Natural Beauty: Top 5 Drugstore Natural Beauty Staples

March 2, 2016

High-Low: Top 5 Drug Store Natural Beauty Staples

Looking for the best natural beauty products from the drugstore? Read on.

At Peaceful Dumpling, we love to share our favorite luxury, vegan, all-natural beauty brands and products. Who doesn’t like–and deserve–a little self-gift every now and then? And with vegan-targeted beauty subscription boxes like Petit Vour entering the mainstream, it’s easier than ever to get high-quality and expert-vetted products literally delivered to you. Suddenly, washing your face or putting on deodorant is no longer a task of daily hygiene but one of pampering.

Sometimes, though, you need something now–something that you can pick up at Duane Reade or CVS–and that you won’t need to make a savings fund for. Yes, I’m talking those desperation purchases, where your heart cringes upon reading the first ingredient Sodium Laurel Sulfate, even as it sings with the $6 price tag and 25% off coupon in your wallet.

For conscious drugstore shoppers, this might not be news, but if you’re an in-and-out visitor, I’m glad to share a curated list of the top 5 natural beauty products that–yes–you can find at most major drugstores (prices and availability may vary by location). This is the result of hours spent crouched in aisles scrutinizing ingredients and scouring the internet for customer reviews as well as old fashioned user satisfaction.

I confess that while I was writing this post, I had a mini-crisis/revelation in my own beauty product supply kit (thanks to my therapists for dealing with me during those fretful days, Mary and Juhea!). I’m sure every vegan and eco-conscious shopper out there as felt something similar: the sheer panic of realizing a favorite product or brand is somehow involved–directly or indirectly–in animal testing, or that deep inside a list of ingredients is an l-word that shall remain unnamed. A few of the items on my original list below had to be cut, and ultimately were disposed of from my bathroom and make-up bag, as a result. The purge was difficult (I hate waste more than anything), guilt-inducing (how could I have not done my homework and been a good vegan?), and overall very stressful. But I came through it feeling empowered and smarter, knowing how to navigate the tricky avenues of cruelty-free brands. I downloaded the Logical Harmony brand list on my phone (for reference at your fingertips!), researched international animal testing regulations (did you know that anything sold in China requires animal testing, even if the brand’s home country doesn’t?), and learned about truly vegan ingredients.

So these top 5 products come to you, Dumplings, with an extra dose of love and, above all, compassion–for the creatures you’re protecting by choosing them over other products, and for yourself if you find you made a mistake along the way.

Top 5 Drugstore Natural Beauty Staples

1. CVS Moisturizing Lotion (compare to Cetaphil): Once, when asked what superhero I would be, I said Lotion Girl (no joke–ask my sister). I wanted my superpower to be a constantly supply of moisture on my very dry hands, which would ultimately be used to slip up (haha) bad guys. I’ve thus tried too many different hand lotions in my life before finding this CVS-brand version of Cetaphil, a lightweight but penetrating lotion that doesn’t leave a grease-slick on everything I touch (a trail that wouldn’t be ideal for a superhero, either…). I keep a nice big bottle of it on my desk at work for everyday use and alternate it with specialty lotions for my skin. It’s paraben-, lanolin-, fragrance-, and cruelty-free, a rare combo of chemical freedom that’s hard to find even in the fancy boutiques.

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CVS brand Daily Ultra Moisture Lotion, $11.99/16 oz.

2. Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo: My hair is an odd combination of fine, oily, and curly, which made me fear I was fated to buying $20-bottles of shampoo all my life. Enter trusty Trader Joe’s, whose Tea Tree Tingle shampoo seems to be a real-life panacea for all hair types. The refreshing tea tree scent and other organic botanicals leaves a, you guessed it, clean and tingling feeling in the scalp even without those evil sulfates.

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Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle Shampoo (shown with Conditioner and Body Wash), $3.99/16 oz.

3. Trader Joe’s Vitamin E Oil: Nowadays it seems that every plant, rock, and planet has some super-oil that we should slather all over ourselves. Vitamin E, however, has been a mainstay in beauty and skincare regimens for its healing properties on scars and other irritations. This pure formula, made with soybean oil (a natural source of vitamin E) is light enough to use on the face but also great for cuticles and all-over body. TJ’s humble price and packaging belie its strength.

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Trader Joe’s Vitamin E Oil, $3.99/4oz.

4. Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes: I like to wipe off my makeup before I exercise, and for a long time I used wipes with “refreshing” scents like grapefruit and cucumber. But these exquisitely tropical, ultra-hydrating wipes are going to be my new staple. The package says they “hydrate and restore skin to its natural gorgeousness,” and that’s the perfect description. Combined with the fact that they are paraben-, SLS-, and petroleum-free, and compostable, they may become the reason that you work out more!

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Yes to Coconut Cleansing Wipes, $6.49/25 wipes

 5. Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil: When you’re not on the go and need a full-on face wash, I’d recommend a cleansing oil. For years, while I struggled with acne, I relied on drying and aggravating products that were supposedly helping my oily complexion. Now, we all know a little better that oil-deprived skin just makes more oil, and the solution is to moisturize! (Is anyone else sensing a theme here…?) This blend contains coconut oil, argan oil, sunflower seed oil, and rosemary extract, which melts into the skin instantly, leaving behind a glowified you. And like most oils, a little goes a long way, so you’ll get your money’s worth from just one bottle.

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Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil, $15.99/6 oz.

What are your budget-beauty go-tos? Share your shopping lists (and purge stories) in the comments or tweet to @peacefuldumpling!

Also by Jennifer: Vegan Breakfast Recipes: Blueberry Citrus Quinoa Pilaf

Related: Why Tattoos Aren’t Vegan–And Cruelty-Free Alternatives

7 Vegan and Palm-Free Beauty Brands

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Photos: Mary Hood Luttrell, CVS, Trader Joe’s

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Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.

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