Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
31 Jul

25 Safer Alternatives to Common Cosmetics

Natural CosmeticsTwo weeks ago, I introduced you to five cosmetics ingredients you should avoid. These are chemicals you’ll often find in things like shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, sunblocks, and makeups – you know, the stuff you’re covering yourself in everyday. Cosmetics manufacturers use these ingredients to improve their product’s ability to clean, moisturize, beautify, or improve an odor, but they often do lots of other bad stuff in the process. So the question is, do these products need these chemicals to work like we want them to, or are there alternative products that manage to use more natural and/or less harmful ingredients while still getting the job done? Indeed, there are, and today I’m going to share my findings with you.

Now, it’s fairly common for people to switch over to a Primal lifestyle and find they just don’t feel the need for all the lotions, creams, concealers, and other body care products they used to wear. Some even ditch shampoo, deodorant, and soap altogether. Still, though, that’s not everyone. I regularly received reader requests for safe cosmetics recommendations. So let’s look at some of these safer alternatives. I’ll try to include every possible category that falls under the “cosmetics” umbrella, but if I miss anything, don’t hesitate to let me know in the comment board.


When I say makeup, I refer to all those products people put on their faces, around their eyes, on their lips, and beside their noses. Powders and rouges and those sorts of things. Can you tell I know what I’m talking about? Anyway, the following brands are guaranteed to be free of the problem ingredients mentioned last time (plus most others).

100% Pure – They produce makeup and other cosmetics using food-grade plant-based ingredients (it’s safe to eat, so it’s probably safe to put on your body). They’ve also come up with their own preservative system to replace parabens, using a complex blend of herbs, vitamins, and antioxidants in place of industrial antimicrobials.

BiteBeauty – I like their mission – to create lipstick that you can safely eat (because women and the people who kiss them do eat a fair amount of lipstick) – as well as their propensity to quote Oscar Wilde. BiteBeauty uses great ingredients like argan oil and Manuka honey, and they even had their lipstick tested to ensure it was free of gluten and almost free of lead (total and utter elimination of lead is hard because lead is everywhere, including the food-grade ingredients they use).

Josie Maran – Argan oil-based makeup. They also use food-grade ingredients like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and mango seed butter.

Scotch Naturals – Many nail polish companies claiming to be free of phthalates actually aren’t, as a recent study revealed, suggesting that phthalates truly are hard to resist for nail polish makers. Scotch Naturals, however, is one of the only companies making truly non-toxic nail polish (that also happens to work really well).

Lavanila – They specialize in fragrance-free fragrances.

Pacifica Perfume – Another maker of safe fragrances.

Skin and Body Care

You’ve got your lotions, your creams, your face washes, your moisturizers, your body washes (isn’t that just a fancy name for soap?), and anything else that goes on your skin.

Skin Care for Athletes – Certified organic, paraben free, fragrance free and more. SkinCare for Athletes is a socially conscious company with the certifications and ratings to prove it. They’re also a trusted sponsor of PrimalCon.

Weleda – Weleda grows the bulk of their ingredients in their own biodynamic gardens. All in all, they’ve got acres of gardens scattered across the world, including Germany, Netherlands, Brazil, New Zealand, and Argentina. This allows them to grow hundreds of species of medicinal plants from a variety of climates.

Dr. Bronner’s – No, it’s not Dr. Bonner’s. It’s Bronner, and it’s made with all organic ingredients, mostly oils, including coconut, olive, peppermint, and jojoba. I don’t think you need much else other than this stuff. You can use it as regular soap, hand soap, shampoo, and even toothpaste. Just be careful with the liquid peppermint soap on the, ahem, sensitive areas of your body. You might want to dilute it. Dr. Bronner’s slightly crazy tendency to rant and rave on his bottles also makes for fantastic shower reading.

Suki – Drawing on an impressive list of plant-based ingredients, Suki makes “skincare systems” for every skin type.

Indigo Wild – They’re best known for their Zum Soap, made from goat’s milk, but the rest of their rapidly expanding skin care line is safe and effective.

