Illustration by Catherine Song

Best of Green Awards 2021: Green Beauty and Personal Care

Treehugger and Byrdie have teamed up to highlight the cleanest, greenest products on the market.

While we all know that true beauty comes from within, humans have long relished beautifying the outside as well. As early as 4000 BCE, men and women in ancient Egypt applied oils and unguents to moisturize their skin. They decorated their eyes elaborately with kohl and malachite and perfumed their bodies with sweet, spicy fragrances. 

Fast forward 6,000 years and we are still at it—in fact, we seem more passionate about beauty and personal care than ever.

According to industry forecasters, by 2024 the world will be spending $390 billion on cosmetic products—including make-up, fragrance, and items for skin, hair, personal care, and oral care. It sounds like an impossible number, but with the average woman using 12 different beauty products every day—along with what men use—it really adds up. 

At first blush, it might not seem so bad. But when we factor in ingredient sourcing, supply chains, packaging, waste-water pollution, et cetera, things from an environmental perspective start to look problematic. And that’s not to mention the potential health effects from questionable synthetic ingredients and a confounding lack of federal regulation (in the United States, at least) of such.

Embracing our natural selves and reducing demand could go a long way in minimizing the impact on people and the planet, but given our 6,000-year-long love affair with cosmetics, it’s safe to assume they’re not going anywhere. This is why it’s been heartening to see such great movement toward cleaner, more sustainable cosmetic products. Whether it's multinational brands refiguring packaging or indie direct-to-consumer companies formulating all-natural products, the industry is responding to consumers' calls for safe, eco-friendly products. It is these movers and shakers and the products they make that we are honoring in the beauty and personal care edition of our Best of Green Awards.

How We Chose Our Winners

To find the cleanest and the greenest, we partnered with our friends at Byrdie, one of the largest beauty sites on the internet with over 9 million readers a month. Treehugger and Byrdie collected nominations from readers, contributors, editors, and outside experts. Combining the two sites' authority and expertise, we vetted the nominees looking for products that shine in one or more of the following ways:

  • They are formulated with low-hazard ingredients.
  • They use sustainably/ethically sourced ingredients.
  • They are cruelty-free and vegan.
  • They are a waterless formulation.
  • They are multi-purpose.
  • They use green packaging, for example, compostable or refillable.
  • They are plastic-free.
  • The company gives back.

After the first round of selections, we asked our guest judges to choose five winners in each category.

Meet the Judges

judge headshots

Illustration by Catherine Song

Melissa Breyer: Editorial director, Treehugger 

Since penning her first article about cosmetic ingredients and the lack of FDA oversight in 2007, Melissa Breyer has been obsessed with reading product labels and Safety Data Sheets. Over the last 15 years, she has tried an untold number of clean, green products. Meanwhile, as a zero-waste advocate, she only buys products with conscientious packaging. Breyer selected the winners for the Skin Care category.

Joyce de Lemos: Co-founder & head of product, Dieux Skin

With degrees in biochemistry and cosmetic science, Joyce de Lemos got her start at L’Oreal and has been dedicated to innovating and improving beauty products ever since. At Dieux—a skin care brand committed to transparency, clinical testing, sustainability, and products that actually do what they claim—she brings her knowledge and expertise to a team that is dedicated to doing better for consumers and the planet. De Lemos selected the winners for the Body Care category.

Hallie Gould: Associate editorial director, Byrdie 

Hallie Gould has worked in beauty editorial for 9 years; she's written hundreds of high-performing stories on skin care, wellness, makeup, and hair. She's a regular on set, helping to source inspiration for makeup and hair looks, as well as interviewing celebrities, models, and other notable women and men in the beauty space. Gould selected the winners for the Makeup category.

Mimi Ausland: CEO, Free the Ocean 

Mimi Ausland is an eco-activist and entrepreneur, whose website, Free the Ocean, gives anyone, anywhere, the ability to help clean up plastic pollution. For every ocean-related trivia question answered, a piece of plastic is removed from the ocean. Additionally, in building the site's plastic-free shop, Ausland has gained expertise in a wide array of planet-friendly beauty and personal care products. Ausland selected the winners for the Oral Care category.

