If you are looking for a foundation without the fallouts of conventional cosmetics, we’ve got a great list of organic & natural foundation brands curated with your needs, well-being, and the planets in mind.
The history behind the foundation is quite grim, with roots dating all the way back to Ancient Greece and Rome where white lead was used to give skin a more "fair" allure. (Makeup.com, 2021) Queen Elizabeth was also later known to use a lead-based solution mixed with vinegar in her efforts to improve her skin's appearance.
Unsafe solutions for creating a more even complexion continued through the 19th, and 20th centuries and still today, but thankfully we can now choose from healthier solutions for both our skin and our ecosystems.
Before we get into that, let’s explore what needs to be considered when looking for the best natural foundations.
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Why choosing an organic & natural foundation is important
It can be disconcerting to consider what is still deemed safe for use on our skin. Foundation is no exception even though we apply it straight to our faces (one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies), right next to our eyes, noses, and mouths.
So if you are like me and want to avoid any toxic chemicals in your foundation, look out for these 7 ingredients: Parabens, BHA and BHT, Ethanolamines, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Retinol, Lead, and Heavy Metals. (ReviewThis, 2019)
Parabens are commonly found in lots of beauty products and common grocery products. Used as a preservative, avoid these chemicals as they are known to disrupt hormone function, which is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and reproductive toxicity.
BHA and BHT
Also known as butylated compounds, BHA and BHT are also used to extend shelf life in many beauty products such as foundation. Unfortunately, these chemical compounds also disrupt hormone function, causing developmental and reproductive problems over long periods of exposure. The US National Toxicology Program also considers it a human carcinogen.
Also known as MEA, DEA, or TEA, ethanolamines are linked to cancer and male reproductive issues. Banned in the EU from cosmetics of any kind, this cancerous agent can still be found in foundations in America.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Sodium Laureth sulfate is used to help skin absorb a given product more easily and is most likely found in cream-based products. Known for leading to acne and skin irritation, Sodium Laureth sulphate also contains chemicals like 4-dioxane and ethylene oxide which are known to lead to different cancers as well.
You’ve probably heard about retinol’s anti-aging properties which actually turn out to be effective. However, retinol becomes toxic when exposed to sunlight and should definitely be avoided in daytime products like foundation.
This historically harmful compound can be found in trace amounts in foundations and lipsticks, as part of their color. Lead is known to cause considerable infertility and miscarriages, as well as neurodevelopmental issues in children.
When referring to heavy metals we’re talking about compounds like mercury and aluminum, which are linked to some cases of the nervous system, reproductive, and respiratory toxicity, as well as reproductive toxicity and cancer, respectively. MICA is also something you want to look out for!
What to look for when choosing organic & natural foundation
When choosing the brands featured in this article, or any clean beauty products for that matter, I also consider the following criteria to make sure I am making the best choice possible.
1. Is it Canadian? Or How local is it?
Is the product made in Canada like these wonderful green beauty brands? Does the item have to travel across the sea to get to you?
2. Is it made of natural ingredients?
Does it only contain all-natural ingredients?
3. Is it certified organic?
Are the ingredients used certified organic? Is the company itself certified organic?
4. Is it vegan?
Is the product plant-based and made without any ingredients derived from animals or insects?
5. Is it cruelty-free?
Do they avoid testing their products on animals?
6. Palm oil-free?
Does the product contain palm oil?
7. Are ingredients sustainably sourced?
Does the company source its ingredients sustainably and ethically?
8. Does the company use environmentally-conscious packaging?
Is the product packaged using recyclable and/or compostable/zero waste friendly packaging?
9. Is it inclusive?
Especially pertinent for foundations and makeup, inclusivity refers to the range of products offered by a given brand and for whom. More inclusive access to ethical and sustainable products (like organic powder foundation designed for different tones and price ranges) is critical if enough people are to change their consumption patterns to create the collective and impactful change needed.
To learn more about my clean beauty criteria check out ‘What is clean beauty'?
Our top picks for organic & natural foundation
Here are our top picks for organic natural foundations that are better for you and for the planet too:
Made in Canada, Sappho New Paradigm is a woman-led luxury cosmetic line offering lots of lovely makeup essentials including a rich, award-winning vegan foundation. Perfect for anyone who may be looking for an organic natural foundation, their formula is full of certified organic ingredients and is available in several tones.
Sappho also ensures that their formula is made using only low heavy metal and ethically mined minerals. Favoring organic ingredients wherever possible, Sappho’s lightweight, breathable formula may be a good option for combination skin or for a good organic vegan foundation. They also offer refillable blushes, eyeshadows, and face powders, using magnetic paper compacts and recyclable metal pans. They are shade-inclusive with choices for every skin tone.
