Ethical Beauty Brand Overview: S.W. Basics

I discovered SW Basics because their products are featured on Petit Vour’s site and I subscribe to Petit Vour’s beauty box (it’s brilliant by the way, I highly recommend it). After buying (and falling in love with) the cleanser from Petit Vour’s site, I spent some time on S.W. Basics’ website, and fell in love with the brand’s philosophy. Founded by Adina Grigore in Brooklyn, S.W. Basics products are simple (from 5 ingredients or less) and hand-made using the best quality, ethically sourced ingredients. I have tried almost all the products and I can attest that the formulations are elegant and gentle. My skin has never felt so soft and smooth! Almost all SW Basics products are available in trial sizes so it’s fairly easy to give them a try. And they’re carried by Target! That means some of you will be able to find them on the shelves of your local Target… or at least on the website.

Cleanser – The cleanser was the first product from the line that I tried. It is a non-foaming, glycerin based cleanser. You apply it to your skin with a cotton round and then wash it off. At first, I was skeptical that such a simple product, with an almost water like consistency, could clean my face but it really did work. What I especially love about it is it never left my face feel stripped. As with most cleansers, when using this at night I usually needed a toner to remove the very last traces of makeup, ensuring a clean canvas for my active ingredient products.

Toner – This toner is light, refreshing and doesn’t sting or dry out my skin. It also works as a GREAT base for powdered clay masks (instead of water). Even though it is made with essential oils, I didn’t find them irritating to my allergies or my skin.

Cream – This cream does NOT mess around. It is VERY moisturizing. I have normal to dry skin and I only need to use a tiny amount to leave my skin feeling hydrated and looking dewy first thing in the morning. I bet in winter this will make a really soothing moisturizing mask. With jarred products, it’s really important NOT to use your fingers to scoop the product out – your fingers deposit bacteria, which can then lead to your skin breaking out. I always used a clean spoon, cotton swab or spatula to scoop product out of the jar. If you don’t have normal to dry skin, this cream might be a little too intense for you but it also works beautifully to soften cuticles and elbows.

Makeup Remover – This oil blend does a great job of removing every trace of eye makeup. I actually used it all over my face as a makeup remover using the oil cleansing method. It’s a really elegant oil blend but it is pretty pricey as an all over makeup remover considering I can get the same effect (if not the elegance) by using coconut oil or olive oil.

Exfoliant – I ordered this thinking oat flour and almond flour would make an excellent, gentle manual exfoliant. Unfortunately, the salt crystals were quite scratchy and I found this just a little harsher than expected. I’ve taken to using this mixed with oil as a body scrub for which job it is perfect. It would also make a really nice gentle hand scrub as part of manicure.

Oil Serum – I found *almost* every product made by SW Basics to be gentle to my dry skin AND my allergies. Except for this one. The Geranium oil irritates my skin, my eyes and my nose. NOT a keeper. At least not for me.

Hibiscus Mask – This is a lovely clay based mask that is a real keeper. Unlike most clay based masks, it doesn’t dry out my skin at all. However, it doesn’t do that drying tight and hard thing that most clay based masks do, either. I don’t need a mask to do that to feel like it’s working but if you do, then you might not be satisfied by this product.

Body Scrub – When I got this jar in the mail (I ordered it from Target), I was kind of shocked by how tiny it was. This is one of the few products I would suggest skipping. You can make your own version with sugar and coconut oil and even if you’re using the best quality ingredients it will still cost you pennies on the dollar compared to this.

Organic Lip Balm Flight – I’m a lip balm addict. I have lip balms stashed in every purse and in every room in my house. I just can’t not have a lip balm standing by! I love these lip balms – they feel so soft and silky on my lips. The flavors are not cloying or irritating. They just add another lovely note to the product. I bought the flight made with beeswax but luckily SW Basics makes a vegan version of each of these lip balms because they’re thoughtful like that!

Eco Cotton Rounds – I saved the best for last. These reusable cotton rounds are the most genius thing ever. Where have they been all my life?? They are made from organic cotton and have a texture similar to flannel. They are larger and thicker than disposable cotton rounds which means you can actually use one round for your makeup AND your toner (just flip it over and use the other side). I love that I will no longer be throwing cotton rounds in the trash every day! My one caveat is the wash bag they come in doesn’t stay closed. I have a lingerie wash bag that I throw them in but you could probably put a rubber band around the top of the little wash bag if you want to make sure the rounds don’t come out of the bag and get lost in your laundry.