Neeti Mehra: CEO, BeejLiving

Neeti Mehra is a freelance writer based in Mumbai, India. She writes on sustainability and conscious living and has contributed to over 60 publications including Vogue, GQ, Lonely Planet, and Business Traveller UK. She has previously edited magazines on luxury and travel. In addition to writing, Mehra is the founder of BeejLiving, a platform that advocates slow living. Mehra selected the winners for the Hair Care category.

Conny Wittke, Founder, Superzero 

Dr. Conny Wittke is a former consultant and successful beauty executive who spent more than a decade as CEO and President of Zwilling Beauty Group and Tweezerman International. Since then, she has launched Superzero, a plastic-free, waste-free, high-performance beauty brand, which is dedicated to "shrinking beauty’s environmental footprint with every wash, rinse, care, and repeat." Wittke selected the winners for the Companies category.

Best Body Care

Body care products in a pretty illustration

Illustration by Catherine Song

Wellow Deodorant

What to Know: Well hello, Wellow Deodorant! Based in New York City, Wellow launched with a line of deodorants, shampoo and conditioner bars, and solid body wash. It's dedicated to creating efficacious plant-based products in plastic-free packaging. The deodorants, a Treehugger favorite, come in a paper tube that twists the product up, just like a regular deodorant stick, but without the plastic. The packaging can go straight into a backyard composter when it's finished.

Why We Chose It: "I love this company's efforts to use sustainable packaging and create waterless formulations," says Joyce de Lemos, co-founder of Dieux Skin and our judge for the Body Care category. "For the deodorant, the ingredient list is short and sweet, containing arrowroot powder as a natural moisture absorber and triethyl citrate as a natural deodorizer typically derived from sugar. The formula also contains the deodorizer sodium bicarbonate, which some may find sensitizing at higher levels. I have pretty sensitive skin, however, and had no issues at all."

Naturally London Moisturizing Foot Polish

What to Know: "I wanted to create a beneficial footcare regimen that was easy-to-use, multi-purpose, didn't make me smell like a medicine cabinet, and most importantly ignite joy," says Naturally London founder, Chrissy Cabrera. And the brand's Moisturizing Foot Polish With Calendula fits the bill. All of the company's cruelty-free, non-toxic products are handcrafted in Maryland and come in glass jars and bottles with plastic lids. And about those lids? The company says that it is on track to have eight of 11 products be completely plastic-free in the future.

Why We Chose It: "Another fairly simple product with a short, nicely curated ingredient list," says de Lemos. "The combination of naturally derived exfoliators—salt, pumice, and cassava flour was quite lovely, while the blend of botanically derived oils left my feet moisturized but not greasy."

Just the Goods Vegan Hand + Body Lotion

What to Know: Just the Goods Vegan Hand + Body Lotion comes from a maker whose goal is to close the gap between natural and affordable by carefully selecting clean, cost-effective, vegan ingredients (organic whenever possible), and operating with as low an overhead as feasible. It's a model that can be seen all the way down to the packaging: simple, with laser-jet printed labels, "which have the added benefit of being gender-neutral/not editorializing personal lifestyle choices for broader, non-judgmental appeal," notes the site.

Why We Chose It: Just the Goods is upfront about the perils of packaging. Given its location in Winnipeg, Manitoba, glass is not a year-round option, but bioplastics aren't as green as we are led to believe—so it came up with a workaround and offer a few options. "I love the packaging options that the company offers," says de Lemos. "Customers can choose to receive their lotion in recyclable plastic, aluminum, or glass with or without reusable pumps and caps."

Ilera Apothocary Bloom Moisturizing Body Butter

What to Know: Ilera Apothocary uses sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients to create products specifically for people with dry skin due to aging, eczema, and the environment. The Bloom Moisturizing Body Butter takes the South African countryside as its muse, mixing shea butter with floral oils including lavender, rose, jasmine, musk, and ginger. All of the brand's products and scents are made in-house in Detroit, Michigan, with the founder’s Nigerian heritage informing the brand's practices and philosophies. And about that shea butter: Ilera is partnered with the Global Shea Alliance, which works to improve the livelihoods of the rural African women who process the ingredient.

