Whole Foods is The New Sephora. Plus: Where Do You Buy Your Makeup?

OK, so who’s been here: You all of a sudden have plans but you don’t feel quite day-to-night (or gym-to-out) equipped because, well, it’s Sunday and you didn’t think you’d need your red lipstick or whatever, and even though you don’t really wear perfume, you feel you could use a little pick-me-up but you don’t have that on you, either? So you book it to Sephora and wait semi-patiently while other girls in your predicament use those badly lit mirrors to apply germ-filled samples to their day faces until they feel going-out ready? Then, when it’s finally your turn, you fold over a cotton pad and think “This will double as a blush brush, sure!” and you smear some pink on your cheeks, and it looks ridiculous, and you are reminded, again, why this is never a good idea?

(Please don’t tell me I am alone here.)

Anyway, here’s a much better idea: Go to Whole Foods.

When I stopped using conventional cosmetics, I also stopped doing last-minute makeup application at Sephora. But I also thought I’d never find a replacement since there’s no natural-beauty chain (yet) and the very few places in New York where you can buy clean cosmetics in person aren’t centrally located, making the dash-in-dash-out move impossible.

Yesterday I’d gone to my usual Sunday morning class and showered at the studio, leaving me with soaking wet hair, no conditioner, no makeup, and a lunch (and then museum) date. It wasn’t like I was going out-out, but I was feeling a little blah and hadn’t brought anything with me except—and this was an accident—bright red lipstick and—and this wasn’t an accident—my new Lotus Wei aromatherapy sample.

I had a bit of time to kill so I went into Whole Foods to browse when it occurred to me: Whole Body! I love Whole Body! Some Whole Body sections are amazing (looking at you, Columbus Circle) but they’re all good enough if you ask me. I am wild about their new organics standards, they carry a great selection of many of my favorite lines, they have samples out of everything under the sun, including makeup, and the people who work the section are nice about letting you try anything you want. Genius. [UPDATE: I heard it from the horse’s mouth that for anything in Whole Body, if there isn’t a sample available you can just ask and they’ll open one for you!]

So I popped into my regular, at Union Square, and when no one was looking, I sprayed my face with an Evan Healy toner, moisturized with some Juice Beauty, sprayed some John Masters Organics Sea Salt Spray in my hair, dabbed some vanilla on my wrists, and played with a just-opened sample of Dr. Hauschka blush, which I ended up buying because I liked it so much.

Now, I’m generally wary of store samples for obvious reasons (germs, and it’s weirdly embarrassing to apply things in public), but sometimes it’s just what you need. If nothing else, primping a little bit can change your mindset from “It’s downward-dog time” to “It’s interact-with-human-beings time” and you don’t need makeup to do this; I was wearing basically none at all. But the mere act of spraying something on my hair made me feel ready for anything. It’s pretty cool how these things work.

But back to the headline: We want to know from you: Where do you buy your natural makeup? Online? In person? If so where? Are you lucky enough to have an actual physical STORE in your town, like Los Angeles with our beloved Evolue?

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36 Responses to “Whole Foods is The New Sephora. Plus: Where Do You Buy Your Makeup?”
  1. Lee says:

    I have to buy most of mine online. Most stores are at least 1 hour from where I live and don’t carry all my products.

    I love love love spirit beauty lounge and saffron rouge

  2. Lindsay says:

    Totally! I love Whole Foods for my beauty and personal care items. Whole Foods and Spirit Beauty Lounge are my new Sephora.

