As an elder millennial, Ulta isn’t my usual stomping ground. But, when I heard Beautycounter would be popping up there, I was excited to explore. It had been at least a decade since I stepped foot in one! When I asked my make-up loving 16yo if they wanted to come with me, the enthusiasm was off the charts. And then when I shared Beautycounter would be in the store starting in March, the look of “I’m impressed” was all the validation we old people seek from the cool youth! But, as we walked through the store, it took hours to navigate product ingredient safety. Kiddo kept asking me “Can I get this?”, and I needed a PhD in chemistry to properly answer. So, I did my homework. I came home and spent over 40 hours researching for a comprehensive “yes” list! Here is Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List.
Beautycounter is now at Ulta!
As Beautycounter celebrates our 10th Anniversary of being the leader in clean beauty, they are kicking-off a pop-up partnership with Ulta Beauty™. Beginning February 26, a selection of Beautycounter products, including 9 color cosmetics and 21 skin care products. This curated assortment of products will be available in select Ulta stores nationwide, ramping up to 500 stores by March 15, 2023.
“Our partnership with Ulta Beauty is an exciting step toward achieving Beautycounter’s mission of getting safer products into the hands of everyone.” [source]
‘…the Ulta launch does not represent a shift in brand strategy, as the brand has always been omnichannel… We firmly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and see only upside potential for all channels as a result of our partnership with Ulta Beauty.’
The Ulta Beauty expansion comes as Beautycounter celebrates 10 years in business. As part of its anniversary, Beautycounter is ramping up its product launches, expanding its list of no-no ingredients from 1,800 to 2,800… Of course, its advocacy work in government bodies will continue. Notably, in Dec. 2022 the “Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022” passed. [source]
I am so proud to be part of this community and mission! Please visit here for the full list of locations. Products include:
Need help navigating options? That’s my job! E-mail me for a free consult here.
This collection is formulated for very oily skin; I personally do not recommend the Toner, All Over Treatment, or Gel Cream as I find it is drying for nearly all people. If you have oily skin or blemishes, I’d love to help you find a custom routine that works for you!
- Clear Pore Cleanser*
- Instant Matte Toner
- All Over Treatment
- Matte Effect Gel Cream
- SOS Spot Treatment*
This collection is ideal for people with sensitive to normal skin that does not break out with blemishes. I also find that very few people get best results from the Toner or Sleeping Cream, so I don’t recommend those. If you have sensitive skin that does break out sometimes, I’d love to help you find a custom routine that works for you!
- Refresh Foaming Cleanser*
- Adaptive Moisture Lotion*
- Hydra-gel Radiance Toner Lotion
- Intense Moisture Serum*
- Recovery Sleeping Cream
- Eye Rescue Cream*
This collection is ideal for skin having experienced a full, joyous life, with wisdom and lines to show for it. As our skin ages it loses moisture, so this line is deeply hydrating. If you aren’t very dry or prone to blemishes, avoid the Supreme Cream – I find the Soft Cream + Brightening Facial Oil is a better combo for most people.
- Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil*
- Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence*
- Tripeptide Radiance Serum*
- Antioxidant Soft Cream*
- Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream
- Ultra Renewal Eye Cream*
All Bright Line
Reflect Effect Line
*my top recommendations and absolute favorites!
- Glow First Priming Serum
- Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer
- Skin Twin Featherweight Foundation
- Skin Twin Creamy Concealer
- Cheeky Clean Cream Blush and Refills
- Beyond Gloss
- Lid Glow Cream Shadow
- Think Big All-in-One Mascara
- Sheer Genius Conditioning Lipstick
You can finally test and see colors in person Nationwide!
What I love about Beautycounter is that every single item has been tested for safety, 9 times for makeup and 8 times for skincare against 23 human health endpoints. Because they are checking every batch for contaminants, carcinogens, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and heavy metals – you can be assured every product is safe in a way no other brand is doing. Every single ingredient is listed, no fragrance loophole or undisclosed surprises. Plus, clinical testing to ensure they perform to deliver superb results. It is the brand I’ve come to rely on for my family.
But Beautycounter isn’t the only brand I use! And there are a LOT of options out there, so how do we narrow it down? As Ulta is THE largest Beauty retailer, I knew we needed a list of what’s truly clean & green!
Why Repeat Brands?