Primal Life Organics – This is a skincare line made by a Primal/paleo adherent who’d been making personal care products for years before she decided to make a business of it. Everything is paleo, gluten-free, and vegan.

Trillium Organics – Trillium Organics is organic, obviously, with a line of non-toxic body care products, but they also make treatments for specific conditions, like acne, rosacea, eczema, dermatitis, and diaper rash.

Speaking of soaps, what about replacements for anti-bacterial handsoaps containing triclosan? As I said last time, triclosan actually is quite effective at targeting bacteria. If your hands are crawling with roving bands of disease-causing microbes, then, yeah, a triclosan blast will take care of them and leave you “better off.” Problem is all the other terrible stuff evidence suggests it does to our health. Luckily, we have this stuff called “soap and water” that does a fair job at cleaning our hands when they’re dirty.

Research shows that triclosan-containing hand soaps are “no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands,” even when you’re talking about something as pernicious and deadly as C. diff. There’s also that fact that triclosan kills the bacteria, thus providing a powerful selective pressure for future evolution of antibiotic resistance, while soap and water wash the bacteria off your hands and down the drain. Unless it begins selecting for clingier bacteria who can hang on to human skin better, there’s no danger of antibiotic resistance developing from basic hand washing with regular soap. Overall, basic soap is still best. Since some bacteria exposure is important for health, you probably don’t want to kill it all outright.

Hair Products

There’s an argument to be made in favor of going entirely without shampoo, but that doesn’t work for everyone. Some folks need/want shampoo and conditioner, only without the parabens and other toxic chemicals. People, even Primal people, also have the funny desire to style their hair into shapes, to stand in front of the mirror, tousle it and puff it up and make it stay in place. To look good, in other words (and not just naked). If you’re spraying your entire head with a mist of potentially toxic liquid to do that, you definitely want a safer option. Here are a few companies making hair products you can also use to style your hair, clean your hair, and make a good salad dressing.

Acure Organics – Acure offers face and body care, but they are best known for their organic shampoos and conditioners. The Moroccan argan oil and argan stem cell shampoo gets particularly high marks for being effective and non-toxic.

Yarok Hair – All the regular bad ingredients are absent from their line of shampoos, conditioners, and hair styling products.

DIY hair wax – This recipe uses beeswax and coconut oil to create a styling, moldable hair wax free of any toxic or unpronounceable ingredients.

Men’s Products

All of the cosmetics I’ve already mentioned can technically be used by men, but the average male won’t be applying much lipstick, mascara, or age-defying lotion, however edible and natural it may be. They are more likely to use “men’s products,” however. By men’s products, I refer to shaving products, beard care, cologne, and skin care targeted at men.

Eco-Beauty Organics – Men’s products are not their main focus, but they do offer a nice selection of aftershaves, lotions, and shaving creams.

OM4 – Organic Male makes organic skincare for men. This is a nice change of pace, since most other completely non-toxic men’s products are an afterthought for companies who focus on women.

Etsy – You can find some decent men’s colognes (plus other cosmetics, for that matter) on Etsy, like this one.

A decent homemade alternative to shaving cream, I’ve found, is a half teaspoon of really good extra virgin olive oil. The dogs (and Italian food buffs) you meet will, however, attempt to lick you.


The alternative to chemical UV-filters are physical filters. You’ve got shade – umbrellas, clothing, hats, a roof over our head, that sort of thing that we all know about – and then you’ve got the physical filters that we apply to our skin: zinc oxide. These are the white shmears you see on beach-goers’ skin from time to time. You might have just thought they were really, really bad at rubbing in their sunblock, but they were just avoiding oxybenzone by using zinc oxide.

Zinc oxide is the most effective and safest UV-filter. It’s a purely physical filter, meaning it sits on top of your skin and prevents UV damage, acting as a physical barrier. It’s just as effective as a chemical filter like oxybenzone without the side effects. If you’ve already got enough unfiltered sunlight for the day’s vitamin D needs and want some UV protection, zinc oxide is your best, safest bet.

