As you’ll see in a minute, U.S. law allows a lot of toxic endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and allergens to get into our makeup products. This can be quite a problem for our tweens and teens who are in such an important time for their hormonal and overall development.
Adolescence is great time to educate and empower your kids about how to choose safer cosmetic and personal care products. So in this article, we’re going to talk about the benefits of choosing non-toxic, natural, and organic makeup kits for tweens and teens; the ingredients to be careful of; and which brands you can trust.
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Why Choose Non-Toxic Makeup For My Tween?
In the United States, cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA the same way food and drugs are. As the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics states: “In fact, cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) includes 112 pages of standards for food and drugs, but just 2 pages are dedicated to cosmetic safety. Existing cosmetic safety law is over 75 years old and provides the FDA with virtually no statutory power to perform even the most rudimentary functions to ensure the safety of an estimated $71 billion cosmetic industry.”
For this reason, conventional makeup (including makeup kits targeted toward kids and tweens) contain a wide variety of toxic ingredients that can affect a person’s health—especially when used regularly and built up in the body over a long period of time.
In 2016, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Breast Cancer Fund did an investigation into what is actually in kids’ cosmetics products and Halloween face paint. Brands they tasted included Disney, Lisa Frank, Claire’s, Hershey’s, and more.
We’re going to discuss some of the specific toxins they discovered in these products in a minute, but first, here is a quick summary of some of the things they found lurking in kids’ makeup and face paint products:
- Parabens: found in 34% of products tested
- Ethoxylated ingredients: found in 28% of products tested
- Fragrance: found in 50% of products tested
- BHT: found in 13% of products tested
- Mineral oil: found in 40% of products tested
- Talc: found in 18% of products tested
- Heavy metals: almost half of products tested contained at least one heavy metal
As you can see, these toxins are quite common in makeup that’s specifically made for kids and tweens. Now let’s talk about why these ingredients are potentially problematic.
Toxic Chemicals To Avoid In Tween Makeup
This is a very common category of toxins that you’ll find in a lot of cosmetics and personal care products. Parabens are preservatives that help prevent the growth of things like mold and other microbes. Considering that mold CAN be toxic for some people, adding preservatives to personal care products and cosmetics doesn’t seem like a bad thing, right?!
But the problem is that parabens are linked to a host of serious health concerns, from cancer to infertility. They are known endocrine disruptors, which means they can wreak havoc in the body’s many important hormonal systems. There are safer and more natural preservatives that can be used instead!
PEG, Steareth, & Other Ethoxylated Ingredients
The problem with PEG is not actually the ingredient itself, but how it’s processed. The process involves ethylene oxide, which is a very problematic irritant that’s known to cause multiple types of cancer and infertility. Unfortunately, products containing PEG be contaminated with ethylene oxide.
The second potential contaminant PEG could contain is called 1,4-dioxane, which is another known carcinogen.
The same goes for other ethoxylated ingredients, such as steareths and laureths. (The “-eth” gives you a hint that ethoxylation has been used.)
The problem is that cosmetics that contain ethoxylated ingredients could contain both of these toxic chemicals—ethylene oxide and/or 1,4-dioxane—even though they weren’t added intentionally, meaning they won’t be listed on the ingredient label.
We talk about “fragrance” on The Filtery all. the. time. In the United States, “fragrance” and “parfum” are protected by an “industry secret” law that allows companies to NOT disclose certain potentially toxic ingredients (there is a list of almost 4,000 of them) on their labels, leaving consumers in the dark. That list includes phthalates, which can disrupt the hormone function of your tween. It’s not just products like perfumes and candles that contain fragrance—a lot of cosmetics do as well.
BHT and its relative, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), are synthetic antioxidants that are also commonly used in cosmetics to extend shelf life. BHA has been linked to reproductive and developmental toxicity, along with cancer.
Although more research still needs to be done on BHT specifically, it should also be noted that it’s a toluene-based ingredient. Toluene is a well-established toxin that can cause neurological damage and more. In the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics investigation, toluene was found in 11% of the products tested.
FD&C colors are synthetic dyes used in “food, drugs, and cosmetics” (which is what “FD&C” stands for).
This includes coal-tar dye, which can contain heavy metal contaminants (like lead). Coal-tar dyes will sneak into cosmetics and hair dyes through long and difficult-to-decipher names like P-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene, and aminophenol. These ingredients have been known to cause eye injury, allergic reactions, and several kinds of cancer. Coal-tar ingredients don’t have to be approved by the FDA; companies only have to give a warning statement on the product’s label.