You’ll notice that many brands are on both the “Natural and Not” list. I’ve specifically noted products that are the same brand in both categories. This is part of what requires the extra effort to be your own expert and advocate – formulas vary in brands, so we must be diligent in always checking labels – even with re-purchase, because formulas can change without you realizing it. This is why I personally use Beautycounter as often as possible, as everything is tested for safety.
What is Greenwashing?
Brands know that the majority of consumers are looking for cleaner products. But most aren’t willing to fully bare the expense of change formulas and packaging to truly commit to clean. So they will “sell” you on words that aren’t legally regulated or defined, like “natural” and “clean”. It’s all subjective, and if they say it is – it is.
But why is personal care product and cosmetic labeling subjective? Since the Federal Regulation hasn’t been updated since 1938, the ingredients brands use and the way they market and label is completely unregulated. The FDA doesn’t have the ability to issue a recall, even when known carcinogens like asbestos are in makeup or benzene is in sunscreen. Yes, seriously. I say this because:
a) clean products are so needed and I’m thrilled to see so many more options and brands getting on board, but
b) brands are aware there is a consumer desire for clean products, and they’ll brand accordingly – even if it’s not true.
The words you see on the front of the label do.not.matter.
We as consumers MUST read the ingredient label. And sometimes, even check their website for full ingredient disclosure, or check EWG if we don’t have the time, ability or understanding of those labels.
So I’ve done that for you here, to the best of my abilities with the info I could find. Keep in mind, all of these are my own personal preferences, based on a few criteria”
- Non-toxic (clean) ingredients
- Testing standards
- Fragrance (absolute no-go)
- Brand commitment
While I mention it below as well – keep in mind that items breathed or consumed are absorbed at a higher rate by your body [source & more info]. For me personally, when I am applying things to my lips, powders, or sprays, I am especially careful!
Ulta’s Truly Clean Green Shopping List
Top Ingredients to Avoid
Why is Fragrance so bad?
You’ll notice that “fragrance” or “parfume” or “scent” is the reason that both myself and EWG rate certain items as a higher risk. Remember, even if a brand says “natural” there is no defined standard for what that means. There’s no safety testing of an item, either. So, even if a brand has the best of intentions and thinks they’re purchasing clean rose oil from a perfumery, unless they are conducting their own safety and ingredient testing to know exactly what is in it, the perfumery could add chemicals that enhance the scent or have it last longer (like phthalates).
For example, this NIH study on chemicals coming from laundry vents found “those scented emissions that are classified as hazardous air pollutants and known or probable carcinogens” as defined by the EPA. And yet we’re putting it in our homes, on our bodies for extended periods of time. Known carcinogens on our body: pass!
It’s also the reason that over half of makeup on the market tested has PFAS, with 88% of those brands not disclosing any ingredients that would contain it… but they had “fragrance.”
Fragrance is the loophole in personal products, intended to protect company’s trade secret formulas. it’s come to “hide” things to consumers. Thankfully, with California’s recent state laws we will start to see more brands disclose what is in them – either on the label or the required online database – to the benefit of the world. But, until then you have absolutely no way of knowing what is in a product if it states a fragrance of any kind, no matter the claim. If it really is just essential oils, why not just list exactly what they are and what went in.
Why avoid Parabens?
These are preservatives that prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast in cosmetic products. Parabens possess estrogen-mimicking properties that are associated with increased risk of breast cancer; they are absorbed and have been identified in biopsy samples from breast tumors. Makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos and facial cleansers can contain parabens. You can also find them in food and pharmaceutical products.
What are Phthalates?
A group of chemicals increases flexibility and softness of plastics; main phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products are dibutyl phthalate in nail polish, diethyl phthalate in perfumes and lotions, and dimethyl phthalate in hair spray (they’re also often found in deodorants, perfumes/colognes, hair sprays and moisturizers). They are known to be endocrine disruptors and have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls, and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Unfortunately, it often hidden as a “fragrance.”
Does it contain Triclosan?
An antimicrobial chemical that’s a known endocrine disruptor — especially thyroid and reproductive hormones, and a skin irritant. Studies raise concerns that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant. There also wasn’t significant evidence that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan provides any benefit over regular soap and water. Toothpastes, antibacterial soaps, and deodorants can contain triclosan.
Why avoid Sulfates?
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) is a surfactant is in more than 90% of personal care and cleaning products (think foaming products like shampoo, body wash/cleanser, mascara and acne treatment). SLS’s are known to irritate the skin, lungs, and eyes and can cause kidney and respiratory damage. SLS can interact and combine with other chemicals to form nitrosamines, a carcinogen.
