About Me

I’m a California-based voice & visual artist. I immerse myself in creative adventure by exploring multiple genres, styles, and forms in my writing and art. I also make short films. ❤️robots.

Building My Go Bag of Fragrance-Free Makeup

Here's what I'm using this month.

About a year ago I started looking for fragrance-free makeup. I've been Ms. Natural for many years, but was surprised by a new trend. Cosmetic companies are adding fruit or flower scents to previously fragrance-free products. Bummer. So it wasn't as easy as reordering what I wore in the past. I think branding issues and marketing enthusiasm sometimes complicate products for consumers.

My quest began with internet research, comparing ingredients, getting overwhelmed, my mind shutting off, then just ordering what samples were available or the full-sized products. Synthetic not organic tended to be less reactive for me. I'd hoped to find some kind of magical blend of both worlds.

My goal was to try one product at a time, so any reaction would be attributed to that particular item. The process: apply a generous amount of the product on a small area on my face, and wait. Any sign of skin or lung irritation, and I removed the product. If no problems, I applied more to half of my face, leaving the other half bare as a "control" side. Housework provided a good way to challenge the product for daily wear. I wanted to find makeup with a "face feel" I wouldn't notice on my skin. One “nameless natural” brand immediately caused breathing and skin irritation and did not go away within the two hours I left it on. What a relief to wash my face and throw those samples away!

Still in search of a replacement for
my favorite eye liner.
My fragrance-free journey.
Makeup should be simple. It's about enhancing our appearance not creating a logjam of decisions. We live in a complicated world, sometimes a solution can't be a homemade, one-ingredient answer.

I'm tired of being a test subject. Life's short and I need to get on to other things. New motto: if it seems okay on my skin, it is okay.

I realized I needed to pay closer attention to my skin's condition. Most of my life I had a strict cleansing, toning, and moisturizing routine with monthly facials. Time marched forward while I decided to go "all granola" meaning I was being all natural and would wash and moisturize my face, but little else. (Vegan food options are my preference.)

As we get older, challenges pop up such as sun spots, dry skin, hair, fine lines, etc. These need to be dealt with for successful makeup application. Clearest example: try painting a floor or something without cleaning the surface first, what a mess. The bottom line is attend to your skin—create the best canvas you can during your "cleansing routine." And get enough sleep.

From top, left to right: Real Purity Foundation Soft Beige (top) & Light Beige; Kett Hydro Foundation Ruby 1;
The Everything Pencil Ultra Light; RCMA Foundations in KA1, KA3, GB; Senna Foundations in
Custom Blend 1 & HD Extreme Light 03, Fast Finish Powder in Banana, Spot Stick Concealer in Bag Out.
e.l.f. Translucent Matifying Powder; Mehron Celebre HD-Pro Foundation in Light 2, Mehron Creamblend
Stick in Ivory Bisque. FACE atelier samples of Translucent Loose Powder, Camouflage Duet Light,
foundations in 0-, 2, 0+. Koh Gen Do Moisture Foundation 112, Powder, & Moisture Concealer compact.

ABCs for finding your right foundation:

Application tools, Base ingredients, Consistency & Color

Application tools can be your fingers, sponges, air brushing, brushes, etc. I use my fingers and Koh Gen Do's foundation brush to apply foundation, Japonesque's travel lip brush for concealer, and a generic medium brush for powder.

Base ingredients seem to be rather common across brands: petroleum derivatives, silicone, minerals, natural oils (examples include: coconut, jojoba oil, castor oil, natural waxes, etc.).

I use Koh Gen Do's Moisture Foundation—this company doesn't test on animals or use synthetic fragrance. Products are free of parabens, composite pigments, and mineral oil. After trying a vast amount of makeup, I found Koh Gen Do to be a relief, finally an answer for me. It happened by accident. The samples included a concealer I hadn't asked for. The light, creaminess won me over and now I'm slowly filling my makeup Go Bag with their products. The concealer's compact seems fancy, but this product deserves to be in a splendid container. If I could have only one makeup product it would be this one for spot coverage and even a bit more if necessary. You may not think you need three colors, but they can be blended for your own custom shade.

Consistency depends on the ingredients, but I'll use the term as a way of describing the face-feel of makeup. Some are water-based and light, but might look dry. Others are natural or synthetic oil-based with heavier coverage. Most foundations need to be "set" with powder.

Intent when choosing face color including eye shadow, blush, and bronzers will determine a natural or dramatic palette. Without intent that overflowing makeup drawer will suck up more cash.

I opt for Koh Gen Do bases which create light coverage yet are build-able (coverage can be increased) and can be tapped with your finger to blend if any creasing happens hours after applying; setting with powder is not necessary. FACE atelier's dewy feel doesn't dry like typical foundations and their unique bases in 0+ or 0- allow you to customize your color at home.

In general, when stuck between foundation shades or going from winter to summer you can chose the closest light shade and blend with a darker shade either by using samples or buying an additional full-sized container. The darker color can also be used for contouring.

So many options. I want to keep my routine simple, but there are plenty of people who love to create with the endless makeup possibilities—it is an art.
"Favorite products can do double-duty: cheek color for eyes, eyeliner for brows and lips, foundation for spot concealer."
My Go Bag pictured in front of some of the tested products.

