Are Your Favorite Tarte Cosmetics Really All Natural?

by Trina Remedios

With an annual growth of 30 percent, the rise of Tarte cosmetics is among one of the highest in recent times, and beauty lovers are lapping up their 'eco-chic', 'vegan' and 'cruelty-free' products. But, a few beauty monitors have come out with arms swinging at the brand, berating it for false claims and hidden ingredients that do not make the cut of their advertised 'eco-friendly' positioning. If you're a user or have ever considered picking up Tarte products, here's some info that might interest you: 

The Ingredients Blacklist

  • SLS: Some of the makeup has sodium lauryl sulfate, which is a foaming agent typically found in soaps, shampoos, and conditioners. The problem is that SLS can irritate the skin and the eyes and has no place being near your sensitive mucous membranes. That said, if your skin's not sensitive, this one will fly under the radar and may be much ado about nothing.
  • Parfum/Fragrance: The fact that no source is cited for the parfum/fragrance creates an air of suspicion among many beauty monitors, who believe that pthalataes may well be where it's coming from, because it's the most common component among added fragrances.
  • Propylene Glycol: This one's a toxic petrochemical derivative and is found in their cheek stain. Why didn't they just use mineral oil instead, we wonder? 
Cruelty-Free & Eco-Friendly?
In 2014, Kose, a Japanese cosmetics company bought 94 percent stake in Tarte Cosmetics. Now, this is relevant because the rules on animal testing in Japan are rather relaxed, and Kose itself is known to test on animals. Also, the cheek stain contains carmine (crushed beetles), which is quite common in makeup products but raises a red flag in the books of an eco-conscious brand.

Lastly, their best-seller, the Amazonian clay, contains "high performance naturals" that are derived from the soil and would indicate erosion and loss of minerals from the main land.

The Beauty Monitors' Rant
"It’s sickening that a company so strongly held to the value that MADE them who they are today, a cruelty-free luxury makeup brand, sold out to the highest bidder – even if that meant to a company who tests on animals," says Adrienne Callandrello from

Interestingly, Tarte was never meant to be a natural brand when it was first consceptualized but seemed to have jumped on the eco-wagon owing to demand trends. Kristen Arnett from the met up with Troy Surratt, a famous makeup artist who was part of the inception of Tarte, and found out that the first line of products had animal byproducts, formaldehyde releasers, and parabens too. Kristen says, "Early press releases of the brand’s founder Maureen Kelly say nothing about her slant towards natural. The only mention of being green is her lack of experience in starting a cosmetics brand. In subsequent articles, you’ll find her being praised for knowing exactly what the consumer wants. I think it’s safe to say she cashed in on the green, natural bandwagon as early as possible for profits, not for ethics, or she’d have done this all very differently."
Paula Begoun, a cosmetics industry reviewer also shares her two cents on Tarte's early days: "We take particular issue with the company’s claim of being preservative-free, synthetic dye-free, and talc-free. Not only are these ingredients not a problem for most people, but also many of Tarte’s products do contain them! What is that about? Didn’t anyone at Tarte read their own ingredient labels? We are beyond understanding how a cosmetics company can base their advertising on what their products do not contain, yet fail to realize, or just won’t acknowledge, that their products in fact do contain them…"
The truth is that the 'natural' tag is loosely used by the skincare and cosmetics industry. “The cosmetics industry is highly unregulated and there are many companies that make false claims,” says Mitch Kristjanson, Creative Director for Hannes Dóttir Icelandic Skincare.

The organic industry will demonize the synthetic industry in order to push their sales, and vice versa. “The truth lies in the middle,” says Kurt Collins, Director at Benir Beauty, “The main focus of any product should be avoiding the harmful and toxic ingredients that exist in both categories.” So, parabens can cause cancer, sterility, and hormone imbalance; phthalates can cause liver damage, kidney damage, and birth defects; and pure essential oils and clays can cause many issues such as inflammation and irritation among sensitive skin types, as well.

Knowing all that you do now, is Tarte on your 'Buy list' or 'Blacklist'? Do tell us.

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