I used to approach beauty products with trepidation. I looked at the tiny pots and tubes of icy pinks and whipped gels as a set of rules to respect, as though there was only one way to apply the potions in order to show the world I was worthy.
As I grew older, I started to care less about following the “rules” and grew more concerned about what was really in those little pots and tubes. Scary things like methylparaben and quaternium-15 jumped out from labels; horror stories of asbestos and lead in lip gloss clouded my mind. So I started researching. Then I threw away everything on my top shelf. Then, slowly, I bought new elixirs from a growing swell of companies putting ingredient transparency first.
All of this shifted my perspective on beauty, and it unlocked a bigger realization: makeup and skincare had always been built on the supposition that it was the primary, enduring locus of acceptance in my life. That being a woman meant I had to use beauty products to appear a certain way. What I never understood was why something that was meant to make me feel beautiful only made me feel further from who I was.
Learning about ingredients and cleaner formulations taught me that there is a potential for a different posture toward beauty items—one in which the products are malleable and kind. What we put on our faces and bodies can be a way to express and amplify who we are, rather than oppressively mandate what we should (or should not) look like. That means we are free to choose “beauty” items—makeup or skincare—that are inclusive, varied, clean, healthy, and utterly translatable for every one of us. They shouldn’t come in a set of limited colors with rigid rules, but rather in an endless array of hues and textures that honor and embolden every human.
I see this evolving today. Companies, like the six new clean brands below, are creating products that are fun and interchangeable. These collections tout transparency over rigid standards, and they blur the lines between classic makeup and complicated skincare. A slick of oil can double as a highlighter. A surge of moisturizer can step in for foundation. These solutions unlock rather than cover, making everything more fluid and translatable.
Six new clean beauty brands to try
Leave it to beauty pioneer Bobbi Brown to rethink the way we swipe, blot, dot, and brush color onto our faces. Her newly-launched and wildly unique collection, Jones Road, throws out all the antiquated expectations of how makeup should be used and invites us to do our own thing. Take The Oil Stick: a chubby tube of rosy-hued glossy jojoba, rosehip, and apricot oils, the product makes it easy to add a little glean to cheekbones, eyelids, lips—you name it. (It’s also super hydrating.) Then there’s the Miracle Balm, a generous pot of light-reflecting salve that comes in four neutral shades for giving the face (and hair, and shoulders, and collar bone) a little flush. Brown’s new collection is built of accessible hero products that are easy, approachable, and malleable.
The pioneer who first incorporated hyaluronic acid—the water-retaining substance naturally found in our bodies—into skincare deserves endless accolades; this bouncy fluid is a game-changer for thirsty skin. One step further, the innovator who found a way to affordably use this notoriously expensive ingredient should get bigger applause. Isla deserves some of this recognition; the new collection of five multipurpose products capitalizes on hyaluronic acid in its star product, the Storm Serum. A slick, ultra-light, super hydrating gel-liquid, this serum penetrates skin with water-retaining moisture that lasts—meaning, a few drops in the morning kept my skin quenched until evening.
LoYo Body was born out of a hobby. Founder Jessica Perez started making her own serums and moisturizers after she learned about the harmful ingredients riddling so many products. Her side project quickly morphed into a business, though, as her community of clean skincare advocates grew. Today, Perez’s recently-launched collection offers skin and hair products that are clean and efficacious. The Pink Succulent Serum solidifies itself as its star product, with nutrient-rich seaweed extract and neem flower in a base of hydrating aloe; it leaves skin spongy. The collection is also setting a new bar for clean beauty by radically reducing its single-use plastic. LoYo is expanding its online and on-sight jar-swap program, which allows customers to exchange their empty containers for a discount.
Who What Wear and Avaline cofounder Katherine Power launched Merit guided by the principle that less is more. Yes, we’ve heard that saying many times, but Merit actually walks this talk. With less than 10 products in its lineup, the collection removes the stress from doing makeup. The Flush Balm blush is just as easy to apply to cheeks as it is to eyelids and lips, while the Day Glow highlighter leaves a subtle sheen without any glaring sparkles. But the star product in the roster is The Minimalist—a creamy cover-up stick that blurs imperfections with a light touch and refreshingly comes in 20 inclusive skin shades. Bonus: the collection follows the European Union’s health and beauty ingredient standards, and leaves out more than 70 ingredients that are known to cause irritation and acne.
For having only three products in its collection—a face cream, a cleansing oil, and a cleansing gel—Cottin rivals the power of an intricately layered, multi-step skincare regimen. And that’s because the three products actually work. The CELLA Hydrating Face Cream sinks into the deeper dermal layers; it’s quenching, and will leave your complexion looking like you snack on aloe leaves and goji berries all day. Founders Carina Gonzalez and Lena Vasilenko Tsymbal claim it’s the unique “skin identical” ingredients, including a ceramide complex, that nourish and provide a protective layer for the dermis. What called me to the line is their drive: the two entrepreneurs founded the collection in response to all the fear-based, convoluted jargon spread throughout the mainstream beauty industry. They aimed to create simple products that incorporate “ingredients that have been thoroughly researched” and work for all skin types, Gonzalez told me over email. “Our goal is to help everyone understand their skin.”
There’s a worldly vibe to Furtuna. This can be likened to the brand’s ingredients, most of which come from a certified organic estate on the island of Sicily. (More than 500 types of flowering herbs and plants, about 80 of which are medicinal, are grown on the property.) Furtuna’s team of scientists and botanists oversee the way each botanical ingredient is harvested and extracted, making sure to honor the high density of nutrients. These efforts result in the finished products, which are indulgently beautiful. It’s important to note that these are an investment—but given how highly concentrated the solutions are, a little goes a long way. The Porte Per La Vitalita Face & Eye Serum is one to consider: a multi-use hydrator, this pillowy, gel-like formula is like a drink for parched skin. It will leave the complexion bouncier and healthier-looking after just one use.
Beauty isn’t about confining, it’s about evolving. Any products that we use should help us break the rules, so that we can continuously expand our definitions of ourselves—however we like.