Why We Chose It: "Incredibly simple, yet effective moisturizer formulation," says de Lemos. "The combination of rich shea butter with cocoa butter was not greasy or heavy like other shea butter products that I've tried in the past. I also found the fragrance to be quite pleasant and light. I'd store it in a cool, dark place to protect its lovely texture and fragrance."

Alder New York Cleansing Body Bar

What to Know: This Brooklyn-based brand makes vegan products with plant-powered extracts and dermatologist-approved ingredients. And as bar soap advocates—less water, less plastic—Treehugger was delighted to see the Alder New York Cleansing Body Bar among the nominations for body care. Also, kudos to Alder for designing products created to work for all skin types, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

Why We Chose It: "Great compact soap bar with minimal packaging and a short ingredient list," says de Lemos. "The addition of jojoba seed powder as a physical exfoliant as well as the rich lather were great. I followed up with my favorite body moisturizer. I often need a little replenishment after using any bar soap."

Best Skin Care

Illustration showing the winning skincare products

Illustration by Catherine Song

Dieux Forever Eye Mask

What to Know: If you have ever used under-eye masks, you know that they can be little miracle workers. And you also know that they are single-use and come with excessive waste, which smacks the miracle right out of them. Enter the Dieux Forever Eye Mask. Made of 100% medical-grade silicone, the patches seal in your favorite cream/gel/serum/oil and can be used over and over. Dieux is devoted to transparency and the company is refreshingly frank about its take on "clean beauty." The product line is vegan and cruelty-free and the ingredients are all clinically vetted.

Why We Chose It: “There is so much waste with single-use beauty products; from cotton balls and make-up pads to, yes, sheet masks for face and eyes,” says Melissa Breyer, our judge for the Skin Care category. Dieux has ingeniously solved the problem for eye masks, making one that lasts a full year. “How smart is that?” asks Breyer.

“Dubbed the ‘last eye mask you'll ever need,’ not only are they wonderfully reusable, but they help to maximize and extend one’s eye products by keeping them close to the skin for maximum absorption,” she adds. “The fact that they actually look great on and come in a chic and long-lasting tin only adds to their desirability.”

LOLI Aloe Blueberry Jelly

What to Know: LOLI stands for “Living Organic Loving Ingredients,” and the company’s skin care products stay true to the name. They are formulated from the “purest, most potent, food-grade ingredients” and come in food-safe jars and vials—with names that sound good enough to eat. Case in point: The LOLI Aloe Blueberry Jelly. This hydrator is made of pure aloe vera juice and is best for oily, blemish-prone skin, and anyone who is wary of balms and oils—but it’s a fan favorite amongst an array of skin types.

Why We Chose It: Most waterless products come as bars or powders; this hydrator reminds us that waterless can also mean no added water. “I love LOLI products for their waterless formulations and the company’s astute attention to packaging,” says Breyer. “All of LOLI’s products come in reusable/recyclable glass containers, with compostable labels, bags, and boxes."

"Not to mention all those luscious food-grade ingredients,” she adds, noting that the Blueberry Jelly’s five ingredients earn the product a “lowest hazard” score of 1 on EWG’s Skin Deep database.

Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser

What to Know: For some women, the start of their journey with non-toxic products begins when they become pregnant—which is part of the origin story for Matrescence, a company that takes its name from the term that means “the process of becoming a mother.” The company employs rigorous safety screenings to ensure that no ingredients are linked to reproductive or developmental harm for the mother or baby. And Matrescence Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser goes so far as to boast an EWG Verified badge, meaning it passes the strictest requirements and can be trusted “at the preconception stage as well as during pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond,” says the company.

Why We Chose It: “Moms and moms to be—and, well, everyone else too!—deserve to have nice skin care products without having to worry about ingredients that could prove harmful,” says Breyer. Like all of the company’s products, Rose Glow Purifying Cleanser uses certified organic, plant-based ingredients that have been selected for its efficacy in targeting skin issues that may come with pregnancy and after. 

“I like that this cleanser removes dirt, oil, and makeup, but doesn’t strip the skin’s natural oils. The addition of burdock root extract soothes inflammation, making it a great choice for anyone with sensitive skin,” she adds. And of course, we love the attention to the company’s use of recyclable glass bottles without paper labels and eco-friendly packaging.