Some might worry about looking silly with white streaks all over their face and body. But, if you go the zinc oxide nanoparticle route, you can get a zinc oxide sunscreen that disappears on your skin. There is some concern that these nanoparticles of zinc oxide are absorbed transdermally and can cause health problems, but the evidence seems to weigh heavily toward the “all safe” side. One study found that while zinc oxide does penetrate some of the outer layers of the epidermis (more so when the skin is sunburnt), it does not achieve transdermal penetration for systemic distribution. Another concern is that some people have allergic reactions to zinc oxide.

Badger Balm – All their products are good, but the sunscreens are the most renown. They are very thorough with the science behind their sunscreens, and they run regular tests to confirm the safety of their zinc oxide formula. Best of all, they’ve managed to minimize the whitening without increasing the potential for toxicity.

Raw Elements Eco Formula – Active ingredient is zinc oxide. It’s thick, but stays on well even with water exposure and activity. Not too whitening, either.

Kabana Skincare – Another good sunscreen source that uses zinc oxide. They’ve even got a formula with added vitamin D, presumably to make up for the UVB you’re blocking. Not sure if that actually works, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Mexitan – They don’t just make non-toxic, zinc oxide-based sunblock. They also offer recommendations for beach resorts and produce safe self-tanner.


Some folks claim they can go without anything under their arms as long as their diet is “clean” enough, but I don’t know. I’d say it’s good practice to have something on hand, just in case your confidence turns out to be hubris. If you don’t want the aluminum, artificial fragrances, and other nasties found in regular products, you’ve got plenty of choices.

Primal Pit Paste – The best deodorant ever. It’s coconut based, so you can probably eat it in a pinch.

Thai Crystal – They’ve got a spray and a roll-on. Your choice. There’s some concern over whether it contains aluminum or not, but I don’t think it’s a huge issue unless you’ve just shaved your armpit and thus opened up a route for transdermal absorption.

Barring a product, you can also throw together your own:

Coconut and baking soda – Mix roughly equal parts of coconut oil and baking soda. It’s a bit goopy, especially in warm weather, but it gets the job done. I hear that adding some arrowroot flour or cornstarch will reduce the goopiness.

Obviously, this is far from being a complete list of all worthy alternatives. The demand for non-toxic cosmetics is only growing, and new companies are constantly emerging to address it. Be sure to leave your personal favorites in the comment section so that others can check them out.

If you’re curious about the products you use, or a new one that you’re considering, enter it on the Skin Deep database to learn about the safety (or toxicity) of its ingredients.

Thanks for reading!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I ditched detergent- based shampoo about a month ago and started blending up botanical mixtures myself. Its based on eggs, and i throw in bananas, cucumbers, avocados, lemons, or whatever else is in the fridge :) i leave it on for about 30 mins, and it rinses clean- even gets pure coconut oil out! I’m still expirimenting to find more recipes, does anyone have any advice?

    Caroline wrote on October 12th, 2013
  2. just a little bit of baking soda and water (sans coconut oil) is the best deodorant i’ve ever used

    Randy wrote on November 15th, 2013
  3. For teeth, I’ve used oramd before, very strong taste. Currently using a Real Purity brand toothpaste (although it has glycerin so not the best because supposedly it prevents your teeth from remineralizing). I’ve tried brushing with magnesium oil (Ancient Minerals brand) probably once, the taste is something you’d need to get accustomed to, but magnesium is an important nutrient for proper teeth and bone health. Magnesium oil may also help reduce/prevent tartar buildup. I also read that people can brush with activated charcoal to adsorb stains and produce whiter teeth :) haven’t tried it yet but probably soon.

    I’ve had good results using shampoo from Nurture My Body, and actually use the body wash as shampoo now since most of the ingredients are the same and it’s a little cheaper. Organic ingredients so it’s a bit pricey, but haven’t been able to find another natural shampoo that gives good results. Tried Dr. Bronner’s and baking soda/vinegar, couldn’t get either to work for my hair. Just ordered a shampoo from Real Purity, haven’t received it yet to try but ingredients looked ok.