Is Formaldehyde an ingredient?
And Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRP’s) are in many cosmetic products to help prevent bacteria growth. Deemed a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC). it has been linked to occupational related cancers, nasal and nasopharyngeal. It causes allergic skin reactions and may also be harmful to the immune system. And you find it in almost all personal care products.
Why is Toluene bad?
A petrochemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources. Listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene; it is a potent solvent able to dissolve paint. It affects your respiratory system, cause nausea and irritate your skin as well as cause developmental damage in the fetus. Toluene has also been linked to immune system toxicity. Nail polish, nail treatments and hair color/bleaching products can contain toluene.
What are the Sunscreen chemicals to avoid?
These chemicals function as a sunscreen agent, to absorb ultraviolet light. These chemicals are endocrine disruptors and are believed to be easily absorbed into the body. They may also cause cellular damage and cancer in the body. Common names are benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and methoxycinnamate. Sunscreen products can contain them.
Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List
click here to download the printables: Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List (also includes both my Target Clean Beauty and Cleaning Product Guides)
Truly Clean & Green: what do I recommend?
It’s important to remember that none of these brands, other than Beautycounter, are testing every batch of final products for contaminants such as carcinogens, hormone disrupting chemicals, and heavy metals. I’ve created the list purely off of how they were classified on Ulta’s website, their listed ingredients, and EWG ratings. If they did not note “clean ingredients”, “cruelty-free”, and “fragrance-free” then a product would not come up on my search. Then, I cross-referenced with EWG.
It’s possible, as we’ve seen many times before, that there could be asbestos in powder makeup, benzene in SPF, and PFAS in foundations that are not intentionally added or disclosed in ingredients and unknown until 3rd party testing.I’ve included all my top recommended items that are beyond what Beautycounter makes, that I let Kiddo get or am trying myself, in the printable Ulta’s Truly Clean Green Shopping List below.
If you want the full Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List with over 300 products Sign up HERE
note: I have not tested or used some of these products, except where noted, I am simply sharing what I would or wouldn’t buy or use – based on ingredients and reviews of all items marketed as “conscious beauty” as of Feb 21, 2023.
Note, I personally no longer use powders from any brand but Beautycounter because they are the only brand on the market safety testing each batch. Jane Iredale tests but not each batch. Because talc-free powders have been shown to increase heavy metals, which is a “natural” ingredient and only known if tested, be aware and ensure you do not breathe when applying powders. more info with sources here
Anastasia Beverly Hills
- Eyeshadow Singles* (EWG 2 and 3)
include Emerald/Sunset/Gllisten/Chocolate Crumble/Amber/Dusty Rose/Comfort/Baby Cakes/Love Letter/Hot Chocolate/Vermeer/Cognac/Macaroon/Fresh/Brick/Buon Fresco/Burnt Orange/Fudge/Sienna/Enchanged/Blazing/Stone/Ballet/Custard/Rose Gold/Gemstone/Tiger’s Eye/Venice/Birkin/Sangria
not (EWG 4-8) Red Earth/Wine/Chocolate/Rosette/Pink Champagne/ Gem/Legend/Bling/Aqua/Suede/Not Today/Noir/Electro/Warm Taupe/Belize/Iridescent/Metallic/ Purple/Teal Shimmer/Victorian/Gem/Deep Plum/Orange Soda/Gold Rush/Chai/Fresh Green/Labyrinth/Dragonfly
- Matte Lipsticks (EWG 2-3)
include Blackberry/Toffee/Americal Doll/Velvet/Royal Red/Rum Punch/Sugar Plum/Honey/Spice/Resin/Hollywood/Stargazer/Nude/Soft Touch
not (EWG 4-5) Ruby/Sedona/Rogue/Peachy/Smoke/Insomniac/Rage/Cobalt/Plumeria/Rust/Rosewood/Midnight/Cotton Candy/Buff/Latte/Kiss/Stevie/Brandy/Staunch/Griffin/Dread/Orchid/Petal/Cool Brown/Dead Roses/Dusty Mauve/Sweet Pea/Soft Pink/
- BADgal Bang Waterproof Volumizing Mascara (EWG 2)
- Pressed Powder Shadows (EWG 2)
Diego/Pick Me/Turntables/Good Thing/Do Not Disturb/Call U Mine/Backstage/Bel Air/Tangerine Dreams/Glass Bull/Santeria/Stone Face/ Soo Good/ What’s Yo Sign/ Hungry Ghost/Get Crackin’/Friendly/Sugar Sugar/Mariposa/Conundrum/Let’s Do It/ Billie Jean/Hear Me Out/Tea Garden/Skyway/The Vibez/Dreamlover/Kk/Tide/Wake Up Call
- Beauty Powder Blush, Exhale/First Blush* (EWG 2)
- Powder Bronzer Duo (Faux Sun Bronzer), Bali* (EWG 2)
- Beauty Brow Goal Brow Pencil (PCR packaging) (EWG 2)
- Fake Awake Eye Highlight, Eye Brightener (EWG 2)
I actually bought this for myself while researching, it’s very on-trend!