Black Girl Sunscreen

What to Know: Is there a sunscreen made by women of color for people of color? Why yes, yes there is. In 2016, Shontay Lundy created Black Girl Sunscreen (BGS), an SPF 30 lotion with melanated skin in mind. BGS dries clear without the white cast, making it suitable for all skin tones. There are now three products in the line—and the brand has gone mainstream enough to find itself on the shelves of Target. Given the thousands and thousands of five-star reviews on the BGS site, it’s safe to say that Lundy has supplied an important missing piece to the beauty industry.

Why We Chose It: “First and foremost, sunscreen should be for everyone,” says Breyer, "and Lundy has filled a void. But she went the extra mile in using plenty of natural ingredients in this oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free formula that is also fragrance-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and reef-safe.” The addition of avocado, jojoba, cacao, carrot juice, and sunflower oil also means that the product doubles as a moisturizer and comes with many bonus benefits for the skin. “Additionally, I am happy that the company has a mail-in recycling program for empty bottles, complete with a ‘surprise’ once the empty containers have been received," says Breyer.

Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Mask

What to Know: True to its name, Herbivore’s highly concentrated products rely on natural ingredients, plant-based, and food-grade cold-pressed oils, and steam-distilled therapeutic-grade essential oils. And Herbivore's Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask is no exception. The mask is formulated to gently clarify skin with BHAs from white willow bark, fruit enzymes, and aloe. But the star of the secret sauce is blue tansy essential oil. A natural source of azulene, this blue-hued ingredient soothes and reduces redness and inflammation, as well as moisturizes and enhances skin barrier function.

Why We Chose It: “You had me at ‘blue tansy,’” says Breyer, who confesses a love of floral botanicals. “I love cool-color products for how they tame my rosy tones and the Blue Tansy Mask works well to soothe redness and irritation,” she adds, noting that the company recommends it for oily and blemish-prone skin. “I like that the packaging is mostly glass and paper—and while there is some recycled and recyclable plastic when necessary, the company pledges to eliminate all virgin plastic from packaging by 2025.”

Best Makeup

Makeup illustration showing winning products

Illustration by Catherine Song

Kosas Revealer Concealer

What to Know: This vibrant brand is dedicated to clean beauty, banning over 2,700 ingredients and adhering to the Sephora and Credo clean standards. And the products perform beautifully. Case in point: the Kosas Revealer Concealer. It’s a three-in-one formula (it highlights, evens, and spot-treats) and the coverage looks and feels like skin. Best of all, it comes in 36 shades, leaving no skin tones behind.

Why We Chose It: "This concealer is infused with caffeine and pink algae for any lingering puffiness, arnica and provitamin B5 for the anti-inflammatory benefits, and hyaluronic acid to smooth and plump your skin," explains Hallie Gould, associate editorial director at Byrdie and our judge for the makeup category. "It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and made with clean ingredients. Plus, the formula is comfortable, light-as-air, and moves with your skin (instead of caking or cracking)."

Isla Beauty Face Base Priming Moisturizer

What to Know: Isla Beauty's Face Base Priming Moisturizer highlights the brand's virtues, like blending the benefits of nature and science to create products that protect and perform. The brand offers ingredient reports for each product, so you can better understand where they’re from and in what percentages.

Why We Chose It: "Face Base can be used under makeup or on its own," says Gould. "Either way it plumps, hydrates, visibly smooths, and protects your skin from high energy visible (HEV) light emissions." It’s cruelty-free and comes in recyclable glass packaging, Gould explains. "Plus, it’s a product I use right down to the very last drop—and it shows in my skin courtesy of the organic rose water, jojoba, and glycerin."

Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40

What to Know: Founded in 2011, Ilia focuses on clean beauty with conscious, carefully selected ingredients. It makes an array of products, including the lovely Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40, which is a light-coverage, tinted mineral SPF 40 serum that combines skin care, makeup, and sun protection in one product. It uses recycled aluminum, glass components, and responsibly sourced paper—but Ilia has also partnered with TerraCycle's Zero Waste Box platform for those hard-to-recycle makeup products. You can send back your empties and know they won’t end up in a landfill.

Why We Chose It: "The Super Serum Skin Tint has the most beautiful texture, a high-gloss dewy finish, and far more coverage than the usual tinted sunscreen," says Gould. "It offers skin-first ingredients like plant-based squalane, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid to plump, smooth, and hydrate while it protects and covers."

