The 8 Best Sustainable Makeup Brands, According to a Makeup Artist

It’s time for your makeup routine to come clean.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown
From the packaging to the ingredients, Elate addresses nearly all sides of sustainability.
Bright and vivid, Pacifica proves that sustainable vegan makeup doesn’t have to be demure.
Kjaer Weis offers organic, runway-ready products in beautiful, refillable packaging.
Best for Organic Ingredients:
RMS Beauty at Amazon
Almost all of the ingredients in RMS Beauty Products are certified organic by the USDA.
Juice Beauty is certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association as well as cruelty-free by PETA and Leaping Bunny.
Best Plastic-Free:
Clean Faced Cosmetics at Etsy
From eyeshadows to blushes, formulas come in refillable tins that you can ship back for a refill.
Best Shade Range:
LYS Beauty at Sephora
With the mission to diversify the clean beauty industry, LYS Beauty is making it easier to find shades for all skin tones.
Best EWG Certified:
W3LL People at Credo Beauty
W3LL People has banned 1,700 ingredients and instead focuses on using plant powered ingredients from Fair Trade facilities.

“Clean” is one of the buzziest words in the makeup industry, with retailers like Sephora and Ulta curating their own lists of “clean” brands and makeup manufacturers themselves touting products as clean, natural and/or organic. But what actually separates sustainable makeup from the rest?

As a consumer, it can be overwhelming to cut through the greenwashing and find products that are making an impact while still providing the quality of makeup you desire. That’s why we spoke with Lou Dartford, a UK-based makeup artist specializing in green makeup for the past decade. She’s seen sustainability go from being an afterthought to a priority in the beauty industry, and with that the availability and effectiveness of sustainable makeup drastically improve. She says the definition of sustainable makeup is constantly changing and both makeup professionals and consumers have to constantly learn and adjust.

“I see some people get stressed about changing their makeup routine to be sustainable and then they don’t want to do it,” says Dartford. “It’s not about being perfect. It’s about trying to make small steps and compromises.”

Whether you are new to sustainable makeup or hoping to discover fresh brands to add to your bag, we’ve racked up the best sustainable makeup brands.

Best Overall: Elate Cosmetics

Intrepid EyeColour Trio

There is a reason why Elate is the favorite cosmetic’s company of Treehugger senior writer Katherine Martinko. From the packaging to the ingredients, Elate addresses nearly all sides of sustainability. Using bamboo, glass, aluminum, and seed paper, the brand’s packaging is about 75% waste-free. The ingredients are around 75% organic and 100% vegan and cruelty free as certified by Leaping Bunny.

While it often feels like some makeup brands try to sell you as many different products as possible, Elate focuses on creating your capsule collection, similar to the idea of a capsule closet with your essential. You can take a quick quiz or choose from pre-made capsule beauty kits that combine the colors for your eyes and complexion.

The palettes are made from water treated bamboo, and will fit any Elate magnetic pans. EyeColours eye shadows come in recyclable aluminum pans, which you can then buy refills so you never run out of your capsule collection. The brand is also B Corp certified and offers less than perfect products for a discounted price through its Perfectly Imperfect Program, rather than throwing them away. 

Best Budget: Pacifica Beauty

Pacifica Animal Magic Eyeshadow Palette

Just walk down the drugstore's makeup aisle, and Pacifica’s whimsical, bohemian packaging alone may make you want to try this line. Launched in 1996 with perfumes and candles, the brand has expanded its offerings to makeup, skincare, and nail care. Pacifica is committed to 100% vegan, cruelty-free formulas.

Its eyeshadows and blushes are bright and vivid, proving that sustainable makeup doesn’t have to be demure and muted. If you are just switching to clean or vegan makeup, check out the Clean Makeup Kit, which bundles four bestsellers (Alight BB Cream, Cherry Cheekstain, Glow Stick Lip Oil and Stellar Gaze Mascara) at an affordable price.

The brand has also partnered with Preserve to recycle used beauty containers into razors and toothbrushes. Simply create a return for the plastic packing online and the brand will email you a prepaid shipping label. Recycling will even earn you points through a rewards program.

