When you picture a face made up with organic, eco-friendly, cruelty-free cosmetics, you may imagine “no-makeup” makeup in colors about as exciting as a bowl of oatmeal. When it comes to cosmetics, it often feels like we’re tasked with choosing between makeup that’s good for us and makeup that comes in fun, trendy colors—and the myth that organic makeup has to be bland is especially strong when it comes to eyeshadows.
But there are plenty of beauty brands out there making bright eye makeup using organic, eco-friendly, formulas that aren’t tested on animals. Here’s a complete guide to finding the best organic makeup for bright eyes.
To make sure your eye makeup looks as great on your lids as it does in the package, it’s important to start with a primer, says eco makeup artist Sally Biondo. Eye primers are usually sold in gel-like formulas and are slightly tackier than face primers. They ensure eye makeup goes on smooth, stays bright, and lasts all day.
“Using a primer on your eyes and face really does make a difference with longevity and keeping the pigment true to its natural color,” Biondo says.
Biondo has a couple of go-to brands for eye makeup primers that keep eye makeup brighter longer. “My top two favorites are Mattifying Primer by Mineral Fusion for the face and Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Primer for eyes,” she says. “I’m in love with Sheer Champagne!”
These primers are gluten-, paraben-, and cruelty-free, as well as vegan, so you can feel as confident about the safety of your primer as you do about your long-lasting eye looks.
A smoky eye is the little black dress of eye makeup—it makes any look feel more dressed-up and adds drama to otherwise simple makeup looks.
To get a naturally smoky eye, Biondo loves Hynt Beauty Forte High Definition Eyeliner. “It instantly gives you an enhanced look, it’s extremely long-lasting, and a thin line on the top of your lash line will open up the eyes,” Biondo says.
And if you’re looking for a liner with a little more pop but still want an organic, vegan, and cruelty-free option, Inika makes bold colors like green, purple, and blue eyeliner that create incredibly dramatic looks.
If you’re a makeup tutorial addict, you’ve probably watched dozens of videos showing you how to best rock a bright, bold eye. Unfortunately, it can be hard to re-create those looks with highly pigmented, rich eye color that’s also organic.
One brand that delivers highly pigmented, Instagram-worthy eye looks using naturally occurring ingredients is 100% Pure. The brand is fruit pigmented and relies on natural ingredients to ensure its makeup is as pure as it is pretty.
Another brand that offers eyeshadow in bright, quirky shades that takes its color cues from nature: Ecco Bella. The shadows are gluten-free and vegan, and Ecco Bella also has bold colors for bright eyes, like Celestial, a sunny yellow, or Smoky Mauve for a sultry look.
Bright shadows can work with any eye color, says Fawn Monique, whose work has appeared on the runways at New York Fashion Week.
“If you want your eye color to pop, use a complementary color, such as orange or copper, with blue eyes. Or if you have flecks of gold in your eyes, purple or violet will enhance that,” Monique says.
It’s a real bummer that glitter is terrible for the environment. Most glitter is made up of little bitty pieces of plastic that often end up in oceans, poisoning our aquatic friends. Luckily, there are some eco-friendly glitters out there that can keep you sparkling without the guilt.
“I love the bio glitter from Universal Soul because it doesn’t harm our waters and is plant-based,” Monique says. The brand makes biodegradable glitter derived from eucalyptus trees in fun, bright colors in a variety of textures, from fine to chunky.
Shimmery shadows often rely on mica, a mineral dust, to bring the glitter. But mica is also the stuff that makes cement glitter, and workers exposed to mica for long periods of time have reported respiratory problems. And while you’re probably not snorting your eyeshadow, it might not be great to smear potentially harmful ingredients onto your eyes.
Another concerning ingredient sometimes found in eyeshadow is titanium dioxide, which is a fine white powder often used in cosmetics for it opaque brightness. Some studies have found titanium dioxide to be toxic in lab animals, and although titanium dioxide hasn’t been proven to penetrate healthy skin when applied topically, many beauty lovers are reconsidering how widely used it is in products.
Omiana is an organic cosmetics brand that creates naturally bright eyeshadows without mica or titanium dioxide but still has fun colors, like richly pigmented purple and bright blue shadow—and its shimmery bronzers can also double as brow or inner corner highlighters.
Get Thicker Lashes
Mascara is probably the most important element for an eye that pops. However, the ingredients that have kept mascara long-lasting and deeply pigmented have traditionally included parabens.
But there are many brands working to create organic mascaras that keep you looking bright-eyed and awake. One of Biondo’s favorites is Rejuva Minerals Mega Lash Mascara.
“It coats the lash line so beautifully, and this product will open up your eyes instantly,” she says. Rejuva is also organic, gluten-free, and vegan, darkening lashes without using parabens as preservatives.
It takes a little bit of work to stay stylish using only organic beauty products since it’s often difficult to find them walking down the aisle of the corner drugstore. However, it’s totally possible (and worth it) to achieve bright, fun eyeshadow looks while still staying eco- and animal-friendly.
Emily Alford lives in Brooklyn, NY, and writes about beauty, food, and TV. Sometimes all at once. Follow her on Twitter @AlfordAlice.