Tower 28 ShineOn Jelly Lip Gloss

What to Know: Founded by a beauty executive with a history of sensitive skin, Tower 28 offers clean formulas, fun branding, and products that work—like the ever-popular ShineOn Jelly Lip Gloss. The brand 100% follows the National Eczema Association's ingredient guidelines and avoids known irritants and allergens for people with sensitive skin.

Why We Chose It: "Tower 28 has figured out the perfect gloss formula in that the glossy shine isn’t the least bit sticky. In fact, upon application, Tower 28’s ShineOn Jelly Lip Gloss feels like a balm," says Gould, echoing the comments of many other reviewers. "It’s magical," she says. Gould also describes Tower 28's "coolest initiative: Clean Beauty Summer School, in which the brand founders team up with experts to create a robust, multi-week program focused on accelerating the growth of majority Black-owned small beauty businesses."

Kulfi Beauty Kajal Set

What to Know: Priyanka Ganjoo had been working in the beauty industry for years when she realized if she wanted to see South Asian culture and beauty celebrated in the industry, she was going to have to do it herself. And thus, Kulfi—and its amazing Kajal Eyeliners—were born. The set comes in a suite of five saturated colors, complete with a smooth glide and long-lasting color.

Why We Chose It: Kulfi's eyeliners won Byrdie's 2021 Eco-Beauty Awards for Best Eyeliner—and we get it: "If you’re in search of a creamy, ultra-pigmented eyeliner, look no further than Kulfi Beauty. I’m able to effortlessly create a winged-liner look or line my waterline with these. The brand thoughtfully formulated the products with high-quality vegan ingredients like moisturizing aloe vera and antioxidant-rich vitamin E. I love that they’re long-wearing, waterproof, and smudge-proof as well."

Best Hair Care

Illustrations for hair care winners

Illustration by Catherine Song

Superzero Frizz Fighter Hair Serum Bar

What to Know: The beauty industry generates an enormous amount of plastic waste, including microplastics. Superzero ditches plastic with its zero-waste hair care line available in cruelty-free, UFO-shaped bars.

Superzero's wheelhouse, dominated by effective lightweight shampoo and conditioner bars, also features the Frizz Fighter Hair Serum Bar. It’s a blend of plant-based actives, namely Abyssinian oil esters (an emollient) and silicone alternatives, along with aromatic grapefruit oil. The serum comes wrapped in a compostable bio-wrapper, made of cellulose sourced from the beer industry’s leftovers. The box is made from recyclable, recycled cardboard and is printed with non-toxic inks. 

Why We Chose It: “Superzero has not only created a clean and high-performance hair care line, but it has also eliminated all plastics,” says Neeti Mehra, CEO of BeejLiving and our judge for the Hair Care category, noting that the products have been certified free of microplastics by non-profit Plastic Soup Foundation. What’s more, the products are waterless formulations, resulting in more concentrated versions of its water-based counterparts.  

"Superzero’s solid hair serum is a lovely example of out-of-the-bottle thinking. Quick, simple, and non-messy—just massage the bar in dry hands, and work it judiciously on wet or dry hair, from mid-length to the tips," says Mehra. " It nourishes hair and smoothes errant locks. We also like that the company is working to reduce its carbon footprint and gives back to the environment through the charity, 1% for the Planet."

Bodecare Wide Paddle Scalp Massage Hair Brush

What to Know: When looking for a hairbrush, commonly the contemporary ones come with plastic handles, while its traditional counterparts feature boar bristles. Australian wellness company Bodecare makes plastic-free and vegan brushes for the body, face, nails, teeth, and hair. The Wide Paddle FSC Scalp Massage Hair Brush is toxin-free and is made from beech wood sourced from FSC-certified forests, meaning responsibly managed. The German-made hairbrush has a rubber cushion base that’s fitted with wooden pins with rounded tips, which glide smoothly through your hair.

