Merit Beauty has been on my radar for a while now. I’ve had so many readers ask me my thoughts, so I knew I needed to test them out. I am sharing a full Merit Beauty Review, as well as deep diving into their ingredients to see if Merit Beauty is really a clean beauty brand.
*Affiliate Disclosure: I do have affiliate links in this blog post. If you purchase something from my link, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This comes at no cost to you but is paid by the company. I do not take becoming an affiliate with any company lightly. If I am, it’s because I believe in the company and their product.
Merit Beauty is very new to the beauty scene. Katherine Powel began developing Merit in 2017 while pregnant with her son.
She had been on the hunt for products that were cleaner than what she felt were available and also weren’t marketed towards a younger consumer.
Based in Los Angeles, CA Merit Beauty was launched on-line in January 2021 and on-line at Sephora in February 2021. Katherine had a created a beauty line of essentials that in their words were
a clean, luxury beauty brand inspired by minimalism.
Merit Beauty is also
- Formulated to EU standards
- Leaping Bunny Certified
- Clean At Sephora
What Products Does Merit Beauty Carry?
Merit Beauty carries all the essentials anyone would want in a simple and more minimalistic makeup routine that still allows you to look like yourself – just enhanced.
They currently carry the following:
- Instant Glow Serum
- Perfecting Complexion Stick
- Blending Brush
- Bronze Balm Sheer Bronzer
- Flush Balm Cheek Color
- Day Glow Highlighting Balm
- Clean Lash Lengthening Mascara
- Brow 1980 Volumizing Pomade
- Shade Slick Tinted Lip Oil
- Signature Lip Lightweight Lipstick
What makes Merit Beauty even easier is the kits that they have. Not only will you save when you purchase a kit, but you will get exactly what you need and nothing more. A true take on minimalism.
Merit Beauty Ingredients
Unfortunately, in the world of greenwashing, I can never take a brand’s word that they are a true ‘clean beauty brand.’ Why?
There is no definition or standard of what clean beauty means. So what I might not be ok using on my body, another person might be. And this goes for the formulators and brands.
For instance, Clean at Sephora (that Merit meets) is nowhere near as strict as Credo Beauty’s standards. So this claim of ‘meeting’ Clean at Sephora’s standards isn’t really saying that much.
Here are some questionable ingredients that I saw in the ingredient lists for Merit Beauty’s products:
-Microcrystalline Wax- You can find this in the Minimalist Perfecting Stick, Balm Blush, and Bronze Balm. This is used in cosmetics to help with texture, and feel of a product. It helps it to spread easier. It is derived from petroleum. While there are no concrete studies listing it as harmful to the human body, I still have reservations and feel there needs to be more research done in order to determine its safety. I find it interesting that they mention people who handle microcrystalline wax have to be very careful when handling but that when it’s in a solid form it’s fine(1)?
-Acrylates- You can find these in the Clean Lash Mascara and Brow 1980. These are used in a product to stabilize and bind ingredients. Been deemed as a possible carcinogen, causing reproductive harm, developmental issues, and genotoxicity(2).
-Polyethylene- You can find this in the Signature Lipstick, Brow 1980. A microplastic that’s made from ethylene. While some would argue that their molecular structure is so large that the body doesn’t absorb them, I would reconsider. When you’re applying something daily, the risk of exposure goes up. Not only that, it’s affecting our water, animals and life on earth as we know it. Microplastics are in the air we breathe now everyday. Not a sustainable option at all. Also, may be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane- a known carcinogen(3).
-Phenoxyethanol- You can find this in the Signature Lipstick, Brow 1980 and Clean Lash Mascara. It’s important to know your sourcing and the amount that is used. It’s used to preserve products. It can be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane. The research shows amounts less than 1% are harmless(4).
-Synthetic colors like red 7, blue 1 lake- You can find this in the Tinted Lip Oils, Balm Blush and Signature Lipstick. This is a gray area. I do use some products with artificial dyes. But again it’s important to know the sourcing and to consider the amount. Many makeup colors cannot be made without the use of synthetic colors. The amount in most formulations is literally less than 1%- if you think of how big a tube of lipstick is, in the formulation there is less than 1% of synthetic color. I’m ok with a little synthetic color. I know some people aren’t. You have to make that decision for yourself. The only instance I would have synthetic dyes in my products is in makeup products. I don’t want to be rubbing synthetic dyes over my whole body. The reason it’s in makeup is because it serves a purpose- adding color.
-PVP(Polyvinylpyrrolidone)- You can find this in the Clean Lash Mascara. Use as a lacquer or carrier in creams. It can last in your body for years and years. In rats it caused tumors(5).