  3. Rebecca says:

    I buy directly from Alima online, and online boutiques like Spirit Beauty Lounge, FutureNatural or NuboNau for RMS. That’s pretty much all the actual make-up. Most of my other products come from online boutiques or directly from the companies (like Kahina). 100% Pure has a local apothecary style shop, and I buy some skin care products there. My local Whole Foods has some good stuff, but it’s not all stuff I like or use. Another local spot sort of similar to Whole Foods has Evan Healy. Overall I like buying online because it saves time, but it’s fun to try things out in person. I think overall I’m pretty lucky to live in an area where natural stuff is a common part of the lifestyle, but still I wish there was ONE place I could go in person that had all the stuff I’d like to try. When I visit Santa Cruz I love to go to Staff of Life – better than Whole Foods both for food and natural beauty products, plus an awesome juice bar. If you are a Santa Cruz local I’m sure you already know about Staff, and if you are a visitor definitely check it out!

  4. Naomi says:

    I would love to have somewhere to play with all the different lotions and potions under one roof! In the meatime, I make good use of the Spirit Beauty Lounge sample packs (RMS Beauty make up) and I am lucky to be very close to a Duane Reade which carries the full 100% Pure cosmetics line so I play there. Other than that I’m afraid it’s a bit of hit or miss on-line… I mess about with the Wholefoods brands and I use a Josie Maran blush (bought at Sephora) but now that I think of it, I don’t have a lot of make up in my bag these days.

    I’m not one for doing my make up in public (I’ve never really thought of it as an option, more because the idea of putting make up on anything but a freshly washed face freaks me out) but I really love to play with colour and texture before investing in a product. On-line shopping just isn’t the same. :(

  5. Kimberly says:

    Generally most of my skin care is bought online since the brands I currently use are not available in the area I live in. I do buy Acure organics from the whole foods less than an hour away. I order regularly from Spirit beauty lounge as the budget allows and love the samples. Would be great if there was a store that carried the brands I love but realistically do not see that happening. Walmart is king and queen where I live and a local store that carried all natural brands just would not make it here especially with the economy the way it is. Most folks where I live are not that concerned about using safer products that are better for them as well as the environment, sad to say. Most are concerned with the cost. Our downtown is nearly a ghost town as far as local and small businesses are concerned. I work in a school and most of the kids are only used to shopping at you know where. So online businesses receive most of my skin care dollars. Do love the whole foods though because I love to smell those Zum soap bars!

  6. Lindz says:

    I buy most of my products online. I am so in love with Rejuva Minerals, mineral foundation and Zosimos botanicals bronzer. The mineral foundation isn’t drying. Someone told me I looked like I got some color and I hadn’t been in the sun, it was just the bronzer!!! I have very fair skin, so finding a bronzer that works is difficult. Anyway, I just had to share two of my favorite, everyday products.

    Also, iIjust have to tell you ladies how much I absolutely adore this blog! I check it everyday and I always look forward to the next post. I’ve learned so much from the blog and the book and I really appreciate all of your hard work and honesty. Keep up the great work :)

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I buy my soaps and toothpaste from Whole Foods; shampoo and conditioner from Walgreens; blush and eyeshadows from Alima Pure; and dry shampoo and foundation from Spirit Beauty Lounge. Also use coconut oil from Whole Foods, masks from Evan Healy’s site or Whole Foods, and different oils from Nature’s Gate online.

    I guess there isn’t much rhyme or reason to my method. When I realize I’m running low, I’ll see if I can buy a healthy product online, otherwise I’ll swing by Walgreens or Whole Foods. I try to be as clean as possible, while still making certain I feel comfortable with each product’s preservation method, but I also do have to be realistic. If I’m out of foundation, I’m not going to go without until my Vapour Organics arrives!

