “Toxic Trio” (dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde).
  • Unclear stance on animal testing (they now sell in China which mandates animal testing)
  • Price: $8.99

Green: Scotch Nailpolish

  • 100% free of all phthalates and parabens
  • Non-toxic
  • Cruelty free
  • Price: $15
  • [Purchase here]


Mean: Conventional Makeup Brushes

  • Many are made with plastic and synthetic fibers or animal hair from sources that are not cruelty free

Green: Eco Tools Makeup Brushes

  • Bamboo handles
  • Recycled aluminum base
  • Naturally sourced bristles
  • [Available at Target, Whole Foods, and other drugstores, or for purchase online here]

Ultimately these are all just examples of small changes you can make in your daily routine that will not only benefit your health but the health of the environment as well. There are lots of eco-friendly options for beauty products, but it might take a little bit of trial and error to find the ones that work for your hair/skin/body as a whole. Don’t give up just because one doesn’t work; think of it as a fun experiment and an excuse to try new products!

The best way to start your search is to read the ingredients on what you already have. Can’t pronounce it? The chances are that if you can’t read it, then it’s not completely safe. Wondering what something is? Search for your specific product on Skin Deep (a website maintained by the Environmental Working Group) or even search for a singular chemical for which they provide information and a rating on the chemical. The ratings include the overall health concern for the ingredient, cancer association risk, developmental risks, reproductive toxicity, and allergy risk. Also included are the functions of the ingredient (what it’s used for), synonyms or other names that the chemical might be listed under, and past research on the chemical.



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Chemical Information –

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Story of Cosmetics –


Molly Street

Contributor, University of St.Thomas Major: Communications and Journalism Her heart belongs to:family and friends, weekends at the cabin, summer nights, her cat Tigger, the ocean, guys with a sense of humor. Take her away to: anywhere with a beach, a surprise date, or someplace to hike with great views.

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