Made in America, Vegan, and Eco-Friendly Make-Up

by - Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Last year I set myself on a whole new mission around makeup- it seemed crazy at the time. Totally unlike anything I did before:

I wouldn't buy any new make up until I use up or give away what I already have. No more eye shadow until my eye shadow is gone. No more foundation. No more bronzer. It has to be gone before I can replace it.

It was crazy, but it worked. In fact, it probably worked better than most of my environmentalist missions. It motivated me to give away the tragic Victoria Secret make up set I  bought at the tragic semi-annual sale (never again). I never used it, because I barely looked into the abyss of that many choices. I just stopped browsing the makeup section and only bought maybe 3 things for a year (one eyeliner, foundation, and a blush). When The Bub turned my bronzer palette into a crumbled up mush, I committed to using it anyway, until that business is gone (it can't travel, so I am a pale traveler).

It didn't suck. Before this, every once in a while, I would decide I was going to Make an Effort (TM); I would depart on a mission to buy that make up that will make me glow like a goddess in the sun and less like a  semi-transparent friendly ghost.Inevitably, I go back to the four things I always use and my attempt to Make an Effort (TM) ends, but I have a bunch of random tools. So I just skipped that this year. I swear, it didn't suck.

Make up is not a great investment if you care about the environment- it mostly creates a lot of plastic waste, continues our desperate and unfulfilling relationship with beauty and fashion, and just is extra clutter in our lives. That said, I am not going to be that woman who decides she just doesn't care about make up. If it makes me feel good, I am not going to apologize for it, but I also don't want to be blindly wasteful for the sake of my own self-esteem.

So, when it comes to make up, I really think the best environmental option is to buy less. A LOT less. But things run out, so when it is time to replace them, these are the things to prioritize- 

- Made in America- 

Who is making this stuff and how far is it travelling? I don't need mascara bad enough to waste a bunch of fossil fuel to get to me. Wherever you live, the most local to you options should always be considered first.

- Eco-friendly/ Organic-

Cosmetics can come with all kinds of nasty chemicals bad for the water, our skin, and the animals it has been tested on. If a brand addresses these things, we are all better off. Nobody should be testing on animals anymore, so if a company doesn't take a definitive stand on that, it's a big red flag.


Can anyone explain to me why refill packs aren't common for make up? How many plastic eye shadow containers have we thrown away in each of our tries to Make an Effort (TM). I like brands like Estee Lauder, where you can buy just the refill and avoid using so much stinking plastic (it also cuts down the cost a little). I am really invested in finding companies that are at least thinking about this plastic problem and better ways to address it. 

In the end, I am less interested in companies that brag about ingredients that are all good for the wearer, and I am looking for them to show they care about their impact at large. Just saying they no longer use such and such nasty chemical is basically a distraction (I'm looking at your Bare Minerals- if the most responsible you can do is say you don't use child labor as far as you know, you are doing something wrong).

I have found in my months doing this, if it is better for the environment, it is almost always better for you as well, but it doesn't necessarily work in the inverse.

 I have also found the more complicated a company gets- where products are manufactured all over the place, and the packaging is made somewhere else, and they own 14 other cosmetic companies, etc- the more likely they are to have irresponsible practices and funding unethical shipping labor and use of materials. In short, it's bad news, and you can do better.

One of the most amazing things is that there are so many great options out there, and so many of them are owned and headed by women. It makes sense to me that female-run companies are so responsible to other women and to the environment, but it just gives me hope that other industries can have so many ideas and solutions like make up does once you get off the obvious path.

Luckily, there are lots of good resources on this topic, because lots of people know way more about this than I do. The most informative article I found was this Question and Answer about switching your cosmetics over. I love it. She knows, which is a great website, also has some lists on green make up brands. So informative even if you are only thinking about it. I love the options Planet Save lists in their Green Your Life section as well. About Style has a bunch of articles about Made in the USA cosmetics, though many of the brands it mentions are the big mainstream ones, and I can't find any information that verifies that they were made in the US (sketchy?). I found a Total Beauty article that was a little better. You can also find plenty of lists of vegan make up.

