When I first went vegan in the mid-90s, I attended a raw cooking class in San Diego. Normally, it would be all about the food, but something else captured my attention that day: the absolutely effervescent, glowing skin of the instructor. I was mesmerized, and had to know her secret. After class, I approached her and asked what beauty products she used. She told me that every morning, she moisturized her face and body with jojoba oil. I immediately went out and bought a bottle of the golden-colored botanical oil and used it daily for the next decade.
This experience is what opened my eyes to using only the simplest, cleanest skincare products I could find. After all, as much as 60 percent of the body products we use are absorbed into our bloodstreams, and many of the FDA-approved ingredients found in today’s mega beauty brands are proven to cause cancer and skin disorders—the reason they’re often banned in countries around the world. Think how quickly a lotion or cream or oil disappears from the surface of our skin after applying. I’ve learned there’s no difference between what I put in my mouth and what I put on my skin—and nourishing my body with natural foods and natural bodycare is how I want to live.
Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of vegan beauty products. We’re constantly sampling them in the VegNews’ office to share with readers, and I always enjoy lingering in the bodycare section of natural food stores to see what’s new and exciting. But time after time, I’m drawn to the brands with the shortest ingredient lists—just like the food I try to put into my body. Some of these products are pricier than what we’re used to finding at the drugstore, but they’re highly concentrated (so a little goes a long way), they’re made by companies I want to support, and I see them as an investment in my long-term health. After lots of experimentation, here are my top 10 favorite vegan beauty brands.
One of my editorial interns first told me about this deliciously scented, chemical-free, and highly concentrated bodycare line a few years ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since. In flavors like blood orange, meyer lemon, and cocoa kona coffee (all aromas come from fruit pigments and pure essential oils), I can’t get enough of the body butters, foam soap (great for shaving), and facial serums (the Super Fruits Concentrated Serum is superb). In fact, I adore the brand so much that we gave everyone on the VegNews’ team a gift basket full of 100% Pure products for the holidays. It’s that good.
I first discovered this boutique beauty brand at Natural Products Expo West, and fell in love with its super-clean products, earthy scents, and organic ingredients. Unlike the big-name brands we find at supermarkets, companies like Antho don’t use chemicals, preservatives, fillers, or parabens—and they feel great. My go-to Antho products? The Lavender Citrus Organic Body Oil, the Raspberry Mint Body Butter, and the Orange Vanilla Body Scrub.
As a company that describes itself as a “vegan spa & apothecary”, I was immediately drawn to this brand when it launched in late 2013. After trying the products, I became hooked. All of Botanicalz’ salt scrubs, body balms, whipped butters, and aromatherapy mists are made by hand, and their Vegan Spa Kit will transport anyone to their favorite getaway place. The Bergamot-Lime Whipped Body Butter (smells like key lime pie) and the Bliss Mist Aromatherapy Room & Body Spray are fabulous, and 10 percent of the vegan-owned company’s profits are donated to animal sanctuaries.
Another VegNews’ intern turned me onto this Northern California-based artisan apothecary, where everything is made by hand in small batches using only the best plant-based ingredients. From organic coconut oil (a great natural moisturizer), organic chamomile (fights free radicals), organic evening primose oil (a natural astringent), and organic comfrey root (promotes new cell growth), the line features just six products—but they’re all wonderful and perfectly formulated. The “C” Perfect Skin is a rich anti-aging serum that I use daily, and I keep a jar of the ylang ylang-scented Balm in my office at all times to moisturize throughout the day.
I absolute adore this vegan-owned bodycare company out of Oakland, California, as the founders have created what is my dream product. Made with just six ingredients (Hawaiian coconut, sunflower oil, hemp seeds, macadamia nuts, African marula, and shea nuts), Ellovi’s signature body butter is thick, concentrated, and packaged in a gorgeous pink and black glass jar. A little goes a long way, and I use it daily instead of lotion. Be sure to treat yourself to a stick of its brand-new Lip Butter, made with the same six food-grade, plant-based ingredients.
Okay, this one is for all of you who want a little luxury in your life, but I promise: Eminence is worth every penny. This Hungarian company revolutionized plant-based beauty products (Eminence was founded in 1958), and continues to produce some of the highest-quality, organic, and chemical-free formulas on the market. And because each product is so dense (no fillers or water is added), your purchase will last a very long time. The Persimmon & Cantaloupe SPF Day Cream keeps my skin protected, the Coconut Age Corrective Moisturizer replenishes my face overnight, and the Pear & Poppy Seed Microderm Polisher exfoliates the harsh city elements I’ve been exposed to during the day. Let’s just say that Eminence has become a staple on my Christmas list each year.
With a philosphy of “beauty by rebels for rebels”, Canadian-based Stark Skincare stands up to the unrealistic promises made by the mainstream beauty industry with its sumptuous line of hand-crafted, organic, and fair-trade body products. My absolute favorite is the Grapefruit Cleanse + Hydrate Balm, as a dab on my neck and hands keeps me feeling (and smelling) fresh all day long. And guess what? It smells like real grapefruit, and because it has no added water, it’s super concentrated. After a long day at the VegNews’ office, I give my face an invigorating spritz of the White Willow Bark Perfect Tonic before heading out to dinner or hitting a yoga class.
The Orange Owl
What do you get when you combine a luscious product line, heavenly scents, a passionate business owner, and affordable prices? The Vermont-based Orange Owl, and I can’t get enough of everything they make. Let’s start with the Lemon Twist Body Butter—it’s whipped like the most gorgeous tub of (vegan) butter you’ve ever seen, and the lemon-lime-grapefruit fragrance lingers all day long. The Mocha Buzz body scrub (a blend of dark-roasted coffee, fair-trade cocoa, and a hint of vanilla) keeps my skin polished and soft. And one swoop of the Cinnamon & Spice lip balm hydrates my lips for hours on end. Stock up for yourself, or send one of their gorgeous gift baskets to a friend.
I am totally impressed by what this company has done to elevate vegan beauty care, as I see its products everywhere. SpaRitual’s founding philosophy is all about “slow beauty,” where we return to a regimen of simple wellness (I’m all about that!). Best known for its nail polishes (a product typically laden with harsh chemicals and animal dyes), the Hunk of Burnin’ Love has become my go-to pedicure red—but the line also features lotions, body butters, serums, oils, scrubs, and tonics.
When founder Suki Kramer first started her company back in 2002, she sent product samples to VegNews for us to review—and I loved them. I featured the brand-new line in our next issue, and I’ve followed the company every since. As someone who struggled with skin allergies and chronic eczema, Kramer set out to create products that were clean, natural, and clinically proven to be effective. My top picks? The Hydrating Body Oil (made with apricot kernel oil and comfrey) and the Nourishing Facial Oil (blended with carrot root and evening primrose oil).