It seems as though we are constantly bombarded with bad news about conventional skincare. Thankfully, it also seems as though awesome new skincare lines and fabulous green beauty retailers are popping up almost every day. Here are some resources to help you deal with the madness and find the finest purveyors of the coolest goods.
Why Go Green? Information and Resources
No More Dirty Looks: the green beauty OG. The ladies behind NMDL have literally written the book on clean beauty and you should definitely read it if you are passionate about greening your routine (or curious about what is actually so nasty about those “nasties” we want to avoid in our products). The site has gone through a number of changes since it first became my green beauty bible and is currently on hiatus. I still keep it here, at the top of my list, because it was responsible for my green beauty conversion, introduced me to some of my all-time favorite brands (and people) and inspired me to start this blog. I hope it comes back soon.
Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database is the resource for ingredient nerds or anyone who cares about what goes into their skincare (that ought to be everyone). No drama, no editorializing, no opinions: just thousands of common (and not so common) ingredients and their rankings from 0 (harmless) to 10 (poison). The Skin Deep Database also gives rankings to hundreds of beauty and skincare products, but if you aren’t sure about a product’s safety and it isn’t featured, simply check out its ingredients. It is worth pointing out that if you are an ingredient research pro, Skin Deep might raise some questions. They sometimes assign overly high scores to ingredients based on slightly arbitrary factors (e.g. potential risk of contamination) and their rankings of actual products can sometimes be questionable. These days, I often use it as a jumping-off point for my ingredient research and for everyone else, I recommend searching for specific ingredients, rather than products.
Organic Beauty Talk’s Ingredients To Avoid: if you can’t really be bothered to read books or sift through hundreds of ingredients, at least check out this handy guide from Beauty Heroes for some ingredient no-nos (as well as some great natural ingredients to look out for).
The Fun Part: Shopping Resources
One of the best things about using green beauty and makeup is the joy of discovering cool new products and the absolute pleasure that can be derived from dealing with the awesome, kind, passionate green beauty retailers. Here are my personal favorites. I would suggest following all of them on Instagram for the latest and greatest in green beauty. I should also note that this is a list of my personal favorites. There are plenty more green beauty retailers out there (and, of course, all of the brands sell their products directly) and they are all passionate about green beauty and customer satisfaction. Finally, many of these offer great sample programs, which is a huge help when one does not have access to a brick and mortar store in which to test out lipsticks or sniff body serums. All of these retailers with brick and mortar outposts host frequent events, helping to educate their consumers and introduce them to the makers behind the brands.
Brick & Mortar
Today’s green beauty consumer (especially those on the coasts) don’t have to resign themselves to buying products sight unseen and hoping that a lipstick color would actually match their skin tone. More and more stores are popping up with brick and mortar locations, making beauty shopping easier and more fun.
Follain. With the recent opening of its gorgeous Soho pop-up, New England’s favorite Follain is poised to become the green beauty chain store (it also has two locations in Boston, one in Nantucket and one in Washington, DC and shows no signs of slowing down). My favorite thing about Follain, however, isn’t its relative ubiquity, nor even its fabulous brand selection and gorgeous and elegant branding and design, both in-store and online (seriously, the Soho store is simply glorious). What I value the most is their commitment to education. Their salespeople are possibly the most educated and passionate in the biz and know every brand and product inside and out. The stores also arrange products by category (i.e. “Moisturizers”, “Cleansers”, “Masks”, etc) rather than brand, which makes them an ideal starting point for someone who is new to green beauty and is looking to create a comprehensive and personalized regimen. There are some brands and retailers that seem just as interested in pushing the industry forward and helping it grow and evolve, as they are in the mundane (but necessary) pursuit of making a profit and Follain is certainly one such business. Its founder has once said she hopes that Follain will one day become obsolete, since “green beauty” will become fully mainstream. I find this goal incredible admirable, yet I hope she is wrong. If anything, we need more Follain.
