IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Clean at Sephora: 12 best makeup, skin care and hair care products

Drunk Elephant, Supergoop! and Briogeo are a few of the “clean” brands carried at Sephora. Here's what the label means and how it's evolved over time.
Illustration of clean beauty products sold at Sephora like ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint, Bread Hair Mask, Superoop Unseen Sunscreen and the Saie Mascara 101. Shop the best clean beauty products at Sephora from the Clean at Sephora program. See clean makeup
Sephora’s definition of clean beauty can be applied to makeup, skin care, hair care and fragrance. Saie ; Sephora ; Ilia

Select is editorially independent. Our editors selected these deals and items because we think you will enjoy them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time.

Shopping for clean beauty products can be tricky as each brand’s definition of clean is as varied as their respective product offerings. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only regulates the beauty industry, notably for adulterated or misbranded cosmetics, and doesn’t approve beauty products before they hit the market. Furthermore, the FDA cannot recall cosmetics, but it can monitor manufacturers that voluntarily request a product recall.

While there are a handful of national beauty stores that only sell what they deem clean products, among them Credo Beauty, Follain and The Detox Market, more mainstream stores like Target and Sephora, a Shopping reader favorite, have both expanded their offerings of clean beauty products. For its Clean at Sephora program, the retailer created a green-and-white seal that helps shoppers quickly identify items that align with the store’s definition of clean beauty. Right now, Sephora’s definition can be applied to skin care, makeup, hair care and fragrance items.

Given Sephora’s popularity among Shopping readers who are keen on keeping up with the store’s new and notable launches, sales and gift-worthy products, we learned more about the relatively new Clean at Sephora initiative.

SKIP AHEAD Best Clean at Sephora products

A brief history of Clean at Sephora

When the Clean at Sephora program launched on June 1, 2018, the beauty retailer required brand offerings to be free of 13 ingredients it considered problematic, ranging from mineral oils and parabens to oxybenzone and hydroquinone. At the time, only 50 brands and 2,000 applicable products met the standard. A Sephora spokesperson told Shopping that earning the Clean at Sephora seal doesn't involve payment nor advertisement with Sephora.

A little over a year later in July 2019, Sephora expanded its “formulated without” list to include over 50 ingredients, now listing ethanolamines and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), among others. That same year, Sephora Collection, the beauty giant’s in-house brand, started selling relatively affordable Clean at Sephora-approved products for $20 and less.

As we entered a new decade in 2020, 67 brands had earned the Clean at Sephora seal — today, more than 90 companies are part of Sephora’s program putting forth more than 1,680 “clean” products available on the site. A few notable and recent additions include Black-owned businesses like LYS Beauty, Qhemet Biologics and Topicals. There are also women-founded cosmetics brands like Merit and Westman Atelier, the latter launched by makeup artist Gucci Westman.

Clean at Sephora: Ingredients

According to Sephora, the retailer defines “clean” as “offering transparency in formulation and sourcing of ingredients along with avoiding synthetic ingredients such as phthalates, parabens, and sulfates.” Sephora noted it researches internally and relies on external sources like brand partners, consultants and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to determine inclusion of brands. We asked Sephora about the most common ingredients in the products it deems "clean," and list them below alongside their purported benefits.

  1. Vitamin C offers both functional and aesthetic benefits, including treating acne, wrinkles, melasma and more.

  2. Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that can help improve the tone and texture of your skin.

  3. Squalane is a lightweight oil that helps hydrate, rebalance and improve the elasticity of the skin.

  4. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are chemical exfoliants that can help minimize the appearance of pores and hyperpigmentation.

  5. Glycolic acid is a small, colorless AHA that penetrates the skin easily and can leave it looking glowing.

  6. Hyaluronic acid is a clear, sticky liquid that helps the skin retain moisture.

12 Best Clean at Sephora products

To help save you time scrolling through the 1,680 Clean at Sephora beauty offerings, we put together a roundup of highly rated products across skin care, makeup and hair care aligned with Shopping reader interests, plus new picks we think are worth getting to know better.

Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel

One of the best retinol serums, the Power Peel is made with 0.5 percent retinol and 14 percent glycolic acid, which together help buff away dead skin cells. It is also infused with hydrating shea butter. Board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, previously highlighted that this serum boosts collagen production, minimizes hyperpigmentation and prevents signs of aging. It received a 4.5-star average rating from eight reviews on Sephora.

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum

We previously named this one of the best vitamin C serums because it’s made with 20 percent vitamin C and 10 percent alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), which help exfoliate the skin and reveal a brighter complexion. Japanese angelica root extract also helps reduce dark spots on the face. It boasts a 4.2-star average rating from nearly 1,530 reviews on Sephora.

Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

As one of the best sunscreens for dark skin tones, this “light as a feather” gel SPF earned praise from InStyle beauty director Maya Allen, who noted it “sinks into the skin so seamlessly." Board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, added "it's literally unseen and clear from the offset — it looks like a makeup primer when you apply it." This SPF boasts a 4.4-star average rating from nearly 2,200 reviews on Sephora.

Caudalie Beauty Elixir

This spray is one of Caudalie’s signature skin care products and it received a 4.2-star average rating from more than 3,600 reviews on Sephora. The Beauty Elixir is infused with grape and rose extracts to tone your skin post-cleanse and it smells like rosemary and mint. After applying makeup, you can mist the Elixir onto your face to help prolong the wear of your cosmetics.