Why We Chose It: “When it comes to a versatile, vegan, and gentle hairbrush that works on different lengths of hair, we like the Bodecare Wide Paddle FSC Scalp Massage Hair Brush,” says Mehra. The rounded bristles stimulate and gently exfoliate the scalp, removing grime and flakes. The broad rubber base adds cushioning while you detangle hair, lessening tugging and pulling while covering a bigger area. “Given our daily exposure to a noxious cocktail of toxins,” Mehra says, “I love that the brushes are heat-treated and free from synthetic chemicals.”

Hairstory New Wash Shampoo Alternative

What to Know: Shampoos often contain nasties such as sulfates and parabens, while conditioners can contain toxic emulsifiers such as DEA, TEA, and MEA. Hairstory has stepped away from this narrative with its detergent and chemical-free New Wash that doubles up as a shampoo and conditioner. New Wash is formulated using essential oils and naturally derived fatty alcohols, including sunflower seed, jojoba seed, and evening primrose oils. Free of sulfates, synthetics, and parabens, it cleans your hair and scalp without wringing out moisture. If you subscribe to its Refill Club—which comes with a refillable metal pump bottle and shipments via pouch—you will save money and reduce your packaging waste and carbon emissions.

Why We Chose It: “With the hair-care universe becoming increasingly cluttered, Hairstory with its biodegradable, detergent-free, all-in-one-cleansers is a breath of fresh hair,” says Mehra, on Hairstory’s refreshingly scented creamy products that clean and nourish hair. New Wash nixes the need for separate conditioners, masques, oils, and other treatments. What’s notable is that Hairstory is completely transparent about its ingredients, meticulously listing each with a small description of its role, along with individual scores as per the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, indicating their health impacts. What’s more, it’s a member of 1% for the Planet.

Unwrapped Life Shampoo Bars

What to Know: The Canadian-based Unwrapped Life makes SLS-free solid shampoo bars, using a gentle surfactant, sodium coco sulfate, that gets a great score of 1 or 2 on the EWG Skin Deep list, depending on how it’s used in a product. It lathers rather well, leaving your hair feeling clean, without any clinging waxy residue. The company has even minted a milder sulfate-free version for tots from rhassoul clay, which comes with a pH of 5-5.5 that’s designed not to meddle with the natural balance of the hair and scalp. Plastic-free, the vegan bars are wrapped in kraft paper, which can sometimes soak in the oils, though the bar remains effective. 

Why We Chose It: “Unwrapped Life has a shampoo bar for every family member, from dad to the kids, which are vegan, plastic-free, and free from SLS,” says Mehra. What’s more, the shampoo bar can double up as a refreshing soap and the conditioner as a moisturizer, eliminating clutter and excessive products. “We like that the shampoo is sudsy and long-lasting (you can get a minimum of around 50 washes from one),” says Mehra. "It has a minimal transition period and enjoys a shelf life of well over a year (according to the brand it can last for several years, though it won’t look and smell the same). Unwrapped Life scores high on its environmental commitment too. By avoiding plastic, it has diverted around 2 million bottles which would have snuck into the ocean and have now set an ambitious goal of diverting 20 million by 2025."

Beija-Flor Naturals: Maracuja Milk for Kinks Curls and Coils

What to Know: Beija Flor Naturals caters to skin care and hair care concerns, particularly those of women of color—the company is acclaimed for its products made from vitamin-rich botanicals sourced from Brazil. Our pick is the Maracuja Milk creamy, handmade, leave-in conditioner (you can apply and rinse off too). It’s enriched with organic ingredients plucked from around the Amazon, including aloe vera, almond oil, passion fruit oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter. It detangles and smoothens even the unruliest curls, without leaving an oil slick in its wake.

Why We Chose It: We love that Stevonne Ratliff’s small Etsy shop has blossomed into a full-fledged skin and hair care brand. "Ratliff’s skin sensitivities encouraged her to carefully craft formulas herself, keeping hers and other WOC’s specific needs in mind," explain Mehra. "This side hustle has resulted in delicious maracuja milk (the maracuja, or passion fruit, is rich in essential fatty acids and nutrients). The milk is made from wholesome ingredients and is safe to leave on your hair without weighing it down,” she adds. “Free from mineral oils, petroleum, sulfates, parabens, and silicones, it’s a great curl conditioner.”

