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In recent years, natural makeup has become all the rage. People are caring more about what they put on their face and body. They’re studying labels, researching brands, and learning about potentially harmful substances found in traditional makeup.

Consequently, people are turning toward more natural makeup like lipstick colored with fruit pigment. It’s also known as clean, green, or nontoxic makeup.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between natural and regular makeup along with recommendations for the best products.

The main difference between natural and regular makeup is the ingredients.

Generally, makeup is called natural if it contains ingredients from natural sources. It usually has a minimal amount of altered or synthetic substances.

Here are some ingredients you probably won’t find in natural makeup:

  • Synthetic preservatives. Natural makeup doesn’t contain preservatives designed to increase shelf life.
  • Artificial colorants. The bright colors of regular makeup depends on synthetic dyes and pigments. Clean makeup uses natural sources instead.
  • Artificial fragrances. A synthetic fragrance is a cocktail of chemicals, but brands don’t have to list them. These fragrances aren’t used in natural makeup.
  • Heavy metals. While heavy metals like lead and arsenic are found in nature, they’re linked to health problems at high doses. Natural makeup should meet the safety limits for these ingredients.


Typically, natural makeup costs more than regular makeup from a drugstore. That’s because natural cosmetics are often made with high-quality ingredients and no cheap fillers. Plus, they’re usually manufactured in smaller batches rather than mass-produced.


No makeup, including natural makeup, is strictly regulated. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require companies to include specific ingredients or meet detailed standards. It’s the manufacturer’s responsibility to make sure their products are safe.

The word “natural” also doesn’t have a legal definition, so a brand can call their products this based on their own definition. This means something marketed as “natural” or “clean” can have a small amount of synthetic or potentially harmful ingredients.

It’s super important to do your own research and read labels when buying makeup.

Pros of natural makeup

  • contains ingredients from nature
  • has fewer harmful synthetic ingredients
  • safe to use on sensitive skin
  • usually eco-friendly

Cons of natural makeup

  • shorter shelf life from a lack of synthetic preservatives
  • natural pigments less vibrant than synthetic dyes
  • smaller shade selections
  • usually more expensive

Pros of regular makeup

  • longer shelf-life
  • brighter due to synthetic pigments
  • larger shade selection
  • less expensive and widely available

Cons of regular makeup

  • linked to unfavorable health effects
  • contains more potentially harmful synthetic ingredients
  • higher risk of allergic reactions
  • may be harsh on sensitive skin

While all clean makeup isn’t created equal, there are some general benefits to using them.

1. Reduced exposure to harmful ingredients

Many people like natural makeup because it has fewer potentially harmful synthetic ingredients.

For example, parabens are synthetic preservatives often found in regular cosmetics. The body absorbs parabens from the skin and excretes them in the urine. High paraben exposure leads to high levels in urine.

A 2016 study in Environmental Research compared the urinary paraben levels of 106 pregnant women to their blood levels of reproductive and thyroid hormones.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found a link between parabens and hormone disruption during pregnancy, which may increase the risk for adverse birth effects.

While more research is necessary, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) suggests avoiding parabens.

The EWG also recommends skipping cosmetics with potentially toxic ingredients, including:

  • formaldehyde
  • phthalates
  • ingredients listed as “fragrance”
  • toluene

By using natural makeup, you can minimize your exposure to these ingredients.

2. Fewer odor-induced headaches

Some companies scent their makeup with artificial fragrances. Usually, this is done to mask other ingredients or enhance the branding of the product.

But according to a 2014 article, odors can trigger headaches in people who are prone to migraine. For some, this may include fragrances used in scented makeup.

Since natural makeup is usually fragrance-free, it might be an ideal alternative if you’re sensitive to strong odors.

3. Lower risk of skin irritation

The preservatives, dyes, and fragrances in regular makeup can cause contact dermatitis. This involves an itchy red rash due to skin sensitivity or an allergic reaction.

In fact, cosmetics are the most common cause of fragrance-related contact dermatitis, according to a 2018 article.

Another 2018 study in Dermatitis examined the risk of skin sensitivity of various products with fragrances. Compared to rinse-off products like shampoo and cleanser, items like lipstick and eye shadow are more likely to cause skin issues because they’re worn for a long period.

Using natural makeup without preservatives, dyes, and fragrances can limit your risk of skin irritation.

