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I’ve been writing about beauty (all of it: makeup, skincare, hair, nails) for the better part of the last decade—you can follow my writing at The Zoe Report, Byrdie, or just on Instagram @sarajanenyc. This puts me in a unique (and yes, lucky) position—I get tens of boxes each week sent to my (very crowded) NYC apartment with previews of just about any beauty product you can imagine—before they launch. Over the years, I’ve tried just about everything, but there’s only a small group of products that make it into my consistent rotation. When it comes to makeup, I’m a minimalist, Ilia’s cool girl, ‘clean’ essentials have become staples (more on my favorites later). Ilia was early to the ‘clean’ beauty movement (note: I put ‘clean’ in quotes because there is no consistent, agreed upon definition of the term) — launching back in 2011. Now, they’re in their prime as consumers are looking for ‘clean’ products more than ever before, as well as skincare ingredient-infused makeup—both things Ilia excels in. Discover the brand below.
Meet The Brand
When Ilia launched ten years ago, ‘clean’ beauty was nowhere near the behemoth category it is today. What existed then was more associated with the dusty aisles of health food stores than the glam, mirrored shelves of Sephora. And yet, nine years later, it’s safe to say there’s been a seismic shift.
Today, designated labels identify ‘clean’ products at retailers ranging from Target to Sephora (and everywhere in between), not to mention that you can also shop at retailers solely designed for shoppers who prefer their products ‘clean’ (like Credo and The Detox Market).
One of the brands indisputably leading the pack in the challenging category of color cosmetics: Ilia. It’s long been known that formulating color cosmetics to compete with the long-lasting, mega-pigmented products customers are used to is a challenge. That said, Ilia is not the brand for the aspiring YouTube makeup artist anyways—one of its central tenets, founder Sasha Plavsic tells TQE, is that “skin should like skin.”
Before we get any farther, it’s important to note that there is no regulated meaning of ‘clean.’ Different brands define it differently, as do different retailers. So the true onus lies on the consumer to make sure they are comfortable with the ingredients in any given product. Plavsic defines clean beauty as the meeting place of “safe levels of synthetic and non-comedogenic ingredients,” which “align together to create an efficacious product that performs and lasts.”
Today, she explains, “our customer base is so informed on what ingredients are safe, and believe in clean makeup and that it actually works. Transparency and an open dialogue on social media has helped us grow immensely the past couple of years”.
Our Favorite Products
Now, for the fun stuff—the products. It’s hard to pick an Ilia favorite. I’m a skincare junkie at heart and want my makeup to highlight my skin rather than cover it up. I love a healthy glow and a pop of color, but I like to pick an area to focus on—so it’s either a colorful eye with a totally bare lip, or a bold lip and not much else. If this minimalist approach to makeup sounds like you, too, you’ll love Ilia.
There’s a reason this hybrid makeup-skincare product has been on countless best of 2020 launches and won a bevy of awards in the less-than-a-year since it launched. It’s a skin tint (so think, a light wash of coverage) with hyaluronic acid, moisturizing oils like squalane, and 2020’s hottest multitasking ingredient, niacinamide (it’s anti-inflammatory, can help redness, and strengthens the skin barrier). And then, there’s SPF. If, like me, you are not a morning person, there’s really nothing better than a multitasker like this.
Common complaints about mascaras, particularly clean ones include clumping and flaking—two things I can’t stand. Personally, I’d rather skip makeup altogether than wind up with black flecks dotting my face. Ilia’s mascara solves both. There’s no flaking or clumping with this formula. For someone who likes a sort of “your-lashes-but-better” look, this is a great choice. If you like a super voluminous, inky, thick lash—you may want a different formula. The pièce de résistance is the patented dual-side brush, which, the brand explains, allows for curling on one side (the short one), and lengthening on the other (the one with longer bristles).
As its name implies, this product is kind of like a hybrid of the countless other lip products you’ve tried. It’s got the tint of a color product, the shine of a gloss, and the balmy-oiliness needed to hydrate the lips. The hyaluronic acid helps plump (temporarily) and the result is a shiny, but still understated, healthy look.
Eyeshadow is at its easiest with these brush-on shades. They’re metallic—but not blinding, the perfect day-to-night makeup staple. Of course, if you want a bolder shade, try something like Hatch (a sage green) or Umber (a burnt burgundy), while Glaze (a light champagne-pearl hue) and Fresco (a taupe brown) offer more neutral options.
It wouldn’t be a thorough Ilia review without a mention of the brand’s signature multi-sticks. As anyone who considers themselves low maintenance knows, having a reliable shade you can throw on your lips, cheeks, and even eyes is one of the easiest ways to achieve a chic no-makeup makeup look. These creamy sticks are perfect for just that.
Whether you’re looking for easy makeup for Zoom or a more turned-up look for date night, you’ll want to check out some of these picks from Ilia. Their high-quality makeup essentials are perfect for a quiet glamour and super chic looks.
5 More Reasons To Love Ilia
- ILIA donated $64,000 to Feeding America at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak
- Their now cult-favorite Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 is a unique formula that fuses active levels of skincare + dewy makeup + clean mineral SPF into 1 single step. It's non-comedogenic, oil-free, safe for sensitive skin, and it keeps selling out!
- ILIA's TerraCycle program makes it easy to keep beauty products out of the landfill in 3 simple steps: 1) request a label 2) pack up to 5 empties, from any brand 3) drop off with your local carrier
- The brand was founded by Sasha Plavsic when she was 30 years old, living at home with her parents. She sought to recreate her favorite lip balm using safer, more effective ingredients—and that’s how ILIA was born.
- When Sasha was younger, she struggled with acne, which was one of her inspirations to launch ILIA. She wanted to create clean formulas made with good-for-you ingredients that not only didn't cause breakouts, but actually helped to combat them.