One of our favorite low-waste Canadian skincare brands, Elate Cosmetics was created on the premise that our everyday habits have a global impact. For this reason, all of their offerings are made with your wellbeing in mind, as well as the planets. Their selection of 100% vegan and cruelty-free products includes their Refresh and Uplift foundations which are available in several tones.
A great zero waste makeup solution all around, Elate is also striving to become a 100% plastic-free and waste-free company. With that, around 75% of all their packaging is completely waste-free. Their foundations are packaged in glass with a recyclable plastic pump and a compostable bamboo component.
They also offer a Perfectly Imperfect Program where less-than-perfect products like their bamboo palettes and compacts are available for purchase at a discount. With lots to love and B Corporation Certification, Elate is a great option if you are looking for an organic, eco-friendly foundation, natural mascara, organic lipstick, and gorgeous natural eye shadows too.
3. Dab Herb
Based in California, USA Dab Herb is a plant and herb makeup brand offering a hand-crafted selection of organic, cruelty-free, 100% vegan skincare and makeup products. Their 3-in-1 serum foundation makes for a great solution for anyone looking for a zero waste foundation. Made in large part using certified organic and food-grade ingredients like marshmallow root and calendula, their formulation is great for all skin types.
Generally, all of their products are packaged in glass and metal containers that are refillable; with the exception of eye shadows and powder eyeliner. Another excellent zero waste option, be sure to look into their Organic Aloe Mascara Bar or their Organic Lavender-Vanilla Tea Lip Balm.
4. Ere Perez
Ere is a boutique Australian beauty brand using science and the power of plants and botanicals to create innovative makeup and skincare products for those of us seeking minimal, ethically made, and healthier beauty products. With 18 years of experience and a less-is-more philosophy, Ere’s selection includes natural foundations in both liquid and powder form.
Their formulations are vegan and cruelty-free, even offering a long-lasting natural foundation option in their Oat Milk Foundation. Their Quinoa Water Foundation also makes a fine option for those looking for a natural foundation for sensitive skin.
As part of Ere’s commitment to providing clean beauty, they are a certified carbon neutral brand by the Carbon Reduction Institute and signatories of the UN Global Compact.
5. Juice Beauty
Based in the United States, founder Karen Behnke created Juice Beauty with the goal of providing luxurious organic formulations that work better than conventional personal care products. Through her commitment to wellness and an obsession with healthy beauty products, we now get to enjoy Juice Beauty and its selection of conscious skincare and makeup products. With that, you will find a serum foundation and a compact foundation, among several other products designed for the complexion.
Entirely plant-based, many of the ingredients used in their foundations are USDA Certified Organic and sourced from local farms. They’ve also purchased their own organic farm and produce many of their products at solar-powered facilities.
For packaging the brand uses glass for 40% of their full-size products (including the Phyto-Pigments Flawless Serum Foundation), 100% FSC paper for product boxes, and 48% recycled content + 52% certified sustainable (FSC) content for shipping boxes. Juice Beauty is also working to convert all of its plastic bottles into recycled plastic in order to phase out virgin plastics entirely.
With a science-first approach, Fit Glow’s mission is to create skincare and makeup products that are formulated to work in harmony with your skin, using only ethically sourced plant-based ingredients. Their Vita Active Foundation is made of several certified organic ingredients and designed to nourish skin as well.
Certified clean by Think Dirty, your Vita Active Foundation comes in a recyclable bottle and features ingredients like Vitamin C, Botanical Hyaluronic Acid, Seaweed Brighteners, and Beta-Carotene. As signatories of the Just Beautiful Pledge, Fit Glow also ensures that all of their skincare and makeup products are free of phthalates, parabens, BHA and BHT, or any of the other Toxic Ten defined by the Environmental Defense Fund.
A final word on organic and natural foundation
Foundation has a long history of being not so safe for daily use. Thankfully, we can now look to science and nature for healthier solutions. Whether you are looking for a natural foundation for sensitive skin or an organic powder foundation, there is sure to be something out there to accommodate your needs, while remaining kind to your health and kind to the planet.
If you are looking for more clean beauty products check out my list of Organic & Natural Face Washes, the best organic face moisturizers, or some more of our favorite Zero Waste Makeup Brands, or just mosey on over to the Green Beauty topics page for lots more. Making the switch to more eco-friendly bathroom products is a must and don't forget you can also look to zero-waste bathroom essentials to help you on your green journey.
Do you have a favorite foundation? Please share in the comments below.
And don't forget that you can always check out the brand directory, where you will not only the best natural and organic foundations but pretty much anything you might need from fashion to skincare to zero waste living and even home decor.
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