My cosmetics Go Bag is filled with:

  • Koh Gen Do Moisture Concealer, $54. Worth the splurge to me. Apply with finger or brush. This concealer and lip balm and I'm set most days.
  • Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Moisture Foundation, $62. Squeeze a small amount onto a fingertip or two then smear across the rest of fingertips; spider-walk in a light tapping motion dappling entire face. Use (brush) swirling in circular motion to blend foundation over entire face. Use a light-as-air touch.
  • Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Natural Lighting Powder, $42. Key ingredients are silk and Hyaluronic Acid.
  • FACE atelier Ultra Blush in Pink Satin, $26. Nice to use on cheeks and as eyelid highlight color.
  • Shiseido Perfect Rough Lip Stick in Rouge Parfait BE740, $25.
  • Mascara is a challenge, whether described as "natural" or not, everything I've tried has been somewhat irritating for me. Lesser of evils: Smashbox Full Exposure and Laura Mercier Full-Blown Volume Lash-Building.
  • Cinema Secrets Ultimate Eye Liner Taupe, $1. For eyes, brows, and lips! I like this pencil very much, but it wasn't the exact shade match so I'm still using the ancient stub of a mystery brand in taupe. (see comparison Post-it note photo of pencil marks)
  • Origins Lip Pencil in Brick (newer version) I've used this lip color for years.
  • Eye shadow. Thanks to the e.l.f. palette I've found some new colors I like but will probably seek out a small compact by Smashbox … or maybe e.l.f.
FACE atelier sample, Shiseido Rouge
Parfait Lip Stick; pencils: Prescriptives
Dusty Rose Lip Pencil, Clinique Bare
Buff Lip Pencil

Foundations and concealers honorable mentions you might find interesting:

On arm: Eve Pearl Dual Salmon Concealer
Light, then Fair; and Invisible Finish
Powderless Powder
Eve Pearl Dual Salmon Concealer in Fair/Light is coconut oil based; without parabens, petrolatum, fragrance (see photo of product on my arm).
Mehron Creamblend Stick, a theater staple containing mineral oil; lots of color options for Halloween.
RCMA Foundation without mineral oil, fragrance, or lanolin.
FACE atelier Ultra Foundation is silicone-based, offers a terrific customizing option of adding a lighter, 0-, or a darker base, 0+, to your closest foundation color. (Face atelier was my first choice until stumbling across Koh Gen Do.)

Trucco-Senna still has some great last-chance deals. (They were once associated with Sebastian International, yes, the two single eye shadows in the photo are theirs and were my favorites for two decades). 

Fun with color!

"But I've always used this color." Ever heard yourself say this? Me, too. Aging gives you an opportunity to break out of the color rut and try something new. While we're at it, let's reconsider the actual color placement on eyelids to reshape our facial appearance. Put a limited amount of the darker color on outside edge to widen appearance of eyes or sweep inward along crease to bring eye "up" and elongate face. Check out YouTube for video examples.

e.l.f. Okay, you get what you pay for but talk about inexpensive—I bought an incredible amount for $36 including shipping during a 50% off sale last Christmas—fifteen items including the double color palettes in my photos. Some of the foundations and concealers contained fragrance despite not being stated clearly enough for me in the ingredient list. Also, I avoid SPF (sunscreen) chemical ingredients because the distinct, irritating scent most have cause skin and/or breathing issues for me. (I generally wear a hat or avoid direct sunlight.)

From top down: Eye shadows are Bare Minerals Inspiration,
Smashbox Trio Headshot & Multi-Flash, Sebastian Int.
Jade Matte & Luminesse Cream White, e.l.f. 50 Piece Palette,
 Chanel Eye Pencil Claire, Cinema Secrets Eye Liner Taupe,
Origins Lip Pencil Brick; Senna Mineral Mix/Glow Baby,
Bobbi Brown Blush Nectar, Laura Mercier Rose Petal Cheek
Color, FACE actelier Ultra Blush Pink Satin
e.l.f. Studio 50 Piece Makeup Artist Palette: My general conclusion, this is for the younger audience who experiment with makeup. Many of the colors can look too juvenile for more mature skin because of the shimmer and/or pigment. If you are ready for a makeup color change or need makeup for your Halloween costume this is an inexpensive way to play. I enjoyed trying even the most extreme colors without much expense. Not for my everyday wear but with their low prices plus sales this is an entertaining option.

My trash bin has been filled many times with my test products. Some triggered sensitivities or allergies right away. Others did so after a little more time. Many seemed okay, but not the light face-feel I was hoping for.

A product marketed as "natural" frequently resulted in another item straight into the trash after testing. The most comfortable-feeling makeup products made it into my Go Bag. We're all different with unique requirements, so this post includes brands with varying ingredients excluding fragrance as the main need.

I can't use Real Purity because natural/organic ingredients are tricky for me, but if not an issue for you this brand could be what you've been looking for; same with Eve Pearl whose Invisible Finish Powder is unlike traditional powders and is almost invisible (see previous photo).

Of the Senna products tried, the foundations did have the traditional foundation odor, but their other products were odor-free. Even Smashbox added an apple scent; the first triple eye shadow didn't have a scent, but the second one I ordered did. Life is constantly changing and so are beauty products.

Always read the label or call the company to see if your favorite has been updated with a new natural scent. Greenwashing is another way to confuse consumers. Some have good intentions, some don't and are hopping on the "natural advertising" wave to get your attention.

Have you dumped out your purse and given your makeup a refresh? Discovered any fragrance-free finds you'd like to tell me about? I'd love to hear about them.

You can read more of my fragrance-free posts here.

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