As customers demand skincare products that are free from toxic chemicals – and therefore better for your body and the environment – greenwashing is becoming more of a problem. This is especially true in the U.S., where the $85 billion beauty industry is largely unregulated. Many brands pose as natural when in fact they are only skimming the surface. Fortunately, many truly sustainable beauty brands do exist, including these six: Botanical Republic, My July, Lunalis, Just Beauty CBD, PURR Skincare, and Nopalera.
But before we explore these clean beauty brands and their founders’ stories, the first question on most savvy consumers’ minds is this: How can I find out for myself if a brand is actually eco-friendly? Here are two companies built to help.
ClearForMe is the first of its kind database of more than 1.8 million ingredients that appear in beauty products. It is a trusted partner for over 360 brands and retailers. Founded by Sabrina Noorani, a former derivatives trader at NYSE, ClearForMe provides a simple plug-and-play API to make ingredients clickable, searchable, and shoppable.
CEO Noorani is also a mother of three. She believes knowledge is power and typically shares nutrition information with her children to help them understand what they are eating. She wanted to bring that idea to beauty by creating a platform that describes and simplifies ingredients in beauty products so that consumers have the knowledge to make informed decisions. With ClearForMe, she hopes to open the door for any customer to feel empowered to shop confidently.
Another brand helping consumers take charge of researching their purchases is Climate Neutral Certified, which brings carbon transparency to the beauty industry. Users can verify brands’ climate action programs and cut through unsubstantiated claims made within the severely under-regulated industry. Since its launch in 2019, Climate Neutral has certified over 500 brands, helping them measure and offset their carbon footprint.
Now for six beauty brands that go beyond greenwashing, and the women driving their growth.
Botanical Republic is a Korean-American owned luxury skincare line made in Los Angeles that uses organic, natural and wildcrafted plant ingredients. Utilizing a small batch process eliminates the need for synthetic preservatives and harmful chemicals while also minimizing waste. All products come in glass bottles and jars. The brand also plants a tree through One Tree Planted for every item sold on their website.
Hannah Kim was inspired to found Botanical Republic when she turned 40 and noticed that the skincare products she was using had stopped working and also contained loads of harmful chemicals. However, the price of natural skin care products was very high. She decided to create a skincare line that helps hydrate and fight premature aging without using harsh preservatives and fillers — and comes at an affordable price.
“You have to believe in yourself and be passionate about what you do,” Kim says to aspiring entrepreneurs. “It’s not a sprint but a marathon. It will take many trials and errors. Be sure to surround yourself with supportive people because often, you want to give up the race.”
My July is a plant-based gentle skincare brand founded by mother-daughter duo Dawn and Micaela Hoo. They entered into the clean beauty space because of daughter Micaela’s chronic health issues. Due to her late-stage chronic Lyme disease, she suffers from skin rashes that in the past became so severe, she lost flexibility in her fingers. This gave her mother Dawn impetus to create natural skincare remedies in the kitchen. My July body butters, body oils, face oil and face mist are organic, vegan, free of parabens and toxic chemicals.
“I don’t wish my chronic illnesses on anyone, but I truly believe I was given them for a reason,” says Micaela Hoo. “Healing full-time while also running a business full-time is a constant balancing act, but I am passionate about both.” Her mother concurs that it can be difficult to balance work and personal life when running a small business, but finds the work profoundly meaningful.
They both caution aspiring entrepreneurs to “be sure you are head over heels obsessed with what you’re doing. Once you start making a career out of it, you will have to eat, breathe, and sleep your chosen path. If you’re not 1000% in love with it in the first place, it won’t align in the future. That said, if you look at your business through the lens of pure unadulterated love, it’s living your life purpose. That is a life worth living.”
Lunalis is an American-made, Moroccan-born luxury skin care collection founded by sisters Laila and Nana Quiroga after they lost their mother to cancer. This tragic event showed them how serious health conditions like cancer can be triggered by the toxic chemicals your body is exposed to. They embarked on a journey to find the highest-level integrity ingredients, and discovered fabulous botanicals in their native Morocco like prickly pear seed oil. All Lunalis pure skin care products are free of parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, artificial colors and dyes.
The primary mission of Lunalis, beyond creating all-natural products, is to empower women and make a difference in underserved indigenous communities. They source ingredients from women-powered organic farms in Morocco, paying fair wages and ensuring ethical working conditions and job stability.
“Follow your heart and success will follow,” says Laila Quiroga to aspiring change makers.
Just Beauty CBD
CBD-infused beauty and skincare products have exploded in popularity over the past few years. Just Beauty CBD aims to differentiate itself by making CBD beauty products that are both earth-friendly and affordable. Latin-founded and women-owned, Just Beauty is run by husband-wife team Israel Cancel and Shamor Belliard.
Just Beauty CBD products are clean, vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainably packaged. Furthermore, they contain zero water, which means less fillers and preservatives, more concentrated formulas, and products that are better for the earth. The cofounders welcome diverse employees and customers all genders, races, sizes, and walks of life.
“We created Just Beauty CBD during the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020 while being tucked away at home with our very energetic 4- and 6-year-old boys,” says Belliard to aspiring entrepreneurs. “You must burn the boats and commit fully to starting your own company. There should be no plan B. Avoid distractions and remain hyper-focused on your why. The road to success won’t be easy, but it will be worth it in the long run.”
Growing up with strong ties to her Taiwanese roots, PURR Skincare founder Cynthia Lin always felt connected to the ancient healing practices passed down by her ancestors. To combat health issues she experienced from an early age, she received regular treatments from traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists. This spurred her lifelong interest in minimal, natural, plant-based remedies. Designed to be used as a ritualistic, grounding practice, PURR’s 100% organic, sustainable, plant-based products are handcrafted in the U.S.
Lin was diagnosed with the most severe form of Lupus (SLE) at the age of 10 and has been on steroids-based medication for over three decades. The medication has side effects including skin thinning, severe acne, face redness, and stripe-like marks on the skin. Hundreds of visits to dermatologists and thousands of dollars spent on products didn’t work, from laser treatments to premium skincare lines. So, Lin decided to take a certified course in organic skincare and build her own company.
To aspiring change makers, Lin says, “The entrepreneur’s journey is never easy. It can be very lonely, frustrating, and sometimes exhausting. My advice is to trust your intuition, hold on to your dreams, and do it with the determination of a squirrel.”
Mexican beauty brand Nopalera recently announced an oversubscribed seed round of $2.7 million. For the previous two years, founder Sandra Velasquez single-handedly bootstrapped the startup beauty brand. Nopalera harnesses native Mexican and South American botanicals such as cactus to create its clean skincare line, which is available at retailers including Nordstroms, Whole Foods, and Free People.
As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, Velasquez is filled with both pride and responsibility for building a successful Latina-founded brand. “I hope that my story of being a beauty industry outsider and launching Nopalera at the age of 44 with no outside funding inspires others in the community to make big moves,” she says.
“I have a lot of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs,” Velasquez says. “One, do not let your dreams and desires be constrained by your current economic circumstances. Two, begin with the end in mind. Decide what you want and then work backwards to achieve it. Three, stop trying to do everything by yourself. Ask for help.”