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The Best Clean Beauty Brands of 2024: Safe, Effective, and Sustainable

Natalie Krafft

Published in Lifestyle

9 min read

January 2, 2024
a woman holding a green tube of lotion
a woman holding a green tube of lotion

Beauty products are everywhere. From the aisles of your local pharmacy to online retailers like Sephora or Amazon, you don’t have to look far to find products claiming to enhance your hair, nail, or skincare.But in the beauty industry, not all products are created equal. Under U.S. law, beauty products and cosmetics are not required to undergo FDA approval, meaning that products of this kind do not need to demonstrate their safety or efficacy before going to market.

The lack of regulation—not to mention the environmental impact of certain chemicals found in common beauty products—can be a little concerning for many people. So, if you want to ensure that the mascara, highlighter, or face cream you’re using is safe, you’re in the right place!Here’s how you can determine whether or not your favorite product is clean—plus, a roundup of our nutrition team’s favorite clean beauty products.

What Makes a Clean Beauty Product?

beauty product ingredients to avoid

“Clean beauty” is a tricky thing to define. Different brands have different ideas about what constitutes a “clean” beauty product. And beyond just varying from brand to brand, definitions of “clean beauty” can even vary from one country to another.Without getting too specific about how healthy each ingredient found in beauty products is, we can at least start by ruling out commonly found ingredients that the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, considers toxic.

What to Avoid

Arguably more important than what to look for, is what to avoid—especially if you have sensitive skin. The following ingredients are more common than you may think, and if your beauty or skincare products include any of these, it might be time to look for an alternative.

Aside from harmful chemical ingredients, other concerns surrounding beauty products include sustainability issues, harmful effects experienced disproportionately by people of color, as well as animal testing.

Why Choose Clean Products?

a woman rubbing lotion on her chest

Is it really worth all the extra trouble, seeking out “clean” beauty products specifically, when mass-produced alternatives are so prevalent? What’s the big deal, anyway?The risks you may run using products with toxic ingredients greatly outweigh the little additional effort it takes to find “clean” beauty products. These risks can include things like:

Fortunately, it’s not really so difficult to find clean beauty products, after all. Let’s get into how you can easily do so.

How to Check If a Product is Clean

There are a number of resources for determining the safety of the contents of various beauty products—whether it be your favorite eyeliner or a nourishing lip balm.The EWG has an entire database for exactly such a purpose, called Skin Deep. There, you can find detailed information on the contents of a given product, as well as an overall score for how clean and safe the product is—or isn’t.

Another option is Yuka—an app that provides a similar report on a given product by scanning its barcode. It’s not only easy, it’s incredibly detailed and provides well-informed breakdowns of the ingredient profile for countless cosmetic products, as well as food items.

As far as ethical practices go, you can visit Leaping Bunny or PETA’s Cruelty-Free Database to see if the product you’re using or looking to buy has a cruelty-free certification. Resources like this are great for helping inform your decisions as a consumer.

Our Nutrition Team’s 12 Favorite Clean Beauty Products

a few clea makeup products recommended by nutrisense

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all this information, don’t worry! It can be a tricky thing to navigate. It’s hard to know what’s in every product, and even harder to know what is and isn’t a healthy ingredient.If you’re looking for a more specific jumping off point, or even some specific recommendations, you’re in luck. Here’s a list of our nutrition team’s favorite clean makeup brands and products.

Clean Makeup Products

1) The Ordinary Concealer

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10 EWG’s Skin Deep rated this brightening concealer a two out of 10 hazard score—lower being better, of course. It has a low carcinogenic risk, as well as a low risk of reproductive and developmental toxicity. Both of those things are great, and if you search for products from some of the bigger brands, you may be surprised to learn that this isn’t the norm!

What We Wish Was Better

While this concealer is on the cleaner side, there are a few ingredients in there, like phenoxyethanol and chlorphenesin, that are not quite as risk-free as we might like to see. All in all, though, it’s a solid, affordable option.

2) Beautycounter Beyond Gloss

beautycounter beyond gloss

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: VerifiedThis product earned the EWG Verified rating—the best score possible on Skin Deep. It contains zero of the ingredients EWG deems unacceptable, and scores low on carcinogens and toxicity in general.

What We Wish Was Better

Of course, no product is perfect, and Beyond Glass, though largely clean and safe, still has a few ingredients, like ethylhexyl palmitate, that may have some potential for irritation for some people with very sensitive skin.

3) Ilia Liquid Powder Eye Tint

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10This eye tint is another low-carcinogen product, which is always great. Most of its ingredients score exceptionally low for cancer risk, reproductive risk, and organ system toxicity.

What We Wish Was Better

Similar to the Ordinary Concealer, this product could do better when it comes to allergic potential. Some of the ingredients also have a higher than desirable potential for bioaccumulation, meaning a high resistance to breaking down, whether in the body or in the environment.

4) Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick

westman atelier foundation stick

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10This one is low across the board for cancer risk, allergic potential, and reproductive toxicity. It’s a good, clean option, with very few, if any, eyebrow-raising ingredients.

What We Wish Was Better

While it scores well almost across the board, this product does have a few ingredients that have a high potential for bioaccumulation. It’s also a pretty pricey option.

Clean Face Creams and Moisturizers

clean moisturizers recommended by nutrisense

5) RMS Beauty Beauty Oil

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10Coming in at a very respectable rating of 2 on EWG’s scale, this product is low on carcinogens, and most of its ingredients make the mark for clean beauty.

What We Wish Was Better

Overall, there’s not much to complain about. However, this product is a bit on the pricier side.

6) Cetaphil Deep Hydration Refreshing Eye Serum

cetaphil deep hydration serum

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 3/10This eye serum is another beauty product that’s low in carcinogens. According to the EWG, its ingredients are also low-risk when it comes to developmental and reproductive harm. We love that it’s also a very affordable option.

What We Wish Was Better

Some of the ingredients in this one, like sodium benzoate and sodium hydroxide, are a bit controversial though may be okay in smaller amounts. It also contains phenoxyethanol, a chemical with a high occupational risk for those who work with it. Many of these compounds have a dose-dependent effect where higher, more frequent exposure may be where the primary risk lies.

7) CeraVe Ultra-light Moisturizing Lotion

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10CeraVe is a well-known skincare brand, and its SPF 30 moisturizing lotion is on the cleaner end of the spectrum for health and beauty products. It’s allergy-friendly and largely non-carcinogenic, with a low risk for endocrine disruption.

What We Wish Was Better

This one does have a higher than ideal potential to cause irritation in the skin, eyes, and lungs. Furthermore, some of its ingredients, like T-Butyl Alcohol, have a high occupational risk for the workers who make this product.

Clean Face Cleansers

cleansers recommended by nutrisense

8) Beautycounter Counterstart Cococream Cleanser

beautycounter cleanser

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: VerifiedWhen it comes to face cleansers, it’s hard to do much better than the Beautycounter Counterstart Cococream Cleanser. It’s EWG Verified, meaning it contains zero of the many ingredients that EWG deems “unacceptable.” It’s packed with clean ingredients that pose a minimal risk for toxicity, and it’s also allergy-friendly.

What We Wish Was Better

While it did receive the highest rating possible from EWG, this face cleanser still has certain ingredients, like phenoxyethanol, that have a high potential for irritation. However, this is still a great choice for a clean facial cleanser.

9) CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10This foaming cleanser is low in carcinogenic ingredients, and allergy-friendly, too. None of its ingredients pose a high risk for developmental or reproductive toxicity, and it’s affordable, to boot.

What We Wish Was Better

While it makes the cut for a clean beauty product, some of the ingredients in this cleanser, like sodium benzoate and sodium hydroxide, are a bit controversial though may be okay in smaller amounts.

10) La Roche Posay Toleriane Prebiotic Thermal Water Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

la roche posay cleanser

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 2/10The ingredients of this cleanser pose a low risk of developmental and reproductive toxicity, and only one of its ingredients has any carcinogenic potential.

What We Wish Was Better

Of course, even having a single ingredient that’s linked to cancer is a red flag. That ingredient, T-Butyl Alcohol, also has a high potential to cause irritation to the skin, eyes, or lungs, in addition to having a high occupational hazard for workers.

Sunscreen or SPF Products

clean sunscreen recommended by nutrisense

11) Beautycounter Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: VerifiedHere’s another EWG Verified product, receiving the highest score possible on Skin Deep. It’s low in carcinogenic ingredients, and has a minimal potential for developmental, reproductive, or non-reproductive toxicity.

What We Wish Was Better

Although it scores exceptionally well in almost every other regard, certain ingredients in this sunscreen, such as peppermint oil, orange peel oil, and lemon peel oil, do have a high potential to irritate and cause allergic reactions. Depending on your particular sensitivity level, it may not be the most allergy-friendly option.

12) CeraVe Hydrating Face Sunscreen Lotion

cerave sunscreen

What Makes it Clean?

EWG Score: 3/10This affordable sunscreen lotion is a bestseller and dermatologist-recommended. It’s low on carcinogens as well as having a low potential for non-reproductive system toxicity. It’s also allergy friendly.

What We Wish Was Better

On the negative side, certain ingredients, like phenoxyethanol, have a high potential to cause irritation, as well as a high risk of occupational hazard.

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Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewed by: Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN

Heather is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN, LDN), subject matter expert, and technical writer, with a master's degree in nutrition science from Bastyr University. She has a specialty in neuroendocrinology and has been working in the field of nutrition—including nutrition research, education, medical writing, and clinical integrative and functional nutrition—for over 15 years.