- Fresh Lines Liquid Eyeliner (EWG Verified)
I bought this for Kiddo for xmas and they told me it actually works!
Skin & Body
There is as wide options for skincare (face and body) as there are makeup at Ulta! I noticed that quite a few brands have offered at least a few “clean options” to their usual offerings. If you see a brand here, just like with the makeup, it’s important to note that only the items specifically listed are included. Since Beautycounter is now at Ulta, that’s absolutely where I’d start for all my skincare needs. Then what you can’t find from there, here are a more options:
- Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30 (EWG 2)
- Meltdown Facial Oil
I currently use both Herbivore Lapis Oil (with blue tansy) and Odacite Black Cumin Oil for my skin when I’m experiencing a breakout, and this product combines them both. With the Balancing Oil no longer being offered by Beautycounter, this could be a good substitute. I’m excited to discover and try it!
- Makeup Remover Wipes (EWG Verified)
- Save Face Shielding Setting Spray (EWG Verified)
- Lipikra Ap+M Triple Repair Moisturizing Body Cream (EWG 1)
- Rays Copper Eye Masks (EWG 2)
- Skincare Drying (Pimple) Patches (EWG 1)
- Hyaluronic Sea Serum (EWG 1)
Where makeup and skincare has come a LONG way in offering clean options, hair is woefully not there. I also found it surprising that most of the big name brands do not offer a fragrance-free option. Not even one single product in EWG 1-3 for Ouai, Ouidad, Chi, It’s a 10, Madison Reed, Pureology, Pacifica, Not Your Mother’s, Sexy Hair, Klorane, Keracolor, Toppik, Fekkai, IGK, Redken, Joico, Arctic Fox, Living Proof, Grow Gorgeous, Eva NYC, Paul Mitchell, Virtue, NatureLab, Devacurl, AG Care and Dphue. I think people really want their hair to smell good – which I get. But if that scent is staying around a long time then it’s likely from phalates.
I use this brand (only available online – I use the shampoo, conditioner, dry shampoo, and clarifying serum). I love that it smells great from fruit and flower oils, but doesn’t last a long time – so no added, unwanted ingredients. It’s improved my hair health and is one of very few brands committed to clean. At Ulta, here are the available options:
- Hair Shine Jelly, Fragrance Free (EWG 3)
- Shine Oil, Sensitive, Fragrance Free
- Shine Cream, Leave-In Conditioner, Fragrance Free
This is the brand I style with, after trying many this is the highest performance at best safety ratings. While the last two items aren’t listed in EWG I did review ingredients and feel confident they are an EWG 1-3 rating.
- Ingrown Concentrate
- Bath Drops
None are on EWG but I have validated the ingredients on all are 2 or below.
- Jojoba Oil Blend Self Heating Packs (EWG 2)
This is just 23 items of my 300+ item list!
Want the full Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List?
Sign up HERE
Not: what are the products I’d avoid and why?
I want to emphasize that just because you see a certain brand above, does not mean all products by them are “clean.” Plus, the following are by my own definition “not natural” – many because of fragrance, which we know can hide hundreds of hazardous chemicals. It makes it harder to not just be able to trust and grab a certain brand you like, but that’s why I personally buy as much as I can from Beautycounter. Then when I need to fill in the gaps or find something locally, use the shopping list above to shop. And here’s a list of what I avoid… and why.
I have included ALL makeup in my full list that is categorized as “clean conscious” and is actually safe (EWG 1-3). If you do not see it in those places, it does not meet my standards for recommendations.
