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Makeup: the new naturals

September 4th 2013 / Catherine Turner



No longer the unloved hippy-vibe cosmetics gathering dust at your local health food shop, a modish new breed of natural and organic makeup brands have arrived, writes Catherine Turner

As more of us sip on raw green juices post yoga class, we become conscious of the foods we eat and the products we put on our skin. Of course, it’s now easy to find natural and organic versions of everyday skin and body care products without sacrificing the luxury of great textures or effectiveness. But make-up? I for one have been oblivious - sticking with the seductive glamour, delectable colours and packaging of the luxe brands I love. Rightly so: making-up is all about indulgence and beautifying, and up until recently, nothing in the green arena came close to matching up.

Enter Ilia: chic metallic packaging, slimline graphics and spot-on seasonal fuchsia, coral and red for lips - the perfect box-ticking example of new natural cosmetics. Creator Sasha Plavsic, who grew up outside of Vancouver, now based in LA, has a refreshingly non-judgmental view on whether we need to trade in.

“I’m not one to impose whether someone should choose a natural/organic product over something that is not. It has to be a personal choice. The point is that what we put on or in our body is absorbed into our system in one way or another. Ilia offers an organic alternative and I hope its something people will truly enjoy, natural or not.”

Just a few years earlier, US make-up artist, Rose-Marie Swift launched RMS Beauty, paving the way for the likes of Ilia. Cult, capsule, desirable, the RMS little white lidded glass pots of skin perfectors and gorgeous lip, cheek and eye colours are based on good-enough-to-eat coconut oil.

Driven by her own illness, Swift created the line to clean up her own routine of unnecessary chemicals. “I was tired of seeing skin (both mine and the models) having the life sucked out of it by synthetic chemicals within a few hours. I was also aware that my ‘fabulous’ red lipsticks were burning, tingling and dehydrating my lips. That isn't how it is supposed to be. Cosmetics should work synergistically with the skin, continually feeding and nourishing it. That said I would be a liar if I said I only had organic and natural brands in my kit. Traditional cosmetics definitely serve their purpose for photographic images but nothing more as far as I am concerned. They work in that arena, but would I wear them everyday? Hell no!”

MORE GLOSS: Mineral make-up for sensitive skin

Both brands are stocked at the dinky Content store in London’s Marylebone - the insider natural bunny’s go-to shop for all things nurturing and beautifying. Founder Imelda Burke says that customers are becoming more discerning about what’s in their lip gloss and blusher. “It usually begins with reading food labels, then they’ll want to know exactly what’s in their skin care,” she says. “Make-up is normally the last thing they consider.”

A consequence of what was previously on offer. Now, there’s no need to sacrifice quality for natural-ness as brands are being founded by experts from the luxury arena. W3LL People is created by a US derm, an eco business warrior and ex NARS make-up artist who’re using aloe vera and green tea in their excellent mineral powders. Studio 78 Paris, with dreamy line drawings on the packaging, was founded by an ex-Guerlain product manager - which shows in the excellent quality dome shaped baked powder bronzers, blushers and eyeshadows.

So, can we have it all when it comes to natural make-up? Maybe not quite yet. There are compromises, for example on colour. Some of the Ilia products have 100% natural pigments, others have food grade synthetic dyes, as Plavsic explains. “Its either that or Carmine, which is crushed beetle skin [quite smelly]. Natural pigments aren't angels either as they come from the earth and contain various amounts of heavy metals. There are a few newer options on the market such as fruit based pigments, but there’s a long way to go as they’re water based pigments which aren’t easy to mix in with waxes and oils.”

For now, I’ll continue to mix and match make-up brands to get the best of both worlds. Just as my almost dairy/wheat-free regime often gets blown by a cream cheese bagel or warm, freshly baked croissant with milky coffee, it’s not a deal breaker if my favourite new lipstick doesn’t have a raw coconut oil base for now. Unless I move out to India to live the pure yogic life, I love make-up and I’m happy being a paler shade of green.

How to spot a natural

Start reading the labels on your cosmetics - it may look like gobbledygook, but you begin to get the idea as you start to compare. “Seeing natural elements such as waxes, oils and butters is a good indicator. Preservative isn't necessarily the worst evil. Many products may claim to be paraben free yet have loads of other ingredients which can be more toxic,” says Plavsic. Websites such as Swift’s www.beautytruth.com or www.ewg.org/skindeep are packed with information. Warning: it may be too much!

Personally, I like Plavsic’s tip to look for naturals as the main ingredient - especially for lip and eye products. Think about it - we ingest gloss and lipstick; fine skin and membranes around the eyes mean things can get absorbed quickly, so it makes sense to be careful with lip and eye products.

Pretty clean & green

Natural essentials for your make-up bag...

RMS Beauty Cream Eyeshadow in Karma


£19, www.beingcontent.com

Wear sheer or dark and smokey - this gunmetal metallic cream goes on like a dream, wears to a sexy, lived-in look.

Vapour Organic Beauty Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation


£41, www.beingcontent.com

Lovely and sheer on skin and great choice of darker shades.

Studio 78 We Evade Bronzing Powder


£27, www.beingcontent.com

Get a Coco Chanel-esque tan without the sun with this convincing powder bronzer - no orange, no glitter.

Ilia Beauty Mascara in Nightfall


£20, www.beingcontent.com

One of the best natural mascaras we’ve tried - although we hear an even better version’s on its way.

W3LL People Altruist Mineral Foundation


£24, www.beingcontent.com

Full of delicious goodies such as aloe vera and green tea powders which make this dewy rather than dusty on skin.

RMS Beauty Lip Shine in Sacred


£22, www.beingcontent.com

The perfect poppy red gloss which is good enough to eat - an absolute make-up bag staple.

Inika Cosmetics Organic Eye Liner


£13.50, www.beingcontent.com

A must-have for the delicate eye area - this soft and safe pencil comes in a range of fab multi colours.

Ilia Beauty Multi Stick in Tenderly


£30, www.beingcontent.com

Baby pink, sheer creamy colour you can dot onto cheeks and lips for an instant rosy glow.

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