Thrive Causemetics is one of the most popular makeup and skincare brands, and is a charitable organization that donates money to a number of women’s health charities, including the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Black Women’s Health Imperative. The brand describes itself as “Luxury Beauty that Gives Back.”
But are Thrive Causemetics products really more effective than cheaper brands or are they just priced that way? Does the brand use any unhealthy additive ingredients? How do real users rate and describe Thrive’s products? And how much does the brand really give away?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we review the ingredients in three of Thrive Causemetics’ best-selling products and give our take on whether or not they’re likely to be effective: Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara, Defying Gravity Eye Lifting Cream and Buildable Blur CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 40 (sunscreen).
We’ll also share our thoughts on Thrive Causemetics’ charitable efforts.
Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara Review
The liquid lash extensions product sold by Thrive Causemetics is meant to lengthen lashes and improve lash quality, creating the look of lash extensions while actually being a topical product. The ingredients list is shown above for the Brynn color.
We cannot identify medical research suggesting that any of these ingredients increases eyelash length, nor does Thrive Causemetics cite any on its product page at the time of writing this article.
There are a number of ingredients that we would recommend avoiding, especially around the eye.
Phenoxyethanol is a synthetic preservative that has been found toxic to human cells and irritating to the eye in a clinical trial published in the Experimental Eye Research journal.
Ethylhexylglycerin is another synthetic preservative, and although we consider this ingredient to be a much better option than phenoxyethanol, we still recommend avoiding use of synthetic preservatives around the eyes, as we referenced in our review of The Ordinary lash serum (another cosmetic product containing this ingredient).
Overall we do not recommend Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions and do not consider the product likely to be effective, as we cannot identify any clinical research suggesting that any of its ingredients are effective for increasing lash length or improving lash quality.
The non-toxic lash serum we recommend is called Organic Eyelash and Eyebrow Growth Serum from a brand called Live Fraiche. The only ingredient in this product is organic castor oil, and most importantly it's entirely free of questionable filler ingredients like preservatives. It’s also significantly cheaper than Thrive Causemetics’ product ($11.99 vs. $25).
Interested consumers can check out Live Fraiche Organic Eyelash and Eyebrow Growth Serum at this link to its Amazon product page.
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of this product is published by a creator named Sydney Nicole. Her review is unsponsored and includes an unboxing, a product demonstration and her thoughts on whether the lash extensions are effective or not:
Defying Gravity Eye Lifting Cream Review
Thrive Causemetics’ eye cream is an anti-aging cream. The brand claims this product “lifts, tightens and brightens the look of skin…while delivering line-smoothing hydration.”
This cream does have a number of effective ingredients.
Simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil has been shown in a medical review of the cosmetic effects of plant oils to have a skin barrier repair and anti-aging effect.
Bidens pilosa extract was found in a 2015 clinical trial to have an anti-aging effect on human skin, and to stimulate collagen synthesis (the core structural protein in skin).
Caffeine is a skin-protective ingredient that’s clinically proven to reduce damage from UV rays, as we documented in our review of Vibriance Super C Serum.
Astaxanthin is a chemical compound found in wild-caught salmon (among other natural sources) which was shown in a meta-review published in the Nutrients journal to reduce wrinkle depth and have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin.
Defying Gravity Eye Lifting Cream also contains several ingredients we recommend avoiding.
It contains the two synthetic preservatives we highlighted in the previous section: phenoxyethanol and ethylhexylglycerin.
It also contains sodium hydroxide, which is a pH balancer that’s potentially a skin irritant according to medical research.
Chlorphenesin is another synthetic preservative that was shown to be toxic to human cells in the same study cited in the previous section on phenoxyethanol’s toxicity.
Overall we consider this cream to be likely effective for anti-aging and the reduction of wrinkles given that it contains a number of research-backed ingredients. We don’t recommend this product due to the inclusion of various questionable additive ingredients.
The non-toxic anti-aging cream we recommend is HydraGlow. It features bakuchiol as an active ingredient which was described in a 2014 clinical trial as "clinically proven to have anti-aging effects” because it reduced wrinkles and improved skin elasticity. Most importantly, this cream is entirely free of questionable additive ingredients like preservatives.
Thrive’s eye cream costs $46 for 0.5 ounces while HydraGlow costs $56 for 2 ounces making HydraGlow nearly 3x cheaper per ounce.
Interested consumers can check out HydraGlow at this link to the product page on the brand's website.
A YouTube creator named Kay Forbey reviewed this eye cream in a video reviewing many Thrive Causemetics products. We’ve timestamped the below video to start at the point in the video where she’s reviewing this cream:
Thrive Causemetics Sunscreen Review
The best-selling sunscreen sold by Thrive Causemetics is called Buildable Blur CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 40. We do not recommend this sunscreen based on the active ingredients shown below:
Homosalate is a chemical sunscreen ingredient shown in a medical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology to be cytotoxic (toxic to living cells), genotoxic (damaging to the genetic information in cells) and to accumulate in living ecosystems, which suggests it's harmful to the environment.
Octisalate is another chemical sunscreen ingredient that may cause allergic skin reactions in some individuals as we documented in our Tula skincare review article.
We do not recommend chemical sunscreens, and instead recommend physical sunscreens.
Our top sunscreen pick is MDSolarSciences Mineral Moisture Defense. It's a physical sunscreen free of questionable chemical sunscreen ingredients. Its active ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide; both effective physical sunscreen ingredients backed by clinical research.
Interested consumers can check out MDSolarSciences sunscreen at this link to its official Amazon listing.
A YouTube video from a board-certified dermatologist named Dr. Whitney Bowe is under four minutes long and documents some of the relevant differences between chemical and physical sunscreen:
How Charitable is Thrive Causemetics Really?
Thrive Causemetics gets good PR (which has monetary value) for their charitable efforts. Certainly any charitable giving is better than none, but we were surprised to find that Thrive Causemetics does not appear to have any public pledge of charitable giving based on revenue or profits, given how much of their branding references their charitable work.
The brand’s How We Give page documents donations, including a recent $100,000 donation to the University of Louisville Breonna Taylor Memorial Scholarship Fund in Nursing.
But for a brand as large as Thrive Causemetics (sales estimated at $75 million in 2021 by ecommerceDB), these are still relatively small figures in our opinion. It would be great to see a commitment to donating a fixed percentage of revenue or profit, which we consider to be a more transparent way for brands that are positioning themselves as charitable to conduct themselves.
According to Truth in Advertising, Thrive Causemetics was sued in 2018 for falsely representing that the brand donates a product to a woman in need for every product sold. The brand settled the lawsuit out of court. We consider this to be a red flag about the brand’s ethics, but does not necessarily prove any wrongdoing by Thrive Causemetics.
A third-party certification like Certified B Corp would also be useful for consumers, as it could make the percentage of revenue donated more public.
Illuminate Labs donates 5% of profits annually to our partner charity CURE Childhood Cancer, and we are both a Certified B Corp and transparently publish this pledge on our B Corp page.
Thrive Causemetics is certainly doing more than most brands in regard to charitable donations. We just like to see brands that use their charitable efforts for marketing be transparent about the total money donated.
Thrive Causemetics Pros and Cons
Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of Thrive Causemetics as a brand in our opinion.
- Highly effective anti-aging cream
- Effective sunscreen formulation
- More charitable than most cosmetics brands
- Questionable additives in all reviewed products
- Sunscreen has questionable active ingredients
- Lack of transparency with charitable giving