Arts & Culture

Natural Beauty, Southern Style

Our list of the best clean lipstick, mascara, perfume, and other personal products

By nature, Southern women are fiercely loyal creatures, especially when it comes to all things beauty. My paternal grandmother wore the same lipstick color her entire life, and my mom still swears by the perfume she’s worn since her twenties. The products are, as we say, our signatures. However, when I was pregnant with my son a little over a year ago, my doctor asked me to start paying attention to every product I used. The number one thing she asked me to get rid of, after seeing the ingredients, was my beloved perfume! She explained that our skin is like any other organ in the body, and spraying perfume laden with chemicals every day just wasn’t worth it, especially while carrying a baby. She also asked me to stop getting manicures and pedicures at conventional beauty salons. “But whyyyy?,” I asked in dismay. The bottom line: Most traditional beauty salons use tons of chemicals that circulate through the air, and she wanted me to avoid them while growing a human. My determination to find healthy alternates led me down a rabbit hole of research into natural beauty salons, and I began collecting and testing an extensive list of natural alternatives to just about everything in my medicine cabinet and beauty bag, right down to my shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen—even laundry detergent. Along the way, I was advised by Jessica Morse, the co-founder of the Charleston, South Carolina-based Bare Beauty Blog, an invaluable resource for wellness and clean beauty information, and cofounder of the new nontoxic nail salon called the Water Room, the first of its kind here. And I was delighted to find that some of the best clean beauty services and products are Southern. Here are some of my favorites:

Best Gel-Alternative Nail Polish: Dazzle Dry

This polish “lasts up to two weeks,” Morse says of the brand preferred at the Water Room. “Anything that lasts longer than that makes me suspicious. Nail polish is not a ‘natural’ process, so we’re not going to make some crazy claim that it’s ‘holistic.’ But we do our research.” $18;

Best Natural Lipstick: RMS (based in Charleston, South Carolina)

I love a color of this called Rebound, because it’s a classic, old-school blue-red. It also doesn’t leave your lips looking crepe-y and dry since it contains both enriching oil and antioxidants. Plus, it’s free of potentially harmful parabens found in most conventional lipsticks. $28;

Best Natural Powder Blush: Kosas

This is a lovely powder blush that looks natural. My favorite hue is a true pink flush called Longitude 0. $34;

Best Concealer: RMS

This formula has a cult-like following for good reason. It goes on evenly, it doesn’t cake, it doesn’t irritate my seriously sensitive skin, and it looks like I’m not wearing makeup. Also, it comes in a beautiful little pot that’s easy to travel with and use anywhere. There are tons of shades for every skin tone. Mine is 22. $36;

Best Natural Mascara: Lily Lolo

This is so, so gentle and highlights lashes beautifully. $20;

Best Eyeliner: Kjaer Weis

I wear eyeliner every day, and this one smudges for a smoky look easily but doesn’t drip down my face by the end of the day. All four colors are great. $30;

Best Natural Perfume: Strange Invisible Perfumes

This was a major score when I found out about it. Not only is every scent free of harmful synthetic ingredients, each smells amazing. There’s a scent with jasmine, bergamot, and grapefruit that comes very close to my beloved signature fragrance that I had to give up—and even one inspired by New Orleans. $115;

Best Natural Toothpaste: David’s

I was skeptical that a natural toothpaste would make my teeth squeaky clean, but this one tastes amazing and does a better job than my old big-box brand. Plus, it comes with a little tool to squeeze out every last bit so there’s zero waste. $10;

Best Natural Shampoo, Conditioner, Body Wash, and Shave Cream: Meant Simply

I am obsessed with these two products. One is a shampoo and body wash, the other a conditioner and shave cream. So genius. And they work on all hair and skin types because they’re very gentle. Bonus: no ethoxylated ingredients, no parabens, no synthetic fragrance, no bad-for-you anything. $31 each;

Best Natural Body Scrub: Little Barn Apothecary (Based in Atlanta, Georgia)

This smells incredible and exfoliates better than any scrub I’ve tried. $30;

Best Natural Deodorant: Schmidt’s and Corpus Naturals

Of all the clean choices I’ve made, the switch to natural deodorant is probably the best. It took a little while to find what really worked, and it may sound weird, but I layer Schmidt’s Ylang-Ylang and Calendula ($9; with Corpus Naturals in No. Green ($22;

Best Dry Shampoo: Kaia Naturals

Most chemically-laden dry shampoos are aerosols, which are bad for the environment and hard to travel with. This non-aerosol is designed to flow easily once you shake it up—and it works! There are two formulas: one for dark hair and one for light hair. $32;

Best Facewash: One Love Organics (Based in Savannah, Georgia)

I cannot say enough about this product, which was a finalist in G&G’s 2015 Made in the South Awards. I did not think I would ever embrace the idea of washing my face with oil, but this feels like velvet going on and hydrates without leaving a greasy feeling. $42;

Best Natural Face Lotion with Sunscreen: Susanne Kaufmann

This is light and hydrating at the same time. Many days I wear this without any makeup at all. $315;

Best Natural Nighttime Moisturizer with Exfoliant: Alpyn Beauty

Lately I’ve read a lot about Bakuchiol, a gentler alternative to the exfoliant retinol which often causes skin to peel and flake. I have a one-year-old, so I feel like I always look tired, but when I put this on at night and wake up the next morning, my skin feels refreshed (the opposite of how I feel on a sleep level—ha!). $60;

Best Natural Nighttime Undereye Therapy: Maya Chia (based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina)

This lovely, female-led company is based in G&G’s backyard. The roller soothes and repairs the delicate skin under and around the eyes with chia oil. It absorbs quickly, too. $70;

Best Detoxing Face Mask: Oxalis Apothecary (Based in New Orleans, Louisiana)

This goes on the color of terra-cotta, and I like the geranium oil in it, which is naturally antibacterial. $18;

Best Bath Soak: Little Barn Apothecary

If this were sold by the barrel I would buy it by the barrel. I am its number one fan and love to give it as a gift to discerning friends because I believe in it that much. It’s the ideal antidote to a stressful day and leaves your skin completely moisturized afterward. $34;

Best Natural Bath Oil: Susanne Kaufmann

This witch hazel bath is beautiful to look at and so hydrating. I usually combine it with the above bath soak for a total spa day at home. $70;

Best Natural Body Sunscreen: Suntegrity

A wonderful mineral-based alternative to chemical sunscreen. $36;

Best Natural Laundry Detergent and Cleaning Supplies: Branch Basics

I’ve long been allergic to most common laundry detergents with loads of fragrances and always feel sick around conventional cleaning products. I switched to this brand of both when I got pregnant and haven’t looked back. $69;

Best Natural Static Sheet Alternative: Bog Berry Dryer Balls

This collection of handmade dryer balls sells out quickly, but they always return to this site and are a really efficient, nontoxic way to knock wrinkles out of clothes without soaking them in synthetic fragrances and chemicals. You just toss them in with your laundry and turn on the dryer. It’s that easy. $38;

Best Natural Water Filtration for the Whole Family: Clearly Filtered Water Pitcher

This is a steep price for a water pitcher for the fridge, but it’s worth every penny since it filters out lead, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides from tap water. $75;

Best Natural Hand Sanitizer: EO Unscented Gel

Of all the products I’ve researched, this one rises to the very top. Why? Because as a new mom, I don’t want to douse myself or anyone in my family with the goop in most hand sanitizers, which are often laden with endocrine disruptors and other nasties. Best of all, this brand comes in wipes, gels, and sprays for your house, your car, your office, and your purse. I like the unscented versions. $29;