The range of zero-waste beauty products on the market today is a welcome response to the large amount of waste created by the cosmetics industry worldwide. As ever, the biggest culprit is packaging; around 70% of waste generated by the industry is a result of packaging. Much of this packaging is mixed material – plastic, card, composite metals and other materials – making recycling confusing, inconvenient, or downright impossible in some cases.
However, single-use cosmetics are a whole other category of problem. Ubiquitous products like disposable face wipes and cotton buds generate untold quantities of household waste and yet they too are entirely avoidable. The word “disposable” here is in fact a misnomer; these products may be easily thrown out of sight and mind, but they will mount up in landfill and take hundreds of years to decompose. Or, worse, they find their way into the oceans as microplastics, devastating aquatic life and its ecosystems.
Going zero waste with your makeup routine is not only about finding products that address the industry’s packaging addiction, but also about finding more sustainable beauty products themselves. What kinds of ingredients are used and how are the raw materials sourced? For example, palm oil, though a perfectly useful natural ingredient, has been cultivated to an unsustainable extent, causing deforestation and profound losses to wildlife habitats.
Thankfully, innovative approaches to packaging, product design and sustainably sourced, natural ingredients are resulting in numerous zero-waste makeup products that take the environment seriously—here are some of our favorites.
Totally Taylored Reusable Makeup Wipes
Reusable makeup wipes are one the easiest and most impactful changes you can bring to our makeup routine. These beautifully soft, handsewn wipes from Totally Taylored are made from upcycled fabric on one side and a combination of bamboo viscose and organic cotton on the other for a silky smooth feel. They work as well as anything for removing makeup, applying cleanser or toner, and can be tossed in the washing machine for reuse.
LastObject’s Reusable Non-Cotton Ear Swabs
Another mainstay of the makeup bag, cotton swabs are a significant contributor to the industry’s single-use plastic problem. Now, the cotton swab has been reimagined by woman-owned company LastObject and becomes a product to be reused time and time again.
The tip is made from TPE, a soft rubbery material that eschews latex but works just as well for those final touches to makeup or for removing residue from hard-to-reach areas around the eyes. A holding case is made from recycled plastic or plant-based materials and reaches you in a fully recyclable cardboard package.
Balmies from Axiology
Balmies are a little phenomenon in the zero-waste beauty space. These multi-use little color sticks can be applied to eyes, face, and lips for a dash of color anywhere anytime. They pack a ton of moisture into their vegan ingredients list too. But best of all, their truly zero-waste approach to packaging means they get rid of shields and caps and come wrapped in a durable paper. The boxes in which they are stored are also handmade using recycled trash by a woman’s cooperative in Bali.
Bamboo Makeup Brush
From Elate, this bamboo makeup brush might just form the foundation of your new zero-waste beauty routine. It is vegan made and cruelty free, plus it’s bristles are made from an ingenious synthetic alternative to fur called Talkon. The recyclable aluminum band connects to the bamboo handle with an eco-resin, so no worries there. It is an elegant, sustainable solution to the scourge of animal fur brushes.
Concealer from RMS Beauty
From industry heavyweight RMS Beauty, this flawless concealer is made predominantly from “living” ingredients. Organically sourced jojoba oil, cocoa seed butter, and coconut oil lend a natural moisture to the skin while it’s auto-adjusting minerals mean it covers your skin with pigment rather than weight. Although the packaging may let down their zero-waste credentials, the product within offers a vast improvement on what came before.
Shea Face Oil from R&R
The benefits of shea oil are well known by now. This non-greasy, natural oil packs tons of nourishing fatty acids that soothe and repair skin. Brought to us from R&R luxury, this shea face oil is sustainably sourced from Ghana in West Africa. But what’s really special about it, and the whole line from R&R, is the glass bottle and the refillable paper pouches that drastically reduce packaging from your second purchase onwards. This refilling process also reduces shipping emissions and prolongs the life of existing packaging (and the paper pouches can be recycled too).
Organic Mascara from Inika
Made from 100% natural ingredients like magnolia bark and carnauba seed, Inika has crafted an organic, vegan mascara that’s winning plaudits from the industry’s top professionals. Described as a cranberry, water-based mascara it is certified non-animal tested, free from nasty chemicals that dry out the eyes, and sustainably sourced. It all culminates in a stunning natural color that’ll make your eyes stand out in a crowd.
Kjaer Weis Eyeshadow
From Danish company Kjaer Weis this popular eyeshadow ticks all the right boxes for sustainable sourcing and high-quality results. Key organic ingredients in sunflower seed and coconut oil combine to form a range of unique shades easy on the eye. True sustainable packing comes as an optional add on at two levels. First, for a slight premium you get a refillable case which can be fully recycled after around 3 refills. Secondly, for a higher premium, you get a durable metal case that can be refilled forever.
Jojoba Eye Pencil from Ere Perez
The eye pencil range from Ere Perez turns up an all-natural eyeliner that is made from the earth’s own best ingredients. It soothes and nourishes the eye, promotes lash growth, and looks great all at the same time. It’s also vegan and cruelty free and ships in 20 distinct shades.
Sustainable Cosmetic Sea Sponge from Farm to Girl
A fundamental part of your makeup routine is reimagined by nature with these sea sponges brought to us from the wonderful brand Farm to Girl. The sponges function as a gentle exfoliator and double as a makeup remover. 100% natural, these sponges are sustainably farmed by fishing families in Micronesia and their purchase supports developing communities and helps reduce overfishing. A truly sustainable product in every sense.
Although nobody is suggesting you rush out and replace all your old makeup with these products, this list gives you an insight into the change-making businesses that are out there. It should be abundantly clear by now that natural, sustainably sourced beauty products are not only available and effective but offer unique benefits of their own.
Check out the zero-waste online shop for a curated range of beauty products, and sign up to our blog for more tips and guides to going zero waste throughout your life.