If only life could be as simple as a face serum—I have a feeling it would be a boring, but lovely, well-hydrated place. Because simple doesn’t always mean perfect, it just means uncomplicated. And with a market filled to the brim with proprietary compounds, marketing-driven names, and things that sounds sciency but still don’t work, I thought it would be refreshing to round up the best products that all have 10 or fewer ingredients. It is pretty damn cool when you look at a lotion’s ingredient list and it’s like, coconut oil and four other things. And it works!
But before diving into this organic minimalist’s wet dream, I want to caveat that even “natural” hippie indie beauty companies might have products that make your hair fall out—it’s a wide, unregulated world out there. But at least my skin’s glowing before it melts off! That’s my mantra. Grotesque kidding aside, good luck finding a mascara with under 10 ingredients (but really, LMK because I didn’t). And that makes sense—it’s a delicate product that has to deliver a lot. Give me the human-tested mascara with the chemicals; none of my ancestors died of eyelash cancer, I’ll be fiiine.
Anyway, here are 9 products that have 10 or fewer ingredients, because they don’t need any more.
Cosmos Chamomile Everywhere Salve is what sparked this whole story idea because I am currently obsessed with it. Seven ingredients, mostly waxy things, essential oils, and “tocopherol” which sounds scary (don’t fall for the common misconception that long, chemical-sounding words are poison, or hell, that the word “chemical” means poison) but is just a Vitamin E compound. The salve comes in this speckled (get it? space), off-white cardboard packaging and it goes on super smooth, the better to make out on the moon with. I love having it at the office, where every time I reapply I get the mind-soothing magic of chamomile when I need it most. You could use it on scars, dry patches, etc., but once I use something on my lips, it’s a designated chapstick.
You could just wash your face with holy water and bodega rose petals, yes, but why not stimulate the economy on your quest for minimalism? Inhale the irony, exhale Delta miles. I love Pratima’s Kumari Liquid Cleanser. The millionaire-hippie aesthetic triggers all of my take-my-money reflexes. And this tiny glass bottle of kumari (apparently just aloe lol), olive oil, lemon juice, and essential oils smells like lemon sorbet and makes your skin feel so hydrated you might not need actual moisturizer (so, for dry skin-leaning types). All of that oil also makes it a great makeup remover, too. Now if it only came in a container larger than a shot glass...
In the opposite direction, if you’re looking for a cleanser to clear up some zits and French fry residue, I’d go with EiR’s Active Face Wash, which again, seduces me with that modern apothecary funkadelic font party. Also, foam is cool! Ingredients include mostly burned stuff: shea butter, shea tree bark ash (!!), cocoa butter, cocoa pods ash (!!), plantain ash (!!), coconut oil, palm oil, and essential oils. It smells of smoke and leather, which would be a great name for a mail-order S&M catalog. The things you think about in the shower!
Moving along. For cleansing the body and soul, go to Binu Binu, a Canadian-based Korean soap maker. If you need to calm down after a budget meeting, I highly recommend just staring at the perfect rectangles of soap photographed on a crumpled white background. Oooooo. Their sesame-infused Seshin Body Scrub is the most neutral, nothing-scented body product I’ve ever used thanks to barley tea (also a great beverage after a heavy meal). It also has an unusual, dough-like texture that feels soft and gummy in your hand as opposed to little scratchy pieces of sand. Under 10 ingredients include rice bran and coconut oils, shea butter, sea salt, and drum roll please...radish root ferment. Oh, I dig this.
Creams and Lotions
My favorite hippies in the world are the folks at Cold Spring Apothecary, who have managed to create a whole line of organic skincare that doesn’t smell like dirt. Their Intense Moisture Citrus Patchouli Hand Salve changed my life. People no longer recoil at my touch. My cuticles and that freaky webby spot between your thumb and pointer finger look like normal skin now. It’s mostly shea, cocoa butter, more beeswax and that Vitamin E compound, but it’s CPA’s essential oil perfume blend that’s downright s-e-x. Gimme.
For more moisture but less fragrance, try Fat and the Moon’s All Cream. It goes on thick, with the texture of full-fat yogurt (the best yogurt), and has only a faint, faint whiff of rose. I love it as a hand cream because again, my skin can go full Voldemort if unattended to, but it would also be a powerful night cream.
Oils and Serums
UMA’s botanical-print glass bottles are so beautiful they’ll make everything else on your bathroom shelf feel dusty and spackled with toothpaste shame. The original Anti-Aging Body Oil has won all kinds of awards for being generally luxurious and what I imagine Catherine Deneuve smells like, but my favorite of the essential oil blends is their Pure Rest Wellness Oil. While the OG has a delicate floral balance of neroli + friends, the sleepytime oil has a woodsier, near-pine needle scent that makes going to bed even more absolutely thrilling than it already is.
What I appreciate about NOTO’s Deep Serum is that the packaging reminds you it’s for FACE + NECK. Oh right, I have a neck! I always forget. And this stuff has the most bright, grassy grapefruit vitamin-C straight to the face smell, I love it. Actually, turns out it’s caffeine crystals straight to the face—even better. Other ingredients include grapeseed oil, wild carrot oil (??), rosehip oil, and everyone’s favorite forgotten Little Mermaid character, Sea Buckthorn. Unlike some serums and face oils, when you dispense the droplets into your hand, they barely budge because the oil is so damn concentrated. You get what you pay for, here.I use it at night and can still feel it on my glowing, angelic face in the morning, before the tears wash it away.
The “uni-sexy” (their brillz copywriting, not mine) brand has the natural blushes, bronzers, and highlighters, too, but they lack in the workday staying power I require. This happens to be the problem with several natural brands I tried for this story. Not to call anyone out. I just get the sense that everybody’s still figuring this out, and we’ll get there soon.
But you CAN get makeup off in under 10 ingredients, easy, whether you’re a coconut oil person or me, using Cold Spring Apothecary’s Chia Seed Oil. It smells almost salty and fresh like a cucumber, and after you swiped three layers of mascara off, it leaves a layer of moisturizing chia seed oil on your face so you can plop into bed without 12 other products. Still puts on 10 other products.
What did I miss? I’d love more recommendations in the comments. Because if there’s one way to enhance your minimalist life, it’s adding more stuff to it.
Photo by the author.
Craving a few more ingredients? Natural products that cater to maximalists, right this way.