Skin & Body
Ulta listed the following products as “popular conscious clean”. These are not only items I would not use – but rather just an examples of why brands have individual products that vary in safety. All of these are featured in the recommended 300+ list, but I would not use the following:
Tula, Brightening Rose Glow Eye Balm (EWG 6) and Purifying Face Cleanser (EWG 7)
Byoma, Creamy Jelly Cleanser (not on EWG, contains sulfates)
Osea, Undaria Algae Body Oil (fragrance)
Sacheu, Slick Skin Essential Lipid Serum (not on EWG, Cyclopentasiloxane)
Undefined Beauty, R&R Sun Serum (EWG 7)
Juice Beauty, Green Apple Brightening Essence (EWG 4)
Kinship, Insta Swipe Lemon Honey AHA Exfoliating Pads (EWG 4)
Strivectin, Tighten & Lift Peptight Tightening & Brightening Face Serum (EWG 7)
WLDKAT, Patchouli + Cherimoya Gel Cleanser (EWG 4)
Flora & Noor, not in EWG but validated Rose Renewal Tri-Peptide and Ceramide Cleanser contains sulfates
Everyday Humans, Resting Beach Face Sunscreen Serum, SPF 30 (EWG 4)
Hourglass, Cosmetics Equilibrium Rebalancing Cream. Cleanser (EWG 6)
Dime Beauty, Lovely Dreams and ILYSB Perfume (EWG 4)
Drunk Elephant, Protini Polypeptide Face Cream, Waterlily (EWG 6)
These items may be surprising, since they make other safer items or because of the way they are marketed:
Naturalicious, Heavenly Hydration Grapeseed Hair Mist (fragrance)
- Hydrating & Regrowth Refining Stubble Cream (EWG 4)
- Shave Cream Protective & Soothing (EWG 5)
Innersense Organic Beauty:
- Hair Love Prep Spray (EWG 4)
- Pure Harmony Hairbath (EWG 4)
- Hydrating Cream Conditioner (EWG 4)
- Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo (EWG 4)
- Raw Shea Butter Deep Moisturizing Shampoo (EWG 4)
- Bald Head Moisturier, Tea Tree Oil & Shea Butter (EWG 6)
- Raw Shea Butter Hydrating Body Lotion (EWG 4)
- Men Moisturizing Bar Soap Raw Shea Butter & Mafura Oil (EWG 4)
- Raw Shea Chamomile & Argan Oil Baby Lotion (EWG 3)
- Baby, Conditioner, Raw Shea + Chamomile & Argan Oil (EWG 4)
- Kids Extra-Moisturizing Detangler, Coconut & Hibiscus (EWG 5)
Interestingly, while looking into the ‘fragrance’ that’s listed as EOs to see if actual ingredients were fully or actually disclosed anywhere – they’re not – the website reviews noted the formula recently changed and that Shea is no longer listed in the top ingredients and doesn’t perform as well. And, I found many actually contains 26 ingredients other than coconut oil, including hydrolyzed wheat protein and fragrance is the 5th.
Saldy, these items use fragrance, scent, parfum:
- Naturals Cocoa & Mango Butter
- Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel (EWG 5)
- Conditioning Hair Refresher & Detangling Spray, Lavender (EWG 4)
- Naturals Moroccan Pear Conditioning Custard (fragrance formula) (EWG 4)
- Naturals Curl Maker Curling Jelly, Marshmallow & Algae Leaf (fragrance) (EWG 4)
- Curl Love Moisture Milk (almost got me, they call it “scent”)
- Cocoa Nibs & Honey Ultimate Growth Serum (tricky, says “naturally scented”)
- Naturals Algae Renew Deep Conditioner, Cocoa & Mango Butter
- Almond Jai Twisting Butter Sweet Almond Milk & Honey
- Grow Back Drops
- Honey Dew Moisture Refresher (“phthalate free fragrance”)
- Sweet Ginger Cleansing Rinse (“scent”)
- Curlaide Moisture Butter (“scent”)
- Honey Nectar Deep Conditioning Masque (“phthalate free fragrance”)
Whew, while I cover A LOT here, it’s barely scratching the surface. For example, I did not include Ulta Brand or any tools, such as Real Techniques. Several brands didn’t have any items under an EWG 3, so I didn’t include them. As of Feb 21,2013, this article is based on an exhaustive search for all brands listed as Conscious Clean.
Make sure to join our e-mail list for all the information, including the printable Ulta’s Truly Clean & Green Shopping List download, because then you’ll also get both of my Target Guides (personal care and cleaning products)!
What did I miss that you wish was on the list?
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