Other FD&C colors have been associated with things like skin allergies and hyperactivity in children.
It mind sound like a “safe” and “natural” ingredient, but mineral oil is actually derived from crude oil, a.k.a. petroleum. It can contain a significant amount of polycyclic aromatic carbons (PAHs), which are classified as carcinogens.
In its pure form, talc is safe. The problem is that talc is often contaminated with asbestos, which causes cancer, so it’s a risky ingredient to use.
Lead contamination is a real problem, especially in lipsticks and lip glosses. You can read more about that here. Because even small amounts of lead can negatively affect children, and since it’s much more likely that lip products will be ingested, it’s best to be extra careful to use lead-free lipsticks, balms, and glosses.
P.S. If you’re looking for pretend makeup for your youngest kids, check out this article.
The Benefits Of Purchasing A Non-Toxic Makeup Kit For Tweens
Not only will choosing a non-toxic makeup kit for your tween give you more control over what sorts of ingredients are absorbed into their skin, but it can also have some other benefits as well, like:
Keeping Them From Sharing Other Tweens Not-So-Desirable Makeup
It can be a lot of fun for tweens and teens to do makeovers with their friends. If your kids have their own natural and non-toxic makeup set, it can help to reduce the amount of exposure they get from their friends’ makeup products.
Providing an Opportunity for Educating Tweens on Ingredient Awareness
As you know, it can be overwhelming at times to learn about all of the different toxic ingredients and materials we’re surrounded by every day. It can feel like swimming upstream, against the chemical companies, the lobbyists, and the petroleum-obsessed industries.
One of the best ways to turn that overwhelm into empowerment is to learn and implement little by little, the way you’d learn a new language. And just like learning a language, it’s so much easier to pick up when it’s ingrained in one’s culture and environment, especially as a young person.
When young people learn slowly which ingredients to watch out for and avoid, it can be less overwhelming and more empowering in the long run because these habits are just normal to them.
The good news is that it actually doesn’t take long to make a difference either. A 2016 study called the HERMOSA Intervention Study, which followed 100 adolescent Latina girls, found that after just three days of avoiding personal care products that contained endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates and parabens lowered the concentrations of most of these chemicals in their urine. This suggests that choosing personal care products and cosmetics carefully can potentially make a significant difference in how many toxic chemicals are coursing through adolescents’ bodies.
Encouraging Self Care and Mindfulness Habits Early
We know that the cosmetics industry is certainly guilty of exacerbating unhealthy beauty standards for women and girls by communicating that they’re not “pretty enough” without their faces caked in colors. This is definitely something to be aware of when deciding when to let your kids start using makeup, and how much.
But makeup can also be a means of empowerment, expression, and an opportunity for a mindfulness ritual. After all, humans all over the world have been painting color onto their faces basically since humans have existed—for self-expression, for protection, for communication, and more.
Establishing A Skincare Cleansing Routine
Establishing a healthy skincare routine is always a good idea, especially considering that many teens struggle with acne. When tweens start using makeup, it can be a great opportunity to talk about why it’s important to remove makeup before bed, how to properly cleanse and moisturize your face, and how to care for pimples.
Honest carries a great skincare set for tweens which includes a cleanser, moisturizer, cream, serum, and detoxifying mud mask.
For acne-prone skin, Ursa Major carries a simple 3-step non-toxic bundle that includes a cleanser, tonic, and balm.
P.S. Check out this super cute fuzzy headband your tween can use to hold their hair back while washing their face!
Promoting Hygiene And Proper Care Of Cosmetic Instruments
Keeping one’s skin clean means also keeping one’s makeup brushes and tools clean and cared for.
This eco-friendly makeup brush set from Honey Bee Gardens is a great starter set for tweens and teens. It comes with five different brushes made with bamboo handles and a hemp & cotton carrying case. It’s super affordable, too. EcoTools also carries a really wide variety of brushes, sponges, and other eco-friendly makeup tools and accessories.
Dermatologists recommend cleaning makeup brushes and tools at least once a month in order to keep bacteria and extra oils at bay. You don’t really need anything fancy to clean makeup brushes; a simple non-toxic dish soap with a cloth towel will work just fine.
