Picking a personal care product shouldn’t be like digging into a box of chocolates: You should always know what you’re going to get. That’s why for this year’s beauty awards we chose from the purest options available, heading to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to find those products with a 0- or 1-out-of-10 ranking (meaning the ingredients pose no or a very low hazard). What did we get when we put them to the test? Ten excellent natural picks that do what they promise to—and are free of the startlingly ubiquitous personal care villains, such as 1,4-dioxane and parabens.
Best sun protection
MyChelle Sun Shield SPF 28
“I can’t believe it’s SPF 28! It has a luxurious texture, goes on smoothly, and rubs in easily,” glows one tester. By combining organic aloe with non-nanotechnology zinc oxide, it simultaneously moisturizes and protects skin from UVA and UVB rays.
Best anti-aging (women)
Skin Deep: Cosmetics Safety Database
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental and health issues, developed this online personal care and cosmetics safety guide in 2004. Backed by scientific research and 50 toxicity and regulatory databases, Skin Deep provides up-to-date health information on 52,105 products and 8,799 ingredients, providing a deeper look into what goes on your face and body.
Tilvee Argan & Sea Buckthorn Age-Defying Cream
Argan helps fight free-radical damage and restore moisture, while flavonoid-rich sea buckthorn promotes skin regeneration to counter sun damage. “This is the most hydrating yet light lotion I think I’ve ever tried—it goes on deliciously smooth, without being gloppy or sticky in the least.” Bonus: It’s packaged in a recycled glass jar.
Best anti-aging (men)
Anthony Logistics Vitamin C Serum
This pure form of the antioxidant vitamin C protects and firms aging skin. Cucumber extract instantly soothes skin. “It’s an easy product to use for guys who typically aren’t into skin care. It’s not thick, so it absorbs well and you don’t feel like you have an oily lotion on your face,” reports one tester. “My skin felt instantly firmer.”
Best body lotion
Alaffia Shea and Red Palm Nurturing Body Lotion
The Alaffia line features fair trade-certified shea butter from a West African coop, that is combined with virgin coconut oil and papaya leaf extract to create a natural emollient that soothes and moisturizes the entire body—and all skin types. “Totally refreshing. Light yet nourishing, like a tropical drink for your whole body.”
Best skin care oil
Aura Cacia Certified Organic Skin Care Oil
Aura Cacia’s skin care oils are so pure they’re made from just one ingredient. Certified organic sesamium indicum (sesame) oil is extremely rich and penetrating, so it’s ideal for dry skin. “Unlike other skin care oils, that sit ontop of your skin and can feel stifling, the rich sesame oil absorbs well and lasts throughout the day,” says one tester. “Particularly nice as an after-shower oil, to lock in moisture.”
Best facial cleanser
Jasco Organics Balance Acne Fighting Cleanser
The best part about this refreshing facial cleanser is that the pleasant lather comes from a vegan blend of herbs and botanicals rather than the foaming agent sodium laureth sulfate—a possible carcinogen. The plant extracts work together to remove dirt and excess oil from pores without causing irritation. “The strong aroma is an invigorating early-morning wakeup call.”
Best nail care
TheraNeem Neem Nail and Cuticle Scrub
“What surprised me the most is that this product isn’t just for nails and cuticles; it’s a one-stop shop that also repairs dry, cracked skin nearly instantly.” Filled with long-chain fatty acids, antioxidants, and glycerides, neem is a potent natural healing agent used in soaps, shampoos, oils, and supplements. This scrub combines exfoliating sea salts with nine oils, including neem.
Best blemish treatment
Burt’s Bees Outdoor Herbal Blemish
“Quelling blemishes couldn’t be easier,” says a tester. The stick’s ingredients are gentle enough that you can glide them over blemishes as often as desired. Antiseptic and astringent tea tree and juniper oils prevent inflammation and bacterial growth, while willow bark to clear pores and help nip blemishes in the bud.
Tom’s of Maine Anti-Plaque Toothpaste
The refreshing mint gel controls plaque buildup with Xylitol, a white crystalline alcohol powder that inhibits bacteria growth. Another reason to love the product: Tom’s of Maine is so dedicated to consumer education that it lists the origins of all ingredients on its website. “I’ve used Tom’s of Maine forever and I always go back to it. The taste is clean, not sickly sweet, and the mint flavors leave your whole mouth feeling revitalized.”
Crystal Body Deodorant Stick
You may be skeptical of testing out a new deodorant, let alone an “all-natural” one, but you can count on the Crystal line. It’s free of aluminum chlorohydrate and parabens, instead relying on minerals to quell odor. “You put it on right when you get out of the shower, and rather than masking odor and perspiration, it tackles the bacteria that produces the odor…. No more worries about aluminum.” Choose from a spray, solid, or roll-on.
Best massage oil
Pangea Organics Pyrenees Lavender with Cardamom Body Oil
Aromatic lavender pairs with antiseptic and cleansing cardamom to form a soothing yet functional body oil for all skin types. Use simply to relax or to alleviate muscle pain. Despite its oil base, this elixir absorbs into skin when put on after a shower, leaving no oily residue—just smooth skin. “
Best relaxation product
Badger Clear Mind Balm
Pop open a tin of this rich, USDA Certified Organic balm for a midday aromatherapy boost from citrus and ginger. Though it doesn’t rub into skin as easily as a lotion, just one sniff of the back of your hand instantly soothes your mind. Feeling irritable? Try Cheerful Mind Balm in sweet orange and spearmint.
Labels to look for
The Natural Products Association Natural Seal
This seal requires products contain at least 95 percent natural ingredients. Certified companies: Arch Chemicals, Aubrey Organics, Boom, W.S. Badger Company, Burt’s Bees, Highland Laboratories, Lauren Hutton Naturals, Nature’s Way, Organique by Himalaya Herbal Healthcare, Smith & Vandiver Corp, Tsi-La, J.R. Watkins Natural Apothecary, Wet n Wild Natural Wear, Yes to Carrots. Log onto naturalproductsassoc.org for more information and a complete list of certified products.
NSF International’s Contains Organic Ingredients
This label label will guarantee products contain 70 percent USDA Certified Organic ingredients. Check out NSF.gov to find out which companies will be the first to earn the seal.
Ingredients to avoid (and where they’re hiding)
1,4-dioxane–shampoos, body washes, lotions, detergents
acetone–nail polish and certain hair and skin products
ceteareth–skin care products, moisturizers, hair conditioners, tanners, hair-coloring products
formaldehyde–cosmetics, nail polish, nail polish remover
parabens (methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, butylparaben)–lotions, creams, facial cleansers, hand soaps, hair conditioners, toothpastes, deodorants
phthalates–shampoos, lotions, nail polishes
propylene glycol–creams, hair gels, and fragrances