Glow Recipe Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask

Glow Recipe is a Korean beauty brand known for its colorful products with effective ingredients, including this overnight face mask made for dry skin. This pale pink gel face mask is made with hydrating watermelon acid and hyaluronic acid, plus it boasts two types of AHAs — lactic and glycolic acids — to buff away dead skin cells. There is also peony root to help brighten a dull complexion. It received a 4-star average rating from more than 2,600 reviews on Sephora.

Herbivore Blue Tansy BHA and Enzyme Pore Refining Mask

Herbivore’s blue gel face mask utilizes both AHAs and beta hydroxy acids to help dissolve oil and exfoliate the skin, while blue tansy can calm redness and fight acne-causing bacteria on the face. It received a 4.3-star average rating from more than 1,700 reviews on Sephora.

ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint

As we approach summer, you might be looking for a lightweight foundation. Enter Super Serum Skin Tint, a 3-in-1 product that offers a sheer, dewy coverage and SPF 40 protection. It received a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 4,760 reviews on ILIA. The serum is available in 30 shades and is made with a combination of squalane and hyaluronic acid for hydration, while niacinamide helps to minimize the appearance of pores.

Saie Mascara 101

Makeup artists recommend playing up your eyes when sporting a face mask — and having long, fluttery lashes can help draw attention to your eyes without the hassle of falsies. This lengthening mascara received a 4.7-star average rating from nearly 240 reviews on Sephora. It is made from beeswax, shea butter and quackgrass extract, which together helps soften and strengthen your lashes, according to the brand.

Tower 28 Beauty BeachPlease Lip + Cheek Cream Blush

Embrace the carefree summer vibes and opt for easy, multi-use products like Tower 28’s 2-in-1 cream blush and lip tint. Beyond hydrating aloe vera extract, it boasts antioxidant-rich green tea extract. This month, Tower 28 expanded its shade offerings from three to six colors, including Rush Hour (currently out of stock on Sephora), Power Hour and After Hours.

BREAD BEAUTY SUPPLY Hair Wash Gentle Milky Hair Cleanser

BREAD was created with naturalistas in mind — its milky shampoo lightly lathers to cleanse textured hair without stripping it of natural oils. This hair cleanser is made with vitamin E-rich argan oil and aloe vera juice to help hydrate your strands. There’s also scalp-soothing lemon tea tree oil. It received a 4.6-star average rating from more than 40 reviews on Sephora.

Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair! Deep Conditioning Hair Mask

After washing your hair, you might want a deep conditioner treatment to help soften and moisturize your stands. Briogeo’s hair mask boasts rosehip oil to minimize frizz and hydrate your hair, while algae extract helps strengthen hair and vitamin B adds sheen. It boasts a 4.1-star average rating from more than 2,800 reviews on Sephora.

adwoa beauty Baomint Leave In Conditioning Styler

This creamy leave-in conditioner features lavender and rosemary leaf oils, which have antimicrobial properties and boost scalp circulation, respectively. It is also made with nettle extract to enhance shine. This Clean at Sephora pick received a 4.5-star average rating from 95 reviews on Sephora.

Which brands are Clean at Sephora-approved?

If you prefer shopping by brand, here’s a quick list of all 91 Clean at Sephora brands listed in alphabetical order for your perusal.

  1. Adwoa
  2. Aether Beauty
  3. Alpha-H
  4. alpyn beauty
  5. bareMinerals
  6. BeautyBio
  7. belif
  8. Biossance
  9. Bite Beauty
  10. boscia
  11. Bread Beauty Supply
  12. Briogeo
  13. by Rosie Jane
  14. Caudalie
  15. CLEAN Reserve
  16. COOLA
  17. Dae
  18. Dr. Barbara Sturm
  19. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare
  20. Drunk Elephant
  21. Edible Beauty
  22. ELLIS BROOKLYN
  23. Fable and Mane
  24. Farmacy
  25. Fenty Skin
  26. First Aid Beauty
  27. Flora + Bast
  28. Freck
  29. fresh
  30. Glow Recipe
  31. goop
  32. Herbivore
  33. Heretic
  34. Ilia
  35. Indie Lee
  36. INNBeauty Project
  37. Isle of Paradise
  38. Josie Maran
  39. Kopari
  40. KORA Organics
  41. KORRES
  42. KOSAS
  43. LASHFOOD
  44. LAVANILA
  45. LAWLESS
  46. Lilah B.
  47. Lord Jones
  48. LYS Beauty
  49. Maison Louis Marie
  50. MERIT Beauty
  51. Milk Makeup
  52. Moon Juice
  53. Naturally Serious
  54. Nécessaire
  55. Olaplex
  56. OLEHENRIKSEN
  57. Original & Mineral
  58. Origins
  59. Playa
  60. PHLUR
  61. Prima
  62. Primera
  63. Qhemet Biologics
  64. Rahua
  65. REN Clean Skincare
  66. Reverie
  67. rms beauty
  68. Rosebud Perfume Co.
  69. Rossano Ferretti Parma
  70. Saie
  71. Saint Jane Beauty
  72. Saturday Skin
  73. SKINFIX
  74. SKYLAR
  75. Sobel Skincare RX
  76. stackedskincare
  77. Summer Fridays
  78. Supergoop!
  79. Tata Harper
  80. Tatcha
  81. The 7 Virtues
  82. The INKEY List
  83. Together Beauty
  84. Tower 28 Beauty
  85. Vitruvi
  86. Volition Beauty
  87. Wander Beauty
  88. Westman Atelier
  89. Wishful
  90. Youth To The People
  91. YUNI

Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.