Best Oral Care

Oral care products

Illustration by Catherine Song

Davids Natural Toothpaste

What to Know: Some 1.5 billion plastic toothpaste tubes find their way to landfills in the U.S. each year, which makes alternatives to said plastic tubes very attractive. As it turns out, Davids Natural Toothpaste in metal tubes is not only very attractive aesthetically, but that they are recyclable is the icing on the cake. Which wouldn’t mean as much if the toothpaste weren’t great—but Davids has that side covered as well. The company has figured out how to remove the toxic ingredients and swap them for naturally sourced and naturally derived ones. The company says that its offerings outperform conventional toothpaste in lab tests.

Why We Chose It: “I love this natural toothpaste,” says Mimi Ausland, CEO of Free the Ocean and our judge for the Oral Care category. “It’s a wonderful alternative to chemical-filled toothpaste that comes in a plastic tube or container. The spearmint is definitely my favorite, it leaves your breath feeling fresh all day.” She notes that the tube is all metal (recyclable) and comes with a key to help you squeeze out every last bit—and the tubes can be ordered without keys, caps, and boxes. “And of course, the fact that David’s toothpaste is made in the U.S.—and uses premium U.S. origin ingredients when possible—is another reason to support this brand.”

Georganics Mouthwash Tablets 

What to Know: Made with just five non-toxic ingredients, Georganics Mouthwash Tablets are fluoride-, glycerin- and SLS-free. They help restore a healthy pH balance to one’s mouth while leaving it remarkably refreshed. And while we came for the novel, non-toxic, waterless format, we’re staying for the glass jar, aluminum lid, paper label, paper box, vegetable ink packaging, which are all recyclable and/or compostable.

Why We Chose It: “These mouthwash tablets are ideal for everyday use and travel—just add water for minty fresh breath!” says Ausland. “We love these tablets for completely replacing mouthwash that comes in plastic bottles and for being made from entirely natural and non-toxic ingredients. I’d have to say the eucalyptus is my favorite, but you can’t go wrong with the classic peppermint or spearmint.” Simply dissolve one tablet in water, gargle for 30 seconds, and spit out without needing to rinse. 

Brush with Bamboo Toothbrush 

What to Know: Billed as the “world’s first and only plant-based bamboo toothbrushes,” it comes as little surprise that Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes are the darlings of the zero waste set. As opposed to conventional toothbrushes, every part of these products are plant-based, from the handle to the bristles and even the packaging. While there are other bamboo toothbrushes on the market, they generally come with nylon bristles; Brush with Bamboo’s bristles are biobased and made with castor bean oil. In fact, the toothbrushes are “USDA Certified Biobased,” as part of the government’s BioPreferred Program.

Why We Chose It: “Did you know over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are used and thrown away every year, in the U.S. alone?!” asks Ausland. Many of these end up in landfills but oftentimes find their way into the ocean or onto the coastlines. “This is why we love the compostable and plant-based Brush with Bamboo toothbrush,” says Ausland. “It helps us do our part to decrease this waste. A major bonus: You don’t need to put plastic in your mouth twice a day!”

Brilliant Black Dental Floss

What to Know: Terra & Co’s Brilliant Black Dental Floss set off our food-waste antennae with the fact that its activated charcoal is derived from coconut shells which are waste from the food industry. But wait, there’s more! Conventional flosses can contain PFASs (a risky class of chemicals also found in nonstick cookware and waterproof clothing) to help floss glide between teeth—Terra & Co uses vegan candelilla wax instead. Meanwhile, most flosses are made from some form of plastic or actual silk—that this one is made from wonderfully renewable bamboo makes it stand out above the rest.

Why We Chose It: “Before finding this plastic-free floss, I was never a big fan of flossing,” says Ausland. “This Bamboo Charcoal Dental floss changed the game for me! It’s made with activated charcoal, bamboo fiber, and coconut oil to effectively remove buildup and whiten between teeth.” It’s fluoride-free, vegan, and easy-to-use, Ausland notes, and says, “I’ve found it to be stronger and thicker than normal floss and the best part is it comes in eco-conscious packaging: a recyclable paper box that can also be composted.”

Bite Whitening Gel 

What to Know: Bite has been disrupting the oral care game ever since it introduced its beloved zero waste toothpaste tablets. Now it is going for broke with a plastic-free whitening kit—that’s right, no plastic applicators, no plastic trays, no plastic strips! Reviewers praise the gel for not causing the sensitivity many experienced with other whitening products. We love everything about it, from the innovative design to the conscientious packaging and shipping materials.

