Zero Waste Makeup: A Guide
Whether filling in a brow or applying some matte lipstick, you may not be thinking about how your product is packaged, or rather swathed in plastic. Or how the global cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging; most of which is not recyclable. And that’s okay, most don’t at first. Consider this: there was a time when all soap came in bar form. Perfumes were once packaged in luxurious, one-of-a-kind glass bottles. Hair-care essentials were powders or pomades housed in jars or tins. When the plastic craze of the mid-20th century swept the personal care industry, along came the emergence of liquid and gel shampoos, and soaps. Today, the $90 billion industry is clinging to plastic as its main source of packaging. To make matters worse, traditional containers are hard to clean out and are tricky to recycle: composite/mixed materials need to be separated to avoid recycling contamination.
It’ll take a village to solve the plastic packaging problem, all while the beauty and personal care industry is exploding. However, there are ways for you and makeup companies to reduce the impact--ways that’ll have you looking good and feeling good about it, too!
Do It Yourself (and for the Earth)
QUICK LINKS: Powder Foundation (Going Zero Waste) | Blush and Bronzer (Shelbizleee) | Lipstick (Wellness Mama) | Eyeliner and Eyeshadow (A Blossoming Life) | Concealer (Courtneysvlog) | 10 Easy Natural DIY Beauty Hacks (Sustainably Vegan)
The best approach is to make up your made up yourself. All-natural activated charcoal is used to make mascara and eyeliner. Plastic-free powder foundation can be made using cocoa powder, arrowroot powder and bentonite clay. Beeswax or beetroot beats the standard lipstick formula. Not only is DIY affordable (ingredients can be bought in bulk), but it's also safer: you know exactly what’s going into your product. If you’re just starting out, you might feel worried about going too deep down the rabbit hole. Check out the quick links above for YouTube tutorials and blog recipes that we recommend!
You might be thinking: I don’t have time to DIY my own makeup. We hear ya! We understand that not everyone has time or accessibility to create their own cosmetics. Or DIY might not be your thing. For this reason, we have found some ready-made, sustainable makeup brands that provide their products in reusable or compostable containers. Looking for products that are also cruelty-free, vegan, organic, and ethically sourced? We’ve got your back!
Cosmetics to Consider
About: This highly-rated luxury lipstick brand is 100% Evil Free: PETA-certified vegan, cruelty-free and 70% of their product line features organic ingredients. They also avoid the use of palm oil and support the Orangutan Foundation International to protect this endangered species by protecting the rainforests from palm deforestation. Their shea butter and moringa oil are also purchased through fair trade channels.
Packaging: Axiology does not provide refillable containers, nor are their lipstick crayons salvageable. However, their lipstick tubes are recycled aluminum and can be recycled again at the end of their life. The boxes that package the lipsticks are sourced from a women-owned recycled-paper boutique in Indonesia. The paper is collected from hotels, offices and households which reduces the amount of trash on the island. Definitely something Mother Nature can get behind.
*Palm oil is a variety of vegetable oil extracted from the fruit and seeds of the oil palm and are mainly grown on enormous plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. It not only contributes to the deforestation of rainforests and the loss of animal habitat for endangered species, but it’s also a human health issue. To reduce this impact, trying finding products that use sustainable palm oil. Read about it here and here.
About: Despite the name, Dirty Hippie Cosmetics offers clean makeup. Their product line includes a wide range of foundation, bb cream, primer, liquid eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, brow powders, blush, lipstick pots, and cheek tint (as well as a range of skin and hair care products), all of which are vegan, cruelty-free, and palm oil-free. Buying local, growing raw ingredients and using naturally collected rainwater in their product labs is in their pursuit. Lastly, Dirty Hippie is involved with numerous charitable efforts, from wildlife rescue to mental health support. A truly inspirational feat!
Packaging: When it comes to sustainability, this brand doesn’t back down! DHC is based in a zero waste community* located in Bywong, Australia. For packaging, they use glass bottles and aluminum tins. Lip balms, sunscreens, deodorants and eco tubs are made using recycled paper. ALL products are sent without plastic packaging. Labels are printed using a vegetable-based ink (it’s also possible to purchase items without their labels).
