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Experts Say These Clean-Beauty Picks Are as Good as (or Better Than) Regular


The clean-beauty space has come a long way in recent years. Not only is there higher demand for natural, sustainably made, organic, and/or completely nontoxic formulas, but there is also an increasing number of fresh brands entering the space with exciting, cutting-edge launches that officially shed the old-school "granola" or "inefficacious" stereotypes associated with natural beauty formulas.

Even though the best clean-beauty brands are slowly but surely leveling up and finding themselves batting in the big leagues alongside their non-clean counterparts at high-profile, glossy retailers like Sephora, Nordstrom, Ulta, Violet Grey, and Amazon, we're especially partial to the chic boutiques, ateliers, and retailers that are solely dedicated to nontoxic beauty, including names like The Detox Market, Goop, Follain, and Credo

Recently, I learned that Credo, one of my personal favorite places to shop for new beauty obsessions, regularly works with leading experts in the beauty industry to educate their customer community, lend intel and perspective, advise on launches and formulations, and so on. (The range spans from clean-beauty-loving celebs and founders like Venus Williams to celebrity makeup artists and dermatologists.) 

Intrigued, I thought it would be fun to ask a few members of Credo's panel of clean-beauty pros which formulas they think are as good as the products' non-clean (aka "regular") classmates. Keep scrolling! Below, they're sharing all of the best clean-beauty products they'd personally prioritize and add to their Credo shopping carts. 

"The formulator for this foundation reached out to me as she was creating and wanted to know a few of my favorite mainstream foundations. She was looking to create something that, up until now, hadn’t been done before in the clean-beauty space. As a makeup artist working with actors on the red carpet, I need a foundation that’s easily buildable in coverage, that doesn't look cakey, and that looks as close to real skin as possible. She didn’t just give me that. She also included advanced skincare ingredients and came up with the Exa Jump Start Smoothing Primer ($34) to help extend the foundation's wear. This foundation comes in 43 shades with a vast array of undertones."

"I’d been hard-pressed to find a clean-beauty protective hair oil that didn’t weigh down my hair, making my curls look lifeless or my heat-straightened hair look stringy. However, then I came across Nuele. Their formulation is surprisingly simple, but it’s exactly what my hair needs, and it was created to work magic across the hair-texture spectrum. It’s healing to scalps in need, and the scent is a really nice divergence from the often too floral or too sweet fragrances found in so many hair products."

"I love these bold colors, and the skin-softening and hydrating ingredients are great no matter how many fine lines or serious wrinkles you have around your eyes. With on-trend, fun shades like these that actually show up on skin (I still love using the wet brush method, just as I do with mainstream shadows) now available in clean beauty, there’s really no reason to look elsewhere."

"In my book, there’s still nothing better than these coconut oil–based, shimmery-ray-of-light-infusing highlighters and bronzers from RMS Beauty. They feel so good on the skin, and they are a great blend of color-pigment particles, mica (the shimmer), and creamy oil, which come together to melt into skin."

"Together, they create a beautiful luminosity that’s just not possible with a powder highlighter, and they definitely surpass 95% of the mainstream, chalky, streaky, overly glittery, creamy highlighters."

"These are soooo creamy and hydrating. I love all of the colors, and they don’t just feel like they’re hydrating my lips. They actually are hydrating and healing my lips with each application. They’re made with a base of organic castor, sunflower, camellia seed, and jojoba oils, something no conventional lipstick brands can claim."

“When I was working as a makeup artist for Nars, I wore their Sheer Glow Foundation daily. Now that I have switched over to clean beauty, I love Exa’s High Fidelity Foundation even more because it has more shade options, and you don’t have to purchase a pump separately. Both formulas are buildable with a natural, light-reflecting finish that still looks like your real skin.”

“Finding a clean swap for my beloved Caudalie Beauty Elixir was tough until I discovered Indie Lee’s Co Q10 Toner at Credo Beauty. After one mist, I was hooked. Both formulas are great for misting your face before and after makeup application, except Indie Lee’s provides added protection thanks to the skin-soothing antioxidant CoQ10. Get into it!”