    Have been using a foundation and mascara from Real Purity.

    For anyone interested, you may be able to find recipes/instructions for making your own cosmetics. I tried one recipe for mascara, I may have done something wrong because it didn’t turn out well. Others who posted on the blog were enthusiastic about it.

    Wenona wrote on December 4th, 2013
  4. I’ve also used Ecodent for brushing teeth.

    Wenona wrote on December 4th, 2013
  5. Another company that I feel could have made this list is VSachar MD. I wanted to introduce our product; safe, nontoxic cosmetics for pregnancy. I am a high risk pregnancy MD (Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist),and just introduced our line. Anybody who wants safe, non-toxic makeup can use our products. We are against animal testing/Peta certified, and most of our products are Gluten and Vegan. We have a beautiful website at with lots of medical information.

    Dr. Vik Sachar wrote on December 8th, 2013
  6. Carry on cruelty free products! Using natural products is the best thing for your skin because you are nourishing it with natural oils, not drying it out. Your skin will feel soft, smooth and keep you feeling good all day. These products are really latest natural products.

    Lachlan Molineux wrote on February 2nd, 2014
  7. What a very useful 25 safer alternatives tips to common cosmetics problems. I will memorize this and keep it tag on my PC. For now, my issue is my wrinkles and I’m using Lift Wand to gradually remove it. Hope it works too.

    leah wrote on February 13th, 2014
  8. Innovative Body Butter with Essential Oils! Do you want to modify your life style? Body Butter will revitalize your skin leaving it feeling soft and smooth. Take these new Body Butter products and alter your life style. That makes you good-looking.

    Lachlan Molineux wrote on February 21st, 2014
  9. Mainly excellent natural handcrafted soaps! Our quality natural handcrafted soaps are made using vegetable oil and No animal fats are used in any of our products. Using these natural products and make you very nice-looking.

    Lachlan Molineux wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  10. What about the Forever Living Products?

    Renata wrote on April 21st, 2014
  11. A topic near and dear to my heart, as I love body care/cosmetics and also love trying to be as “natural” as possible with them.

    Soap is one of the easiest things to go natural on—I use a Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap that is fragrance-free. I try to avoid fragrance as much as possible in my body care, especially for body lotions that sit/absorb on your skin. I’ve also used Everyday Shea body wash, which has very minimal ingredients and no fragrance. Also quite economical, can be used for shaving, etc.

    For body lotions, plain ole sweet almond oil works well. Slap it on, good to go. Many people love coconut oil too, but I don’t like smelling like coconut so I avoid it. Plus it makes me break out really badly.

    I’m experimenting with Acure hair products at the moment, that has been the hardest for me to switch over. My hair and scalp are finicky, prone to oil and dandruff. I might try Dr. Bronner for my hair next. Apple Cider Vinegar as a rinse is nice, but my hair is curly and needs lots of moisture.

    I like Silk Naturals for makeup. Their lipsticks have a lot of different colors, and are cheap. I use Weleda Everon lipbalm, but that’s just because I love the rose scent and it works so well for me.

    I also use Weleda Almond care line for skin, but have been experimenting with different lines. My skin doesn’t like a lot of products, gets clogged easily, etc. Sunscreen is physical protection only, I do love my sunscreen…Currently testing out Alba Bonatica Fragrance-Free mineral sunscreen for body. Good stuff.

    With that said, I can’t give up some other toxic stuff just yet (Retin-A!). I’m not a purist, but like a happy medium. For example, I love perfume and have a nice collection that I’m not going to throw away—but will look into natural alternatives in the future. Honore de Pres is one such fine perfumer, along with Pacifica.

