Earth Day Edition: The Whole Foods Truth

The healthy grocery giant is as good for fresh, organic beauty products as it is for produce

I first sniffed the bottle of kukui oil. The juicy, almost-edible scent of sweet coconut was too tempting. Was it wrong to taste just a teensy bit? The label does say it’s made with 100% vegetarian ingredients. And the added flaxseed oil is supposed to be good for your skin.

See, that’s the thing about shopping for beauty at Whole Foods: The delicious choices with exotic ingredients and mostly sustainable packaging sound so pure, so inviting, so freakin’ healthy, that I can’t help wonder if they’re actually good enough to eat. Odds are they are.

Testing earth-friendly products this time of year can drive me a bit bonkers, because I spend most of the time decoding labels with taglines like “all natural,” “bioactives,” and even “USDA-approved.” What does organic mean, technically? Does my scalp need vegan ingredients? Where’s the press release again?

But strolling through the beauty and wellness aisles at Whole Foods—stocked with nontoxic soaps, gluten-free shampoos, and argan-stem-cell hair exfoliators—takes the guesswork out of shopping for chemical-free beauty products. We’re not talking about those patchouli-scented vials you see by the register at the mall health-food store. Whole Foods is a mecca of first-rate finds. Every one of their eco-conscious products undergoes a rigorous background check to make the final cut from a buyer’s approval to the coveted position on the shelf. In 2008, the brand launched its own standard called Premium Body Care, an internally designed program that personally reviews the safety and environmental impacts of their products as well as the labeling process. Whole Foods representative Maren Giuliano (officially the Executive Global Whole Body Coordinator) says, “Whole Foods Market created our own organic labeling guidelines for personal care products because there are no federal laws that regulate how the word ‘organic’ is used on personal care products. All products labeled ‘organic’ in our stores must be certified organic.” Within six years, the beauty SKUs available at Whole Foods have tripled from 1,200 to over 4,000 certified products, all free from artificial colors, phthalates parabens, and sulfates.

But is the fun of sampling beauty products at counters lost while I squeeze these items into the cart between quinoa and kale? No. Whole Foods offers testers, and Giulano says that if you don’t see one, just ask for a team member who’ll open up a product for you on the spot. For me, it was way too much fun lingering in the aisles for over an hour as I dabbed on a starkly packaged botanical toner, played with pretty pink lip tints and blushes, and even spritzed a leave-in conditioner on my way to yoga class.

Above are some beauty finds that you’ll definitely want to add to your grocery list next time you’re in Whole Foods. And, before you ask, no, I didn’t taste test them all—only one!

A native Angeleno, Navdeep Mundi is a Leo, hates cilantro, and has studied beauty products for more than 18 years. She spends her days directing media and strategy and her nights sniffing out slightly quirky yet impeccably pretty things along with her German Shepherd, Le Tigre.