Let’s face it: The beauty and cosmetics industry is a large contributor to our enormous waste problem. The $530-billion industry relies heavily on plastic for its packaging, the majority of which is not recyclable. Though beauty companies are starting to wake up to the need for changes in their practices, they still have a long way to go. The good news is consumers like us can make a difference, too. With a little effort and forethought, you can update your beauty products so they have less impact on the environment. Even if you’re not ready to splurge on overpriced, all-natural alternatives, you can still help the planet with just a few simple tweaks to minimize your beauty footprint. These five simple tips will get you started.
1. Simplify your collection
Consider downsizing your collection of shampoos, lotions, face cleansers, and various cosmetics by replacing items with products that serve multiple purposes. Next time you’re at your favorite beauty store, pick up a rosy-hued all-in-one stick that can act as a lip balm, blush, and eyeshadow; a face moisturizer that also contains sunscreen; or a body bar that also works as a shampoo and conditioner. Because you’re only buying one product rather than multiple products, you’ll save money and also end up with fewer containers to toss in the trash once they’re empty.
2. Replace one product at a time
A complete beauty overhaul can be overwhelming for you and your skin if you try to do it all at once. Instead, start slowly with one eco-friendly switch at a time. Consider replacing the products you use most, such as mascara and moisturizer. It can take trial and error to find a new product that meets your needs and your new environmental standards, so take your time reading up on and testing new products. Once you’ve found a product you’re happy with, start working on replacing another product in your beauty bag.
3. Understand labels
Much like the ingredient lists on the food products you buy, you should become familiar with the labels on your beauty basics. It can be time-consuming to investigate all the ingredients in the products you use, but the informative exercise will ultimately bring you peace of mind. There’s a long list of products that aren’t nearly natural or sustainable, but at minimum, pass on cosmetic chemicals on the Dirty Dozen list. Instead, look for natural alternatives such as coconut oil, cocoa butter, and vegetable oils. And be aware of beauty and skincare products that are greenwashing. Look for products that are certified organic by an independent group such as Quality Assurance International or USDA National Organic Program.
4. Replace your brushes
Opt for beauty brushes and tools that are crafted from recycled or renewable materials like bamboo. Many brush-type makeup applicators are also made from animal hair—which comes directly from the cruel and unsustainable animal agriculture industry—so be sure to search for brushes with high-quality synthetic bristles. When the brushes you currently own are on their last legs, consider replacing them with brands that have sustainability and the animals in mind, such as Eco Tools, Inika, and 100% Pure.
5. Consider the packaging
Next time you empty a cosmetics container, check to see if it can be recycled. Take a look at the brand’s website to find out if they offer a recycling program—some brands, such as LUSH, will take back your empty containers and give you a gift in return. If the brands you’re currently using sell products that are packaged in a lot of plastic or aren’t reusable or recyclable, consider switching to a brand that does better. Look into products with recyclable or refillable packaging, no packaging at all, or logos such as TerraCycle, which accepts hard-to-recycle materials. Better yet, reach out to your favorite brands and let them know you won’t be supporting them until they create more sustainable options.