Dealing With Green Product Sticker Shock

comments 24
Honest Talk
mac and ilia

(I promise the words below will be less dramatic than this picture.)

I have to admit, I nod along and hum in sympathetic agreement every time someone tells me they thought about subscribing to a “green” or clean beauty routine, but they just cannot get past the sticker shock of how expensive green products are.

Just recently, I gave my dad’s female co-workers a couple of unused samples of natural and organic products that they ended up loving. And when one of them looked up the full-size product to see if they could purchase it, they were shocked at how expensive it was! I don’t know exactly what product they looked up, but I can imagine this happens a lot when people compare green products to non-green ones.

After many a conversation with people that ends with a line like: “but green products are so expensive,” my heart sinks a bit because I wish I could tell them there are so many benefits to a non-toxic beauty routine that the pros will eventually outweigh the initial con. I try to be kind though. I absolutely understand why it’s the prices of green products, not the effectiveness or the ingredients of green products, which people balk at. Do I wince, every time my best friend whips out her MAC lipstick ($15) instead of a natural alternative like Ilia Beauty’s organic lipsticks ($25)? Yes, I honestly do wince. But I also understand that my friend is a cash-strapped graduate student (which I used to be too), and that saving a few dollars here and there does make a difference in the way she lives.

However, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to green beauty. I have a few friendly and practical tips on how to deal with green sticker shock. You can follow just one or a mixture of some depending on how you think it works with your particular budget and lifestyle!

Here are my tips:

  •  Choose a local skincare apothecary that crafts good quality products without toxic ingredients over drugstores like CVS/Walgreens/Rite Aid.

It is important to understand, not all of your local skincare brands will be affordable as compared to drugstore ones. You may have to look more carefully and choose one that you can develop a good relationship with. I have my own favorite brand that I keep coming back to because they are just so affordable and they make amazing vegan, organic, small-batched products that I am in love with.

  • Go big, but smart, if you can’t do local and small.

Don’t need a $40 shampoo? That’s okay. But you can think about choosing Whole Food’s relatively clean and natural shampoos (Whole Food’s own 365 Shampoo currently costs $4.99 in my local store) over Suave, VO5, or even Herbal Essences shampoos. Can’t stomach the idea of purchasing $100 facial oils either? Alright. I have used very affordable facial oils from brands like Acure Organics and Badger Balm, also found at Whole Foods, that are under $20 and wonderful at getting the job of moisturizing done. And if you’re averse to purchasing things at big box companies like Whole Foods, find a way to get bulk  multi-purpose organic ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, or shea butter. Go big a different way.

  • Be a green DIY beauty.

I can’t say I’m much of a DIY-er, but I do occasionally make my own dry shampoo because I already have all of the ingredients in my kitchen pantry! If you think beauty starts in the kitchen or at home, go for it! Make your own facial or body moisturizers and scrubs without paying extra money for fancy packaging and labels. One of my other good friends, who is curious about green beauty but finds it expensive, loves using Trader Joe’s organic extra virgin coconut oil as a body moisturizer. Just make sure to be smart about the ingredients in your DIY recipe and follow green DIY blogs that show you how to do it right.

If you are already a green beauty convert, maybe these are the things you need to say to people when they are convinced green products are too expensive for them to buy. And for those who are still skeptical, think about it! You don’t have to go green all at once but carefully choosing some green or natural alternatives just might be the thing for you to deal with sticker shock.

Special Note: Please do try to read all of the comments made on this post! There are a great number of comments written by green beauty bloggers and enthusiasts who bring up amazing points that I didn’t include in my piece.

The Author

Brooklyn-based natural and organic beauty writer.


  1. Wonderful blog post and topic . I get the same response for people too.Their is high end and low end brands in the green beauty just like the regularly market. I do admit that it takes effort and some research to find green affordable products. A task that many don’t wish to do as consumers are use too having to have things handed and ready to go.

    Of course as green bloggers we can change that idea or perspective by including and writing/ sharing about budget friendly products brands .

    Sorry for over writing , 🙂 just wanted to share my thoughts

    Love your blog


    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You are not over-sharing at at all! I absolutely agree- sometimes it takes a little digging to find green products and people might be thrown off if they can’t find it at their local drugstores. We all have different concepts of what “affordable” is but I hope people don’t get discouraged from green beauty because of the initial thought that it seems expensive. There are great affordable brands out there!


  2. This is such an awesome post Marcella! I really enjoyed reading this and you included such useful and practical advice that people can actually use. Love this!


