Written by Grove Collaborative

How to choose the best clean foundation

Last Updated: February 4, 2021

Natural foundation is free of harsh chemicals found in traditional foundations, making them better for your skin and the environment—here’s what’s good to know.

As its name implies, foundation is the foundation of your beauty routine. It smooths out your skin tone, hides blemishes, and helps your makeup blend. But wearing conventional foundation on the daily can have some unhappy consequences for your skin. Natural foundation is a healthier alternative, and we’re about to explain why — and steer you to our favorite clean foundation brands.


Natural foundation is a great jumping off point if you’re interested in switching to beauty products made without harmful ingredients, but aren’t sure where to start. Clean, natural beauty products — including foundation — are made with ingredients that are safe and nourishing for your skin. Since most synthetic chemicals in conventional beauty products are just cheaper imitations of natural ingredients, anyway, it makes sense to eschew the fake stuff and go straight for the real deal.




Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

Ingredients to avoid in regular foundation

Phthalates are hormone disruptors and may cause reproductive harm, and they’re linked to cancer in animal studies.

On the label: phthalate, DEP, DBP, DEHP, parfum, and fragrances.


Parabens are also hormone disruptors and are associated with reproductive harm and some cancers.

On the label: ethylparaben, methylparaben, isopropylparaben, and other ingredients ending in -paraben.


Petrochemicals are carcinogenic when unrefined, and when they’re in your makeup, they can cause a range of harmful health effects.

On the label: petroleum jelly, words beginning with butyl- or containing the word propyl, petrolatum, paraffin wax, mineral oil, PEG, DEA, parfums, and fragrances.


Coal tar dyes are known carcinogens and can cause allergic reactions.

On the label: FD&C colors, D&C colors, lake dyes (ex. Blue 1 Lake).

Benefits of using natural foundation

Using quality natural foundation has several key benefits over choosing conventional brands.

Safe for your body

Your skin is your largest organ, and because of its porosity, whatever you put on it doesn’t just stick to the surface and stay there — it’s readily absorbed into your body. And depending on the substance, it can have a positive or negative impact on your health. Natural foundation is free of all the gross nasties found in conventional products, and that means a lower risk of irritation, acne, and allergic reactions.

Good for your skin

Good skin starts with quality products and ingredients, and a clean foundation will infuse your skin with nourishing vitamins, minerals, and moisturizing ingredients and help smooth your complexion.. Depending on what you want out of your foundation, you can find one that reduces the appearance of wrinkles, fights off free radicals with antioxidants, hydrates and locks in moisture, or protects against UV rays.

Not tested on critters

Natural foundations are more likely than their conventional counterparts to be cruelty-free or vegan. Although 57 percent of consumers report that cruelty-free practices are their most important consideration when choosing a skincare product, numerous big-name brands continue to test their products on animals. Look for the Leaping Bunny logo on natural skincare products, which certifies the product was not tested on animals.

How to choose the best natural foundation

The best foundation for you really depends on what you want out of it. These days, there are as many natural foundations as there are skin types, and trying to narrow it down to what’s best for your skin can be mind-boggling. Here are some points to consider when searching for the best clean foundation for you:

Coverage

Full-coverage foundation is very opaque and will create a flawless canvas, covering birthmarks, scars, and hyperpigmentation.

Medium-coverage foundation will hide discoloration and blemishes and even out skin tone.

Light-coverage foundation is semi-sheer and breathable and will conceal some unevenness or blemishes — but it won’t be heavy enough to cover your darling freckles.

UV protection

Sunscreen protects against skin cancer and the visible effects of aging — and it’s a crucial part of your skin care routine. If you aren’t already using sunscreen on the daily, look for a foundation that has a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or higher.

Your skin type

The sheer number of possibilities for different skin types could fill a book, but for the sake of time, here are some general rules of thumb for choosing the right foundation for your skin:


  • For oily skin, go for an oil-free foundation — or even a powder.
  • Dry skin is best suited to BB and CC creams, which provide lighter coverage and the moisture your skin needs.
  • Sensitive skin can be a bit tricky, but if you stick to a lightweight, mineral-based foundation, your skin should do great.
  • Combo and normal skin types are pretty tolerant of whatever products you choose to use (lucky you!).

Anti-aging ingredients

Does the label say “anti-aging” or “for aging skin”? Then it probably has an SPF of 40 or higher as well as moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and antioxidants like vitamins C and E that help repair skin and slow signs of aging.

Hydrating formulas

Hydrating natural foundations help keep your skin supple with powerful, moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, glycerine, ceramides, and lactic acid.

What ingredients to look for in natural foundation

Now that you know what to avoid in a foundation and how to pick the formula that’s right for you, what ingredients should you be looking for? We’ve compiled a list of some of the best non-toxic ingredients used in clean foundations. As always, it’s good to do your own research based on your own skin and its needs, but these naturally occurring ingredients are clean-beauty celebrities that you’ll see on the label of many a quality, natural beauty product.


Titanium Dioxide — A reflective mineral that aids in the spreadability of foundations and other cosmetics and protects the skin from UVA/UVB rays.

Iron oxide — These mineral pigments are used to color cosmetics in shades of red, orange, brown, and black.

Zinc oxide — Used to provide opacity to foundations (think fuller coverage). Zinc oxide is hypoallergenic and makes for an effective sunscreen.

Vitamin E (Tocopheryl Acetate) — An antioxidant that helps protect skin from the environment while soothing any redness or irritation.

Vitamin A (retinyl palimate) — Also known as retinoids, this vitamin is used for smoothing skin texture and preventing acne.

Hyaluronic acid — A powerful humectant (read: mega-hydrator) that retains water to keep your skin moist while boosting collagen, plumping skin, and fighting wrinkles.

DIY Natural Foundation

Most of the time when we want to DIY a product, it’s because we’re after a healthier alternative to the chemical crud presented to us. The clean skincare market has been booming in recent years, so it’s not really necessary to spend time and a lot of money playing mad scientist in your bathroom. Instead, use these hacks to customize your foundation.


For lighter coverage — If you’re going for lighter coverage but only have full coverage foundation, mix in a few drops of your favorite serum or moisturizer to get a dewier finish.


For better sun protection — Love your foundation but it doesn’t have SPF? Just apply your foundation as usual, then top it with a good sunscreen.


For a darker shade — Mixing your foundation with bronzer is a great way to get a darker shade and a sun-kissed glow in one fell swoop.


For the perfect shade — If you’re having a hard time finding the perfect shade, buy two shades! Get one that’s a shade lighter than your skin tone and one that’s a shade darker, then mix the two together.

Shop natural foundation


Looking for more sustainable skin care swaps and other eco-friendly switches you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any menstrual cup questions (or share your own tips for making the switch using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the switch to natural eye cream or other eco- and body-friendly products, explore Grove Collaborative's skin care selection.

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