I Tested Out How Green My Beauty Routine Really Is—Here's My Report Card

Updated 04/26/19
Product Disclosure
Dacy Knight.

It's Green Week at Byrdie HQ, which means we'll be highlighting stories about natural beauty, sustainability, and all things eco. Sometimes, even seemingly small (and easy!) decisions can add up to a huge impact on our environment.

I typically gravitate toward clean products (or at least those that are marketed as such), but I admit I don't have a full grasp on how my beauty arsenal fares in terms of being green. I'd like to think that as an informed shopper, I've opted for products sans harmful chemicals and additives, but truth be told, I don't always do an ingredient deep-dive before adding to cart. In celebration of Green Week—and because there's no better time to do a little spring-cleaning—I decided to do a thorough audit of my makeup bag and skincare lineup to see what percentage of my products are actually considered clean and green.

While figuring out how to green my beauty routine, I had about ten tabs open as I sifted through my bathroom shelf, drawing upon different sources for clean beauty brand rankings and product reviews. I also downloaded Think Dirty—an app that assesses how clean your beauty, personal care, and household products really are—to help call out harmful ingredients lurking in some of my favorite products. What I quickly learned was nothing is black and white. Even brands that are lauded for being clean might have products in their lineup with some questionable ingredients.

Among my regular beauty go-tos, it turned out that quite a few of my skincare products were only so-so on the clean beauty scale. Many ranked lower because they featured two to three ingredients that Think Dirty defined as "half n' half." Apparently glycolic acid and salicylic acid, two ingredients I seek out for exfoliation, make a product less clean. One of my lactic acid treatments was ranked as dangerously unclean because it has DMDM Hydantoin (an antimicrobial formaldehyde releaser preservative found in a wide range of cosmetics) on its ingredient list. When it came to my makeup, my clean beauty ratio took a turn south. Nearly all of my eye shadow palettes received a bad green beauty score because they have talc (yet I think it's worth noting I've interviewed a cosmetic chemist about talc and believe there's more to consider). My ride-or-die mascara was also in the red, but after some investigation, I realized that mascara was a category where many brands (even notoriously green ones) fell short. The makeup setting spray I use almost daily to keep everything in place scored a whopping "8" on Think Dirty because it has BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), a food additive.

Overall, I learned that my beauty cabinet isn't as green as I'd like it to be. Approximately 35 percent of my skincare and only 25 percent of my makeup products were truly green. However, the reason some of my products rank low might not be entirely terrible—after all, I intentionally look for certain active ingredients because they correct my skin issues. What's clear is that I have a lot to learn if I wish to really clean up my beauty routine. It would be worth doing more research on the specific ingredients deemed unclean and then decide what's actually necessary to eliminate from my lineup. In the meantime, here are the products that got the green seal of approval.

One Love Organics Gardenia + Tea Antioxidant Body Serum $39
Shop

One Love Organics earns a score of "0" (the greenest possible) for most of its products on Think Dirty. This antioxidant body serum is one of my favorites to spray all over directly out of the shower, so I'm glad to find I'm starting off the day right by doing my skin some good.

Kypris Beauty Elixir I: 1,000 Roses $100
Shop

Kypris's luxurious line of organic skincare is worth the extra penny because it's sustainably procured and wildcrafted and the brand is a member of the Rainforest Alliance and one percent for the Planet. Its holistic products offer an indulgent experience for the skin—a welcome addition to your skincare ritual that you can feel 100 percent good about. This elixir proves the efficacy of natural active ingredients, boasting 19 of them via sustainably sourced botanicals.

Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil $125
Shop

Tata Harper's entire line of covetable skincare boasts green products that are undeniably effective. This formula uses rosehip, a natural source of retinoic acid, for a cleaner way to ward off wrinkles and blemishes.

Kopari Coconut Melt $28
Shop

Made of 100 percent pure coconut oil, this melt is as clean as it gets. With its other product offerings, the brand keeps its ingredient list trim so you're guaranteed to be getting a healthful dose of hydration without unnecessary additives.

Coola Mineral Face SPF 30 - Matte Tint $36
Shop

It's tricky to stay clean when it comes to SPF. Coola is the standard for green sun protection with all of its products ranking in the green. I love this lightweight BB cream for no-makeup days because of its non-greasy feel and matte finish.

RMS Beauty Eye Polish $28
Shop

Makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift developed the clean beauty brand as a response to heavy metals and harsh chemicals contaminating the industry. RMS's scorecard was lit up in green, with most of its products ranking as a "0" on Think Dirty.

Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner $28
Shop

I was not surprised to find that across the board, Ilia's products were found to be super green. I'm something of an Ilia superfan, so was happy to confirm I can feel good about every product I put on my skin. The brand's inimitable lip conditioner, which I wear almost daily (in "Nobody's Baby"), boasts nothing but clean ingredients from jasmine to jojoba seed oil.

Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil $72
Shop

Note to self: the shorter the ingredient list, the better. This skin-saving powerhouse features just one hardworking clean ingredient that works wonders. I use this oil to tackle everything from dryness to skin irritations and sometimes just allow my skin to drink up a few drops as a preventive measure before taking on the day.

Farmacy Sleep Tight Firming Night Balm with Echinacea GreenEnvy™ $48
Shop

I've been loving Farmacy's entire lineup of skincare offerings, especially this firming night balm that provides maximum moisture and scores a "2" on Think Dirty. If something is soaking into your skin while you sleep, it's nice to be able to rest assured knowing it's not harboring any potentially harmful ingredients.

Thinking of greening your beauty routine? Here's what one editor learned when she switched to natural makeup products.

Related Stories