 You can also check out anything from Ecocert, which inspects make up and body products among many other things. I can't speak much to any of the products here, but I can hopefully point you in some good directions. So many of these can be purchased on their website (which is where I'll send you) or on Amazon (I am an affiliate and use affiliate links- but honestly, if you can find it closer, buy it closer). Easy Peasy! Maybe even more quick than heading to the store. Here are some places to look:

Beauty Blender (US)

 Beauty Blender sponges are handcrafted in the USA and ubiquitous enough that you can find them everywhere from Walmart to Sephora (just make sure you get the real Made in USA one). The sponge was created by a very successful make up artist and has won awards from Allure for years. I mean, if you are at the level that you buy make up sponges, here's your sponge.

This is a good reminder to check Etsy and check nearby! You may be surprised to find a make up brand based down the road, and think of how much fossil fuels you can save by shopping this way! A list I got from a two minute browse- Foraged Fields from Conneticut, Wild Violetta from San Diego, and .
Red Velvet from Besame Cosmetics
Besame Cosmetics (US)- This company has a retro feel and is known for their lipsticks, mascara, and fragrances. Besame Cosmetics claim all natural ingredients and no animal testing. They actually make their colors based on vintage make up colors, which is super cool I think. Everything is designed and manufactured in the US as well. They also sell refills, which I think is a good sign- it makes buying ethically more affordable and it creates less waste! A good thing to look for if you are trying to transform your make-up shopping.

Burt's Bees (US)- Not the best, and it has become the sort of drugstore version of ethical, but that is perfect if you only shop there. Burt's Bees is manufactured in the US (in most cases) and its plastic packaging is 80% post-consumer plastic. Score! A classic for a reason- this can make a low cost, non-demanding first switch to your make-up. And their company literally supports bees. Come on. Their chapstick is especially beloved (and I loved their belly butter while prego). Buy it anywhere!

Flower Beauty (US, V)- So you are at Walmart, and you can't buy one of these less mainstream brands, try Drew Barrymore's Flower Beauty. They are never tested on animals, are all made in the US, and use pretty high quality ingredients by avoiding the very high costs of advertising. I love this brand because it stays super accessible to anyone. Have you tried this yet? Let me know!

Hynt Beauty (US)-  Hynt Beauty company makes everything here in the US except for their wooden eye pencils which are made in Italy (can I also give this company a shout out for their reps replying to my questions quickly and completely transparently? I find it so refreshing to not get some lame hedged answer, trying to cover up for a lack of ethical commitment). They also avoid any material even treated as questionable, and everything is organic and vegan (except for their mascara, which is very clearly marked as otherwise). I love this company for their transparency, and I might be browsing their site anytime I need to replace cosmetics. I seriously wish every company could be s little more like them.

Josie Maran Cosmetics (EF, FT)- Josie Maran worked as a model? She is a professional good looking person. In being so, she had lots of opportunity to notice how nasty, toxic, and harmful make up is. So now she has her own line, which touts their responsibly sourced Argan Oil as the key ingredient, but I love that they also prioritize responsible packaging and paying their workers fairly (the argan oil is collected by Moroccan women in co-opts earning a "living wage" (eh, not the best, but I still think this company has their heart in the right place, and I am glad they work with co-ops).

Merle Norman (US)- This California-based and manufactured line of products is known primarily for its beloved lipsticks (I like that they have sunscreen in them). Merle Norman was a lady entrepeneur in the 20's who certainly made a company that lasted. It seems to be a franchise business (like Avon?) but all of the products are made here and you can buy them on their website.