-Tromethamine– You can find this in the Clean Lash Mascara. This is used as a pH adjuster and fragrance in cosmetics. It can contain carcinogen ingredients when used with nitrosating agents(6). A test must be performed in order to determine this.
-Steareth-20- You can find this in the Clean Lash Mascara. It’s a synthetic polymer used as an emulsifier. May be contaminated with 1,4 dioxane due to the presence of PEG(7).
-Ceresin- You can find this in the Tinted Lip Oils. This is a mineral wax derived from coal or shale or synthesized from petroleum. Used to help add texture to a product and for consistency. It also acts as an emulsifier. It can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons- carcinogen contaminant(8).
-Pentaerythrityl Tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate- You can find this in the Bronze Balm and Tinted Lip Oils. Used as an antioxidant in products to help with efficiency and stability. It has been noted to be boi-accumulative and harmful to the environment(9).
-BHT- You can find this ingredient in the Minimalist Perfecting Stick, Bronze Balm and Balm Blush. I was a little taken back when I saw this ingredient in products. It is an antioxidant that helps to stabilize a product and reduce contamination. It is a hormone disruptor(10). It’s also listed as a human carcinogen(10) and can cause reproductive problems(11).
-Chloroxylenol- You can find this in the brow 1980. It is used in cosmetics as a biocide and preservative. I haven’t seen this ingredient as much in formulas. My biggest concern is that your body can absorb it and it was detected in human urine. It can be an irritant at 100% doses, however, most formulas are at 1%. Studies I found showed no known carcinogenic activity or irritation at low concentrations(12).
-Aroma- You can find this in the Signature Lipstick. I’m wasn’t sure what “Aroma” meant when I saw this on the lipstick label. However, after emailing them I was informed that it is raspberry oil extract.
Merit Beauty Review
I tested out the entire Merit Beauty line and am sharing my review of the products – including whether I would purchase it again.
Great Skin – Instant Glow Serum
A skin serum that is said to hydrate and plump your skin. Uses skin loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, cacao seed extract and Japanese goldthread root to achieve these results.
Full Ingredient List
Water, Propanediol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isononyl Isononanoate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate, Coptis Japonica Root Extract, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Extract, Tocopherol, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Dextrin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate.
I wanted to love this product but I didn’t. It seemed like it was trying to be a cool cousin to a facial self tanner but it failed. It just left my skin feeling greasy and barley adding any hue to it. I thought more color would be added but I was left with more shine than color. Not a winner in my book and would not purchase again.
The Minimalist – Perfecting Complexion Stick
This is a 2 in 1 product that can replace both your foundation and your concealer. It will provide a light to medium coverage and is a buildable formula. The formula has been made without any acne triggering ingredients.
Full Ingredient List
Hydrogenated Polydecene, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Octyldodecanol, Silica, Polyethylene, Dipentaerythrityl Hexahydroxystearate/Hexastearate/Hexarosinate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Cera Carnauba (Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Cire de Carnauba), Synthetic Wax, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Cera Microcristallina (Microcrystalline Wax, Cire Microcristalline), Sorbitan Isostearate, Pancratium Maritimum Extract, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Propylene Carbonate, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Stearalkonium Hectorite, Glycerin, Aqua (Water, Eau), Mica, BHT, CI 77491/77492/77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide)
There was nothing I liked about this. It made my face feel and look greasy the entire day. It also had no longevity to it. My skin was shining but not in a good way. The coverage was ok, I felt like it wouldn’t actually stay on my skin because it was so greasy feeling. Would not recommend.
Bronze Balm – Sheer Bronzer
A sheer bronzer that is buildable and can be used to add warmth and depth.
Full Ingredient List
Octyldodecyl Myristate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Synthetic Wax, Diisostearyl Malate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Silica, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Diisostearoyl Polyglyceryl-3 Dimer Dilinoleate, Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyglyceryl-2 Triisostearate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Microcrystalline Wax, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer, Lecithin, Methicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Aluminum Hydroxide, Water, BHT. May Contain (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxide Yellow (CI 77492), Iron Oxide Red (CI 77491), Iron Oxide Black (CI 77499)
Again, too much grease! The color also wasn’t a win for me. It was a little too orange and I felt like it looked fake for a bronzing stick. Would not buy again.
Flush Balm – Cheek Color
A creamy tint of color that is buildable and leaves a lasting glow.
