Elsie’s Complete List of Clean Makeup Must-Haves

Hello friends! About four years ago, I made the switch to clean beauty and have been trying out different makeup brands and products. In this post, I want to share all the products that have become my go-tos. At first, I tried a few disappointing products, but for the most part I feel like the clean beauty selection has become super solid. Switching to clean beauty has been relatively easy. I tend to find brands I like, who focus intentionally on clean ingredients and keep trying more products from their lines. I’m a bit of a “fan girl” for my favorite beauty brands (and even more hardcore for skincare, which I’ll save for a separate post—I am fanatical for skincare).

I also want to be transparent that my routine is not 100% clean. I’m getting a solid A-, which I can live with. There are a few products I use (which I will still include here) that are conventional makeup (meaning they contain questionable ingredients). My stance on this is that it’s better to have a routine that is 90% clean than to not try at all. Although I have searched and searched, there are a few products that have less than perfect ingredients that I haven’t been able to replace. I share this because we all have one or two vices that maybe we’re not willing to part with, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make big improvements! It doesn’t have to be perfection or nothing.

Anyway! Let’s jump into it! Here are all the makeup favorites that I have bought over and over—most of these I have been using for years now!

Foundation:
This category has been the most tricky for me. I am kind of an all-or-nothing makeup wearer, meaning I am comfortable with no makeup days (I’m definitely not someone who worries about leaving the house without makeup), but when I do wear makeup, I want it to look like I am wearing it. I like to have a bare face or a full face of makeup. I have tried half a dozen clean foundations, maybe more, that are too light for my preference. Here’s where I finally ended up …

Jane Iredale Glow Time BB Cream: This is my top choice out of all the clean foundations I have tried. It contains SPF, which I love. It’s a very good product, especially if you prefer your foundation not to look heavy. Although it is labeled “full coverage,” I would consider it medium coverage, but it does offer more coverage than most clean options. It’s definitely my favorite option out there. I also recommend the primer—I use it daily as well.

Marc Jacobs Beauty Foundation: (this is a conventional product) This foundation is my go-to for photo days and other times I want to wear a lot of makeup, like a date night. It’s super full coverage and very nice. Simply put, it’s unbeatable. I blend with a beauty blender and then a flat foundation brush. I still use my Jane Iredale primer under either foundation option.

Concealer: 

RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up: If your goal is to quickly cover up an under eye circle or a blemish, this is all you really need. I’ve been using this for years.

2nd Skin Corrector: On days I don’t wear much makeup, I use the yellow and the peach on my undereye circles, and it improves the color significantly without looking like I am wearing makeup JUST on my under eyes. It’s very natural looking.

Eyeshadow: I find it easy to buy way too many eyeshadows and never be able to use them all, so I’ll narrow it down to my two absolute favorites and most used palettes.

Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Crystal Eyeshadow Palette: I use this one pink shadow so often to brighten the inside part of my nose beside my eye. It’s a great palette. I prefer a bit of sparkle, but it’s not over the top by any means.

ILIA Necessary Eyeshadow Palette in Warm Nude: I love this palette for the bright champagne-y white and also the matte orange/peach shade right under it. I use those two colors constantly.

Blush: 

ILIA Multi-stick: I use these pretty much 100% of the time now. I personally like the colors that sit somewhere between a reddish tone and a bronzer. They are easy to get a subtle application, but also buildable.

Highlighter:

ILIA Liquid Light Serum Highlighter in Nova: I LOVE highlighter and this is the best I’ve ever used. I used it constantly. Just a drop on my fingertips and I pat the tops of my cheeks with it.

Mascara: 

Full disclosure! I wear lash extensions and have for over a year (and on and off before that). I love not wearing mascara and when I did briefly remove them a few months back, I immediately felt compelled to buy false lashes. For me, mascara is never going to be a go-to product. I would rather just wear falsies or nothing. That said, since I know most people love wearing mascara, here are my top picks!

ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara

Honest Beauty Extreme Length Mascara + Lash Primer

Eyeliner: 

Kat Von D Tattoo Eyeliner: Another tricky area for me, personally. I don’t wear mascara daily, but when I do I like to do a dramatic cat eye. I’ve tried so many different products and this is the best one, by far.

Brows: 
I’ve got micro bladed brows, which is a kind of tattoo. They are perfect for days I am makeup-free, but when I wear makeup I like to fill them in a bit darker.

Ecobrow Defining Wax: I use this with a small brow brush. I like the ability to control it between a subtle brow and something darker. A lot of products I’ve tried are either too subtle or too strong—this one is controllable. I use the color Rita since my hair is reddish brown.

Lipstick:  
Lipstick is definitely my guilty pleasure, as far as trying new brands and colors for fun! I like to keep my lip color pretty natural, but I still love experimenting with different products.