Naturopathic (US)- This company makes all of their skin products in the United States and use at least 50% organic materials in every product. They also focus on sourcing their materials in sustainable and responsible ways (this sounds like a no brainer, but it is a big deal!). They don't use anything petroleum or animal based. Most of Naturopathica's products falls under skin care more than make up, but they do have lip balms and moisturizers. And they do look pretty great, so I still shared.

Physician's Formula (EF)- This company was started because a chemist's wife had super sensitive skin. Come on, definitely the cutest story I have ever heard of a make up brand. It has grown to be pretty popular (they make those multicolored face palettes you see in drug stores), and Physician's Formula Organic Wear line was the first to be officially approved by Ecocert. There is no testing on animals, but they do use beeswax and lactic acid, so you have to weigh your options on that if it is a big priority for you. I also don't see anything about how they are approaching their packaging/
from RMS Beauty

RMS Beauty (EF, O)- RMS is one of my new favorites just for eliminating plastic from their packaging! Hardly anyone is doing that, and let's be honest, every company needs to. Plastic is defining our generation (and slowly poisoning us) and I hope we see more and more packaging like theirs- made of glass and tin! They use organic ingredients, and you can read every ingredient in every product before you buy it. I love this line from their website- "  And our concern for health and beauty extends far beyond us, to the very planet that supplied us with these healing ingredients. Packaging for RMS Beauty products is minimal, and all of it is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable." 

from Amazon
Smith's Rosebud Salve (US)- This Made in America lip salve works on all sorts of things, including chapped lips. I like that they say it works on blemishes, and it must, because with 600 reviews, it maintains a really high rating. Simple buy on Amazon.

Stila Cosmetics (US)- This company was bought up by Lynn Tilton, who specifically buys up American companies with the intent of keeping jobs here. She owns like 200 companies and from what I can read, has kept all the manufacturing and labor here Stateside. Stila Cosmetics has less information on it's chemicals and testing (or at least I can't find them- why do companies hide these things? The mere fact that you are bothering with this blog means I am not the sole person who cares). I really love the color combinations in their eye sets. Super pretty but also not so out there that they can't get regular use.

Tarte (V, EF)- Tarte makes most of their lip make up and a lot of their other items completely vegan, and they have lots of choices (plus, they have a system for free samples, which is probably important if you like buying makeup.

If you want to green your make up, these are a few things to definitely avoid:

-Bypassing the Info on the Product- Make up, like clothing, has to list it's ingredients and where it was made. If you want to buy ethical, the best thing you can do is to take that second and look at where you are getting things from!

- Avoid the cheaper is better approach. Make up is freaking expensive, so it pains me to say this, but cheaper is definitely not better. Some of those cheap-y brands have the worst ethics, so think about where you can buy less so you can buy a few things that are great rather than a big pile of stuff that seems ok.

-Don't Feel Convinced you can't Test- Lots of these products are on sale at any pharmacy. Many of the others are up at the super intimidating make up counters. Not sure? Check the website and find out if and where you might try it.

- Avoid these companies. These gems show up over and over again on lists of unethical cosmetic brands. Not good, kids:

Max Factor
L'Oreal (in fact, their lipstick had lead in it)
Urban Decay
The Body Shop

I did email back and forth with Revlon and they and their companies (including Almay) do make most of their products in a factory in North Carolina. I am not blown away with most of their policies otherwise, but in a pinch, I would lean that way.

I feel so encouraged by how many GREAT options are out there, and I am done with waste-producing and unethical drugstore make up brands! I know it is more expensive, so my goal is to have WAY less, but have it be better quality. You can also think about switching over your brushes (as your old ones hit the bricks) to ones that don't use any plastic or animal products if you want to take it further!

 If you are interested in some Eco-friendly Shopping, check out my list of Green Shoes, or check out my Giant List of Shopping Lists and discover all sorts of better options for the things you shop for all the time! We can change the world by changing the way we shop. Stop giving corporations money for treating The Earth and its people terribly.

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