I look back fondly on my old high school days, swinging my feet from a hightop chair while a goddess-like goth chic leaned in to spoolie my eyebrows at the MAC counter. Coating my face with an assortment of sticky, long-wear products felt so good. Until it didn’t.
Any beauty lover worth their weight knows that when testing new products—or sitting down at a counter for a full “beat” (a now trendy way to say “makeover” derived from Black gay and drag culture)—there’s always a lingering chance that your skin will revolt the next day, leaving you with a rash, breakout, or full-blown hives.
Fortunately, my escapades at MAC never left me that way (some of my friends were not so lucky) but over the years other makeup products, skincare routines, and facials have.
If the “clean,” “green,” and “vegan” movements of the last decade have taught us anything, it’s that some of our favorite products, whether we’re ready to admit it or not, are toxic to our bodies—this is especially the case for products that target women of color.
Many of us were spooked when it was announced that household name brand Johnson & Johnson had to award more than $4 million to women who had used their baby powder and found that it had asbestos in it, which ultimately contributed to their ovarian cancer.
And as with most health crises, women of color have the most to lose. According to a February 2018 Neilsen study, multicultural women spend more than $2 billion dollars annually on beauty, hair, and personal care products. In hair and beauty alone, women of color make up 85.6% of the total dollars spent in the U.S.; considering they only make up less than 14% of the total population, those numbers are staggering.
The numbers (and court cases) alone suggest that many brands owe it to women of color to start thinking about how their products contribute to the overall health and well being of their primary customer.
We explored a few brands that are doing just that. If there’s one New Year’s resolution that just got a little easier, it’s your commitment to a cleaner, greener beauty routine that won’t break your bank, but will boost your health and maintain your magic.
For Cleaner Hair and Skin
All praises to the natural hair movement! Thanks to women deciding to “rock their rizos” and embrace their kinks, women of color have ditched chemical relaxers for much gentler and delicious smelling natural products. From coconut oil to apple cider vinegar rinses, we’ve officially got au naturale hair care on lock.
Still, some of us miss the luxury of beautifully packaged products lining our shower walls (because face it, apple cider vinegar and blocks of shea butter don’t always come in the most Instagrammable packages). Not to mention, we also miss the assuredness that all those oils and butters won’t break out the rest of our skin while conditioning our hair.
Enter brands like SEEN. SEEN is a luxury skin-caring hair care line, is designed by dermatologists so that when shampoo and conditioner start running down your face and body (which all shampoos and conditioners inevitably do on wash day), you won’t be left with impossibly clogged pores.
The non-comedogenic formulas are pretty much everything-free (including gluten-free, dye-free, and sulfate-free) and include shea butter for conditioning, chamomile for skin soothing, and plant sugar for protection and smoothing effects.
To Literally “Green Up” Your Acne Solutions
Acne solutions, unfortunately, never feel quite like the sexiest solutions. Whether you use toothpaste, or a highly chemical concoction to power through your worst breakouts, there’s a good chance you could be doing more long-term damage than good.
Still, natural solutions to acne have failed in the past when it comes to effectiveness and frankly, luxury.
Nothing screams luxury skin care like, well, diamonds and precious gemstones. Shiffa Emerald Clarifying Face Oil ($75) was named for its organic healing principles (Shiffa means “healing” or “to heal” in Arabic).
Their clarifying face oil is formulated for combination or oily skin that has naturally low levels of linoleic acid (one of the causes of acne). The formula contains only oils with highest levels of linoleic acid to nourish oily skin, prevent breakouts, and reverse UV damage and hyperpigmentation. Basically, it helps your skin calm down with sage, tea tree, neem, argan, Tsubaki (an oil similar to sebum that helps reduce scarring) and Helichrysum (a stress relieving ingredient).
The magic of the product? The literal emerald found at the bottom of the formula. According to Shiffa, in gem therapy, emeralds are used for love, prosperity, goodness and heart balancing and they detoxify the liver and cleanse the body.
For At-Home Spa Experiences
Navigating the world of spas can be the most tricky when trying to keep a clean and green routine. We discovered a few essentials to help you have a luxurious, spa-like experience in your own home with products that guarantee non-toxic results.
Edible Beauty’s “Core Four” contains everything you need to get started on a luxury toxin-free “edible” skin care routine. The set, sold online and at Sephora, comes beautifully packaged making it a wonderful pampering gift idea for someone special.
For women of color, the line promises to deeply hydrate, protect and brighten any and all skin types by using botanical ingredients which are naturally rich in antioxidants that are beneficial for skin prone to hyperpigmentation. Chock full of everything from coconut oil to Kakadu Plum (the world’s highest plant-based source of vitamin C) it is one of the most coveted clean skincare lines out—if not the most calming and best smelling.
Use natural face masks at home
Try topping the four-step routine off with Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask ($62), which is formulated with two natural sources of beta-hydroxy acid, antioxidant-rich beet extract, and willowbark and meadowsweet—natural sources of salicylic acid—which promise to slough off dead skins cells like a traditional peel without irritation.
For Homemade-ish Personal Care
It doesn’t get more natural than products made by hand in your home. But, seriously, who has time for that?
Florapothecarie, is a line of handmade 100% natural & vegan skincare, made with fair trade and organic ingredients. The brand’s Whipped Body Butter is made with skin-nourishing certified organic cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil. The best part? The unrefined cocoa butter gives it a hint of chocolatey scent.
Slather the body butter on after enjoying a bath with one of their bath teas (smells as delicious as it sounds) and you’ll wonder why you ever used anything chemical on your skin!
Use clean makeup products
While the right skincare routine can help you avoid toxic foundations and other products that will clog your pores, no one can resist a pop of color on their lips or nails.
And whoever says color automatically equals chemicals and toxins never met the new beauty entrepreneurs on the block.
Brands like The Lip Bar prove that women of color have taken matters into their own hands to ensure that we stay fly and clean when it comes to adding color to our beauty routine.
The Lip Bar offers unique lip shades in liquid matte, lipstick, and gloss, and its products are vegan and cruelty-free. Not to mention, the shade ranges compliment darker skin tones, making it a go-to line for women of color. Did we mention the packaging is gorgeous too?
Use healthy polishes on your nails
Revolutionizing the unfortunately highly toxic nail industry that women cannot resist, Mischo Beauty offers the most stunning set of nail colors you’ve ever laid eyes on—all toxin-free. Formulated by Kitiya King when she was pregnant with her adorable son, the brand seeks to offer an alternative to nail lacquers that are full of synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruptors. King leveraged her degree in chemistry and license in cosmetology to develop a line of polishes that are vegan, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and void of artificial fragrances.