Every time I jab a mascara wand directly into my eye, I pause to consider that I have no idea what just went in there. That’s where the thought process ends, however. For Nikki Bent, Man Repeller’s Director of Ad Operations and Product, the thought process of considering her makeup’s ingredients has only just begun. She’s currently working toward an all-natural beauty (and home cleaning!) collection, slowly parting with her former favorite makeup brands and dish detergents in favor of natural replacements.
Though I’m a loyalist to products I’ve long-ago mastered, I was curious to learn about her process to see if there were any swaps she made that I might want to try, especially given my propensity for using cabs as my vanity tables, and assuming I’d like to keep both eyes.
Why She Switched
Nikki’s been on a conscious quest to make healthier lifestyle choices, and deodorant kicked off the beauty front. A friend who’d made the switch to natural deodorant recommended a book to her called No More Dirty Looks.
Nikki tells me: “In a section of the book about toxicology, experts are divided on the issue of whether certain chemicals found in makeup are safe or dangerous. As one toxicologist put it, ‘the dosage makes the poison.’ None of it’s conclusive, but after reading both sides, and finishing the book, I took the same approach as the authors: why bother using that which I can’t be 100% sure is safe?”
Concerns Before She Switched Her Beauty Products
Nikki is a religious makeup-wearer. On a hiking trip with friends in Peru, she applied makeup before 5 a.m. hikes because she couldn’t imagine the alternative. When I ask her to choose her “deserted island” pick, she gives me two: mascara and highlighter. When I say, “Okay, but what if you could only have one of those two?” the pause is so pregnant it’s practically on maternity leave. Needless to say, she didn’t switch her beauty over to the natural side as easily as she did with dish soap. Her biggest worry was that natural makeup would wear off more easily, smudge more readily and move around all over her face.
It’s All About Compromise
The truth is: It does wear off more easily, smudge more readily and move around, but only if pushed over its limits, she tells me. So she makes compromises. She wears less makeup now, stopped wearing eyeliner daily, has accepted that her eyelashes don’t look as long and curled with natural mascara, and brings her makeup with her for touch-ups on occasions where she plans to overstay her makeup’s welcome. But because this transition was important to her, she says these little compromises are worth it.
Her Overhaul Strategy
Per a recommendation from No More Dirty Looks, the first products Nikki swapped were those she used the most often and that covered the largest parts of her body. That meant shampoo, conditioner, body wash, clothing detergent and lotion. Nikki replaced nearly everything with Dr. Bronner’s Organic Pure-Castile Soap. She’s still working through a Costco-sized vat of dish detergent, but when she finishes it, she plans to use Dr. Bronner’s for that, too. She moisturizes with olive oil (“It’s better on my skin than coconut — more moisturizing”) and uses coconut oil to remove makeup. Her toothpaste is Auromére, her mouthwash is Tom’s. Instead of perfume, she uses essential oils. Nikki says these swaps were easy, as the natural versions are largely effective.
The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting for: The Makeup
The friend who recommended the book to Nikki put together a comprehensive list of all the makeup products she’d tried, along with her reviews. W3ll People’s mascara came so highly recommended that Nikki went ahead and ordered all its products that were comparable to her former routine. She’s also tried items from Jane Iredale’s line.
Below is Nikki’s own list, compiled after 10 months of testing the products herself. You can use this to start your own — or if you’re already a pro, let us know in the comments what you like, love and are having trouble replacing.
Nikki switched to W3ll People Setting Powder.
“To really get my makeup to stay with this setting powder, I have to apply it first before foundation and eye makeup, then use the setting powder on top again. While I haven’t used either primer since the transition, I haven’t been able to throw out the ones I have. I really love them.”
Nikki was loyal to BareMinerals Liquid Foundation.
Nikki now uses W3ll People Tinted Moisturizer.
“There are other natural products and brands that have better coverage, but I started with the tinted moisturizer because it’s so hard to match my skin tone when ordering online. Overall, natural makeup brands need to work toward better inclusion. Of the natural foundations I found, my shade was the darkest available.
Comment section: If there are natural brands out there I haven’t come across that cater toward a wider range of skin tones, I’d love to know about them so I have more options to offer to friends who ask!”
Bronzer and Blush
“This transition was tough. I love the Nars duo, and it was a staple in my makeup routine for years. Transitioning to a cream blush took some time. Now I love this combo, and I use the colors on my lips, too, if I’m going for a nude lip look.”
Nikki used Benefit’s Watt’s Up Highlighter.
“I originally got W3ll People’s highlighter but needed a little more oomf for it to feel comparable to Benefit’s. I supplement with Jane Iredale’s pencil when I want some extra highlighting, and since it’s a pencil, it’s great for application around the eyes.”
Nikki really, really, really loved Stila Liquid Eyeliner.
Now she uses W3ll People Liquid Eyeliner.
“This was the biggest compromise. When paired with the Urban Decay primer, Stila eyeliner will never leave your eyes until you wash your face with makeup remover. I could do a heavy cat eye and be confident it would last for eight hours without retouching it. To avoid the inevitable smudge of natural eyeliner, I learned to apply less of it. It still looks good! Setting it with black eye shadow (I use W3ll People Elitist Satin eye shadow) helps the liquid liner stay in place longer. That said, I’m not so extreme that I wouldn’t use a non-natural liquid liner for special occasions.”
Mascara and Lash Primer
“This was the second-biggest compromise. With the Lancôme primer and Benefit Mascara, my lashes definitely looked longer after application, and it wouldn’t rub off during the day. The W3ll People Mascara is good, but I need the Jane Iredale Conditioner to help it stay. My lashes don’t look as long as they used to, but I also lose fewer lashes now because these products are more gentle. (I used to always lose lashes while washing my older products off my face.) I also just bought magnetic lashes after reading about them. Still figuring out how to use them.”
Nikki wasn’t loyal to any one eye shadow.
Now she uses Jane Iredale PurePressed Powder in Brown.
“I only use eye shadow on special occasions and love the Jane Iredale one. I found no difference at all between this product and the others I used to use.”
Nikki used Sephora Red Cream Lip Stain.
“I haven’t used it since, but I still haven’t been able to throw out my Sephora lip stain. The bright red would last almost all night. I have the Jane Iredale lip stains in a few colors, but to be honest, none of them are as bright as the Sephora one. I’ve totally switched over to darker lip colors (I use the fig color from W3ll People) and reapply throughout the evening now.”
Since Nikki’s just getting going — and I’m more swayed than ever — share your favorite brands, tips and tricks for this whole world of natural swap-outs for stuff one might find in the bathroom or kitchen or cab vanity or wherever.
Photos by Edith Young.