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But an explosion of new beauty brands in the last decade has transformed makeup shopping from a hunt for the least orange foundation to a stroll through aisles of natural beauty products, hypoallergenic mascaras, and organic lippies.
In response to consumer demand, brands are stepping up with new arrays of paraben-free products.
Parabens are a type of chemical preservative. They’re typically used in beauty and personal care products, but you’ll find them in some foods and drugs too.
Basically, parabens stave off bacteria and mold while your product sits on the store shelf or your bathroom counter. “Clean” beauty brands swap out parabens for gentler preservatives like caprylyl glycol and rosemary extract. The trade-off is a shorter shelf life.
There are two reasons some peeps are wary of parabens.
- Some parabens mimic estrogen, disrupting your hormone balance — a red flag for breast cancer. But researchers say most cosmetics don’t include those specific parabens.
- Parabens can build up and eventually seep into your skin layers. Some folks believe this makes them toxic, but there’s no evidence to support that assumption.
We stuck to brands with products that are free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. And that goes for *all* their products, not just our top picks!
And we only included products with a 4-star rating (or higher) and at least 100 reviews on Sephora, Credo Beauty, or the brand’s website.
What are sulfates and phthalates?
Phthalates. These chemicals help dissolve and stabilize fragrances. Some people are concerned about how phthalates could be absorbed into the body, but there’s no consensus on what harm that would cause.
Sulfates. Sulfates are a type of salt that helps products (like shampoo) foam up and lather. Like salt, sulfates could irritate or dry out your skin, but research shows there’s no long-term harm caused.
$ = under $10
$$ = $10–$30
$$$ = over $30
1. Burt’s Bees
Burt’s Bees is the OG clean beauty brand. They got famous for their beeswax lip and body products, but now they’ve expanded into all arenas of the cosmetics game. Bonus: They’re cruelty-free and use recyclable packaging.
Paraben alternative: citric acid
Best product: Lip Gloss with Avocado Oil
2. Juice Beauty
Juice appeals to organic grocery diehards and skin care enthusiasts alike!
They work directly with organic farmers to source ingredients like grape, apple, and aloe leaf juice. Their makeup packs in skin care benefits for twice the glow-power.
Paraben alternatives: panethyl alcohol, ethylhexylglycerin, zinc oxide
Best product: Stem Cellular CC Cream
3. 100% Pure
100% Pure has a delicious take on beauty. They use organic ingredients, never test on animals, and utilize fruits and veggies to pigment their products.
Their website is refreshingly transparent. If you’re ever unsure about an ingredient, click over to the glossary for all the deets.
Paraben alternatives: honey beeswax and rosemary extract
Best product: Fruit-Pigmented Ultra-Lengthening Mascara
4. Ilia Beauty
Ilia’s sleek, monochromatic aesthetic speaks to your inner cool-girl: matte, neutral packaging with sans-serif fonts will decorate your vanity while glowy balms decorate your face.
Gluten-sensitive people and those with celiac disease, rejoice! These products are also gluten-free.
Paraben alternatives: caprylyl glycol, tetrasodium glutamate, sodium diacetate
Best product: Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40
5. RMS Beauty
Craving a luxurious, department-store-feel? RMS Beauty’s recyclable, reusable packaging has a luxe weigh. Its creamy, multiuse products are silky and blendable.
Paraben alternatives: Rosemary extract
Best product: “Un” Cover Up Cream Concealer
6. Alima Pure
Alima Pure lavishes good things your skin *and* the planet. They’ve been carbon neutral for over a decade. Many of their products come in refillable packaging to minimize waste.
Clean beauty and inclusive shade ranges don’t always go hand in hand, so we love that their Satin Matte Foundation comes in 45 evenly distributed shades.
Paraben alternatives: zinc oxide
Best product: Satin Matte Foundation
Kosas packs a vibrant punch in the muted world of natural beauty products. Sure, the brand is still easy-breezy and sleek, but with a little oomph. Think ultra-juicy lipgloss, one-and-done sparkly eyeshadow, and glowing cheeks.
Paraben alternatives: rosemary extract
Best product: Color and Light: Pressed Powder Blush and Highlight Duo
8. Tower 28 Beauty
It’s rare for a “clean” brand to feel as fabulously fun as Tower 28. Clear packaging, bright lettering, and shimmering, illuminating products give this brand a never-ending summer vibe.
Paraben alternatives: caprylyl glycol and ethylhexylglycerin
Best product: Bronzino Illuminating Bronzer
9. PYT Beauty
PYT Beauty’s formulations come in enough products to replace your old primers and makeup.
PYT covers your “day at the office” basics + glimmer and gleam for a night out (or, y’know, another Zoom happy hour).
Paraben alternative: phenoxyethanol
Best product: Day-to-Night Cool Eyeshadow Palette