ILIA Beauty Review (Pros + Cons)

February 9, 2021

ILIA Beauty is a brand we get questions about all. the. time. “Is ILIA Beauty clean?” “What are the best ILIA Beauty products?” “What do you recommend from ILIA Beauty?” Well, let me tell you—I’ve tried nearly all of the line and there are certainly a few stand-out-must-haves. We’ve got the ILIA Beauty review you need, including our favorites and a list of pros and cons to help you decide if ILIA deserves a spot in your makeup bag.

lisa trying Ilia beauty makeup products

How did a brand that started with lip balm evolve into a ubiquitous clean beauty line that you can find at the likes of both Credo Beauty and Sephora? With a belief in “skin that looks like skin,” and products designed with all skin types in mind—that’s how.

Since 2011, ILIA Beauty has been pushing clean beauty’s boundaries with high-performing makeup that they say is better for your skin. The line, founded by Sasha Plavsic, focuses on multi-use, easy-to-apply products housed in beautiful, simple packaging that rivals the design aesthetic of more conventional, high-end brands (that’s what you get from a founder who began her career in beauty and fashion branding). 

But does the line live up to the hype? We break down the pros and cons below.


Some standouts: ILIA Beauty pros

The #1 standout when it comes to ILIA Beauty is undeniable performance. There is literally no compromise when it comes to their mascara that delivers length, volume, and definition and their foundation which is unparalleled in wearability, blurring imperfections, and turning up #thatglow. 

ILIA is for the consumer who wants no IFS ANDS OR BUTS when it comes to performance factor. Which is the #1 reason why we are reviewing them here on the blog. 

Some additional pros include…

  • ILIA is now using TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box platform that’s dedicated to recycling the “hard-to-recycle.” 
  • Although this line is not 100% vegan, it is certified cruelty-free via Leaping Bunny. 
  • All ILIA products are gluten-free except True Skin Radiant Priming Serum, which contains a wheat derivative.
  • ILIA is one of very few brands we’ve seen to highlight a variety of ages in their marketing (have you seen this super cute IG vid?). Love that inclusivity.
  • Speaking of inclusivity, they continue to expand their shade ranges. Currently, they are offering their True Skin Serum Foundation in 18 shades and we remember back in the day when they launched with just 5.   
  • You can grab ILIA on the fly at your local Sephora.

Some things to consider

ILIA formulates with some ingredients that not everyone would classify as “clean” or “green.” In fact, one of our FAQs at This Organic Girl is, “Is ILIA considered a clean beauty brand?” 

Ultimately the answer to that query will be up to you (which we will get to in a min), but we can see this divide play out in clean beauty stores across the U.S. with some choosing to stock and sell ILIA and some not.

So what’s in question?

  • Specifically, we’re talking about the addition of FD&C or D&C synthetic colorants in products like their Multi-Stick and Color Block Lipsticks. These colors, originally derived from coal tar and now petroleum (1), have been linked to cancer (1), neurotoxicity (2), genotoxicity (2) and concerns with long-term safety (3). Most dyes, including Yellow 5, have been banned in Europe (4). 
  • Another controversial ingredient we see is phenoxyethanol used in their Clean Line Liquid Liner. Cosmetic grade phenoxyethanol regularly has too high of a concentration of unreacted phenol (carbolic acid) for use in baby products, because babies are sensitive to its neurotoxicity (5) in much smaller amounts than adults. The EU requires that all phenoxyethanol is a pharmaceutical-grade with less than 10ppm phenol under EC 1223/2009 and 1% phenoxyethanol per product but the U.S. does not require this.
  • Also, as of now, ILIA does not test for heavy metals. 

lisa putting on ilia beauty lipstick, with ilia beauty products on her table

Interpreting the pros + cons 

So what does this all mean? Well, there are a few things to consider.

One of the major reasons why ILIA formulates with FD&C colorants is because it is still practically impossible to get a hot red lipstick like we see with their Color Block Lipstick in Flame using natural materials only.

These synthetic dyes are the only way a larger, more vibrant color range can be achieved. And ILIA is not alone in this approach. We also see FD&C dyes are used in some of the RMS Lipsticks, Kosas Weightless Lipsticks and Clove + Hallow Lip products as well.

So if you personally value the va va voom of a true hot red lipstick, these are going to be the best option for you. They are made with better base ingredients and a small percentage of FD&C colorants.

Also. Percentages and frequency matter. It’s not that snack-size bag of Skittles you stole out of your kid’s Halloween bag that’s going to make a lasting impact on your health, it’s the candy you eat every day. 

All in all, it’s really all about understanding the decision you are making and maintaining perspective.

And if you are still sitting there like WWTOGD? Girl. I’m okay with wearing a lipstick that has FD&C colorants in it once and a while. At the end of the day, these are still better options (if not the best options) for hot red and hot pink lipsticks on the market today.

But truth be told, the products in question aren’t even my faves from the line. ILIA has some big-time standouts that reign supreme in performance…and they also happen to be free from both FD&C dyes and phenoxyethanol as well. Read on for my top 4 picks.


My ILIA Beauty favorites

Bottle of ILIA's true skin serum organic foundation

True Skin Serum Foundation | $54

If you are still looking for a great foundation that breathes life and glow into your skin, girl, THIS IS IT! This weight-less, light-coverage, liquid foundation delivers a natural look that truly mimics how your skin looks and feels. I mean, it’s literally undetectable to the naked eye when applied which is by far my favorite part. I have it on here. I’m talking FLAW-LESS.

car selfie of me wearing ilia foundation
ILIA True Skin Serum Foundation applied

True Skin Serum Foundation (aptly named btw) also has some ingredients with skin benefits like aloe to help soothe irritated skin and plant-based squalane to help balance and improve elasticity. 