  8. Aileen says:

    I buy some stuff on-line, a few things (like Evan Healy masks and Zum lotion) from the co-op or Whole Foods), but I also have the uncanny luck to live near The Nature of Beauty. If they carry something that I want/need I will buy it there (for RMS, some Alima, conditioner, Logona tinted moisturizer)…instant gratification. :)

  9. Jane says:

    I mostly buy from a great shop where I live (Madison, WI) called Community Pharmacy. Everything is natural, and they have a great selection (better than whole foods) and also sell lots of stuff in bulk like clays and herb powders and many of their shampoos, conditioners, etc. I do wonder about buying products online. I have done it a few times myself but always feel a bit guilty about it because I suspect that it is actually worse for the environment than walking to walgreens and picking up a dirty product. Its important to discuss the environmental impacts of dirty products but we need to think about the whole process of acquiring and using products too. Ordering something online means that it is shipped long distances to you which means huge greenhouse gas emissions. Products stocked in stores are of course also shipped from manufacturing and distribution centers but I suspect that is done with fewer trips, in greater bulk, etc. Also, a lot of natural companies advertise exotic ingredients that come from all over the world, which is, again, more greenhouse gases. I don’t really know what the best answer to all of this is, I’ve tried doing some research and have not been able to find anything really definitive or useful regarding these questions. If anyone can direct me somewhere or has a more informed opinion let me know!

  10. Kourtney L says:

    I have yet to find a place that I return to for natural or plant based cosmetics. I try a lot of the products at my local health food store called Lifesource, I am still on the hunt for a company that I really feel good with.

    Recommendations? I am looking for a foundation (light weight and not mineral), a blush, eyeliner and mascara. I have heard a couple names up talked about, any sites I need to check out?

  11. Andreina says:

    Whole foods isalso my go-to. I go to Sephora only for Josie Maran( I like most of her makeup, as long as there’s no aluminium!)

  12. Naomi says:

    @ Kourtney L – I have tried only a few clean foundations. I didn’t take to the mineral powder, I just didn’t like the feel of it at all. I was using Organic Glam (from The Organic Pharmacy) but then tried a sample of the Vapour Organics stick foundation and I’m smitten! It has a beautiful finish and lasts & lasts & lasts… AND on the odd occasion when I (*blush*) fall asleep with my make up on it doesn’t at all make me break out, which is a miracle! I would recommend you try a sample if you are able to source one. Spirit Beauty Lounge offers it as part of the sample pack.

  13. Christina says:

    I buy from Spirit Beauty Lounge because they are awesome and because The South has, as my mom would say, “a long row to hoe” when it comes to moving forward. I just checked to see how close Whole Foods is to me. The nearest one is over 250 miles away, in New Orleans!

  14. Jennifer Hallman says:

    There is a wonderful luxury beauty website based out of LA, which I also has a store in West Lake Village, Beautyhabit.com. They offer products from around the world and their natural and organic section continues to grow.

  15. Rebecca says:

    @Jane, I do worry about the shipping/environmental impact issue. If I want a product, I typically check the starting point locations when I order online. Sometimes an online boutique is closer, sometimes ordering direct from the company is closer. I recently decided to pay full price for Lotus Wei because their facility is much closer, rather than get a 30% discount that would have shipped from across the country. This isn’t perfect, but with online ordering I figure I am saving gas by not driving around town searching for stuff. Also, when I do buy in person, locally made products are more likely to be my choice. The environmental impact is another good reason to wish for one local spot that carried all the stuff I use. In the meantime I try to make balanced decisions.

  16. Michele says:

    Whole Foods is definitely my new Sephora. I buy most of my beauty products there. ABC (in NYC) has an ok selection of clean products but not really for make up. They have Intelligent Nutrients, and they also carry some non toxic fragrance lines like Red flower, and Priti nail polish. Wonderland in the meatpacking district carries Tsi -la fragrance line and Exhale spa on 59th St. carries W3ll People make up line. New London Pharmacy in Chelsea has Rahua hair products, and a few other clean odds and ends.

    As much as I love online shopping for the convenience, I really prefer a store to online for beauty products. I like to smell products before I buy them. The wrong smell can be a deal breaker for me even if it has the best performance as a product. After giving up toxic fragrances it’s hard for me to tolerate the smell of certain stores like Sephora, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Victoria’s Secret. It’s also difficult to tolerate “olfactory offenders” at the office, but now I’m getting of topic. Also I find color selection to be very tricky with online shopping , especially for foundation and concealer. I’m somewhat impatient and I find ordering samples to be time consuming although I do it sometimes because I can’t find certain brands in a store.