But if you want something that’s made specifically for cleaning makeup brushes, you can check out this Luxury Vegan Makeup Brush Soap or this All Natural Makeup Brush Cleanser. EcoTools also carries a Brush Shampoo and Wipes, which can often be found at big box stores like Walmart and Target. This brush cleaning pad is pretty handy, too!
The Best Non-Toxic, Natural, & Organic Makeup Kits for Tweens
Below are our suggestions for the best non-toxic, natural, and organic makeup sets for tweens and teens. It’s important to note that there actually are not any makeup kits for teens that are 100% organic. The recommended brands below DO use all non-toxic and natural ingredients, with some organic ingredients. This is partly because not all ingredients can even be certified organic. Natural minerals that are mined from the earth, for example, cannot be certified organic.
The following brands are great for kids ages 9 to 12.
Klee Naturals uses ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, and natural mineral, and absolutely no talc, parabens, phthalates, FD&C colors or dyes, or gluten.
In addition to makeup, Klee Naturals also carries water-based nail polish, hair, and body care for kids and tweens as well. Plus, everything is made in the USA, and each purchase supports a local charity.
No Nasties is a cruelty-free brand that uses only 100% natural ingredients like mica, candelilla wax, and shea butter. That means zero FD&C dyes, talc, parabens, or other toxins.
They also carry nail polish, nail stickers, and hair chalk!
Prim & Pure carries really fun eye shadow palettes, blushes, lip glosses and balms, nail polish, biodegradable body glitter, and more. They have all kinds of different gift sets and accessories, too.
All of their products are made with natural, non-toxic ingredients that are free from parabens, phthalates, GMOs, synthetic FD&C dyes, gluten, and animal testing. They also use many USDA certified organic ingredients, which are indicated with an *asterisk.
Everything is made in the USA and each purchase gives back to non-profit organizations that support children. You can also find Prim & Pure’s products at Walmart.
Prim & Pure also has a moms and teens collection now too!
This DIY lip balm-making kit would be a really fun afternoon activity to do with your tween. The minimal natural ingredients are made and sourced ethically in the USA.
These brands are good options for teens, ages 13 to 19. These brands can technically be for adults, but they are great for teens as well because they carry colorful cosmetics with fun and unique branding while prioritizing natural, organic, and wildcrafted ingredients.
Founder and herbalist, Rachel Budde, has built Fat And The Moon around providing handcrafted, herbal body care products using age-old ingredients and earth-centered recipes that have been passed down from various healing traditions for generations.
Their Adornment collection includes lip paint, eye coal, cheek stain, highlighters, and more (many of which can be used as multipurpose products).
Everything is handcrafted to order in the USA, and many of the ingredients are organic.
Mad Hippie is another company with fun branding. Instead of outward beauty standards, Mad Hippie is inspired by the beauty of love, health, self-confidence, optimism, and caring for one another.
They carry cheek & lip tint, eye pencil, concealer, and mascara, all of which are free from silicone, petrochemicals, parabens, perfume, SLS, phthalates, animal ingredients, animal testing, synthetic colors, and dyes.
Plus, they use eco-conscious packaging whenever possible and $1 from every sale goes toward conservation.
In terms of lip color, Axiology is a fun non-toxic brand for teens. All of Axiology’s vegan and clean beauty products are made with 10 ingredients or less. Their lip crayons are a fun twist on conventional lipsticks, and their Lip to Lid Balmies are a great safe option for people young and old. They use nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, avocado oil, and more.
100% Pure carries a really wide variety of fruit-pigmented makeup, from eyeshadow palettes to lipsticks and more. Instead of synthetic dyes, this vegan-friendly brand uses fruit extracts like cherry, pomegranate, and rose petals.
Many of their ingredients are organic, and almost everything is made in the USA.
Containers For Storing Tweens’ & Teens’ Makeup And Brushes
Many of the above makeup kits come with carrying cases, but if you’re looking for some extra storage, Follain, Made Trade, BLK+GRN, Annemarie, ES Essentials Home Decor, and IKEA carry some great plastic-free cosmetics cases and storage units in a variety of shapes and sizes that are great to keep at home or take on the go.
Transitioning to wearing makeup is one of those rights of passages that makes us wonder how the time flew by. Getting your tween or teen natural, non-toxic, organic makeup kit opens the door to a slew of opportunities to educate on proper personal hygiene and the pitfalls of toxic ingredients. The standards and habits you demonstrate now will benefit your child for years to come.
Image Credits: Priscilla Du Preez, all product images belong to respective brands