Home » Earth Day 2023: How to Make Your Beauty Routine More Eco-Friendly

Earth Day 2023: How to Make Your Beauty Routine More Eco-Friendly

With each passing year, the climate crisis comes into ever sharper focus. And no matter how small they may seem in the face of the herculean challenges we as a society face, our individual choices do matter. In that spirit, one pillar to consider is your beauty routine. More specifically, what you buy, how often you buy it, and whether it ends up in a landfill at the end of your use. This is because the beauty industry is among the world’s largest polluters. According to Euromonitor International, 152.1 billion units of beauty and personal-care packaging were sold globally in 2018 alone, much of which will never be recycled.

“I am grateful that sustainability has become a major focus for consumer products recently,” says Mia Davis, vice president of sustainability and impact at Credo Beauty. “Sustainability in beauty means that the work we do now–the resources we extract, the stuff we make–will not compromise people’s ability to do the same in the future.”

While change can be daunting, rest assured that being an environmentally conscious consumer and being passionate about your beauty routine aren’t mutually exclusive. “As someone who has always loved beauty, I didn’t want to give that up as I started to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle,” explains sustainability expert and low-waste living content creator Jhánneu. “Many people think they have to give up their lifestyles to be sustainable, but it really comes down to just finding better alternatives.” As a former self-proclaimed Sephora junkie, Ashlee Piper, an eco-lifestyle expert and author of Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet, knows firsthand it can–and needs–to be done.

“While I love a good haul and discovering new, niche beauty companies [to support], when it comes to creating excess that’s detrimental for the planet and our wallets, beauty and grooming items are right up there,” explains Piper, citing that as of 2018, the beauty and personal care industry has created almost 8 billion rigid plastic packaging units per year in the U.S. alone. “I began evangelizing about paring down and being more mindful about our beauty-product consumption because it’s the unsung area of personal sustainability.”

There’s no time to wait or waste as the alarm over climate change is “ringing at a fever pitch,” according to United Nations secretary-general António Guterres. “Sustainability-minded people used to have a longer time horizon,” says Davis, “but as climate change, toxic chemical production, and the global waste crisis have all rapidly accelerated, protecting the future is an urgent mandate!” Here, a trio of sustainability experts breaks down how to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly.

Use Up What You Have

“There’s often this impetus in anything new people undertake, but especially in sustainable living, that in order to ‘do it right,’ you have to rid your life of all the old, bad, plastic-cloaked stuff and go out and buy all new eco-friendly stuff,” says Piper. “That’s simply not true; in fact, it’s worse. I always encourage people to work with what they have.” 

Simply put, the first step to making your beauty routine more eco-friendly is: Use up anything you have before you buy a replacement. If there’s something you can’t make use of, you want to give it a circular second life. “The way we offload items at their end of usefulness to us is just as important as how and what we acquire new,” explains Piper. “So if something isn’t your color or isn’t working for you, consider selling it on Poshmark, offering it up to your neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook group (makeup, even used makeup, goes like hotcakes in my group), or giving some to a friend who loves to experiment with new-to-them products.”

Buy More Ethically, Environmentally-Friendly, and—Most Important—Less 

In navigating the oversaturated beauty and personal-care market, packaging should be your first area of focus. “What you want to look for is something that has compostable, easily recyclable, refillable, or reusable packaging—or better yet, no packaging,” says Piper. In terms of plastic alternatives, Jhánneu tends to look for more sustainable and easily recyclable materials, like aluminum, bamboo, and glass.

Additionally, formulations are important but can often be difficult to decode on your own. Thankfully, there are plenty of online resources. “If you’re concerned about purity and safety, the EWG database is a good tool, and you should get familiar with ingredient names (of which there are sometimes hundreds for just one item) and determine what your values are around those,” she says. For both recycling and understanding formulations, the symbols stamped on the packaging, such as the Green Dot or Leaping Bunny, can be helpful.

Reduce Consumption Wherever Possible

To put beauty waste and consumption into perspective, Piper will often pose the question: When was the last time you used up a lipstick? “I love having a variety of makeup items, but it’s rare that we hit pan on many of our products,” she explains. “The single best thing anyone can do is to use what you have before you buy anything else, eco-friendly item or not. And then be really thoughtful about how your replacement for that item can be more sustainable.” 

Another fruitful way to consume consciously is to opt for double-duty products. “Less is more!” stresses Jhánneu. “I always try to look for products that can be used for more than one purpose, such as a blush that can also be used on your lips.” In this spirit, Davis looks to products that “can swipe across your lids, lips and cheeks” like Jillian Dempsey Cheek and Lip Tint or Exa Light Show Multi-Use Pigment.

For Davis, one major area to cut down on is single-use, one-and-done products. “Makeup wipes are only used for a couple of minutes and cannot be recycled,” she explains. “As garbage, they’re bound for the landfill or incinerator, and too often, garbage ends up as pollution in the environment.” Instead, she encourages beauty consumers to skip the things they don’t need and support brands doing their part to use recycled content and design smarter goods and packages. Piper agrees: “The fewer items we need, the fewer items we need to recycle or toss, and that’s a win for the planet—and our wallets!”

Reuse and Refill

“Any time we can reuse or refill, we should—that is the direction that we all need to move in for consumer products,” says Davis. “When refill is designed thoughtfully, it cuts down on the amount of materials made or extracted from the start. Then multiply that for every use/purchase…” The good news is that more and more companies are moving to refillable versions of skin, makeup, and hair-care products, whether it’s Kjaer Weis’s cult-favorite lipsticks or Innersense’s refill pouches, which allow you to refill existing products at home. 

A few of Davis’s go-to refillable essentials include Abhati Suisse’s shampoo bars, Axiology Lip-to-Lid Balmies, and Jillian Dempsey Cheek and Lip Tint. For Piper, who does a lot of on-air appearances and looks for natural, sustainably crafted makeup that will help her achieve a natural, long-lasting glow, Gressa is a go-to brand. 

“I do a lot of television, so I need products that actually work, and I’ve long been a devotee of their skin care, as well as the incredible foundations, eye shadows, and lip items—all packaged in very glam-feeling but very eco-friendly glass.” Jhánneu is a fan of taking a more bespoke approach to her makeup essentials, like eye shadow. “Individual eye shadow colors can be used to create your own palette versus buying a big palette in plastic where you only use a few of the shades and end up throwing it away,” she says.

Make Your Bathroom More Eco-Friendly

It’s not just your beauty products that are the problem. Far from it, in fact. “The bathroom is a great place to start!” says Jhánneu of navigating your sustainable beauty routine journey. “First use what you have and then replace those items with reusable alternatives.” A couple of favorites among all three experts are stainless steel razors, bar soaps and shampoos, tooth tabs, and menstrual panties and cups. Davis also calls attention to the importance of replacing cotton swabs and rounds for reusable options, like LastSwab or Clean Circle’s Bamboo Charcoal Makeup Remover Pads

“It depends on the user, but we hope that a reusable wipe or pad would be designed to be used 1,000 times,” she says. Another area to consider is toilet paper–Jhánneu is a fan of Reel’s bamboo toilet paper, while a bidet attachment, like Tushy’s upgraded classic 3.0, which is a more sustainable (and cleanlier!) choice.

Source: Vogue