    Even though I live in NYC, I still find myself short on options and order online. I like Spirit Beauty Lounge; thanks to you guys. I also order from Dermstore.com. They have mostly toxic lines but some clean lines like Nvey Eco, John Master’s, and Juice Beauty. I like it because they have free shipping on all US orders and a 30 day return policy. It usually takes a good 2 weeks to receive your order, which by today’s standards is a bit slow.

  17. jess says:

    I do love Whole Foods, but here in the UK (or at least at my local) the Whole Body selection is not as big as the ones I used to frequent in New York. There’s also a really amazing store here in London called Content (beingcontent.com), which carries a lot of great brands you guys talk about on here, and the NMDL book. The owner and employees are all super friendly and helpful. Definitely one of my favorite finds in London.

  18. Nancy says:

    As the majority, I too do most of my purchases online. Have tried Spirit Beauty Lounge, Future Natural and NuboNau (that has the most amazing packaging and care to details ..really impressive!) . Have also purchased directly from Alima Pure, Tata Harper,Kahina-Giving Beauty, Lotus Wei, Hope G., and others sites such as Mountain Rose. The convenience beats a drive around town anytime and all sites are really good on product’s details, list of ingredients,how-to use,etc.. Even when it comes to pick colors for make up, the sites are quite helpful ( Alima Pure beats all others on that) . I’ve trusted this site for products suggestions when cleaning my “act” and have never had to return any product bought, not even make-up . Just for the records,I do have a Whole Foods nearby and even a newer and bigger one a little farther but still, with all these wonderful online stores and great “Fridays’ deals”…who can resist?

  19. Nancy says:

    @NMDL : my thanks for empowering me through education. It is a fantastic feeling being able to walk by Sephora or any other place one can buy beauty products without any longing for anything.

  20. Abbey says:

    Mostly I buy online, I love SaffronRouge.com . I do sometimes purchase make-up and skin and haircare from Whole Foods and our great local Oregon grocery chain, New Seasons. I also sometimes stop into Pharmaca, a natural drugstore/pharmacy but they aren’t super close for me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose my VIB status at Sephora, I never buy there anymore. Oh well, all it gets me it samples I’ll never use anyway!!!!

  21. Sarah says:

    I was delighted to read this posting this morning!! I feel exactly the same way as many of the postings here, that I’d like to touch, smell, try out products in person before purchasing, so shopping online is hard for me. Even though I live in Manhattan there is not a single store devoted to organic and natural products under one roof.

    I will be opening a store in downtown Manhattan in 2012, Vetiver, to fill our needs. What brands would you want to see carried?

    PS – I love No More Dirty Looks, keep up the amazing work ladies!

  22. Rebecca says:

    @Sarah, I’m across the country so I doubt I’d ever make it to your store, but here are some suggestions (and best of luck with your new business!):

    RMS, Alima Pure, Kahina Giving Beauty, Evan Healy, Lotus Wei, Sprout Wellness, skinnyskinny, Badger, SoapWalla Kitchen, Meadowlake Farms, John Masters, Real Purity (makes the only natural, gluten free mascara I’ve found that is awesome), and maybe some basic ingredients for DIY like carrier oils, clay and EO

  23. Elizabeth says:

    @Kourtney L, I love Vapour Organics Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation! I have sensitive, acne-prone skin and this stuff provides great, layer-able coverage and has an awesome silky feel to it. I have been using this for 4 months or so and have not broken out from it. I shop at Spirit Beauty Lounge online for that, though you can also order directly through Vapour.