    Marie wrote on May 23rd, 2014
  12. Well over two weeks ago after 40 years of soaps and shampoos and loving them all, I ditched the lot.
    Hair- I use a rinse of baking soda (2 Tbsp) in 1 ltr of water, and/ or ASV.
    Result- very clean bouncy hair, wont go back
    Soap- ditched it apart from down below and face.
    Result- skin feel just as clean and less dry.
    Deodorant- after years of being a bit sweaty and a bit smelly mixed with the scent of the deodorant I was wearing I ditched it and using soap on my pits. Instead mixed up the coconut oil, baking soda, corn starch mix.
    Result- massive reduction in sweating and NO smell ever!! This had been the biggest result and I am never going back!
    We also made a face cream out of Tello and olive oil and it is the best cream I have ever used. My lines have reduced and my skin tone is very even for the first time in ages.
    I am converted!

    Dianje wrote on May 26th, 2014
  13. We used to have those problems all the time but switched to Lavilin all-natural deodorant and we are all set. Great deodorant – safe and smells good too.

    Mae wrote on July 14th, 2014
  14. I much prefer natural products for use as cosmetics, or atleast products containing some natural ingredients! Natural options really do bring the best out of your skin. And I often find they are much cheaper and have multi-purposes!

    Michael wrote on August 11th, 2014
  15. Some of these looks truly wonderful, natural is always the best way! Thanks

    Georgina wrote on August 20th, 2014
  16. arm and hammer for deodorant! has one of your DIY ingredients (baking soda)

    joan wrote on August 25th, 2014
  17. My best friend as so many issues with cosmetics and break outs I found your findings to be very helpful to pass along to her and she’s trying different ideas each day. Thank you

    Heather wrote on September 5th, 2014
  18. I’ve not found anything better, more economical or more gentle, than apple cider vinegar. I don’t think it matter much but I dilute it 50/50 with water.

    Al wrote on November 23rd, 2014
  19. Great Article, I love seeing people educated on what they are putting on and in their bodies! Talking about safer alternatives to makeup ingredients.. May I suggest They are the first all natural makeup brand to formulate all zero-comedogenicy makeup(pore clogging), also offer natural zit zapper, pH skin sprays. Its great stuff!

    Alex Meade wrote on January 19th, 2015
  20. This is great thankyou! Would you be able to do the same for Australian based companies please or at least ones that have warehouses in Australia. Also, have you done much research on NU SKIN and ARBONNE? Thanks so much for your time :)

    Michelle wrote on January 24th, 2015
  21. Thanks for including our sunscreens! :)

    WS Badger Company (@BadgerBalmUSA) wrote on February 3rd, 2015
  22. A very affordable 100% pure, organic, chemical-free, additive-free everyday skin care company. Offering vegan deodorant (no beeswax), body butter, hand cream, foot salve, and baby products – body cream and diaper cream. Check these products out as well – ingredients are listed on every products on their website. All products are hand crafted in small batches.

    Anu wrote on May 20th, 2015
  23. I love these brands : Arbonne, Dr Haushka, Green Beaver, Weleda, !00% Pure. There are many choices nomadays!

    My favorite home-made facial cleanser :
    1 teaspoon greek yougourt with equal pars of coffee grounds
    (add a few drops of lemon juice for combunation/oily skin, or sesame or almond oil for dry skin)

    MC wrote on May 21st, 2015
  24. I started using a soap, from a lady I found at a farmers market on cape cod. It is fantastic. She has a small business with her daughters and sells on line. It has cured my eczema, which I have had for years! I used the face it bar and the seaweed bar.

    adeline wrote on October 9th, 2015
  25. There are more highs than lows, and I know it is right for me, but I cannot tell you that it is right for you.
    There are numerous pharmacies out there which sell fake drops.
    Having a variety of foods to eat is helpful to staying on plan. I think the cast aways on Survivor get more calories than that.
    The diet is based on the premise of surviving on 500-800 calories a day along with injections or sub-lingual
    doses of HCG to reduce appetite and reset the hypothalamus.

    Jason wrote on March 7th, 2016
  26. I used to use Burts Bees products, but they were not moisturizing enough – and the overall quality not where I wanted it to be. I ONLY use natural products. I now have been using Made from Earth’s Valencia Orange Lotion, and I like it. Will try it for another week and let you know how it goes. So far so good and it smells great!

    felicity wrote on April 10th, 2016

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