With all the PFAS in beauty products, is it time to go organic?


Four of the organic beauty products I tested.

A recent study by a scientist at the University of Notre Dame has led to the inevitable. It’s time to see if organic beauty products can stack up against the more well-known, non-organic brands.

Graham Peaslee, professor of physics at Notre Dame, recently published a study wherein he tested the levels of levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a potentially toxic class of chemicals linked to a number of serious health conditions in makeup. The results were eye-opening: many cosmetics sold in the United States likely contain high amounts of PFAS.

“Scientists tested more than 200 cosmetics including concealers, foundations, eye and eyebrow products and various lip products. According to the study, 56 percent of foundations and eye products, 48 percent of lip products and 47 percent of mascaras tested were found to contain high levels of fluorine, which is an indicator of PFAS use in the product” (Dame, n.d.).

This may not seem concerning to the average personI wear makeup nearly everyday and this hasn’t affected me before. These results however become alarming in the sense that all consumers in the multi-billion dollar beauty industry are at risk of exposure to these toxic chemicals in their beauty and skincare products.

‘There’s the individual risk—these are products that are applied around the eyes and mouth with the potential for absorption through the skin or at the tear duct, as well as possible inhalation or ingestion. PFAS is a persistent chemical—when it gets into the bloodstream, it stays there and accumulates” (Dame, n.d.). 

These results however become alarming in the sense that all consumers in the multi-billion dollar beauty industry are at risk of exposure to these toxic chemicals in their beauty and skincare products.”

If these chemicals were to enter the bloodstream, you’re looking at a long list of health issues including liver damage, cancer, decreased chances of fertility, cholesterol issues, and more (US EPA, 2016). PFAS have been added to, and will continue to be added to, our makeup products to increase their long-wearability and water resistance. Is the durability of makeup more important than human health?

Not only is this a widespread problem from a consumer health standpoint, but alongside that, there are several environmental contamination risks that align with the fact that we are disposing of these products. Toxic products. Toxic waste.

As shocking as this study is, there’s nothing new about questioning the contaminants in makeup. Many labels have sprung up in the last few years with the “organic” or “all-natural” stamp of approval. The problem is beauty enthusiasts have generally eschewed these labels because, let’s face it, they generally don’t deliver as well as non-organic products do.

Luckily there are several organic beauty options and brands. And yes, I did take the liberty of reviewing some for all of you. I tried a couple products from Juice Beauty, a plant-based, cruelty-free, reef safe, “organic solution” makeup brand. I also experimented with Bite Beauty, a clean,vegan, cruelty and gluten free brand. Lastly, I tried a couple items from a higher end natural brand: Lilah B. This company provides “skin-first” products to consumers for clean, healthy alternatives. Here are my thoughts.

Organic beauty review:

Juice Beauty Phyto-Pigments Perfecting Concealer 

This concealer retails for $25; it’s also sustainably packaged with recyclable glass. I really liked the way this concealer was formulated. It’s extremely buildable and works perfectly for spot coverage. It blends seamlessly without settling into fine lines. The concealer seems a little dry when you first dab your finger into it, but once it’s warmed up by the heat of your fingertips it melts.

Phyto-Pigments Luminous Lip Crayon

This lip crayon combines a moisturizing balm texture with the color quality of lipstick. I bought the shade Malibu which is a nude pink color, and this product is $22. It’s easy to apply and travel with because it’s a crayon-type shape. These plant pigment sticks provide creamy color, comfort, and many eco-values.

Phyto-Pigments Cream Shadow Stick

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty stingy on cream shadows in general. In my opinion, the application always tugs on the skin of your eyelids and the formula usually has a chalky consistency. This one, however, was pretty smooth and blendable. I purchased the shade Mist Cream ($22), and it had a really pretty, soft shimmer to it. This product is very buildable and you could apply less for a more sheer look, or layer it for some drama. 

Bite Beauty Changemaker Supercharged Micellar Foundation

I really like this product, but this is hardly a foundation; it’s a glorified skin tint. This is a vegan, lightweight, long wearing, light coverage, natural “foundation.” This product has that matte finish feeling in the same way the Benefit Cosmetics Porefessional Primer does. It’s really smooth on the skin, the application process is really easy (you can use a blender, a brush, or your fingers and it will look the same), and I definitely will continue to use it. I will say, this product is marketed to be medium-coverage, and that’s just not true. I love light coverage foundations, and so I didn’t mind that aspect of it. But if you want a more full coverage finish, this one isn’t for you.

Bite Beauty Upswing Full Volume Mascara

I liked this mascara, but not a lot. I wanted to love it, but I don’t. The actual tube of this mascara was gold which was definitely aesthetically pleasing. The tube was heavy, and the product felt high quality. I also really like the shape of the application wandit reminded me of Too Faced Better Than S*x Mascara which is surely a fan favorite. I was ready to love it.

The product was clumpy. The formula was heavy. The mascara flakes shed onto my face. It was not long wearing by any means. This mascara retails for $28, and my tried and true, all time favorite, is about seven bucks. 

Bite Beauty Agave Intensive Lip Mask

This isn’t really makeup, it’s skin carebut I love this lip mask so let’s talk about it. I bite my lips when I think, and because of this, they get a little textured by the pressure of my teeth. This process makes my lipstick apply unevenly, and so I’ve been in need of a fix. This lip mask is exactly that fix. It smells like honey, it’s natural, and it’s so nourishing. I’ve been using this mask for a little over a week, and my lips are so soft and smooth. I will say it is a bit thicker than you might assume, but it’s not thick in a gross, heavy way.

Lilah B. Aglow Face Mist

I love this face mist. Is it overpriced? Of course. Is it still the best face mist I’ve ever used? Yes. I used to watch several beauty guru youtubers, and Jacyln Hill absolutely raved about this product. She was completely justified in doing so. It has a really nice herbal fragrance to it, and it transforms your makeup. It’s super lightweight, and the hydration delivers your skin a soft, enhanced glow. For anyone who is not spending nearly fifty dollars on a face mist, the best dupe I can think of for this product would be the Glossier Soothing Face Mist.

Lilah B. Divine Duo Lip & Cheek

I purchased this duo in the shade “b. lovely,” and it’s very pretty. This product is, again, overpriced, but the quality is there, and the packaging is super clean and minimalistic which I like a lot. I bought this duo in a shade that I really enjoy on my cheeks and nose, but would never use on my lips which defeats the whole duo purpose. I like this blush. It’s not the best i’ve had; it’s actually not even the best i’ve had as far as cream blushes go. If I can convince you to buy a beauty product, and one product only, go to Ulta Beauty and purchase the Mini Nudies Blush Bronze Glow Kit. These blushes are stunning, and you get three for $25. You won’t regret it.

While organic beauty products are currently harder to find, and maybe a bit more expensive, they are available to consumers, and will continue to become more and more mainstream. There’s plenty of brands and products beyond the ones I listed to experiment with. At the end of the day, no makeup item is worth the personal health or environmental risk of chemical contamination. Organic beauty is our futureyou heard it here first.