Full Ingredient List
Octyldodecanol, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Hydrogenated Poly (C6-14 Olefin), Polyethylene, Silica, Diisostearyl Malate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Synthetic Wax, Sorbitan Isostearate, Cera Microcristallina (Microcrystalline Wax, Cire Microcristalline), Tocopherol, Ethylene/Propylene Copolymer, Methicone, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, BHT, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77492/77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 15850 (Red 7 Lake), CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake)
I liked the application of the blush and the creaminess but there was zero staying power to it. It just came off my skin easily and didn’t have any longevity to it. Would not buy again.
Day Glow – Highlighting Balm
A no sparkle highlighter that reflects light and illuminates the skin.
Full Ingredient List
Squalane, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, 2- Octyldodecanol, Mica, Polyglyceryl-10 Pentaisostearate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Phytosteryl/Octyldodecyl Lauroyl Glutamate, Dibutyl Lauroyl Glutamide, Dibutyl Ethylhexanoyl Glutamide, Tocopherol, Glyceryl Dibehenate, Tribehenin, Glyceryl Behenate, Silica, Tin Oxide, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491 (Iron Oxides)
This was a definite no from the first application. Instead of giving you a pretty lit from within glow, it gave me a more teenager glow- reminiscent of my 14 year old self that loved applying shimmery makeup products to my skin. Except now I’m 38 and I’m trying to steer clear of the shimmer products. Too heavy and too much shimmer, would not buy again.
Clean Lash – Lengthening Mascara
A mascara that tints, lifts, and lengthens.
Full Ingredient List
Water, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Copolymer, Acrylates Copolymer, Iron Oxides (CI 77499), Oryza Sativa (rice) Bran Wax, Hydrogenated Olive Oil Stearyl Esters, Stearic Acid, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Acacia Senegal Gum, PVP (Polyvinylpyrrolidone), Tromethamine, Glycerin, Alcohol, Steareth-20, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Simethicone, Steareth-2, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Ethyl Hexanediol, Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Alcohol.
This mascara was ok. It gave separation to my lashes and some lift, but overall it’s more of a natural mascara. If you like really light pigmentation, then you might like this. I also had some flaking by the end of the day that I didn’t love. It wasn’t a winner for me. I would not buy again.
Related Content: Best Natural Mascaras
Brow 1980 – Volumizing Pomade
Adds color and volume to your brows while shaping and grooming them into place.
Full Ingredient List
Aqua (Water, Eau), Mica, Cera Carnauba (Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Cire de Carnauba), Polyisobutene, Propanediol, Glyceryl Stearate, Polyacrylate-21, Kaolin, Palmitic Acid, Oleic Acid, Stearic Acid, Synthetic Beeswax, Panthenol, Caprylyl Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Myristic Acid, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Nylon-6, Butylene Glycol, Trideceth-6 Phosphate, Hexylene Glycol, Lauroyl Lysine, Dimethicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Glyceryl Caprylate, Silica, Quartz, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Chloroxylenol, CI 77491/77492/77499 (Iron Oxides)
I’m not a huge fan of brow gels. The only one I’ve ever tried and actually purchased again was Beautycounter’s. They are too hard to work with in my opinion- especially for the average makeup wearer. If you don’t have any brow to fill in and your just wanting to subtly enhance and keep in place, then you might like this. However, wasn’t impressed with the ingredients and overall there are better clean brow gels out there. Would not buy again.
Shade Slick – Tinted Lip Oil
Provides a hint of color while also locking in moisture.
Full Ingredient List
Capric/Caprylic Triglyceride, Octyldodecanol, Ethyl Cellulose, Isostearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Dilinoleyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Ceresin, Pentaerythrityl tetra-di-t-butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Nylon 12, Octyldodecanol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Shea Butter Ethyl Ester, Citric Acid May Contain (+/-): Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide (C.I.77491), Iron Oxide (CI 77499), Iron Oxide (CI 77492), Blue 1 Lake, Red 30 Lake, Red 33 Lake, Red 7 Lake (CI 15850) Red 28 Lake (CI 45410)
This is the one product I really liked. It felt moisturizing and glided on my lips so smoothly. It was the perfect balance of pigment and hydrating ingredients. However, I still wasn’t sold on the overall ingredient list and would not purchase again based on that.
Signature Lip – Lightweight Lipstick
A hydrating lipstick that is buildable and provides a satin finish.