  24. Bibi says:

    @Jane – thanks so much for informing us about the Community Pharmacy in Madison! I’m passing through there on my way home to Pakistan where I can’t get ANY clean products at all, nor do any companies take online orders to send there, so I need to stock up before going back – I’ve been ordering like mad online, plus shopping at fabulous Whole Foods. The only clean stuff (that I know of) that I can get ordered to there is Soapwalla’s products, which is great because I love (and need!) her deodorant. Apart from that I’m looking into making stuff myself – like facial toners, conditioner for my hair, tooth paste, mouth rinse, and face masks… It’s an uphill battle to try to go clean in Pakistan, I can assure you of that!

  25. Jasmine says:

    I buy all my body care at Whole Foods… occasionaly my stylist convincess me into buying curl serum from the salon, but even my usual curling spray is purchased at Whole Foods.
    I love whole foods make-up: thanks to Whole Foods and Gabriel Cosmetics I finally embraced the idea of lipstick and mineral fusion makes my favorite gloss (Sensitive). Also, the mineral fusion brush on sunblock is my new favorite, enough coverage to even skin tone, but translucent enough to look natural and work on most skin tones.
    I could go on…. but I’ll stop now.

  26. michele says:

    The problem w WFs is they dont have knowedgable, experienced sales people who can help you find the right color/shade etc and teach you how to apply it at home. I wish they offered that service the way tradtional make-up counters do.

  27. Spirit says:

    Fun to see so many of our customers comment! You know we love you, ladies.

  28. michele says:

    also a WF/WB fan! can a gal dream though-wouldnt it be great if they had counter help to assist w application and selection? getting the right lipstick color isnt one of my strengths. and while i am on my dream cloud-a whole spa would really rock!

  29. lisa says:

    Hello. I am looking for some less expensive natural makeup for my daughters who are just starting out. I made the mistake of buying them the pricier stuff and they went through it in a week. Any ideas? Shadows, blush…

  30. annie says:

    So, I was looking into some of the dr. hauschka blushes and saw that they have talc on them.. Isn’t talc bad for your skin??? or are there different types? anybody know?

  31. mangomadness says:

    I buy my most of my natural make-up online (Valanaminerals.com & iHerb.com) and some in the store (Target, Walgreens, CVS).

    iHerb.com is my go-to for buying natural make-up because they a lovely assortment of natural mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick, lip gloss, etc. Most of the prices are quite affordable and free shipping on US orders over $20.

  32. Angi says:

    Hey I was curios about the thing you said, “dabbing vanilla on your wrists”. Just plain vanilla or is it a natural perfume? homemade perfume? :) thanks!!!

  33. Chafik says:

    Whole Foods is awesome! Love their stores and especially the delicious pay per pound buffet that they have. I used to eat there all the time. For centuries people have used natural essential oils on their skins for multiple purposes: Moisturizing, calming inflammations, erasing scars and stretch marks, acne… There are all kinds of essential oils out there that you should use instead of using products that include chemicals. The only reason the big cosmetic companies include chemicals in their products is to get that quick short term intended look and feeling that you are seeking, it provides the users with quick satisfaction. On the long run, those same chemicals that provide you short term satisfaction, start drying your skin, make it difficult for the skin and hair to breath, etc… I personally founded a company that sells all natural organic Argan oil products online, check out our website: PrettyArgan. Also, look up other essential oils that can be just as good for your skin and hair. The good old olive oil that you can get at the super market will do all kinds of marvels on your skin and hair. I grew up in north africa, and I remember when I was young, we would put olive oil on our skin before going to the beach, and my mom used to put Argan oil or olive oil on her hair regularly.

  34. Cassie says:

    Hey! I wanted to let you know that I used your photo in a blog post of mine about affordable natural products (with a click-through to this post. Hopefully you’ve noticed some people coming your way!). If you’d like me to remove it, just let me know, and I’ll take it down no questions asked.

    The post is here: http://cassiecares.com/?p=1899

    Love your blog btw! Just liked your page on fb.


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