When shopping for nontoxic makeup and skincare, beauty shops can seem overwhelming, but doing it at the drugstore presents a special challenge. Somehow it seems that the people talking about natural, sustainable beauty are not the same people talking about affordable beauty, at least not online. There are so many incredible organic, nontoxic brands on the market these days, but the most talked-about ones are in the luxury price range. So what about those of us who want high-quality natural products on a budget?
Who do we look to for advice?
I decided to get in touch with a few of my most trusted holistic skincare experts—professional estheticians who take a natural approach toward beauty. I asked them if given $20 to spend on beauty products at the drugstore, what would they buy? To find out, check out the following under-$20 makeup, skincare, and supplements available at your local Walgreens, Target, and CVS.
Holistic esthetician Rachael Pontillo uses castor oil for so many things: a cleansing oil, lip balm, eyelash and eyebrow growth serum. She also creates "castor oil packs" by saturating cotton pads with the stuff and placing them over the upper right part of the abdomen, where the liver is located. "Skin issues (and well as other health issues) are often linked to liver congestion, and castor oil compresses are excellent to help support healthy liver function," she says.
"Rose water is my most favorite ingredient to use in facial toners, facial compresses, and to reconstitute powdered facial masks," says Pontillo. "Its aroma is loved by most, and it is also naturally astringent (firming), cooling, and refreshing."
"At $8, this is an easy buy and will last you ages," agrees Eileen Feighny, an esthetician, aromatherapist, and founder of Tulura. "You can [also] use [it] to set your makeup, or just as a pick-me-up during the day."
"Another common ingredient I use in facial toners, this one's also well-known not only for its astringent benefits but also to help reduce the appearance of redness and breakouts," says Pontillo.
What about natural drugstore makeup? Sonya Dakar, celebrity esthetician and founder of Sonya Dakar Skincare and Skin Clinic, is a fan of this lipstick from Burt's Bees: "I love the pop of color and these natural lipsticks are perfect to swipe on during the day. They're super conditioning without the waxy texture."
Kelly Gray, esthetician and founder of organic skincare brand Absorb Skincare, uses Dr. Bronner's gentle unscented soap as a body wash, hand wash, and cleanser for her makeup brushes.
This is another holistic esthetician–approved Dr. Bronner's product. Celebrity facialist Cecilia Wong has been the eucalyptus soap forever, even on her face. "I love how clean it makes me feel without drying out my skin," she says. (She also loves its antibacterial tea tree soap for acne-prone skin.)
"I own at least five of EcoTools' brushes," says Dakar. "The bristles feel like silk and best of all they're 100% cruelty-free."
On the wellness side of things, Gray recommends picking up a bottle of this organic fish oil. The product is loaded with DHA, important for brain function, and EPA, which is good for the skin as it regulates oil production both to increase hydration and prevent acne. "It also helps with delaying the skins aging process to stave off wrinkles," Gray says.
Pontillo loves mineral-rich Epsom salts not only for their pain-relieving properties but also because they help to draw toxins from the skin. "This may benefit people who struggle with blemishes, skin irritations, and rashes," she says. "I use them either in full body salt bath blends, body scrubs, or in herbal compresses for the face."
Another of Gray's favorite drugstore supplements is evening primrose oil, which she says is "wonderful for balancing hormones and keeping hormonal acne at bay."
"I love this mascara because it’s cruelty-free and doesn't contain any harsh chemicals or synthetic fragrances," says Wong. "My eyes are super sensitive, and this mascara makes my lashes long, doesn't smudge, lasts all day, and won't irritate my eyes. It's also easy to remove with my Vitamin C Cleanser!"
As an esthetician, Wong washes her hands a hundred times a day, and this is her go-to hand cream. "It keeps my hands soft and hydrated throughout the day and it smells delicious," she says.
"A wonderful clay that helps draw out toxins, you can usually find this in your local drugstore," says Feighny. "Mix with some water and apple cider vinegar and apply to the skin. For dry skin, take off immediately when it's starting to dry. For congested or oily skin, leave on to dry fully and rinse off with warm water and a washcloth."
Feighny calls tea tree "nature's antiseptic" and considers it a must-have in anyone's skincare arsenal. "Not only does it work wonders for acneic spots; it's also excellent for grounding yourself. Rub a couple drops in the hands and take a deep breath," she says. "Tea tree is strengthening for the lungs and empowering for the spirit."
"Another staple, lavender can help calm nerves, ease the mind, and is excellent for helping with many different skin conditions," says Feighny. "A couple drops of lavender between the hands and some deep breathing can help with feelings of being nervousness or exhaustion and bring an overall sense of well-being."
Feighny loves to use organic apple cider vinegar as a toner for stressed skin, as a clarifying shampoo, or as an ingredient in a DIY pore-declogging mask.
No one makes better drugstore bronzer than Physicians Formula, which just so happens to be a nontoxic, vegan, and cruelty-free brand. Sonya Dakar swears by this one.
What are your favorite all-natural products at the drugstore? DM me your recommendations @amanda_montell!