Bite Beauty Lip Crayon (in the color Glace): I use this the most and get the most questions about this product. I like to line my lips, but in a subtle way. It makes them look bigger and defines them. I use this alone quite a bit or as a first step.

Bite Beauty Agave Lip Therapy: This is what I am using in the photo above to make my lips super glossy. I wear this to bed every single night; it’s a part of my night routine. It’s the thickest, richest lip gloss ever.

RMS Beauty Lipstick in Brain Teaser: The perfect peachy color.

100% Pure Cocoa Butter Matte Lipstick in Plume Pink: My favorite matte lipstick. I wear this when I want more color on my lips. It lasts really well.

Are there any categories of makeup I missed or specific items you’re curious about? I’d love to chat more with you in the comments!!!

XOXO! Elsie

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • How do you determine that these are “clean?” Do you use the ewg.org database as a criteria?

    • Yes- EWG is good and the Think Dirty app.

      I research each brand before I buy. A lot of them have lots to read on their websites. I look for brands where their values align with mine. In cosmetics it’s still a growing industry- in skincare there are more A++ options.

      XX!

  • I started making my own mineral foundation and have been shocked at how great it is. I keep reaching for it over everything else and find I stopped using concealer even. I have tried many of the products in your blog posts over the years and have found some real winners!

  • Such a wonderful post Elsie! Definitely one of those lists to tuck away for further reading for whenever it might be needed!

  • I’m excited to try some of these! I feel like great clean skincare is pretty easy to find, but clean beauty is harder… and clean haircare is where I really struggle! Ugh. I would love to hear your clean haircare recs too! <3

  • Just got a Oui Fresh order, and Buffy and Jelly Shoes are my favorites too! I didn’t know how much I could LOVE lipstick. I’m so sad I’m just now ordering Oui Fresh and love it so much. I will definitely miss the brand when it’s gone.

  • Thanks for this list I’m excited to try the Pure Cocoa butter matte lipstick. I was also wondering if you recall where you got the red t-shirt in your pics? I’ve been trying to find a red shirt.

  • I totally agree that a 90% clean routine is better than nothing! I’ve been working at switching over to clean products over the past 2 years. The last 2 things I need to switch is eyeshadow and blush! An Aether Beauty palette is on my wish list! Some of my top fave brands are FitGlow Beauty (foundation, lip serums), Sweet Leilani (best concealer ever!), MisMack (best ever setting powder!!), and Amaterasu (mascara, liner, and brows). ????????????????

  • I discovered Erin’s Faces (I know I know- the name is a little meh) through a relative and have loved using her skin care products as well as makeup! She is a small business and trust me, there is no one you’d rather support. She is so thoughtful and cares deeply about sourcing safe ingredients. Her products have been featured in Magnolia Journal and other large Beaty mags. Definitely
    Check her out! Erinsfaces.com

  • Do you have a loose finishing powder you recommend?
    I’m addicted to mascara. I curl and mascara my lashes before falsies! I think I need to get a lash lift and tint, though, as I have very long, downward pointing lashes. I really use mascara to set the curl in my lashes, I guess. Any thoughts about the health and greenness of various lash treatments?

  • What about fragrance? I’ve noticed there’s some “clean” (not sure how clean they are) brands. Any ideas?

    • Hi! Do you mean perfume? It’s a tricky one. I like Leahlani a lot. Other than that I still use some conventional perfumes (I just don’t put them on my skin and wear them occasionally- not every day).

      I hope more products will come out in the perfume category, but I haven’t found very many winners yet (love Leahlani though). XX!

  • Hi! I love the RMS un-cover up. And Erin from Erin’s Faces lives in my town 🙂 I also am a Beautycounter consultant and think any clean makeup list needs at least a few BC products on it!! ???????? Dew Skin for tinted moisturizer with spf (your “no makeup makeup look”), the liquid eyeliner is awesome, eyeshadow palettes are spot-on, and lip category is so so good. There are 3 types- glosses, sheers and lipsticks. And all color cosmetics are tested for the presence of heavy metals before they go to market. Which is virtually unheard of in the makeup industry. take a look! Beautycounter.com/alisonschramm

  • I am wondering if you have tried or have thoughts on Beauty Counter. I would love thoughts on it from someone who has lots of experience with more natural beauty products and isn’t trying to sell me BC.

  • Thank you for all the suggestions! I’d love to hear your skincare recs. I have never found a facial moisturizer that I love–I’m looking for suggestions. 🙂

  • I love hearing about clean makeup brands. I used to use the laura mercier but because of its cost, I started using Airspun. I’m sure it’s not healthy because its only 5 bucks. Do you use any setting powder with clean ingredients?

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