Full Ingredient List
Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Isostearyl Isostearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate, Tribehenin, C10-18 Triglycerides, Polyethylene, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Helianthus Annuus Seed Cera [Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax], Copernicia Cerifera Cera [(Carnauba) Wax], Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Beta-Sitosterol, Squalene, Phenoxyethanol, Tropolone, Aroma (Flavor). May Contain (+/-): CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491 (Iron Oxides), CI 77492 (Iron Oxides), CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 42090 (Blue 1 Lake), CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake), CI 15850 (Red 7 Lake), CI 15850 (Red 6)
This lipstick was nourishing, and loved the pigment. It lasted for a good amount of the day. I was impressed with the longevity. I would not buy again, based on the ingredients.
Conclusion: Is Merit Beauty Actually Safe?
I don’t think Merit Beauty is actually a safe brand- or at least not one I would recommend. Is it safer than some conventional brands? Sure. But not by a lot in my opinion. It really failed to meet my expectations as far as performance too. I just wasn’t impressed with the products. I love the luxe gold packaging and sleek design but it stopped there for me with Merit Beauty.
Have you tried out Merit Beauty? Share your thoughts below!
If you liked this post, check out these past posts:
- “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Pahs) Factsheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Mar. 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/PAHs_FactSheet.html.
- “Assessment of Health Risks From Exposure to Acrylamid.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 1990, https://nepis.epa.gov/Exe/ZyNET.exe/910157YQ.txt?ZyActionD=ZyDocument&Client=EPA&Index=1986+Thru+1990&Docs=&Query=&Time=&EndTime=&SearchMethod=1&TocRestrict=n&Toc=&TocEntry=&QField=&QFieldYear=&QFieldMonth=&QFieldDay=&UseQField=&IntQFieldOp=0&ExtQFieldOp=0&XmlQuery=&File=D%3A%5CZYFILES%5CINDEX+DATA%5C86THRU90%5CTXT%5C00000027%5C910157YQ.txt&User=ANONYMOUS&Password=anonymous&SortMethod=h%7C-&MaximumDocuments=1&FuzzyDegree=0&ImageQuality=r75g8%2Fr75g8%2Fx150y150g16%2Fi425&Display=hpfr&DefSeekPage=x&SearchBack=ZyActionL&Back=ZyActionS&BackDesc=Results+page&MaximumPages=1&ZyEntry=11.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “1,4-Dioxane in Cosmetics.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, 29 Jan. 2019, https://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/potential-contaminants-cosmetics/14-dioxane-cosmetics-manufacturing-byproduct.
- Pitman, Simon. “Latest SCCS Ruling Finds Phenoxyethanol Safe in Cosmetics.” Cosmeticsdesign, William Reed Ltd, 12 May 2016, https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2016/05/12/Latest-SCCS-ruling-finds-Phenoxyethanol-safe-in-cosmetics?utm_source=newsletter_product&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=16-May-2016&c=QKN643y0Fl1cySOWVOBpKPevPIMBZO2E&p2=.
- Polyvinylpyrrolidone – SCBT. https://datasheets.scbt.com/sc-203204.pdf.
- “National Toxicology Program: 15th Report on Carcinogens.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/cancer/roc/index.html.
- 5: Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Steareth-2,-4,-6,-7,-10,-11 …https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3109/10915818809078712.
- “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Pahs): Where Are Pahs Found?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Dec. 2013, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/polycyclic-aromatic-hydrocarbons/where_are_pahs_found.html.
- “Ewg Skin Deep®: What Is Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-t-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate.” EWG, https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/722079-PENTAERYTHRITYL_TETRADITBUTYL_HYDROXYHYDROCINNAMATE/.
- “Butylated Compounds.” Safe Cosmetics, 7 July 2022, https://www.safecosmetics.org/chemicals/butylated-compounds/.
- Sun Z;Gao R;Chen X;Liu X;Ding Y;Geng Y;Mu X;Liu T;Li F;Wang Y;He J; “Exposure to Butylated Hydroxytoluene Compromises Endometrial Decidualization during Early Pregnancy.” Environmental Science and Pollution Research International, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33792845/.
- 5 Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Chloroxylenol. Journal of the American College of Toxicology. 1985;4(5):147-169. doi:10.3109/10915818509078689
Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see you take the time to actually post about something you gave a try and really didn’t like. Good to know. Everything in skincare and makeup is so expensive…it’s good to have someone’s opinion before purchasing.
Of course! I don’t want to waste your time and money. I’m glad it helped!
The creator of the line came up with this when there are already so many better lines already available. With how quickly it launched at Sephora, I smell an industry insider jumping on the greenwashing bandwagon. Thank you for the honest review!
Yes, I agree!
Appreciated the ingredient transparency. Would love to see an updated Westman Atelier blog in this style breaking down the ingredients. Thanks for always providing great intentional thought out blogs!
Thanks for the feedback! We will definitely look into breaking down that blog post as well.