For some, one of the joys of makeup is that feeling of luxury of getting all dolled up. Switching over to sustainable makeup doesn’t mean you have to give that up. Kjaer Weis offers organic, runway-ready products in beautiful packaging. It’s hard to believe the glam metal and lacquered paper cases are refillable, but they are. With products that look this good on you and on your vanity, you’ll want to click refill.

The brand’s ingredients are sustainably-sourced with the formulas and are certified organic by one of two leading European certifications for COSMOS or CCPB. The online glossary allows you to look up each ingredient and see which product it is in.

Makeup artist Lou Dartford says the brand’s Invisible Touch Liquid Foundation (view on Kjaer Weis) is one of her favorite products from 2020 due to its luminous, buildable coverage. The foundation uses Spilanthes acmella flower (an herb also sometimes called the toothache plant) extract as “nature’s botox” to relax facial muscles and boost collagen structure.

Best for Organic Ingredients: RMS Beauty

RMS Beauty

When it comes to organic makeup, there is no uniform set of criteria to certify a product as organic in the United States. Instead, you can look at the labels and check if individual ingredients are certified organic. Almost all of the ingredients in RMS Beauty Products are certified organic by the USDA and indicated on label. They also stay away from GMO ingredients.

Started in 2009 by makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift, RMS has not only revolutionized clean beauty but beauty in general. She was the first to create a luminizer, which is one of Megan Markle’s favorite products (view on RMS). The line is known for lightweight, buildable products that improve the look of the skin from the inside out. 

Lou Dartford says RMS “Un” Cover-Up Concealer (view on RMS) is one of the first natural concealers in her kit that actually worked. “It is like an extension of skincare and the minerals will adjust to your natural skin tone,” says Dartford.

Vegan can be a tricky claim as some clean beauty brands still use ingredients like beeswax, pearl powder, and/or carmine, which is sourced from the Cochineal beetle. Juice Beauty is certified vegan by the American Vegetarian Association as well as cruelty free by PETA and Leaping Bunny and has the USDA Organic seal on products that have 95% to 98% organic ingredients. 

Founded by entrepreneur Karen Behnke, the brand is also committed to sustainable packaging and production. Juice Beauty aims to eliminate the use of virgin plastic with about 40% of products currently in glass containers.

The makeup collection is built upon PHYTO-PIGMENTS™ and cold-pressed oils that deliver vibrant color, illuminate skin, and blur imperfections. It’s no surprise the brand is a celebrity favorite.

Best Plastic-Free: Clean Faced Cosmetics

Clean Faced Cosmetics Zero Waste Mascara

If you are ready to commit to going completely plastic and waste free with your makeup routine, then you have to check out Clean Faced Cosmetics on Etsy. From eyeshadows to blushes, these formulas come in refillable tins that you can ship back for a refill. Even the mascara comes in a glass vial with a metal cap that can be reused or recycled. 

Made in Michigan from the owner’s kitchen, Clean Face Cosmetics uses plant-based ingredients like cocoa and turmeric powder to color the products. Consider it a no-fluff approach to enhance your natural beauty.

Best Shade Range: LYS Beauty

LYS Foundation

Finding the right shade of foundation is a challenge for many with deep skin tones; adding the criteria of sustainability makes the hunt even harder. With the mission to diversify the clean beauty industry, LYS Beauty is solving that problem.

The Triple Fix Serum Foundation (view on Sephora) ranges from porcelain to deep golden espresso. It’s also loaded with nourishing ingredients like soothing ashwagandha, hydrating hyaluronic acid, revitalizing turmeric ,and replenishing avocado oil. Despite the impressive ingredients, a bottle only costs $22, in accordance with the brand’s value to stay under $30 per product. The company also offers blush and bronzer for all skin tones.

Started by makeup artist Tisha Thompson, LYS is the first black-owned Sephora Clean Color Cosmetics brand. Its formulas are cruelty free, vegan, and free of gluten, talc, fragrance, mineral oil, and SLS. LYS uses FSC-certified folding cartons, and packaging featuring glass and tubes using 30% post-consumer recycled materials.

