9 Non-Toxic Makeup Swaps I Learned About From a Cancer Survivor

Updated 08/08/19
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My best friend was 21 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. When I was 21, I was slamming pickle backs at trashy bars in Brooklyn and ignoring my Gen Ed physics homework. Racheli was undergoing 12 rounds of chemotherapy and doing her best to stay alive. Fortunately, she (and her oncologist) did a damn good job, and she’s been in remission for three years. 

Racheli and first I met two years ago, and one of the first things I noticed about her was how different her beauty routine looked from mine. (As a beauty editor, you tend to take note of the contents of one’s medicine cabinet before you even see their eye color.) She had a full-fledged makeup routine, but it contained none of the popular products I was used to seeing in my friend’s cabinets. Why? They were all non-toxic brands I’d either never heard of or never tried. 

“I've been cancer-free now for three years, and I'd like to think my non-toxic routine has helped me stay that way,” Racheli told me. “Ingredients that are found in mainstream makeup often contain [ingredients] that can disrupt our natural hormones.” And the toxic components of aluminum, lead, petroleum, and fragrance (which are also found to varying degrees in many makeup products, even ones that “seem natural”) can absorb into the bloodstream and cause cancer, as well as other life-threatening illnesses, like liver damage. 

Over the years, Racheli’s approach to beauty ingredients has gotten under my skin (pun intended), inspiring me to add several non-toxic alternatives to my routine. The following makeup products are just as chic and effective as other cult-followed products that have had a place in my routine forever, but are made with cleaner, greener formulas. And that's not to say I've fully given up my tried-and-true classics or that they're necessarily all bad for me—it’s just nice to have options, especially if you’re making an effort to have a cleaner, greener beauty routine. Keep scrolling to see the non-toxic makeup swaps my cancer survivor BFF introduced me to.

Kosas
Kosas 10-Second Eyeshadow in 333 $28
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If you love Tom Ford Cream Color for Eyes... 

Next try: Kosas 10-Second Liquid Eyeshadow

I am extremely picky when it comes to eyeshadow, opting only for products that take less than 30 seconds to apply but leave a long-lasting wash of color so pretty and wearable that people can’t help but compliment you all day. Never did I think a non-toxic brand would meet my standards, but Kosas’s new liquid shadow sincerely does. With one swipe of the wand applicator, plus a few dabs to blend, your lid will be covered in an achingly pretty hue (baby blue Waterfall, lavender 333, and rose gold Copper Halo are my faves). Just make sure to shake the tube really well before application, and you’re good to go, free of both chemicals and smudges, for the whole day.

Lipstick
Kjaer Weis Lipstick $56
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If you love Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick... 

Next try: Kjaer Weiss Lipstick

Chic packaging + buttery texture + stunning shade range is a deadly combo for any lipstick, but Kjaer Weiss pulls off the magic trick with organic, pronounceable ingredients. If you’re obsessed with Charlotte Tilbury’s iconic Pillow Talk, give Kjaer Weiss’s Honor and Brilliant shades a try.

Beautycounter
Beautycounter Brilliant Brow Gel $24
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If you love Benefit Cosmetics Gimme Brow+ 

Next try: Beautycounter Brilliant Brow Gel

Beautycounter’s new(ish) brow gel has quickly and deservedly become a best-seller. You would never guess from the well-designed brush (which deposits the perfect amount of color) and stay-all-day formula (which leaves your brows feathered and full but not crunchy) that this product meets some of the highest standards for non-toxic beauty. Beautycounter’s banned ingredient list is one of the longest on the market, yet this product is still the best new brow gel I’ve ever tried this year.

Tower28
Tower28 SuperDew Highlighter Balm $18
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If you love Chanel Baume Essentiel

Next try: Tower 28 SuperDew Highlighter Balm

Glass skin is arguably my favorite beauty trend of the summer, and I am loving all the clear, dewy, balm-textured highlighters hitting retailer shelves. Playfully packaged L.A. indie brand Tower 28 makes my favorite non-toxic one of the moment: Their pan of glossy glowiness is filled with skin-loving ingredients like green tea, aloe, and chamomile with no questionable chemicals. It’s even safe enough to have received the National Eczema Association's Seal of Acceptance for all skin types.

Hynt
Hynt Beauty Duet Perfecting Concealer $24
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If you love Clé de Peau Concealer..

Next try: Hynt Duet Perfecting Concealer

Clé de Peau’s beloved concealer stick has been a longtime beauty editor holy grail for its stay-all-day coverage and skin-evening abilities. The only non-toxic concealer that compares is Hynt’s, which beauty editors who lean the way of clean formulas are just as obsessed with. This stuff has a creamier consistency and is super full coverage (a little goes a long way, y’all). It also has peachy tones, which are amazing for color-correcting under-eye circles. 

Foundation
Lawless Woke Up Like This Flawless Finish Foundation $46
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If you love Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation... 

Next time you head to Sephora for foundation, consider adding this Clean Beauty-sealed alternative to your cart. (It’s Racheli’s personal go-to non-toxic foundation.) When applied with a Beautyblender, the medium-to-full-coverage formula looks flawless on the skin and lasts all day. It has a thicker consistency than Armani’s Luminous Silk but leaves a similarly radiant finish.

Thrive
Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara $24
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If you love Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara

Next try: Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara

Another product Racheli turned me onto: if you’re on the fiber and tubing mascaras train, you will go nuts for this non-toxic one by Thrive (a brand that donates to women in need, including those dealing with cancer, after every single purchase). The buildable fibers will make your lashes look scarily long… in a good way. The formula also contains vitamin B5 and sodium hyaluronate, which are super nourishing for your natural lashes.

Honest
Honest Beauty Tinted Lip Balm $9
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If you love Dior Lip Glow...

Next try: Honest Beauty Tinted Lip Balm

As a forever stan of Dior’s Lip Glow, I almost never let other tinted lip balms into my life, but Honest’s $9 product has seriously impressed me. The Blood Orange shade has fully made its way into my rotation of lip products, as its formula—rich with avocado, acai, and pomegranate oils—is absurdly hydrating, while leaving behind a pretty (and surprisingly buildable) coral color.

Balm
Olio E Osso Balm $28
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If you love Milk Makeup Lip + Cheek… 

Next try: Olio e Osso Balm

If you’re into that lit-from-within, your-face-but-better face makeup look, prepare to be smitten by Olio e Osso’s chic af lip + cheek stains (another Racheli personal fave). The hella hydrating, plant-based formulas come in an array of gorge shades, from red wine to watermelon. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a natural product this versatile or just plain pretty. 

Next up: Don’t miss the best vegan foundations for women of color.

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