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Drugstore Beauty Products: An Insider Guide on What to Buy and What to Avoid

WRITTEN BY Autumn Hall

As a college student, it is crucial to shop as cheaply and efficiently as possible, but it can be difficult to navigate countless aisles of beauty products while also keeping sustainability in mind. 

There are several tricks to help consciously avoid harmful beauty products and seek out pocket-friendly, ethical products at your local drugstore instead. 

Some of the main environmental issues currently surrounding beauty products are toxic chemicals entering water systems and the creation of non-recyclable plastic waste. 

A great way to test a product is to look it up on the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” hazard scale, which measures the presence of certain harmful chemicals within a wide array of different cosmetic brands. 

The scale is read as one to two being the lowest hazard, three to six as mid-range and six to 10 being the highest.

Drugstore Brands Scoring the Lowest on the EWG Scale

Several drugstore companies have worked together to begin a more sustainable, eco-friendly initiative in the beauty industry. 

These companies are often overshadowed by the common misconception that cheaper products are always lower quality than their more expensive counterparts, but don’t be discouraged, there are definitely some equally as great, financially conscious options out there.

NYX’s wide variety of products average between one and five, and they are PETA certified as cruelty-free. NYX is a great, cheaper option to look for when shopping, regardless of product type. 

The Lip Bar is a Black-owned, vegan company that is incredible across all categories of beauty. On average, their products score between two and five on the EWG scale, meaning that they are a safe bet when shopping for affordable cosmetics. 

Although several of Garnier’s products score within the six through eight range, the micellar cleansing water is a wonderful alternative to single-use makeup wipes, and average a two on the EWG scale. They are bottled in 100% recycled plastic containers, and the company intends for all of its renewable ingredients to be sustainably sourced by 2025. 

The best part is that this cleanser only costs around eight dollars. Just make sure to be cautious as you navigate through Garnier’s other products, and make sure to reference the EWG website.

Beware of “Greenwashing” and High Scoring Products on the EWG Scale

Many of Neutrogena’s products are scored in the low to moderate range, but almost an equal amount of their products are scored in the high range, with at least six products scoring at a 10. 

The “Neutrogena Naturals” line has also misled many into believing that the products are completely natural through more aesthetically pleasing labels and slogans such as “Neutrogena Naturals. Pure, Natural Skin Care. Real Results.”

In contrast to this facade, their products contain a variety of artificial/synthetic ingredients, including sodium benzoate, benzyl alcohol, pentasodium pentetate, and propylene glycol.

This occurs in various drugstore beauty products and has been named “greenwashing,” a common tactic used to deceptively persuade consumers that a product is environmentally friendly when in reality, it is not. 

Even though this is just a small set of examples in the wide world of makeup products, this foundation can still serve as a beneficial resource for your future, well-informed purchases.