The Best Clean and Green Products from the 2021 Beauty Crush Awards
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
"Clean beauty" has become a clicky pairing of buzzwords, and often, it's hard to tell which companies are *actually* doing their part to create totally clean beauty products. To help you sift through the BS, we spoke to HG's "Clean, Green, And In Between" columnist Jessica DeFino and celebrity clean beauty makeup artist Katey Denno, who weighed in on what makes a product clean and which picks are really worth adding to your beauty arsenal.
Best Clean & Green Facial Skincare
Ranavat Luminous Ceremony Cream Cleanser
Best Clean Cleanser
"This cleanser is creamy and therefore the opposite of stripping, making it great for sensitive, dry and combination skin," Denno told HelloGiggles. "For those with dry patches or extra dry or sensitive skin, leaving it on as a five-minute mask can help combat flakes and redness really well. Plus, the light rose scent makes cleaning your face even more appealing."
Beautycounter All Bright C Serum
Best Clean Serum
A high-quality vitamin C serum should do wonders for brightening your skin tone and reducing dark spots—and that's exactly what this clean product does. Formulated with a 10% blend of two forms of vitamin C, antioxidant-rich turmeric, and camu camu extract, this serum both brightens existing dark spots and protects the skin from new ones. Although multiple testers noted that the turmeric smell is quite strong, they all agreed that it was pleasant rather than overpowering, and one tester saw significantly increased brightness in her complexion after just one week of use.
Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer
Best Clean Moisturizer
"With the perfect gel texture, this works well on skin that only needs the tiniest bit of spot-moisturizing while also being ideal for those who consider themselves extremely dry and need seriously intense hydration," Denno said of this HG tester-loved pick. Formulated with pomegranate spheres, orange blossom peptides, and macro hyaluronic acid, this moisturizer absorbs moisture to lock hydration into the skin, aids with water retention, and, as Denno noted, doesn't pill under makeup. All of this is great in itself, but what truly makes this product stand out so much is the unique, refillable packaging. The glass jar comes with a 100% recyclable refill pod, so when you finish your moisturizer, simply recycle your pod and refill the jar with a new one.
Symbiome Respond004 Postbiomic Oil
Best Clean Face Oil
"The microbiomes (aka the thousands of strains of symbiotic microorganisms living in and on your skin) of our ancestors produced nearly all the nutrients their skin needed in order to thrive—vitamins A, D, E, and K plus antioxidants like CoQ10—on their own," explained DeFino. "According to chemist and Symbiome founder Larry Weiss, today's humans only have about 20% of that microbial diversity. However, Symbiome uses fermented Amazonian oils to recreate the nutrient profiles of our ancestors and restore our microbiomes to their rightful glory. Honestly, that's exactly how my skin feels after a few drops of this oil: glorious." Since it has such a calming and soothing effect, this oil is perfect for anyone new to the face oil game—even those with acne-prone, problematic, or oily skin.
Naturopathica Watercress & Spirulina Detox Mask
Best Clean Face Mask
This waterless face mask is formulated with purifying watercress and antioxidant-rich spirulina which work together to draw out impurities and unclog pores. One HG tester raved that the mask was really effective at reducing redness and calming blemishes she had sprouting up. "After washing it off, my skin felt balanced and refreshed, and the oiliness in my T-zone was gone," she reported. Plus, the mask is customizable depending on the texture you prefer. "It can be a frothy, mousse-like texture with more water, or a more sturdy clay-like mask with less," she explained.
Dr. Elsa Jungman Minimalist Start Over Set
Best Clean Acne Treatment
This bundle includes the Begin Again Gentle Cleanser, Start Over Moisturizing Serum, the Bio Restore Mini, and a bamboo washcloth. As you can tell by the product names, this set aims to start from square one by first restoring your skin barrier. "Inspired by new research on the skin microbiome—aka the thousands of strains of symbiotic microorganisms living in and on your skin—this innovative new set takes a gentler and more effective approach to acne by balancing bacteria, not banishing it," DeFino explained.
KORRES Volumizing Serum-In-Moisturizer
Best Clean Anti-Aging Moisturizer
As women go through menopause, they lose 30% of collagen and skin lipids. However, this fast-acting two-in-one moisturizer/serum works to replenish those lost nutrients with a game-changing ingredient: white pine. The proprietary ingredient in this product detoxifies cells to promote the production of collagen and increase skin elasticity, shrink pore size, and diminish dark spots and wrinkles.
