Should You Be Worried About Metals In Your Makeup?

Christy Coleman is a very prominent makeup artist. In fact, she's booked for some of the most coveted jobs in the industry: campaigns for Ralph Lauren and Victoria's Secret, and celebrity clients like Heidi Klum and Miranda Kerr. So, back in 2008, it didn't go unnoticed that the New York-based Coleman decided to pack her Vitamix and her dog into a car, drive to California, and settle in a small place in Venice that she found off Craigslist.
"My dad got Lou Gehrig's Disease, and I just started to think a lot about my contribution to the world," she says. After reading a book about the potential dangers of cosmetics called Not Just a Pretty Face, Coleman had her "Aha!" moment. "I took a year to study. I started a blog and began creating my 'clean kit.' I bought tons of products and spent tons of money. It took me a full year."
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Soon after, Coleman joined forces with a start-up called Beautycounter, which describes its mission as "to get safe products into the hands of everyone." It's quick to eschew the labels "organic," "green," or "all-natural," simply because those words don't have concrete meanings. Instead, its website acts as a commerce-meets-activism campaign, with statistics and facts about the industry.
So, when it came to launching a makeup line, Coleman was more than game to lend her effortless-chic take on the art to a tightly-edited collection of products that was both beautiful to behold and easy to use. "I like to say I was pregnant for four years with this collection," she says with a laugh.
But, makeup manufacturing often has a less-than-desirable byproduct: heavy metals. "They're not ingredients you formulate with. They're tag-alongs in synthetic colorants and micas," Coleman says. "There are potential health concerns with a high metal content in product."
That means Beautycounter needed to test its products for metal levels countless times. In fact, the ones you'll see here were intended to launch a year ago — except they failed their final metal test, which ended up forcing the lab to switch to a different manufacturer. "Basically, I work on a shade. We test it. Then, it gets reworked, but when they go to create the batch, it gets retested," Coleman explains. "Then, when we go to reorder, it gets tested again."
There is no such thing as completely metal-free, but Beautycounter's standards are very high. In fact, all of the brand's products score no higher than a 2 on a 1-to-10 scale for toxicity, according to Skin Deep, a cosmetics database run by the Environmental Working Group. Click through the slideshow to see the fruits of her labor, and hear more about the story behind the new collection.
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
While formulating a tinted moisturizer, Coleman made sure to keep the brand's skin-care products in mind. "I tested it against the day creams. I layered everything together to see if it would roll or sink into fine lines, or if it had enough color payoff," she says.

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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
There are two blush duos in the line — one in muted shades of peach and ballet pink, and another with a soft apricot and a vibrant, all-out pink. "I love the duos, because you can blend the shades together or wear them alone," Coleman says. "But, those pops of color I didn't see a lot in comparable brands. I felt like they were missing! And, if you're going to wear a blush, I love a little bit of a pop!"

While other ingredient-conscious brands opted for cream formats — especially with cheek colors — Coleman stuck to powder. "They're more user-friendly, and they haven't been done as much. I wanted to do something more traditional and to prove we could formulate powders with low metal levels."
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
"I wanted the bronzers matte, to contour," she says. The easy, golden shades give a natural-looking glow that looks fresh and beachy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
Coleman was clear about one thing: no eye quads. "They confuse me, even as an artist," she says. Instead, she created "eye duos," which have a light sheen and come in easy-to-wear colors. "The amethyst shade looks good on everyone," she says. "The purple has depth, so it's a bit grounding. It's very wearable."

Not pictured: The rich, matte brown Coleman wanted to make so badly, but couldn't get to pass the metals testing. (But, there's a pretty great taupe as a substitute.)
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
The eye pencils, which were the last products to be finalized, feature a smudger on one end, and creamy color payoff in black, shimmering brown, or violet.
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
As for the brushes, they were all made of synthetic fibers (of course), but they were designed with the makeup in mind. "The blush brush, for example, you can fit on either shade of the palette, so you don't mix up the colors," Coleman says. "And, the large powder brush has a domed tip for more exact coverage."
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Photo: Courtesy of Beautycounter.
Lipsticks are known to contain high metal levels, which is probably why Beautycounter stuck to a sheerer formula — for now. These add just a hint of hydrating, easy color to the lips (but also look great on the cheeks).
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