Note: In order for a brand or product to be reviewed in an #EthicalBeauty blogpost, it has to be independently certified as cruelty free and made in Northern America. SW Basics has been certified by PETA and Logical Harmony.

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Ethical Beauty Brand Overview: ColourPop

This week I’m reviewing one of my favorite cruelty free brands – ColourPop. Considering this brand has only been around for just over a year, it’s really impressive how quickly it has achieved dominance both in my personal collection and in the larger beauty blogger/vlogger community. A lot of that has to do with the affordability of the products (so far, everything is under $10), the unique formulas and the temptingly vast array of colors the products come in, including off-beat colors like green lipstick. They should just call it ColourCrack because once you Pop, you can’t stop.

Super Shock Shadow

ColourPop’s eye shadow formula is really one of a kind. Not quite a cream, not quite a powder, it has a mousse-y texture but looks like a powder on the lids. I think it’s my favorite of all of ColourPop’s products because the staying power, even without primer, is phenomenal. It does take some getting used to the texture of the product as it is slightly sticky meaning it can be a bit of a challenge to blend, but since the pay off is the wear, it’s worth it! I mean, the shadow has held up to a sweaty summer workout and a shower. The only finish I’m not crazy about is the metallic, which can be prone to fall out. It’s not a deal maker as for the most part I can work with it, but for this reason I tend to gravitate to the pearlized when I want a color with shimmer.

  • Where the Light Is eye shadow set. Where the Light Is is a set created in conjunction with vlogger Kathleen Lights and it creates a gorgeous bronzey gold smokey eye that is beautiful for summer or daytime wear but can be amped up for a sexy evening look. I created a look with this set and the Brink lip liner that is easily my favorite of the looks I made with ColourPop products. The only thing I don’t love about the eye shadows in this set is the glitter fall out from Blaze. Apply that color with caution – using a dabbing motion rather than a swiping motion so that you apply the color precisely where you want it. I also apply the color a little at a time and build it up because if I put on too much it ends up in my eyes (which can really be a pain with my contact lenses) or on my face. The colors in the set are:  Glow (creamy vanilla/matte finish), Kathleenlights (bright golden copper/pearlized finish), Blaze (cocoa-bronze with multidimensional glitter/metallic finish), Cornelious (mid-tone warm caramel/matte finish). 
  • Shaaanxo x ColourPop. Seriously, ColourPop’s collabs are my favorites of ALL their products. Part of it is that the person who helps create the set usually does great tutorial videos that help you figure out how to use the colors together. I wish ALL eye shadow sets came with tutorial videos on YouTube! I honestly can’t pick a favorite of the sets – both Shaaanxo by ColourPop and Where The Light Is are soooo gorgeous. Shaaanxo by ColourPop comes with four colors: XO (light champagne/pearlized finish), Selfie (mid tone peachy brown/matte finish), Rebel (mid tone khaki green/matte finish), Deluxe (warm red bronze/pearlized finish). I’m obsessed with Rebel – even though it’s definitely green, it comes off as a neutral and really makes my hazel eyes pop. This is a really flattering color combination that is much easier to work with than Where the Light Is because it doesn’t have a glitter shadow in it. 
  • Hanky Panky (matte finish) – Hanky Panky is described as a soft, cool-toned taupe. I have visible blood vessels on my eyelids and Hanky Panky gives a great, even base of color on them. You can just barely see it – it looks very natural. So on days when I want to do a no make up look, I use this to even out my skin tone on my lid.
  • Truth (satin finish) – Truth is described as a neutral light beige. It doesn’t so much shimmer as glow, which makes it a great natural-looking color. It’s another option for a no makeup look as a lid color. Or if you want to do a more subtle light color around your tear ducts or on your brow bone.
  • On The Rocks (metallic finish) – On The Rocks is described as a vibrant true bronze with gold and violet glitter. I found that this metallic shadow did not have as much of a fall out problem as Blaze. I used this as a crease color in the look below.
  • Downtown (matte finish) – Downtown is described as a deep, cool-toned taupe. It’s one of those classic colors that is very versatile. You can use it on the outer v for a softer smokey eye, or in the crease. I find that the color is a touch green, which really brings out the green tones in my hazel eyes. 

    #FOTD A visit to the gym AND a shower and my @colourpopcosmetics eye makeup is clinging on. Faded but still present.