Laneige Cream Skin Mist
Best Clean Face Mist
Ever feel like your face needs a quick spritz of moisture? Look no further than the Laneige Cream Skin Mist. Perfect for on-the-go hydration, simply spray your entire face—before or after makeup—and feel the refreshing mist hydrate your skin with white leaf tea water, which strengthens the skin's moisture barrier. The super-fine mist delivers a natural, hydrated glow, and one HG tester called it her "new favorite afternoon pick-me-up while working from home."
Youth to the People Dream Eye Cream
Best Clean Eye Cream
Our favorite type of products are the ones that take the term "beauty sleep" literally. Before bed, gently pat this cream around your eye area, dream of less fine lines, and wake up to that reality. This eye cream from cult-favorite brand Youth to the People is formulated with goji stem cells (which smooth wrinkles), vegan hyaluronic acid and ceramides (which hydrate and plump), prickly pear oil (which brightens and tightens skin), and vitamin C (which visibly firms the sensitive skin around your eyes). Plus, one HG tester noted that her eyes were way less puffy the morning after she used it.
Eleven by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
Best Clean Sunscreen
"As an athlete and a Black woman, Venus Wiliams really thought about what she would need for the perfect sunscreen," Loiz told HelloGiggles. "Her sunscreen serum is hydrating but also absorbs into the skin without leaving an oily residue. It also doesn't leave that gray cast like most sunscreens leave behind on darker skin tones." Bonus: The glass serum bottle is recyclable and the outer box is made of 100% recyclable paper and printed with soy-based ink, so you can feel good when using up this product.
Youth to the People Yerba Mate Resurfacing Energy Facial
Best Clean Exfoliator
Say hello to a gently-exfoliated face in just two minutes. This microdermabrasion facial breaks down dead skin cells (with active enzymes from papaya and pineapple) while bamboo resurfaces the skin's texture and highly-caffeinated yerba mate and guayusa extracts energize the skin for a radiant glow. Finally, aloe soothes the skin to prevent any redness or irritation. "My skin felt and looked so clean after using this," a tester noted. "It doesn't dry out my skin and my skin tone looks a lot more even afterward."
Best Clean & Green Body Skincare
Best Clean & Green Makeup
Exa High Fidelity Semi-Satin Foundation
Best Clean Foundation
"This foundation is sheer when applied lightly with fingers, a brush, or a sponge, but it's easily layered for more coverage without looking cakey," Denno explained. "Plus it offers 43 shades, so chances are good you'll find your perfect match—or two." Our testers agreed. "As someone with oily skin who loves a #dewydumpling look, the semi-matte finish is perfect," said one.
Exa Jump Start Smoothing Primer
Best Clean Primer
"There really isn't another comparable primer on the clean market," Denno said. "It lightly lays over pores and scarring so that foundation, concealer, and blush applies smoothly and evenly. Plus, it hydrates and blurs skin beautifully for those who aren't looking to wear foundation on top."
ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint
Best Tinted Moisturizer
Nine out of 10 times that we leave the house, we don't want to put on a full face of makeup, but still want subtle coverage. Enter: Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint. This weighless serum offers light, dewy coverage packed with SPF, hyarlonic acid (for plumping and sealing in hydration), and niacinamide (for smoothing your skin texture). Simply dispense a quarter of a full dropper into your palm, apply all over your face, and voilà—subtle, dewy coverage: achieved.
KOSAS The Big Clean Mascara
Best Clean Mascara
Not only does this clean mascara instantly deliver fluffy, curly lashes, but it simultaneously works to protect, nourish, and support natural hair growth. Here's what's at work in this clean mascara: castor oil (packed with omega-6 fatty acids) moisturizes and creates a healthy base for the lashes to grow, pro vitamin B5 repairs damaged hair, and botanical waxes and shea butter keep lashes lubricated to reduce fallout and brittleness. Meanwhile, the rainbow-shaped brush easily grabs every lash for a curling effect in one swipe, delivering the blackest pigment available. "I've tested dozens of clean mascaras, and this is by far the best," said one tester.
