Sustainable Beauty: 5 Ways to Cut Down on Cosmetics Waste
If you’ve found yourself on this blog it’s probably because, like me, you’re something of a product addict.
I mean the sort of addict who preps for a long weekend by packing two tops, one pair of jeans, and 20 beauty products.
Or the sort of addict who will happily go without buying a new pair of work shoes, even if they are on *the very edge* of acceptable public use, as long you’re fully stocked with cleanser.
Skincare has always been my passion- from trying out new brands to testing different ingredients and formulas, I really do love it all.
All that fun does come at a cost though: according to Euromonitor the Cosmetics industry is responsible for creating 120 billion units of packaging a year- much of which will never be recycled.
So recently I’ve become far more aware of the impact of my beauty addiction on both product and packaging waste, and I’ve set myself something of a challenge to cut back as much as I can on my personal beauty waste.
1. Donate or Swap Unwanted Products
It’s that sinking feeling…you’ve bought a product you were really looking forward to trying- and that everyone else on the planet seems to love- but it leaves your skin irritated and unhappy.
My general temptation when I’ve bought a product I hate is to: 1. Feel aggrieved for half a day 2. Stick it on a shelf in the hope my skin will somehow learn to tolerate it, and then 3. Eventually forget about it until it goes off.
Not only does this potentially waste the packaging, but it also the actual product itself.
Instead, I’m trying to get back into the habit of something I used to do when I was a student in London; donate to women’s shelters.
I’m not talking about products I’ve half used or ones that I think could harm someone else’s skin, but I mean ones that I’ve tried once or twice, carefully, and just haven’t worked for my skin type.
Not every shelter will accept used products, though, so if that’s the case, I also like to give something that hasn’t worked for me to friends and family who might be able to make use of them.
Even more fun is the product swap party- getting a group of friends over (cocktails optional) to all try out each other’s products and swap anything we don’t use.
2. Check out Sustainable brands
Luckily a lot of brands are already conscious of the impact their products have and are actively trying to cut down on waste.
For example, 70 per cent of natural skincare company Bybi’s products are housed in glass bottles, while its cult Babe Balm (£15.30 for 30ml, Feel Unique)* is housed in tubes made from 100 per cent recyclable sugarcane-derived packaging. Meanwhile its packing materials- both the box and stuffing- is made from Grasspaper; a material which uses 80 per cent less energy than wood to produce.
The brand has also recently launched its Circular Recycling scheme, ReBYBI, for part of their product range. This sees glass packaging bottles returned to Bybi once you’ve finished with the product, to be sterilised and reused for future orders- allowing the packaging to be 100 per cent recycled.
Similarly- although at the higher end price wise- Kjaer Weis has made recycling packaging chic with its (very beautiful) refillable metal and enamel compacts. Even the brand’s lipstick and mascara tubes can be refilled, while the packaging the makeup refills come in is also recyclable.
Other brands like Awareness Organics are also finding innovative ways to deal with packaging; by using fully recyclable paper impregnated with basil seeds to create their boxes. The company also donates 1% of sales to Cool Earth; a deforestation charity.
And finally, brands like Rahua (pronounced rah-wah), are making sure even the ingredients that go into their products are sustainable. This rainforest-inspired brand uses rahua, morete and sacha inchi oils in it its products which grow wild and are hand-gathered and processed by indigenous Amazonians for above fair trade wages. Rahua says this helps tribes create an independent economy based on their own traditions and continue living self-sufficiently in the rainforest.
The brand and its charity, Ecoagents, also carries out environmental work in the Amazon which has so far contributed to preserving more than 35,000 hectares of tribal lands in the rainforest.
3. Buy Locally
Like shopping for fruit and veg, I’m making a concerted effort to find out which brands close to me make great products, in an effort to cut back on emissions from transportation.
For US-based buyers, brand Drunk Elephant’s products are designed, tested and made within America using responsibly sourced global ingredients. While in Canada, companies like nature-inspired skincare brand Cela are also made domestically.
Finally, in Australia, skincare company Frank Body makes all its products within the country using only natural and naturally-derived ingredients.
Equally, artisanal local shops and markets can be a great place to find handmade soaps or other beauty products- and many are natural, often beautifully made, and support small business.
Even my local vineyard stocks a great line of avocado-based beauty products made from locally-grown crops- so keep an eye out for some beauty finds the next time your’re shopping locally.
4. Upgrade Q-Tips and Cotton Pads
An obvious one but still worth mentioning, Q-tips- while useful- are the straws of the beauty world; used almost every day and a large source of ocean pollution.
Luckily, reducing waste doesn’t mean giving them on them entirely. Instead I’ve upgraded to wooden alternatives- normally made from bamboo. Easily available online, these not only look cuter on my dressing table but are also biodegradable.
The same goes for cotton pads. I use these almost every day for removing mascara, but again, hate the waste I’m creating. Instead, I’ve ordered myself some re-usable, washable alternatives, £6.99 for 16 from Amazon. Super soft and easy to use, they’ll hopefully save me some money on the single-use varieties in the long term; and they also make a great alternative to face wipes.
5. Shrink Your Routine
And finally possibly the least fun one for me, but I’m making a concerted effort to not buy anything new until I have finished what I am using (however tempted I may get by the sales).
Also, instead of buying multiple products to tackle lots of different concerns, I’m trying to bring together a capsule wardrobe of essentials, which when combined can tackle most skin issues.
Must haves include a gentle yet thorough cleanser, a good quality moisturiser, a vitamin C product for brightening, firming, antioxidant action and tackling hyperpigmentation, and an easy to use SPF to protect skin from UV damage even in cloudy weather and winter.
From non-recyclable packaging to unwanted products, it can be so easy to inadvertently contribute to beauty waste- especially in the face of continual new product launches, or hundreds of photos of the latest new product on Instagram.
I’ve still got a long way to go, but I do now find myself sticking to brands that I know are actively cutting down on packaging and emissions waste more, as well as taking some more time to research whether a product will work for me before I buy: a reason to feel slightly better about my beauty habit!