CAP Beauty. Blessed with a plethora of enviable press, including mentions in such august publications as W Magazine and the New York Times’ T Magazine and co-founded by the uber-cool owner of New York’s beloved Castor & Pollux Kerrilynn Pamer and super-stylist Cindy DiPrima, this jewel box of a store with its gorgeously stylish website is quickly becoming a natural beauty superstar. Yet, it’s not the great publicity or the cool antecedents that make this store a gem: it’s the thoughtfully curated selection of the best, coolest and most fabulously niche products around. CAP is an exclusive distributor for some fantastic British and Aussie brands, as well as the green beauty superstars like Kahina, Laurel, May Lindstrom, One Love Organics and many more. CAP espouses a “beauty from the inside-out” credo and beauty products share its shelf space with such wellness heroes as Sun Potion, the Beauty Chef and Wedderspoons. I am also in awe of their impeccable design aesthetic and huge fan of the founders, who are not only incredibly cool, but who radiate kindness and care. The store also houses a small spa and I can attest is one of the most bliss-inducing and glow-making treatments around. Make sure to check out the small, but gorgeous selection of CAP-branded goodies like ceremonial grade Matcha and out-of-this-world coconut butter.
BeauTeaBar has a premise so ingenious, I can’t believe no one thought of it before: combining clean beauty with tea (which we all know is a huge beautifier in its own right). I adore the sweet and spunky owner, Marissa, the adorable hot pink bows on all the products they ship, the super-cool product selection and Marissa’s commitment to discovering the coolest in natural and high-performing brands and featuring them in her store. BeauTeaBar has a brick and mortar location on Long Island and the space is just as gorgeous as the products it carries.
Credo Beauty. Founded by a former Sephora executive, Credo was created as the green alternative to that global beauty behemoth. It currently has three locations, in San Francisco, LA and NYC. Unlike Sephora’s all-black, nightclubby vibe, Credo stores are open, airy and inviting and bursting at the seams with a staggering selection of brands. In fact, I think Credo might well have the broadest brand selection around. I do wish there were a bit more curation on their website (especially considering the sheer number of brands, which could be intimidating to a novice), though I do love their fun Founder Videos.
The Detox Market is a West Coast store with a Canadian outpost. It carries a fabulous selection of brands (some of which I haven’t seen anywhere else) and offers frequent specials. It too follows the premise that beauty comes from the inside and carries not just wellness and detox brands alongside traditional beauty ones, but also fun (and toxin free) kid’s games. It’s the epitome of LA cool.
Shen Beauty located in Carroll Gardens, which is rapidly becoming Brooklyn’s chicest and fanciest neighborhood, is an elegant and gorgeous, lavender and pink-colored playground, filled to the brim with unusual, niche brands. That said, although definitely focused on green beauty, the store does feature quite a few products that, while wonderful, are not exactly clean. This is intermediate green shopping: you’ll find some unique treats, but you better read your ingredients. Shen also carries a few “good enough” brands, which, while not properly clean, are the best alternatives to the 100% clean products (e.g. the cult Elta MD sunscreen) for those who struggle with going completely clean.
Strange Invisible might be my favorite purveyor of exquisite and intoxicating natural perfume, but their gorgeous store in Venice (LA – not Italy) also carries a thoughtfully curated selection of the best of Green Beauty, featuring both established superstar brands and lesser known cult favorites.
Citrine Beauty with its Phoenix location, Citrine is an exception to the coastal clustering of green beauty boutiques. It has an unabashedly girly aesthetic and its resident makeup artists are a great resource fro when you are looking to replicate that Instagram makeup look with natural products.
Now let’s get real, most people still don’t have access to the green beauty destinations listed above. Thankfully, there are plenty amazing online-only shops out there, many of which offer sample programs or consultations to make beauty shopping a breeze.
Integrity Botanicals overhauled their website and while at its inception the store was more “earnest mid-range”, it’s now full-on “elegant and upmarket”. They still carry a lot of the reasonably priced product lines, as well as some wonderful, niche brands that are a bit hard to find elsewhere, but they also added some fabulous luxury brands like La Bella Figura, Laurel Organics and Strange Invisible Perfumes. They also have preternaturally fast shipping (at least to New York) and run cool specials. You might have read my post on IB and my interview with its fabulous founder Terri. If you have, you’ll know that I am a huge fan of this store and its ethos and product selection.