4. Safer for sensitive skin

Natural products are generally well tolerated by people with sensitive skin. Regular cosmetics, on the other hand, often trigger flare-ups and increase irritation.

For instance, people with eczema are encouraged to use products without synthetic dyes. Makeup with plant-based ingredients are also recommended.

Unlike traditional makeup, natural products are more likely to check these boxes.

5. Contains skin-healthy ingredients

In addition to enhancing your features, natural makeup can give your skin a healthy boost. Clean beauty products contain plant ingredients that could benefit your skin. Examples include:

These oils have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and skin-repairing properties, according to a 2017 article in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Natural makeup is also colored with plant pigments like fruit extracts. While there isn’t hard evidence on the skin benefits of plant pigments, it’s thought these ingredients nourish the skin with vitamins and antioxidants.

With so many companies to choose from, shopping for the best natural makeup can be overwhelming. We asked Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, to share her recommendations for natural brands:

  • Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics. Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics uses minerals, natural preservatives, and plant extracts. You can find their paraben-free products online.
  • Jane Iredale. Cobb says this is an ideal choice for people with acne. Find Jane Iredale products online. They’re free of:
    • parabens
    • synthetic fragrance
    • phthalates
    • fillers
  • Bare Minerals. “They have a great variety of eyeshadows that are super-pigmented,” says Cobb. Find their products online. As a clean mineral makeup line, Bare Minerals is free of:
    • parabens
    • phthalates
    • formaldehyde
    • propylene glycol
  • Colorescience. Colorescience specializes in makeup with mineral sunscreen. Their formulas, available online, are free of:
    • parabens
    • phthalates
    • synthetic fragrances
    • dyes
    • drying alcohol
  • Glo Skin Beauty. Glo Skin Beauty makes paraben-free mineral makeup. The brand uses ingredients like mango oil, shea butter, and green tea extract. Find their products online.

It’s also a good idea to buy products based on your specific skin needs. Here are tips for buying makeup for different skin types and needs.

Best for fair skin

While everyone should prioritize sun protection, it’s even more important if you have fair skin. Look for natural makeup with SPF. Products like lip gloss or eye shadow with SPF can protect parts of your face that normally aren’t covered with sunscreen.

Best for Asian skin

Asian skin is prone to hyperpigmentation, especially after injury or inflammation. Color-correcting concealers are designed to minimize these pigmented areas. Use purple concealer to reduce dullness, yellow concealer for purple spots, and green concealer for redness.

Best for skin with more pigment

Look for brands with a wide selection of color options to match your skin tone.

It’s also recommended to use makeup with moisturizing ingredients. Keeping your skin hydrated can minimize dryness.

Best for makeup removal

To safely remove your makeup, look for gentle makeup removers without alcohol and fragrance. Makeup removers with natural oils will also dissolve the oil in makeup. If you have sensitive skin, use a soothing cleansing milk or micellar water.

Since natural makeup varies from brand to brand, it’s important to check the packaging. Look for these labels to find the best natural product for your needs.

  • USDA Organic. A USDA seal means that the product is USDA-certified and 100 percent organic. “Organic” means that it contains at least 95 percent organic ingredients, while “made with organic ingredients” means that it has at least 70 percent organic ingredients.
  • Fragrance-free. Look for makeup without synthetic fragrance. Avoid “unscented” products, which often have chemicals that mask another fragrance.
  • Synthetic ingredients. Most natural products should be free of parabens, formaldehyde, and phthalates.
  • Possible allergens. Even natural ingredients can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions. Check the packaging to ensure that you’re not sensitive to the ingredients.
  • Cruelty-free. If you prefer cruelty-free makeup, look for the bunny logo on the packaging.

If you need help finding natural cosmetics, the following resources rate products based on their ingredients and safety:

With clean beauty on the rise, it’s becoming easier to buy natural makeup. Here are several stores that specialize in clean products:

Some retailers, like Nordstrom and Sephora, have sections dedicated to natural makeup. Sephora displays a green leaf logo next to these products.

If you’d like to “clean up” your beauty routine, consider using natural makeup. Clean beauty products are typically free of harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrance. They’re also safer for sensitive skin.

Remember, makeup isn’t strictly regulated. Brands can call their cosmetics “natural” or “clean” based on their own definitions. To find the best products, always research brands and read labels before purchasing.