Why We Chose It: “As the first and only plastic-free teeth whitening system, I thought the Bite Whitening Gel would be too good to be true,” says Ausland. “Happily, I was proven wrong!” The gel is lightly flavored with natural peppermint oil and xylitol to help protect your teeth, Ausland explains. “It comes in a cute glass bottle with a compostable applicator, and I found it simple to use. I’m still in the process of the recommended 14 days of daily use, but already my teeth are getting whiter!”

Best Companies

Logos of best companies

Illustration by Catherine Song


What To Know: Founded more than 100 years ago, Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer goods companies, with more than 400 brands available in 190 countries. Is it perfect in terms of sustainability? No, but the company is visibly pushing its brands in sustainable directions, like Dove's refillable deodorant and new innovations in paper bottles for detergents. Also notable: Unlike many other multinationals, Unilever believes that companies that produce plastic packaging are responsible for the waste, not the consumer.

Why We Chose It: "While it may seem counterintuitive to choose a multinational company when it comes to sustainability, Unilever is not resting in the status quo but is proactively investing in change towards a more sustainable future," explains Conny Wittke, founder of Superzero and judge for our Companies category. She adds, "Examples are their plastic reduction targets and climate action advocacy. They still have a long way to go but ultimately, we need companies of all sizes to drive change at scale and Unilver deserves praise for its proactive approach to sustainability."

Credo Beauty

What To Know: Credo Beauty was founded in 2015 to offer a marketplace for clean beauty products. It is the largest clean beauty retailer in the world, offering more than 130 brands that must meet the company's tight standards for sustainable, ethical, and transparent products.

Why We Chose It: "Credo Beauty excels in providing clear standards and full transparency on clean ingredients including a policy of radical fragrance transparency which is unique in the industry," says Wittke. "They are also taking strides towards more sustainable packaging with their ban of single-use plastic including wasteful samples. Credo is inclusive and not promoting fake beauty ideals. Their strict curation standards build trust and allow customers to discover and shop with confidence."


What To Know: BLK + GRN is a Black-owned online retailer celebrating not only Black-owned brands but the Black artisans behind the brands as well. The offerings are all non-toxic, carefully curated, and quality-tested—all fitting within the site's mission of health, wellness, and community cultivation.

Why We Chose It: "BLK + GRN is a beautifully curated marketplace," says Wittke. "It creates trust through stringent all-natural standards and it gives beauty a face, making it hyper-personal by introducing the creators behind the featured brands." She continues, "BLK + GRN empowers small businesses by giving them a space to shine and it fosters a wonderful sense of community around health and wellness. It is a beautiful example of how commerce and community can work together to create something truly unique."

 OUI the People

What To Know: OUI the People set out to rethink the safety razor, and rethink it they have done. Founder Karen Young wanted to fix some of the beauty industry's inclusivity and sustainability problems, from antiquated language and concepts to the estimated that 2 billion plastic razors that end up in U.S. landfills every year.

Why We Chose It: Wittke puts in simply: "OUI the People is a wonderfully disruptive company." She continues, "Their single-blade razor provides a clean shave while avoiding ingrown hairs and eliminating single-use plastic. Their body care products are clean, desirable, and more sustainable than most alternatives. The brand is empowering, inclusive, innovative, fresh, and meaningful. Just looking at their social is a confidence booster. This is a brand and community that you just want to be part of."


What To Know: LOLI is a zero-waste, superfood organic beauty brand, that makes products from food-grade, fair-trade, organic, and ethical ingredients. If that weren't catchy enough, it uses waterless formulations to help lighten the load and work with farms to find innovative ways to re-use food parts that would normally go to waste.

Why We Chose It: LOLI is a leader in clean, ethical, and sustainable skin care, explains Wittke. "All of their ingredients are food grade and certified organic or organically cultivated," she says. "LOLI goes deep in both ingredient efficacy and sustainability and is at the forefront of innovations such as upcycled ingredients and mycelium packaging. I also love that their products are built to enable beauty rituals that encourage moments of self-love and self-care and help you to de-stress."