I think foundation is the most important makeup product. It is, well, the foundation for all other makeup. Getting the right shade and formulation of foundation affects how all your makeup goes together.
In preparing this list, I tried to select foundations with proven results and that reflect the diversity of sustainable foundation formulations. Just like conventional makeup, there are some duds. I scoured editorial and customer reviews to ensure that only the best made the list.
One last caveat before I begin the list. I have not tried all of these. As of writing this, ILIA Beauty Super Serum Tint Foundation is the only one I have tried. However, everyone is something I would like to try.
Tinted Serum: ILIA Beauty Super Serum Tint Foundation SPF 40
$46.00. The reviews are in and ILIA’s newest complexion product is a hit. It won the 2020 Byrdie Eco Award for “Best Foundation.” ILIA Beauty bills itself as “Skincare-powered makeup.” This tinted serum provides dewy, barely-there coverage. The skincare benefits come from superstar ingredients Hyaluronic Acids, plant-based Squalane, and Niacinamide.
Sustainability: The SPF in the Super Serum Tint Foundation is reef-safe non-nano Zinc Oxide. ILIA Beauty makes recycling easy by providing free pre-paid postage for shipping your empties for recycling. As I reported in my review of ILIA’s Limitless Lash Mascara, ILIA Beauty uses renewable energy in some of its manufacturing and is looking to expand renewable energy. ILIA also uses certified organic ingredients and is Leaping Bunny certified.
Tinted Moisturizer: Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer
$45.00 Another 2020 Byrdie Eco Award winner, Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer earned the title of “Best Tinted Moisturizer.” This sheer foundation includes black currant seed oil, peony root extract, and vitamin C and claims to increase skin firmness and elasticity. Rio Viera-Newton of the Strategist says “Two pumps of this tinted moisturizer made my skin look like I was the most well-rested, radiant girl in the world. It gave me the kind of hydrating glow I’ve only ever really seen after walking out of an expensive facial.”
Sustainability: Beautycounter is a Certified B Corporation. Of all the certifications, B Corp is my favorite because it address all three pillars of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental. Beautycounter is one the few brands that provides information about its sustainability practices and they excel at all of Beauty and the Planet‘s sustainability priorities: carbon footprint, sustainable packaging, ingredient sourcing and ecotoxicology, and ethics.
Mineral Foundation: Alima Pure Satin Matte Foundation
$28.00 Mineral powder foundation is the first makeup that I loved. Back then my skin was more oily than dry (it’s the reverse now). Mineral foundation evened my complexion and conquered shininess but still made me look like I wasn’t wearing makeup. With 45 shades, the Satin Matte Foundation is more inclusive than most other foundations.
Sustainability: Alima Pure is another Certified B Corporation. Alima Pure maintains 100% carbon neutrality by offsetting carbon emissions, participates in 1% for the Planet (donates 1% of gross revenue to environmental organizations) and is cruelty free.
Compact Powder Foundation: Antonym Cosmetics Baked Powder Foundation
$38.00. Antonym’s Baked Powder Foundation is a cream foundation that has been baked into a powder. It seems to provide slightly more coverage than a loose mineral foundation. YouTuber Zabrena likes it so much she featured it in both her “Best Skin-like Lightweight Foundations: Drugstore & Highend” and “Highend Makeup Worth Your Money: Top Tested Favorites” videos. Unfortunately, the shade range is very limited. There are only 6 shades and the darkest one doesn’t look very dark to me.
Sustainability: While Antonym Cosmetics fails at inclusivity, it excels at sustainability. Its biodegradable bamboo packaging earns it a spot on nearly every zero/low-waste beauty list. Antonym Cosmetics boasts ECOCERT Certification. To earn ECOCERT Certification, a company must meet several sustainability standards regarding everything from ingredient sourcing to manufacturing to transportation of final products.
Stick Foundation: W3LL PEOPLE Narcissist Foundation Stick
$28.99 I don’t know why, but I really like its name. Kelly Gallagher from Byrdie says “The formula is lightweight enough you can apply a quick swipe in the backseat of a cab (to even skin tone or nix redness), but it’s also extremely buildable if you want more coverage.” I’ve never tried a stick foundation, but it seems to me its portability makes it a good choice for the purse. Its availability at Target makes it one of the more accessible eco-friendly foundations on this list. Unfortunately, with only 10 shades it is also one of the least inclusive.
Sustainability: W3LL PEOPLE says “All our ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced. Our packaging is created with post recycled plastics and it is all recyclable. Our boxes are made with FSC Certified paper, which ensures products come from well managed forests.” They claim, “ingredients are ethically and sustainably sourced” but I haven’t had the chance to confirm this. W3LL PEOPLE is Leaping Bunny and PETA certified.
Refillable Cream Foundation: Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation
$68.00, $45.00 for refill. This is the most expensive foundation on the list. The slightly more affordable ($53.00) Red Edition comes in a compostable cardboard compact. The Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation earned the designation of “Best Cream” foundation in Byrdie‘s “12 Natural Foundations for Complexion Perfection.” Melanie Rud said “A blend of oils give it its creamy base, which translates into a velvety, semi-matte finish that leaves your skin flawless.” While this medium coverage foundation comes in 16 shades, it appears to favor the lighter end of the spectrum.
Sustainability: Kjaer Weis is known for its refillable products. The brand uses very little, if any, plastic. Kjaer Weis is cruelty-free and the Cream Foundation is certified organic in Italy.
Drugstore: Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows
$16.99. First off, Burt’s Bees is not vegan. If you only use vegan beauty, skip to the next foundation. Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows is certainly the most affordable foundation featured here. Although it only has 18 shades, it does seem to cover the full spectrum. Personally, I find it hard to match when a foundation comes in too many shades.
Sustainability: Burt’s Bees is one of the few companies that provide a sustainability report. 2018 is there most recent report. Burt’s Bees uses about 52% postconsumer waste in its plastics, although I think the Goodness Glows foundation comes in glass. They don’t just rely on suppliers’ self-assessments for sustainable ingredient sourcing, but make site visit and employ third-party auditors.
Full Coverage Foundation: exa beauty High Fidelity Foundation
$38.00. Earlier this month, Credo Beauty launched its private label, exa beauty, with the High Fidelity Foundation. It was immediately lauded for it inclusive 43-shade range. Essence‘s Jennifer Ford said, “what I love most about the semi-matte foundation is its buildable and breathable coverage, which makes the skin look supple and fresh (think post–lymphatic facial).”
Sustainability: The recyclable glass bottle comes nestled in a compostable tray packed in a 100% post-consumer waste box. Other than packaging, exa beauty provides little information about their sustainability practices. It is cruelty-free, which I consider the bare minimum.
This list is not exhaustive. There were so many others I wanted to include but didn’t have room for. I would love to hear about your favorite sustainable foundation. Did it make the list? Comment below!