“I love a mascara brush that grips my lashes because it helps to lengthen and define. The dual-sided brush of Ilia’s Limitless Lash Mascara allows me to add volume to my lashes first then flip to the comb side and add length and definition. I also love the subtle sheen it adds to my lashes!”

“Everyone loves the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer, and I’ll be honest, this was the toughest clean swap for me to make! Then, in early 2020, Kosas dropped their Revealer Super Creamy + Brightening Concealer, and I was in love. This concealer provides medium to full coverage, has a skin-like finish, and it doubles as skincare that helps brighten your complexion! Like her Nars twin, she looks best blended with clean fingers. Stunning!”

“I love to double cleanse every night, and Clinique’s Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil was my favorite for years. I discovered One Love Organics' Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil at Credo, and it comes as no surprise that this is a top seller. It glides across the skin, taking makeup, dirt, and oil with it. I love how my face feels afterward, and it has a calming, nonirritating fragrance.”

"I have said it before, and I’ll say it again many more times: This lip product is the best thing ever. It is an organic, handmade, insanely moisturizing pot of heaven that I can’t live without. I use it all day long and apply an extra-thick layer before bed every night. There is simply not a conventional product out there that can match the experience and end result of Lip Whip."

"Wow. This is literally the perfect foundation. I bought it the minute it went live at Credo and couldn’t believe how much I loved it the first time I put it on. I would call it full coverage, which is usually too much for me. But it is so lightweight and doesn’t feel greasy like so many other brands (even at the end of a long day), so it really works like a dream for my average day of five million Zoom calls. Oh, and zero breakouts!"

"It is a disservice to call this product a highlighter. It is more of an incredible, glowy, gorgeous skin enhancer that instantly pulls together any look and makes it look like I drink lots of green juice and get tons of sleep. This shade looks really beautiful on cheekbones and eyes, and it never looks fake, dry, or overdone like other highlighters out there."

"I learned decades ago in makeup-artist training (years before YouTube tutorials!) that a great waterproof mascara can help keep the curl in your eyelashes all day. After years of searching for a clean alternative to the mass brands that made my eyes really itchy and irritated, I found Ere’s genius formula made with avocado oil. It holds the curl from my eyelash curler, layers really nicely, and washes off easily with any cleanser."

"When someone spends years concocting a single formula, I take notice. Aside from the stunning bottle, Cosmic Glow Oil is incredible for daily use and has been a staple in my skincare routine since I got my hot little hands on one. It is lightweight, which is the best for me when it comes to facial oils, and the incredible aromatherapy makes me very happy to put it on any chance I get!"

It's rare to find a creamy, cleanly formulated eye pencil that comes in so many stunning shades, but Ere Perez's jojoba oil–based favorite does just that. The natural ingredients stimulate lash growth, the delicate formula plays nicely with even the most sensitive of eyes, and Williams touts it as one of her all-time favorite products from Credo. 

Next on Williams's list? This holy grail, multitasking cleanser from Tata Harper. Unlike so many facial scrubs on the market, this one is gentle enough for daily use, and the lush, organic ingredients (including BHAs from white willow bark and apricot microspheres) polish away dulling dead skin cells.

Williams recommends this line-filling, gentle eye balm from Alpyn Beauty that is chock-full of antioxidants. It utilizes a proprietary complex of wildcrafted and hand-cultivated botanicals grown in the mountains surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and boasts a list of superfood ingredients that would give your local juice bar a run for its money.

When it comes to glow-inducing skincare recs, we definitely want what Williams is having, and according to the shopping list she provided us with, this legendary brightening exfoliator from Pai is at the top of her collection of clean-beauty must-haves. Ultra-gentle, silky, and nourishing to the skin, it's compatible with all skin types but is an especially great alternative if you have sensitive or acne-prone skin. 

If you haven't yet been introduced to Williams's very own clean sunscreen formula, let us help you make acquaintance. This sheer mineral sunscreen is designed to work with all skin types and all skin tones. It features an SPF protection of 30, is dermatologist approved, and easily sinks into the skin, leaving behind a semi-matte finish (sans chalkiness!). Up next: 11 At-Home Beauty Rituals That Immediately Lift Our Mood