There’s clean beauty and then there’s super clean beauty. W3LL People considers itself to be super clean with its EWG certification, meaning that more than 35 of its products are certified by the Environmental Working Group for meeting non-toxic standards.

The brand has banned 1,700 ingredients and instead focuses on using plant powered ingredients from Fair Trade facilities. However, they are still in the process of removing organic beeswax, pearl powder, and carmines to reach their goal of becoming 100% vegan. 

In terms of packaging, boxes are printed on FSC-Certified paper, and they are exploring ways to utilize corn, sugar, and post-recycled materials in containers. When shopping on W3LL’s site, you can see which products are EWG certified, like the Nudist Multi-Use Cream Stick (view on W3LL) or the Expressionist Pro Mascara (view on W3LL) which uses castor and sunflower seed oil to nourish the lashes. This transparency is one of our favorite features of the brand.

Final Verdict

From sustainable packaging to organic, vegan and cruelty free ingredients, you can't go wrong with Elate Cosmetics (view at Elate). Pacifica Beauty also offers a beautiful lineup of affordable products you can find at most drugstores (view at Pacifica).

What to Look for When Shopping for Sustainable Makeup

Currently there is no set legal definition of what makes a makeup brand sustainable and there are a lot of sides to the issue to tackle. Some brands focus on clean ingredients and/or avoiding animal products, while others try to eliminate waste in the manufacturing process as well as packaging. 

We consulted with clean beauty expert and makeup artist Lou Dartford about what to keep in mind as you shop for cosmetics. Transparency is a key value. “Brands can’t do everything but they can be truthful,” says Makeup Artist Lou Dartford.

Certifications

As you may notice from this list, no brand or products will check off all the sustainable boxes. Instead, you need to choose the criteria that is important to you, whether that is being completely vegan, zero waste, or as organic as possible. 

Currently there is no uniform standard for organic cosmetics, so the best thing to do is to look at the label for ingredients certified organic by the USDA.  

For cruelty-free products, look out for the Leaping Bunny, which indicates that not only is the final product not tested on animals, but no ingredient, formulation, or product from a third-party supplier is either.

Another way to check a product or brand is through the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. Search by brand, and you can see individual products scored by the toxicity of its ingredients. The EWG Verified mark indicates that products are free from EWG’s “chemicals of concern” and that the product meets the organization’s strictest standards for health.

Sustainable Packaging

Think about all the makeup you’ve bought over the years and its extensive packaging. Sure, it looks cute, but most of the plastic goes straight to the landfills. In 2018, in the United States alone, almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created just for beauty and personal care products, according to Euromonitor International.

More and more brands are using recycled materials or staying away from plastic altogether, instead using glass, aluminum, bamboo, or even paper instead. Buying refillable products is another way to reduce your waste, especially if you’ve found a product you know you’ll use again and again. 

Products You’ll Use and Enjoy

Before you go ahead and throw out all your old makeup, Dartford wants you to stop and think twice. “Being sustainable doesn’t mean you have to buy green,” says Dartford. “It means you use up what you buy.”

She believes it's easier to switch to sustainable products gradually and find products that you will truly use and love. You may be excited when you find a zero waste mascara online, but if you don’t like the results or find it too messy to use, it will just end up sitting in your makeup bag. 

“A big bag of green makeup that you don’t use is less sustainable than just five pieces from Chanel,” says Dartford.

She also notes that greener products often expire faster than those with more chemicals and preservatives. Based on the expiration date on the packaging, Dartford then creates a reminder in her phone when to toss a product out. So don’t save that new lipstick you invested in just for special occasions — use it before you lose it.

Why Trust Treehugger?

To select the list of brands, Emily Cieslak consulted with veteran sustainable makeup artist Lou Dartford as well as independently researching the brand’s ethics, certifications, product reviews, and EWG ratings. Emily herself is obsessed with researching any beauty product she buys and keeps a list of ingredients to avoid.