  3. i like your article ..for me too i don’t understand.. You make your comparison with MAC but my non green friend don’t buy lipstick MAC and buy YSL or CHANEL or anything they cost more than a ilia lipstick.. I use green beauty makeup product or skincare and i don’t pay many more for my product.. and like you said i don’t pay 40$ for shampoo (sorry Rahua beauty).. I think is a priority for me but not for organic food in Québec.. I buy organic but many around me said why you spend than money for vegetable?! Spend that money don’t break my heart because eating clear for me and my kids is a priority 🙂

    I really like your Tips 🙂


    • Hi Julie! As for my friend with the MAC lipstick, if Ilia seems expensive to her, I’m sure she would think YSL and Chanel are expensive too! I love that you choose to buy organic food for your family. That I think, is incredibly important. Thank you for reading and commenting!


  4. Great post! I think it’s all about personal choices – if you can spend some monies on commercial brands like MAC, Dior, etc, there’s always some organic brands that beat the price plus they’re good for you.


    • Thank you Ru! I absolutely agree. With so many online natural beauty stores out there, it’s easy to compare prices between organic brands and more mainstream brands. I hope more and more people realize they can have products that fit their budget and are good for their bodies and the environment too!


  5. Hi Marcy! I’m loving this post, very current and on point! As a green beauty addict, I too sometimes scream when I see products as expensive as 100$ or more for a serum or moisturizer. I know all the arguments, but still, I think it’s a lot of money. However, the tips you gave are so on, and I do believe that the best ingredients are the ones you find in your kitchen. If I can’t afford a scrub, I simply use lemon/brown sugar/ACV and voila! And there are brands that are cost efficient, I don’t believe that more expensive necessarily mean better, but I think the problem is not necessarily the price of the products, it’s more about how we manage our money. I mean, as bloggers and green beauty “addicts” we like to try lots and lots of products, but no one needs to have 6 clay masks, if I’m going to buy May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver, then it’s going to be the only mask I’m going to get, I won’t buy 5 others even if they’re not expensive. It’s all about how we manage our money, but when it comes to my health, I’d rather spend a little more. It’s funny because some of my friends say that all the organic/green/natural movement is a marketing argument… I think they’re talking about greenwashing, but that’s another post! Good job Marcy, keep ’em coming, I’m so glad I’m subscribed to your blog! You are beautiful and amazing! : )


    • I love LOVE your comment so much! You hit on so many great points that are important to keep in mind as a consumer. As for buying less and investing in a mask like May Lindstrom’s The Problem Solver (which is coincidentally on my to-buy list) – I would keep in mind the quality of ingredients and the size/volume of the product itself. If you calculate the cost per ounce of the mask, it’s not as shocking as the $90 price tag seems to be. Of course, if The Problem Solver doesn’t work with your skin, it simply doesn’t work, no matter the price! Thank YOU for stopping by and commenting.


  6. Great post, Marcy. This is something that bothers me at time too. If we chose green for our health and for the planet, it’s not something that should be only for the few who can afford it. I think it’s part of a larger issue that green lifestyles are often largely reserved for the affluent. I certainly think green products are worth it, and I understand where the high prices often come from, but I don’t think that green beauty will ever be able to make a true impact on the population if it is not more accessible. I was very excited last year when Seventh Generation came out with a face oil that is available in Walgreens, and also the Organic Wear line at the drugstore is a huge improvement over most of the other brands. Wet n’ Wild used to make pressed powders and lip blams that were actually to my ingredients standards too, but I’m not sure if they are all around. I love all your tips, and I think that you can absolutely go green in an affordable way, but honestly most of us green beauty bloggers probably don’t do the best to encourage that all the time.


    • Your point on green beauty needing to be accessible to people on all levels is such a great one to think about! Sometimes we need to understand that some people have to make do with brands at their drugstores or Target/Walmart. So that means the clean-ish products made by mainstream brands like Seventh Generation, Nourish Organics, Physician’s Formula, are exciting developments in the beauty market. I hope those who are new to green beauty are not discouraged by what seems to be a majority of bloggers supporting a luxury-level of green beauty. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of routine (as it is the same for people who can afford an all-organic/natural food lifestyle), but there is a way you can experience green beauty at the price level you are comfortable with. Thank you for this amazing comment, Mary!


