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Going Waste-Free Beautifully—How to Clean Up Your Beauty Routine
Sustainability is such a hot topic right now that sometimes people forget that sustainability is really a whole lifestyle, it’s not just solar panels on your roof or buying a Tesla (though I wouldn’t say no to either!), but living an eco-conscious life includes all the little choices you make and how those choices stack up as the days turn into years.
Most people are well aware of how large industries, such as the electric and packaging industries, have gone “green” in recent years as consumers start making choices that push companies to find more sustainable solutions. There are, however, a few select industries that are shockingly wasteful and yet have not made these similar strides towards a more sustainable future. The beauty industry is one of these.
At first glimpse many people think that personal hygiene and beauty products couldn’t possibly amount to enough to be categorized as a true “industry” but the truth is that personal care companies are a $500 billion industry globally. On average, American women will use 16 products daily for just their face routines, not to mention any hand or body lotions, SPF, perfumes, etc. While this trend is partially positive as Americans are becoming much more aware of skin health and the damaging effects of excessive sun exposure, using so many products results in tons of waste!
Since World War II the beauty industry has been in love with plastic packaging—it’s cheap, lightweight, moldable, and doesn’t degrade when in contact with fluids, be it shower water or a gel or foam product. To obtain all these characteristics, however, means that most of the plastic packaging that is used is not easily recyclable, and as such will end up in a landfill once the product is finished (or you find a new favorite product to replace it).
On the flip side, while the beauty industry is pretty plastics-saturated, it is also absolutely enormous!! Thus your beauty routine is one area of your life where you can easily reduce waste and your environmental impact without giving up your sense of style!
As I started trying to live less-wastefully I realized that while my kitchen trash can was filling up way slower than previously, my little trash can in the bathroom was still filling up with all sorts of random beauty products!! I decided to change my thinking about a few things and I really feel like my beauty routine is much cleaner now (no pun intended!).
- Bars vs. Liquids: Since most waste is from packaging, one quick and easy way to reduce the amount of waste you produce is by simply buying soaps in bar form! Bars typically have little to no packaging whatsoever and I personally find it’s much easier to use 100% of the product if it’s in a bar form (I can never get all the product out of bottles—it drives me crazy!). The jet-setter of this trend was really the cosmetics company Lush; they offer not only regular body soap in bar form but also shampoos, conditioners, and other items.
- Refillable Personal Hygiene and Beauty Products: If you read my last article on going less-wastefully, you’ll know that while I am completely inspired by the Zero Waste stories I see all over social media, I’m also in the early stages of going waste-free. So while I know I could find refill options for most if not all of the products I like, I just started out with the two items I personally thought had the most ridiculously short-sighted packaging: deodorant and toothpaste. Baby steps people, that how I’m going to get to the big leagues! So let’s talk deodorant…What a waste of packaging! I did a little digging and found Myro. Myro Deodorant does use plastics, but in a refreshing way—they send you an outer plastic case and then a stick insert of deodorant. They’ll send you refills when you need them and you can send back the inserts when you’re done with them. So though they do use plastics, everything is recycled and nothing ends up in the trash.
Then there’s toothpaste—again, what short-sighted packaging!! I have never once been able to get 100% of the toothpaste out of the tube, nor do I know anyone who can and as a result toothpaste tubes are almost 100% landfilled because cleaning the plastics requires so much extra water and time that it isn’t worth it to recycle them. As a result, a few toothpaste companies are looking into creating toothpaste “tablets”. One such company is Bite Toothpaste Bits that send you a glass bottle with a months’ worth of toothpaste tablets. Each month you get a refill bag that’s even made of compostable material!
- Reusable Make-Up Removers: This was the big one for me—as someone who not only has a morning routine but also an evening routine, when it comes to skincare and make-up I was using 1-2 of those little cotton rounds for make-up remover, toner, or something else each morning and evening. This meant that over the course of a month I could easily burn through a whole 100 pack of cotton rounds! So I decided it was time for the washable, reusable version of my trusty little disposable make-up remover rounds. I found a 16-pack of eco-friendly, bamboo-fabric, machine washable cotton round look-alikes on Amazon (thank goodness for Amazon Prime!) and I can promise you I am never looking back!!
- Magnetic Compacts for Eye Shadows, Blush, Etc.: I find that I love the look of new palettes but I honestly only use about 25% of the colors. I know some people do, but if you’re like me, then is it really worth it to buy a whole eyeshadow, blush, or contour palette if you know you’re going to end up throwing out most of it? One way to combat this is to use a magnetic compact and just buy the colors you like as singles! This way after you use the product, the product pan can be recycled and you can simply replace that one color without having to buy a whole new palette! I personally like how Elate Beauty has some magnetic compacts that are made of bamboo instead of plastic, and they add a little luxury touch to my daily routine.
- Buy Products Packaged in Recyclable Materials: The era of plastics is not over yet, but is on it’s way out the door! Every day I feel like there are more and more products in glass bottles, and since glass is almost infinitely recyclable I always try and pick products packaged in glass over those in plastics. There are also a few companies that are innovating in the packaging sector while still staying true to their high-quality products. EiR NYC is one such company: they have a sunscreen line that is entirely packaged in compostable cardboard. Another is Axiology Beauty: they have a line of lipsticks that are entirely packaged in recycled aluminum!
These are not the only ways to cut back on waste in your beauty routine, simply a few things I have done that I feel like are really making a mark on my waste production habits. I hope you can incorporate a few of these tips into your daily beauty routine too! Like I’ve said previously, living an eco-lifestyle isn’t defined by the large, public decisions you make but also by the small habits you form that really create change over time.
Check out these articles for more waste-free ideas:
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