Seed To Serum was initially a blog and I hold its writer Megan responsible for causing me to spend an unmentionable and ungodly amount of money on beauty products. Megan has a knack for ferreting out the most niche, unique and unusual products across the world and her blog was a fabulous resource for an aspiring green beauty junkie. Imagine my delight when I learned that Seed to Serum was to become a shop. Its new incarnation does not disappoint: the store carries a number of little known and very cool brands, along with the universally beloved usual suspects like Laurel Skin and May Lindstrom.
Ayla Beauty is the nerd-chic, cerebral San Francisco counterpart to The Detox Market’s laid back LA style. This is the place to come if you are looking for high-performing, science backed skincare and if you don’t think that “chemical” is a dirty word. Some of the products carried on the site won’t pass the strictest green beauty muster, but they are all sufficiently clean by my standards. Ayla also carries some truly chic, innovative and active lines and products from across the globe, including elegant French and Swiss lines. Ayla’s blog features advice from top dermatologists and other skincare gurus and insiders. The stores brilliant and beautiful founder Dara has plenty more things up her sleeve and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Ayla also has a San Fransisco studio, where customers can meet brand creators, schedule consultations and test products. Though not strictly a shop, it’s an excellent resource and worth checking out if you are local or visiting SF.
Beauty Habit is Shen Beauty’s West Coast counterpart. It has also been in the beauty game the longest by far: I remember browsing and drooling over its virtual shelves back during the Internet boom that gave us Pets.com (anyone remember that dog mascot or did I just totally age myself? Moving on). Beauty Habit carries a truly staggering selection of products, focusing on the niche and the unique. Thankfully, they have a separate “Natural & Organic” section of the store, which should help you navigate their selection of goodies, though you will still need to read the ingredients: they use the term “natural” in the way that the mainstream beauty industry does, meaning that a couple of the products billed as “natural” would not pass a green beauty’s muster (though those are in a distinct minority).
Instagram Style Mavens
The online green beauty marketplace is crowded with excellent retailers. From the powerhouses listed above, to the mom-and-pop operations, a discerning green beauty consumer has an abundance of choice, so it takes something extra-special to capture attention. The shops listed below stand out from the crowd both by featuring brilliantly curated selections of chic, often little-known and niche brands and by having some of the coolest, prettiest and most drool-worthy websites and Instagram feeds around.
The Stell is like that globe-trotting, minimalist too-chic-for-school influencer who makes us long for expensive simplicity and white marble surfaces everywhere. I am lowkey obsessed with their Instagram feed, but once you get on the actual site, there is plenty to pull at your purse strings, from chic, all natural candles and soaps, to cult (and design) favorite brands like Grown Alchemist, Herbivore Botanicals, Palermo Body and Little Barn Apothecary.
LeVert Beauty is, to continue the influencer theme, the girly, pretty counterpart to The Stell’s NYC cool chick. Their equally drool-worthy IG is full of peonies, pink and languid lounging and the product selection on the site is a lovely mix of popular favorites, a few niche brands and charming selections for babies.
Carbon Beauty has one of the most fascinating product selections I have ever come across. As someone obsessed with discovering new brands, it’s incredibly unusual for me to come across one or two unfamiliar name when scrolling through a shop’s list of featured brands. With Carbon Beauty, there are over 20 new to me lines (though, to be fair, not all of them are beauty brands, with Carbon carrying home goods, wellness products and supplements and even jewelry and workout clothes). This is what I love about green beauty: there is the joy and possibility of constant discovery and one can find unusual and cool products at every end of the price point spectrum. Oh, and Carbon’s IG is lovely – colorful, pretty and enticing.
Content Beauty (British), Clementine Fields (Canadian), Amazingy (German), Alice and White (Swedish), Reina Organics (Netherlands), I Am Natural (Australian) are my favorite foreigners. All carry amazing brands (some not available in the US), and Content and Clementine Fields also offer free shipping over a certain amount. Note for American shoppers: because of exchange rates and the way VAT works in Europe, it it can sometimes cheaper to buy products from these foreign sites – especially when it comes to local brands. Content Beauty also has a charming brick and mortar shop in London.