This foundation comes in several shades so if you need help color matching; email [email protected] for pro help.  

True Skin Serum Foundation Pros: 

  • A formula that breathes life into your skin via a dewy finish. 
  • Lightweight coverage that’s buildable to medium coverage.
  • Weightless.
  • A true “your skin but better” finish.
  • Does not dry out skin or dry cakey.
  • Fragrance free (just smells like makeup, no added scents).
  • Goes on even and blends easily with fingers or a brush.
  • Packaged in glass.
  • Comes in 18 shades. 

True Skin Serum Foundation Cons: 

  • The pump I have leaked (but this is the old packaging to be fair).
  • Formulated with silicones which are non-biodegradable.

I have a couple of favorite foundations and True Skin Serum Foundation is in my top 3!  

Organic Concealer bottle Ilia cosmetics

True Skin Serum Concealer | $30

This concealer is one of my top picks from ILIA. It delivers medium-weight coverage with a finish that totally vibes with the ILIA “skin that looks like skin” mantra. It strikes a legit balance between liquid and cream when you apply it, and even when I use it for under-eye circle coverage, it doesn’t crease.

I wouldn’t use it to spot-cover a major breakout (a cream works way better than that), BUT it’s 👌🏼 for evening out light redness or splotchiness. 

I’m not the only one who loves it: our Content Manager Nicolle says, “I often skip a tinted moisturizer or full-face foundation in favor of the True Skin Serum Concealer blended under my eyes, around my nose, and on my chin. Add blush or bronzer and I don’t feel like I need anything else.”

True Serum Skin Concealer Pros:

  • Strikes a balance between liquid and cream.
  • Doesn’t crease or cling to dry spots.
  • Blends easily.
  • Can be used as a one-product way to skip foundation for evening skin tone.
  • Easily covers light redness or splotchiness.
  • Lets distinctive features like cute freckles shine through.
  • 20 shades to choose from.

True Serum Skin Concealer Cons:

  • Not ideal for covering up a big breakout or major blemish—it’s too liquid-y.
  • It’s packaged in plastic.
Bottle of ILIA eye tint in soft rose gold

Liquid Powder Chromatic Eye Tints | $28 

ILIA is NOT the first better beauty brand to launch a liquid eye shadow that turns to a powder finish, but sometimes being the first to market isn’t the biggest priority (you can peek at what works and what doesn’t for others). What I love about these tints are the lack of creasing I get while wearing them, even all day. 

Other brands have a HIGH glitter factor in their colors, and ILIA’s is more shimmery, which makes them user friendly. Also, they’re an improvement from the line’s last fast-applying shadow, the cream eye shadow stick—that formula often came out in chunks, and left huge glitter pieces on skin even after a double-oil cleanse.

Liquid Powder Chromatic Eye Tints Pros:.

  • Easy to apply.
  • Opaque and full-color payoff.
  • Buildable.
  • Doubles as an eyeshadow base or primer.
  • Comes in a beautiful, generous color range that look good on most skin types.
  • Delivers a smooth, flattering finish that looks natural and effortless. 
  • Can blend with a brush or fingers (we like this brush).
  • Doubles as a face/brow highlighter.
  • Not glittery.

Liquid Powder Chromatic Eye Tints Cons:

  • The lighter colors (like Glaze) can dry down uneven.
Tube of ILIA limitless mascara in black

Limitless Lash Mascara | $28

No big deal, just my current fave mascara right here! The thing that takes this formula to the next level is their patented wand. It’s dual-sided so the shorter side delivers product while the longer comb side lengthens and separates like a 🏆. The separation I get here is unparalleled and it’s one of the major reasons I keep coming back. Say goodbye to clump-city lashes! 

Woman wearing ILIA mascara
ILIA’s Limitless Lash Mascara

I also love that it’s super buildable…you can even take it to three coats if you dare without it clumping out. Plus the staying power is really great too. No smudges or mid-day flaking. My all-around top pick right here. 

ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara Pros: 

  • Brings all of the volume, definition, length and separation.
  • Does not clump when layered.
  • Patented wand for ultimate separation.
  • Does not flake or smudge.

ILIA Limitless Lash Mascara Cons: 

  • It stings my eyes if I cry. 

Want more mascara talk? Check out my top mascara picks here! 

What are your ILIA faves?

Xo, lisa

REFERENCES:

1. Kobylewski, Sarah; Jacobson, Michael F; Toxicology of food dyes; International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health July 2012; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23026007/#:~:text=Three%20dyes%20(Red%2040%2C%20Yellow,5%20were%20positive%20for%20genotoxicity

2. Taylor, S.L.; Baumert, J.L.; Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Food Systems, 2014; https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/tartrazine

3. Nomination background D &C red no. 27 [CASRN 13473-26-2], D&C Red No. 28 [CASRN 18472-87-2]; National Institutes of Health, October 2000; https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/chem_background/exsumpdf/reddyes_508.pdf

4. Food dyes; Center of Science in the Public Interest, 2008; https://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-concern/food-dyes

5. D’Souza, Ryan S.; Warner, Nafisseh S.; Phenol Nerve Block, updated September 2020; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525978/

By Lisa

Lisa is the founder of This Organic Girl. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Madi

    Great post! I LOVE their mascara too – definitely the best clean mascara I’ve used! I really like their liquid eye liner as well, I have really watery eyes & I find that it doesn’t move around.

    xo Madi | http://www.everydaywithmadirae.com

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