I Try To Be An Ethical Beauty Consumer—Here's What I Actually Buy
My 22 natural, minimal, low-waste must-haves.
What is clean beauty? And—for that matter—green beauty, eco-friendly beauty, and natural beauty? In Clean, Green, And In Between, beauty expert Jessica DeFino explores the ins and outs of these buzzy terms, reports on the products and ingredients to look out for, and answers all of your most pressing questions.
Those who know me know this: The beauty industry’s culture of consumerism makes me cringe. That’s why those who know me don’t know what beauty products I buy. I know, I know. That’s kind of an important part of the beauty editor job, but I can’t help it! I feel so incredibly guilty about contributing to the “more, more, more” mindset that I avoid talking about products altogether. (I’d rather talk about the mind-blowing intelligence programmed into our own skin cells.) Just check my Instagram for proof. There’s barely a bottle in sight.
But for December—gift-giving season!—and in light of sustainability expert Elizabeth L. Cline’s recent rethinking of “the ethical consumer,” I’m ready to compromise. I promise to reveal the natural, minimal, low-waste items I swear by if you promise to resist the pull of all the pretty products. Think about what you need, buy what you will use, and keep in mind that beauty is personal. (In other words, would that face oil make a great gift for your cousin? Or would she prefer to pick out her own with a gift certificate to a sustainable beauty e-shop, like Beauty Heroes?)
Without further ado, the anti-consumerist’s guide to… uh, consuming.
1. One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleanser
This is one of the few skincare products I’ve purchased again and again. I’m on my fourth bottle. It’s truly divine as a first cleanse or solo cleanse.
2. Wonder Valley Oil Cleanser
I gave a bottle of Wonder Valley’s olive oil-based cleanser to my boyfriend. He thinks it’s his (and he loves it) but it’s mine. I didn’t want to pack an oil cleanser in my overnight bag anymore.
3. One Love Cream
I usually skip moisturizer and go straight to face oil, but when I want a little added hydration, I layer this water-light cream underneath. Bonus: The brand is ECOCERT, meaning it’s made with sustainably-sourced and mostly organic ingredients, and packaged in eco-friendly containers.
4. Gressa MINIMALIST Corrective Serum Foundation
Serum foundations are everywhere these days. This one was the first and the best. Remove all others from your digital shopping carts now. You’re welcome.
5. For The Biome
For The Biome formulates its products to support the skin’s microbiome, and since I treat the beneficial bacteria of my microbiome as if they were my literal children, any and everything from this line gets my stamp of approval. The rosehip-based serum is my personal favorite, though.
6. Symbiome Postbiomic Oil
Another microbiome-friendly skincare brand, Symbiome seriously changed my dry, acne-prone skin in the course of a month. This oil features postbiotics—the new probiotics, mark my words—courtesy of fermented plant oils. It’s pricey but worth it.
7. Cultivate Apothecary
Almost every ingredient in Cultivate Apothecary’s line is grown on-site at the founders’ farm in upstate New York. (Sustainable! Idyllic! There are chickens!) I’m a big fan of the Healing Mask, but their (gorgeously bottled) oils are great, too.
8. Flora Health Manuka Honey
I am certifiably obsessed with manuka honey and this manuka honey in particular. It’s a cleanser, spot treatment, and face mask. It works in smoothies and teas. You can eat it by the spoonful. I do it all! Here are a few reasons why.
9. Clary Collection All Purpose Balm
The end-all-be-all of skincare balms, Clary Collection Balm is my go-to for dry patches, pimples, bug bites, flaky lips, ragged cuticles, and probably a bunch of other things I’m forgetting. All of that and no plastic packaging? Yes, please.
10. Wildling Empress Stone
Committing to a daily gua sha practice is one of the most profoundly healing things I’ve done for my skin. A morning session with Wildling’s empress stone aids in lymphatic drainage, boosts circulation, and just feels so damn good. (Editor note: It's why we gave it a 2020 Beauty Crush Award!) Consider it meditation for the face.
11. RMS Living Luminizer
After two rounds of Accutane, my skin is lacking in the sebum department. (Reminder: Sebum is the skin’s built-in, dew-effect moisturizer.) Living Luminizer is the best substitute. I swipe it on my cheekbones and dab it over my “third eye” to fake a natural glow when my oil levels are low.
12. Kjaer Weis Lipstick
I bought Kjaer Weis Lipstick in Sucre about a year ago and haven’t bought another lipstick since. There’s no need. This one is perfect, from the shade (very flattering) to the packaging (refillable and sustainable) to the taste (sugary).
13. Briogeo B. Well Organic 100% Castor Oil
I don’t use mascara anymore. Instead, I coat my lashes in a teeny-tiny drop of Briogeo’s castor oil to condition and shine. The effect is just as eye-catching but I run zero risk of raccoon eyes.
14. Hanahana Vanilla Lavender Shea Body Butter
There is no better shea butter. I have nothing else to say.
15. Ranavat Mighty Majesty Huile Extraordinaire
I stan a multitasking serum. This jasmine and sunflower oil blend from Ranavat can be used three ways: Smooth a few drops in your hair, slather a few pumps onto your body, or swirl a tablespoon into your bathwater.
16. Earth Connection Oil
Earth Connection Oil says its blend of botanical oils, magnesium, and probiotics is “created with a lot of Sade playing in the background.” Can confirm it’s as lovely as it sounds.
17. UMA Lymphatic Detox Dry Brush
I’ve been dry brushing my body for years — I’m a sucker for a lymphatic drainage tool — and this particular handheld dry brush from Ayurvedic brand UMA Oils is the best I’ve tried.
18. Sangre de Fruta Head of Roses Botanical Shampoo & Conditioner
Am I ashamed that I have $104 worth of shampoo and conditioner in my shower? A little bit. Do I regret it? Never.
19. Whimsy Official Glow Getting Collagen Blend
Confession: I bought the “blue drink” off of Instagram because it looks so pretty. But I’m still drinking it because blue butterfly pea powder is more than meets the eye: It stimulates collagen production via vitamin C.
20. Tusol Organic Plant Protein + Superfood Smoothie Mix
In 2020, even the act of blending a morning smoothie feels hard. These powdered packets from Tusol Wellness make it easy (and delicious, and aesthetically pleasing).
21. Maker + Merchant Just Jojoba Oil
If I could only use one ingredient for the rest of my life, it would be jojoba oil. It’s an oil cleanser and moisturizer. It works on skin and hair. It’s biocompatible and shelf-stable. Use it on its own or get to DIYing. The options are endless!
22. Angela Caglia Vibrating Rose Quartz Sculpting Roller
I whip out this crystal facial roller when I look puffy and want to feel fancy. At 6,000 sonic vibrations per minute, it’s the epitome of “high vibe” beauty.