    A post shared by Mei-Lu 美露 (메루) (@meiluwho) on

Lippie Stix

ColourPop’s Lippie Stix seem to be by far their most popular products and I can understand why that is so. Although they only cost $5, the pigmentation and wear of the lipsticks easily rival the that of lipsticks that cost $20 or more. The Lippie Stix come in an impressively wide selection of colors from black (they actually have a couple of black lipsticks) to green to the more traditional reds, pinks and nudes. They also come in a variety of finishes (matte, satin, cream, glossy, sheer, glossy, hyper-glossy, pearlized). The most exciting thing about these lipsticks is that mattes are truly matte yet don’t dry lips out at all! And they wear really well – overall, I’d say ColourPop excels in creating products that are long-lasting. Unfortunately, the lipsticks are all formulated with ethyl vanillin, a synthetic vanilla flavor that is three times more potent than natural vanillin. Although I don’t normally care for flavors or fragrances in lipsticks, usually vanilla doesn’t bother me. However, to my palate the strength of ethyl vanillin in these products is intolerably unpleasant – it actually tastes a bit rancid or off to me. I can not bear to wear the lipsticks for this reason. Even though the scent wears away quickly, every time a bit of the lipstick gets in my mouth I taste it again. It actually makes me gag sometimes. HOWEVER, if scents or flavors never bother you, it’s definitely worth risking the $5 for these lippies because they are so fantastic. My favorite was probably Fighter, an absolutely perfect movie star matte red. (Jessica Chastain premiered it on the red carpet and it looked divine on her.)

Lip Pencils

Almost every ColourPop Lippie Stix has a matching lip pencil to go with it. Thankfully, their lip pencil formula does not contain ethyl vanillin so if you’re in love with a color but hate the flavor/scent of ethyl vanillin, this is a good alternative

Super Shock Cheek (Blushes)

I love ColourPop’s blushes, but there is a caveat. As with the eye shadows, they have that sticky, mousse-y texture that can be a bit of a challenge to blend. I find it best to apply the blushes with a stippling brush or a damp blending sponge (one of the rounded ones based on the Beauty Blender). However, once you make that adjustment in technique, this blush is fantastic! It has great wear and comes in a wide selection of colors and finishes.

  • Sticky Sweet (pearlized finish) – Sticky Sweet is described as a deep violet with a pink duo chrome finish. Although I would categorize Sticky Sweet as a blush, it is actually the highlighter formula and is gorgeous as a highlighter on darker complexioned ladies. The highlighter formula is more forgiving and blendable than the regular blush formula but the trade off is that it is slightly sheerer. I say slightly because this color is still very pigmented! A little goes a loooong way. I actually love how using just a little bit of this gives me such a rich, just worked out glow. And the duo chrome is sooo pretty – it definitely catches the light. I am wearing Sticky Sweet in the picture of Fern above.
  • Jelly Fish (pearlized finish) –  Jelly Fish is described as a red-toned coral and it really does work beautifully with corals and warm-toned red lip colors. I am wearing Jelly Fish in the picture of Chi Chi above.
  • More, Please (pearlized finish) – vivid fuchsia with violet-blue duo chrome. I love my bright deeper-toned pink lipsticks and this pairs beautifully with them. The color is long-lasting and the duo chrome gives it a flash of dimensionality. 

Super Shock Cheek (Highlighters)

After the eye shadows, the highlighters are probably my favorite ColourPop products – I just can’t get over the variety of colors and finishes. I want them all!

Super Shock Cheek (Bronzer)

ColourPop has a really nice selection of bronzer colors in two finishes – satin and matte.

  • Skinny Dip (matte finish) – Although normally I prefer matte bronzers, I failed to take into account ColourPop’s signature mousse texture. The stickiness of the texture is more pronounced in the matte products so this one was a little challenging to blend. I recommend the satin finish bronzer, which I will review in a future post.

And there it is! My ColourPop brand overview. Because this brand is only available on the website and does not accept returns, I recommend being conservative with your first order. Luckily, there are LOADS of videos on YouTube with ColourPop products so you can see them in action. I found watching the videos really helpful in selecting products. It’s also a good idea to do a Google image search for the colors you’re interested in so you can see them on different skin tones and lighting scenarios. However, if you want to gamble and not bother with all that legwork, the good news is these products are so affordable that you can afford to gamble a bit.

Note: In order for a personal care brand or product to be written up in my #EthicalBeauty posts it has to be independently verified as cruelty-free and made in North America (where I live). ColourPop has been certified cruelty free by Logical Harmony.