Madame Gabriela Lipstick in Paris at 7PM
Best Clean Lipstick
This classic, true red color is flattering on all skin tones, and the lipstick formula packs tons of benefits. "Manuka honey is as close as it gets to a miracle ingredient," DeFino raved. "I've used it on my skin for years, but with the launch of Madame Gabriela's Manuka-infused lipstick, my lips were finally able to get in on the action, too. Expect the same skin benefits—Manuka honey draws in moisture and heals cracked skin—plus super creamy, surprisingly long-lasting color."
NakedPoppy Clean Liquid Eyeliner
Best Clean Eyeliner
"The one conventional product I wasn't able to kick when I converted to clean beauty was black liquid liner," DeFino admitted. "I couldn't find a clean version that stayed put for the life of me—until NakedPoppy's Clean Liquid Eyeliner made it to market in 2020, that is. The vegan formula holds up all day and is verified by the Environmental Working Group. What more could an ingredient-conscious cat-eye enthusiast want?"
Alima Pure Cream Blush
Best Clean Blush
"This launch of shades is a makeup artist's dream," Denno said of the six universal hues. "They're such fun colors and can be tapped on for the lightest wash of color, or pressed on in layers for a lot of color payoff. The textures are blendable and wear well on top of foundation or naked skin. The fact that the packaging is refillable checks the 'eco-friendly as possible' box, too."
Tower 28 ShineOn Milky Lip Jelly
Best Clean Lip Gloss
"The texture feels less like a gloss and more like a really glassy, nourishing balm," Denno said. "The colors are extremely wearable and easy to apply without a mirror, so there's no worrying about coloring in the lines with these." Loiz agreed and noted, "These four Milky Lip Jellies are creamy, sheer, hydrating, not sticky, and the perfect natural lip shades."
ILIA Chromatic Eye Tint
Best Clean Eyeshadow
Available in eight colors and offering a metallic finish, this weightless eyeshadow can be worn from morning to night. "These are super easy to use," Denno said. "Whether you want a soft wash of color or a fun, graphic line or dots along the lash line, just swipe wherever you choose."
KOSAS Revealer Concealer
Best Clean Concealer
This super-creamy concealer sets out to accomplish three goals: brighten, sooth, and plump. Caffeine reduces puffiness and fights skin darkening, while pink algae extract hydrates and fights free-radicals with antioxidants. Meanwhile, arnica soothes inflammation, pantheonal (aka vitamin B5) adds essential moisture, hyaluronic acid retains that moisture, and peptides strengthen the skin barrier and stimulate new collagen production—all while giving you a smooth, radiant under-eye complexion.
Saie Dew Balm
Best Clean Highlighter
Have you always wanted to look like a wet seal, emerging slick and fabulous from the ocean? The Saie Dew Balm is your closest bet. Available in three shades, this highlighter uses unique ingredients like marshmallow root and beeswax (plus skincare MVP hyaluronic acid) to illuminate your skin and provide the dewy glow of your dreams, wherever you choose.
Best Clean & Green Hair
Nailtopia Nail Lacquer
Best Clean Nail Polish
Choose from more than 75 shades of this plant-based nail lacquer from the most eco-friendly nail brand around, Nailtopia. Infused with fruits and vegetables (like potato and corn), this nail polish hardens, strengthens, lengthens, and nourishes nails during wear. Plus, the polishes are infused with AHA and PHA for up to seven days of chip-free wear. "I started using these nail polishes over the summer and have been obsessed since," said one tester.
19-69 Invisible Post
Best Clean Fragrance
Inspired by the hippie trails of the 1960s, key notes in this fragrance include green fig, black currant, and Virginian cedarwood. "One spritz to the wrists and suddenly, I'm a minidress-wearing woman from a fuzzy '60s photograph come to life," DeFino said. "I'm skipping through a field of flowers in white patent leather go-go boots. I'm peeling a tangerine in sunny Palm Springs." Enough said.
Honest Beauty Reusable Magic Silicone Sheet Mask
Totally customizable to your skincare routine, this reusable silicone sheet mask locks in your favorite skincare products, whether it's a serum or moisturizer. Apply your chosen product and then place the mask over your face to seal in all the ingredients for 10 to 30 minutes. Then, rinse the mask thoroughly and store in its bag for up to several months of use.
Hero Image Credits | Art Director: Jenna Brillhart, Illustrations/Animation: Sarah Maiden
Click here to see all 187 winners of Hellogiggles' 2021 Beauty Crush Awards.