About: Reader, if you like bamboo products, you’ll love me for this pick! Made in Canada, Elate is a conscious beauty company that has a range of products that “don’t compromise the health of any person, animal or the planet” (according to their site). This includes eye and face makeup, lipstick, lip gloss, and (customizable) palettes. They are all Cruelty-free International certified, PETA certified vegan and gluten-free. This brand uses some palm oil in their makeup, however, their supplier is RSO certified palm. Prioritizing ethical sourcing and natural ingredients, Elate Beauty is all for giving back to charities and to our planet.
Packaging: Bamboo* is the newest innovation in eco-friendly packaging. It also houses the many tubes, compacts, palettes and tools of Elate’s makeup line. Every other material, like the plastic lids and pumps on their foundations or the stainless steel on their makeup brushes, is recyclable. If you purchase any one of their pressed eye shadow, blush, or foundation, it comes in a small, stainless tin, which can go inside one refillable, beautiful bamboo palette. Once you’ve run out of product, you can recycle your tin and order a new one in its place. Refills are enclosed in a seed paper pouch. Simply wet your pouch, plant it, and watch them grow in your new herb garden! Seriously genius idea! Something else for zero wasters to love: Elate reuses outer layering plastic (such as bubble wrap) for shipping, never purchasing new. If you’re don’t want plastic in your shipment, you can tell them before you buy, and they will accomplish accommodations as best they can.
*Bamboo is an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood products and provide an attractive tropical look to any interior or exterior. It grows much faster than real wood, is strong and durable, can be locally sourced and is biodegradable! Check it out here.
About: Lush is a popular cosmetics and personal care retailer headquartered in the U.K. that were catapulted to notoriety because of heir bath bombs and their transparent production process, along with natural ingredients. They have expanded to selling creams, soaps, shampoos, shower gels, lotions, moisturizers, scrubs, masks and other cosmetics for the face, hair, and body. See our IG post on their sustainable shampoo bars! 100% cruelty-free, 100% vegetarian (~80% vegan), and using 100% recycled packaging materials, this brand is highly commendable for its many philanthropy campaigns, including their ‘Charity Pots’. Lush may run the bath, as in being the boss of skincare, but what about makeup? As of 2012, they began selling their "Emotional Brilliance" makeup collection, which includes liquid lipsticks, liquid eyeliners, and cream shadows.
Packaging: Lush Cosmetics is quite thoughtful about their packaging. One hundred heaping percent of their bottles and pots are post-consumer plastic or recycled ocean plastics through their partnership with the Ocean Legacy Foundation. Thirty five percent of their products are sold “naked”, or completely unpackaged. To keep the recycling movement going, you can return five clean black pots to any Lush store in exchange for a free fresh face mask. Phasing out their gift wrapping service in 2010, they introduced knot-wraps: derived from both organic cotton and silky fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. For shipping, Lush uses plant-based packing peanuts and plastic-looking biodegradable cellophane you can toss in your compost! This brand definitely speaks to our sustainable souls!
Other General Green Tips
Think of what brands/ companies you are supporting. You are voting with your dollar. Giving your money to an independent company that is aiding the environment rather than a huge conglomerate that has factories overseas polluting, etc etc.
If you do shop for cosmetics exclusively at the mall, make sure to ask your salesperson to find you brands that are only vegan and cruelty free, and carry the Leaping Bunny certification to make sure that your eyebrow pen didn't result in the pain and suffering of a cute ass Beagle
Read reviews and ingredient lists! If you see palm oil, for example, immediately avoid. Educate yourself on what toxic products are abundant in substances that we put on our skin, some of which is absorbed into our bodies. Be smart and try to go as natural as possible.
Find out if the product you are searching for has recyclable packaging, or if the company has a recycling program for their empty containers. By no means condoning MAC products, but if you do have 5 empty lipstick containers, you can bring them in for a free new one. It's better to reuse and recycle the products then have them go to a landfill.
Of course, this list of brands is totally not a comprehensive one. However, these are some to get you started. Something as small as replacing your plastic lipstick tube with a compostable paper cover will make an immeasurable difference. Which zero waste brand would you add to this list? What’s your go-to for creating your cosmetics? Have a suggestion for future beauty content? Let us know in the comment section below!
Written by: Laura Matusheski
Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert. Also, I have NOT tried these options personally (I don’t wear makeup often), but we hope these tried-and-true ways and brands are a sustainable resource for you!