  7. Great post, Marcy. I think your tips are spot-on, and my musings on this go all over the place. I have very little patience for the women who spend hundreds of dollars on Chanel, Dior, LaMer, etc., and then say that green beauty product are too expensive or don’t work. I’m glad we are focusing on the women who are instead in a more middle-class / student income who are trying to switch. I think it can be hard, but there are so many workarounds, from the DIYs you mention to the idea of buying only what you need. Out of your favorite red lipstick? Time to try a new one … perhaps a cleaner one! I think what the green beauty community (brands, stores, etc.) can do a better job at is offering samples for purchase so people can get a sense for a product and whether or not it will work for them without committing to a huge price up front. I think we’re also just creatures of habit, and the only way we will try something new is if it’s affordable or in front of our face, which is hard with green beauty because it’s still hard to find green beauty boutiques in places other than NYC and LA where shoppers can actually go in, test, smell, feel, etc. the products. But we are getting there! There’s a cool spa near me that carries green lines (MMT, ED4OLO, etc.) and it’s a joy to see the ladies in my town discovering these brands.


    • I am with you on all of the points you made, Kim! It boggles my mind that women spend money on prestige luxury brands like you said, but still think green beauty products are not as good as the ones they can find in department stores. Maybe those women are attracted to the legacy and history behind those brands and I understand! I really do. When I started to experiment with makeup, I went to Sephora to play around with brands like Armani and Dior too. After a while, something clicked inside of my brain and I sat down to actually read the darn ingredient lists. But it helped that there were so many great beauty bloggers (like you!) for me to follow and guide me into a healthier way to look at beauty.

      We definitely are getting there! It’s so exciting to see online stores and actual physical stores (not just in coastal cities) getting smarter and focusing on a wide range of green beauty products. Now we just have to keep doing our job and blogging and getting excited about green beauty so that maybe more people get excited about it too! Thank you for commenting and stopping by Kim! Oh and I can’t wait for you to get into MMT and see what you love!


  8. Great tips! I hear that a lot too. I think it’s a matter of making people realize the benefits. I also know that you can find green beauty products on a budget. In my shop,, I sell fantastic uber green shampoo, conditioner, and hair spray for just $10.45. Which granted is more than many drug store brands, but it’s also not $40, and it’s healthy! 🙂


  9. michellegoesnorth says

    Hello to everyone! I have been silently reading a few green beauty blogs since the summer. Marcy, I just found you through a comment you left on No More Dirty Looks. You seem like a genuinely nice person who interacts well with your readers…I love that type of community. 🙂

    Kim offered some great words of advice: “The idea of buying only what you need.” EXACTLY!! I think some have been conditioned to think quantity over quality. Ex: Why get only one blush when I can have five for the same price?! And like bohochicmeetsorganic said, shoppers are used to having “things handed and ready to go.” It takes more time and effort to do the research, but not everyone wants to do that. That is why quality blogs reviews are a great asset to consumers.

    Looking forward to more reviews, Marcy. 🙂 I will definitely be looking through your SW Basics reviews.


    • I’m so glad you found your way to me from the amazing No More Dirty Looks community! I’m absolutely on board with the idea of writing more “quality blog reviews,” especially ones that are helpful to readers, positive or negative ones.

      As for you looking forward to my S.W. Basics reviews, I don’t exactly have full-length ones up so I’m sorry! I enjoy using their Makeup Remover and Cleanser because they work well without fail. Honestly, they’re not dramatic skin-changing products (at least for me!) but you should still check them out if you like what you see! I would also point you in the direction of another Brooklyn-based skincare company that I’m in the middle of an epic love affair with: Meow Meow Tweet! Their facial oil is incredible for problematic but dry-skinned people like me. This comment made my day so thank you Michelle for stopping by and commenting on my post!


      • michellegoesnorth says

        Thanks for the Meow Meow Tweet suggestion. Their artwork is awesome! I am a sucker for anything with a cat theme. 🙂


      • I’m not going to lie, I’ve picked out their soaps by judging which ones had the cutest cat drawing! Apparently, MMT is taking a break until 2/22 so they won’t be shipping out orders until then. But if you get to try them out, please feel free to come back and tell me what you love! The Cocoa Cream, Facial Oil, Lavender Deodorant Cream is high on my list of skincare/bodycare favorites by the way!


      • michellegoesnorth says

        I will let you know if I try anything. Deodorant is next on my list to tackle. I picked up one by Desert Essence, but it is not working out too well for me. :/


      • The Green Product Junkie did an amazing profile on the latest natural deodorants she has been loving a while ago! Check it out. Are you sensitive to baking soda? A lot of natural deodorants unfortunately have baking soda which can be irritating.


  10. Thanks for pointing this out, it’s one of my pet peeves. People think going natural is so expensive but it doesn’t have to be.


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