When cult beauty brand NARS announced in June that it would be entering the Chinese market—a place where animal testing is required for all cosmetic companies—fans were pissed. Within hours, many of them had taken their anger and disappointment to social media, criticizing the label for going back on its cruelty-free stance and, in some instances, even calling for a boycott. NARS responded with the ol’ sorry-not-sorry: basically stating that, yes, animal testing is terrible, but we stand by our decision to sell our goods in China. Needless to say, it did little to ease the pitchforks.
It’s the latest public case that proves that, in an age when a particularly adorable dog likely has more Instagram followers than you, consumers are more savvy, responsible, and, perhaps most prominently, vocal than ever. But it’s not just vegan and cruelty-free they’re looking for: lipsticks, blushes, and liners formulated without damaging chemicals are increasingly sought after, too. (In its Dirty Dozen report, the David Suzuki Foundation lists 12 common ingredients that should be avoided in personal-care items, including parabens, petrolatum, and fragrances, which may be harmful to the body and Earth.)
And though it can be difficult to find cosmetics that tick all these boxes (cruelty-free, sustainably and ethically made, and natural), it’s not impossible. To help get you started in the transition to cleaner makeup, we’ve compiled a short list of our favourite natural beauty brands—some of them born right here in B.C.—that forgo both animal testing and toxin-laden ingredient lists.
Founded by Vancouverite and former graphic designer Sasha Plavsic, ILIA needs little introduction for the city’s beauty-junkie crowd. The brand launched in 2011 with a selection of tinted lip conditioners and has since expanded to include everything from foundations and toners to mascara and shimmery eyeliners. All of ILIA’s products are made with no less than 85 percent bioactive organic ingredients and come packaged in recycled aluminum cases.
From $28 at Kiss & Makeup (1791 Manitoba Street and 1545 Marine Drive, West Vancouver).
Luxury and sustainability meet with beautiful results in Danish makeup artist Kirsten Kjær Weis’s eponymous line of certified-organic cosmetics. With decades of beauty-industry experience on both sides of the pond, Weis has crafted a collection of cream blushes, shadows, lippies, and more that adhere to her commitment to good-for-you plant-based elements without compromising colour payoff and performance. The best part of the line, though, is the refillable metal compacts that you’ll enjoy replenishing as much as using.
From $37 at India Rose Cosmeticary (4850 MacKenzie Street).
Vapour Organic Beauty
Developed and manufactured ethically in New Mexico, Vapour’s entire range is infused with biodegradable ingredients like pomegranate, sunflower seed oil, and lotus leaf extract that improve the look and feel of skin. The label’s most popular product is its Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation, which uses dry plant oils and mineral pigments that offer light to medium coverage while imparting a “lit from within glow”. (Local makeup artist India Daykin even touts it as a dupe for the pricier Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation.)
From $35 at India Rose Cosmeticary.
You likely know Tata Harper for its natural and nontoxic skincare and facial treatments, but the Vermont-based business makes a small line of cosmetics, too. From the dewy highlighters to the plumping pout treatments, all items are packed with between nine to 29 active ingredients that enhance—not cover up—your best features. Check out the volumizing lip-and-cheek tint, which helps fill fine lines while leaving you with a rosy flush.
From $38 at BeautyMark (1268 Pacific Boulevard).
The Victoria-born and -based Elate is a favourite among organic-makeup buffs, and with good reason: the items are vegan, housed in sustainable bamboo packaging, and budget-friendly, to boot. We love the liquid eyeliner, which is suitable for sensitive skin types and glides on smooth and crease-free, and the nourishing peppermint-oil-infused lip-glosses, which leave a cool, tingly sensation that’s perfect for summer.
Like its name suggests, Juice Beauty crafts its products using a base of cold-pressed liquids from some of your fave fruits and veggies. These are combined with plant-derived pigments like rose petal powder, aubergine fruit extract, and red seaweed extract to create the hues in Juice’s 100-percent vegan and toxin-free range of lip crayons, shadow sticks, and more. The California-based brand has even managed to produce an all-natural mascara that successfully pumps up lashes sans the synthetic dyes and preservatives—no easy feat.
From $20 at Holt Renfrew (737 Dunsmuir Street).
Ecofriendly doesn’t have to mean granola, earthy, and boring, as RMS Beauty demonstrates with its rosy blushes, metallic cream shadows, and juicy lip shines. Developed by veteran makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift (peep the initials), the products are sleek, minimal, and extremely photogenic, but there’s more to this made-in-the-USA brand than its looks. From the “Un” Cover-Up concealer/foundation to the best-selling Magic Luminizer, all items are crafted from unaltered, food-grade, and organic products that offer various benefits to the skin.
From $24 at BeautyMark and India Rose Cosmeticary.
Lurking in your local beauty behemoth is Bite, a made-in-Toronto gem that, when it comes to lip products, deserves your hard-earned dollars. Formulated with plant-based ingredients like castor-seed oil, beeswax, and shea butter, the lippies are at once creamy, moisturizing, and surprisingly pigmented and come in a myriad of hues fit for a range of skin tones. The Amuse Bouche Liquified Lipstick is a standout: a cross between a lip-gloss and lipstick, the product comes in colours—whether you opt for a vivid coral or deep nude—that may be easily layered for maximum impact.
From $20 at Sephora (various locations).
A rarity in the beauty industry, this luxury French label is owned and operated entirely by founder Sylvie Chantecaille and her family. It emphasizes the use of botanical elements and uses high concentrations of ingredients such as pure rosewater, green apple extract, and rosemary flower extract that help protect the skin from damage. Chantecaille has a philanthropic side, too: every year, the company releases a seasonal “Cause-metics” line that benefits various environmental and animal-rights endeavors.
From $22 at Holt Renfrew.