"Clean beauty" seems like a fairly ubiquitous, nebulous concept these days—but at one point, committing to clean, organic ingredients in makeup and skincare was a relatively radical idea. And one of the first major players to take on the challenge was ILIA Beauty.
"I was actually inspired by my mother, subliminally throughout my life, to start the brand," says founder Sasha Plavsic. "She was a pioneer in alternative medicine and organic food co-ops back in the '80s—she was curious and questioned every ingredient, which led to my own curiosity in questioning the ingredients in my favorite lip balm."
As the story goes, Plavsic read the label on the back of her lip balm and was shocked to discover how many of the ingredients were potentially harmful. From that moment on, she made it her mission to create products with safe, natural, and effective ingredients.
Founded: Sasha Plavsic, 2011
Based In: Laguna Beach, CA
Best Known For: "Skin-first" makeup made from organic, safe ingredients.
Fun Fact: Plavsic founded the brand in her parents' garage.
"To me, the definition of clean is where safe levels of synthetic and non-comedogenic ingredients meet and align together to create an efficacious product that performs and lasts," she says. "That’s what ILIA strives to do and I think why we continue to be a leader in the category."
What's most important to know about ILIA—besides the brand's commitment to clean ingredients—is the fact that it's a "skin-centric" makeup brand. "We believe that skin should look like skin." And with lightweight, hydrating, and long-lasting formulas, you can't argue with that.
Of course, clean beauty has come a long way since ILIA launched in 2011. "I would say when we launched, consumers weren’t ready for the clean category," Plavsic says. "Now, our customer base is so informed on what ingredients are safe and know that our clean makeup actually works."
Find our favorite products from ILIA Beauty, below.
Limitless Lash Mascara
One of ILIA's best selling products year after year is its signature Limitless Lash Mascara—a formula I can confirm is as "limitless" as the name implies. "I wanted to make a mascara that would be safe for sensitive eyes and not thick or clumpy," says Plavsic.
It gave me instantly out-to-there lashes—and the formula lasted all day and didn't smudge (even after hours commuting on a sweaty train). That's no easy feat.
Super Serum Skin Tint
Nothing illustrates ILIA's "skin-centric" M.O. more than its cult-favorite Super Serum Skin Tint. "It’s skincare, makeup, and SPF packed in one, and it comes in an extensive shade offering that we will actually be expanded upon in early 2021," Plavsic says.
The formula is ultra-lightweight, silky, and gave my skin an instant glow—not to mention, knowing you're getting protection against UV rays, too, is invaluable.
I applied it with my fingers and found it melted into my skin, ultimately making my complexion look like I was wearing nothing at all. And isn't that the whole point?
Liquid Powder Chromatic Eye Tint
I've found liquid eyeshadows to be tricky in the past—aka, smudge-prone and difficult to apply correctly due to their sticky nature.
But ILIA's highly pigmented cream formula dries into a powdery finish, so you don't have to worry about the slick, slippery consistency on your lids smudging around your eyes. (Been there.)
It's easy to apply, swipes on effortlessly, and gets you a major color payoff. Just sweep it on using the wand for a saturated look or blend with your fingers for something more subtle. "It instantly locks in place without creasing," ILIA's website boasts. Fact check: This is true. One thing to note though; a few Byrdie editors experienced a slight tingling sensation on their lids when using this product within 24 hours of using retinol on the eyelid. (But the sensation went away as soon as the product dried down.)
True Skin Serum Foundation
Similar to the Super Serum Skin Tint, ILIA's True Skin Serum Foundation combines both skincare and makeup into one powerhouse product.
It provides medium coverage while also including nutrient-rich skincare ingredients like aloe leaf, rosehip and marula oil—all of which, when combined, help give your skin a boost by plumping fine lines and soothing redness and irritation (like the pimple I couldn't stop picking the other day, for example). As promised, it left my skin looking like my skin—but better.
Tinted Lip Conditioner
There's nothing worse than finding a lipstick color you love—only to discover the formula leaves your lips flaked and dry.
You won't run into this problem with ILIA's Tinted Lip Conditioner—the brand's very first product that was inspired by Plavsic's chapstick-ingredient discovery—which combines a nourishing balm with a subtle color payoff.
Available in eight rich shades and created with a blend of organic ingredients, the Tinted Lip Conditioner (aptly abbreviated to "TLC") is perfect for when you're on-the-go or don't have a mirror handy—just swipe it on for a little tint and major hydration.
When looking for a highlighter, it's important to find a formula that works for your skin and makes you glowy rather than greasy. ILIA's illuminator is lightweight yet creamy, and devoid of any "sparkles" or "glitter"—all you get is a soft, subtle dewiness, which is exactly what my oily-combination skin needs in a highlighter.
After applying foundation, I swiped it on my cheekbones, the tip of my nose, and my brow bones and simply blended it in with my fingers for an instant radiance boost. Also, its convenient chub-stick design makes it another product that's perfect for busy bees.
Lip Wrap Hydrating Mask
ILIA's latest launch is its new Lip Wrap Hydrating Mask—an untinted, restorative lip mask that hydrates your pout with a smorgasbord of organic ingredients. Think: salicornia (a sea succulent—how cute!), moisturizing hyaluronic acid, softening mango butter, exfoliating papaya enzymes, and soothing lavender and chamomile. It's basically one big nutrient-rich hug for your lips.
"I deal with chapped lips, especially during the cooler months, and I couldn't find a product that not only moisturized on application but left my lips smoother and softer with each wear," says Plavsic. "I also love the way it smells—my kids always smile when we go for walks through lavender blooms and squeeze them in our fingers to release the aroma. It's a scent that makes me happy."