Byrdie's 2021 Eco Beauty Awards Reveal Top Skincare, Makeup Products

Over 200 items were judged on ingredients, sustainable design, and efficacy.

woman applying face cream

Getty Images/Jonathan Knowles

Many of us have, at some point, stood in the beauty aisle of a retailer and felt totally overwhelmed by the options we faced. Perhaps you made an honest effort to read the ingredient labels and certification logos and to assess the packaging for sustainable design but felt your enthusiasm wane when presented with dozens of products and limited time.

If so, here is some good news: The job of deciphering all that beauty jargon and those multi-syllable ingredients doesn't have to be done by you! The heavy lifting has already been completed by a team of expert judges and shared publicly this week in the form of Byrdie's 2021 Eco Beauty Awards. 

This annual roundup highlights the favored hair, skin, body, and cosmetic products that meet the criteria laid out in Byrdie's clean beauty pledge. Additional categories include products that cost under $25, as well as a list of clean beauty heroes – seven women who are disrupting, innovating, and influencing the industry in positive ways.

From the pledge page:

"The most important thing to note is that a brand can say their product is clean, natural, and organic when it's actually not (the truth is, 'clean' is a word that doesn't have one set definition in the beauty space; we're trying to change that). Until more stringent rules are applied towards what brands can and can't say their products are, the next best thing is to be your own best educator."

To this end, Byrdie lists all the ingredients that cannot be added to a product for it to qualify as "clean." The list includes phthalates, formaldehydes, coal tar, oxybenzone, toluene, hydroquinone, polyethylene glycol and its compounds, paragons, and more. 

More than 200 products were tested and nominated throughout the year and winners were selected based on three categories. From the website:

  • Clean Ingredients: Does the product fulfill Byrdie’s Clean Beauty Pledge? Is the product made with high-quality and ethically sourced ingredients? Is there transparency in its ingredient-sourcing process?
  • Sustainability: Does this product's creation, from packaging to ingredients, take into account its environmental impact? Does the brand employ ethical standards throughout its production process?
  • Efficacy: Does the product do what it promises? 

New "eco tags" alert shoppers to additional qualities that could make a product desirable, such as being vegan, cruelty-free, linked to a charity, Black-owned, a previous Eco Award Winner, etc.

In the words of Leah Wyar, SVP and general manager: "Byrdie had the foresight to start the Eco Beauty Awards back in 2017, and our fifth anniversary comes after a year of the most extreme focus on our health and well-being. Our expanded list, in its new intuitive format, directly connects readers to the resources they need as they continue to refine their routines."

A number of the makeup winners feature refillable packaging, such as Kjaer Weis Refillable Cream Blush, MOB Beauty Blush, and Almia Pure Pressed Eyeshadow. Many have packaging made from post-consumer recycled material, FCS-certified paper, and recyclable glass. 

This Treehugger writer was pleased to see Native deodorant in a paper tube, Hello toothpaste tablets, tube-less crayon-style lipsticks, and several products in bar form – the Hanahana Exfoliating Body Bar (wrapped in wax paper) and Peach Moisturizing Hand and Body Bar that "lasts as long as three 22-ounce bottles of body wash." Surprisingly, there were no shampoo or conditioner bars on the list.

You can see the complete list of winners here.

Note: Byrdie and Treehugger are both a part of the Dotdash publishing family.