We'll just come right out and say it: It's time to start taking our beauty waste more seriously. Whether you've seen images of the devastating fires, listened to presidential candidates discuss the effects of climate change, or just notice your trash cans at home filling up with single-use beauty items and plastic packaging, our global waste problem has undoubtedly made its way to the forefront of your news feed by this point. And of course, the beauty industry isn't solely responsible for our overflowing landfills (we're looking at you, fashion industry!) and plastic-filled oceans, but that doesn't mean we can't all take accountability for our planet. So what do we do?
Well, it's complicated and a little overwhelming. In a recent report by the World Economic Forum, the nonprofit organization estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastics in the sea than fish. That is a jarring mental image.
As with any global issue, there's no quick fix and it really is a catch-22 because so many of the products we've grown to adore are housed in plastic containers, many of which are not recyclable. It's devastating to imagine that this waste often ends up in the ocean where it harms sea life and even gets fragmented into tiny particles that make it into our drinking water—not okay.
One tangible step we can each take is to look long and hard at our beauty routines and amend areas where we're excessively wasteful. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "achieving Net Zero Waste means reducing, reusing, and recovering waste streams to convert them to valuable resources with zero solid waste sent to landfills over the course of the year." To put it plainly, that means taking measures to make sure no part of our beauty buys can't be recycled, reused, or biodegraded. Ahead, we've rounded up 25 of our favorite sustainable, zero-waste beauty products for hair, makeup, body, and skin that will reduce the amount of waste we're all accumulating with our daily rituals daily. Every little bit helps.
Waste assessment: Not only does Ethique use all biodegradable ingredients and compostable packaging in its extensive range of hair, skin, and body products, but the brand also estimates that this bar is equivalent to three bottles of liquid shampoo.
Waste assessment: This concentrated, water-activated powder shampoo comes in a completely recyclable bottle. This is uncommon for shampoo bottles, which typically employ pumps made of too many different kinds of plastic to effectively recycle the eligible pieces. On top of that, the powder formula saves water.
Waste assessment: You might know By Humankind as the brand that disrupted the personal-care industry with its refillable natural deodorant tube, but the eco-conscious company also makes a heavenly conditioner in bar form to help remove single-use plastics and unnecessary packing from your haircare ritual. The nutrient-dense bar contains all the things hair loves, including cocoa butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil.
This hair tonic is 97% natural but 100% effective. It can be used as a luxe treatment oil on clean, towel-dried hair and as an instant shine booster any time. Irish whiskey, argan oil, coconut oil, and soya oil work in tandem to strengthen, condition, and improve moisture retention. The aluminum packaging is totally recyclable.
Waste assessment: Ilia's packaging is both stylish and functional. Brand wide, you can expect chic tubes made of recycled aluminum, newly some glass components, and outer packaging made of post-consumer recycled paper. The product inside the sustainable packaging is superb as well.
Waste assessment: This high-quality, plant-based lipstick skips the phytochemicals and non-biodegradable synthetic preservatives in its comfortable, highly pigmented formula. The tube is recyclable to boot.
Waste assessment: You probably know RMS as the makeup artist–developed clean-beauty brand that finally got people to take clean beauty seriously, but did you know that every product in the range is also housed in packaging that is recyclable or, at least, reusable? There's always room for improvement when it comes to serving women of all complexions, but we love that the brand has a relatively inclusive shade range in this creamy foundation and all its other products, too.
Waste assessment: It's not every day you see beauty products housed in sustainable, paper bottles, but that's the modus operandi over at Seed Phytonutrients. Its paper bottles are made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper, with a post-consumer recycled plastic liner. The vegan body cleanser features super-gentle ingredients like guar beans, camelina seed oil, and coconut to nourish and moisturize the skin.
Waste assessment: Lush is revered for many reasons, chief among them is how it's done away with traditional packaging for many of its bodycare products. This organic cocoa butter and organic shea butter lotion bar, for instance, comes as is. You simply rub it across your body, or warm it in your hands and distribute it manually.
Waste assessment: By Humankind also makes this unique take on mouthwash, which comes in tablets that you dissolve in water before swishing around your mouth. The refillable container is meant to house every new batch of tablets for life.
Waste assessment: If you're not a fan of taking deodorant application into your own (bare) hands, then this sustainable stick is for you. The plant oil and mineral powder–based formula is housed in a biodegradable paper tube. Genius.
Waste assessment: This iconic Dead Sea mud and charcoal facial cleansing bar isn't just effective but eco-friendly, too. Starting in 2020, all of Erno Laszlo's best-selling Cleansing Bars will be individually wrapped in parchment paper instead of plastic wrap, and the plastic soap dish will no longer be included to ensure the packaging is fully recyclable
Waste assessment: If you're addicted to makeup-remover wipes or general facial cleansing wipes, swapping them out for reusable cloths like these muslin ones is a good way to eliminate that stream of waste from your routine. Plus, celebrity skin whisperer Shani Darden swears by using muslin cloths for cleansing. The outer packaging (as pictured above) appears to be a single use bag (bummer!), but once you get past that flagrant piece of garbage, you're in the clear.
Waste assessment: These washable cotton rounds are another wonderful alternative to single-use wipes. Just douse in your makeup remover of choice to melt away cosmetics and debris. They even come with a mesh bag for easy machine washing so you can keep them nice and clean.
Waste assessment: If you're not a fan of makeup remover in general, these plush microfiber rounds are the perfect alternative. They're able to remove even the toughest eye makeup with just water. Plus, you can machine-wash them over 200 times before replacing. The outer packaging is also 100% recyclable and plastic-free.
Waste assessment: This hypoallergenic and fragrance-free facial sponge gently exfoliates the skin and removes all traces of makeup without any extra cleanser or product. It's made exclusively with konjac plant fiber that feels a little slimy when wet, so those with texture sensitivity might steer clear.
Waste assessment: Beloved organic skincare brand Pai takes its commitment to our planet very seriously. On top of being completely clean and implementing formulation practices that seriously minimize its water use, the brand also houses its products in glass bottles wherever possible. Otherwise, you can expect recyclable bioplastic tubes made from sugarcane. This super-concentrated rose-hip oil is super luxe but also powerful at refining all different kinds of skin damage like fine lines.
Waste assessment: You can expect absolute transparency from One Love Organics, from ingredient sourcing to manufacturing and even packaging. Among its many certifications and recognitions, it's received the Gold Certificate Business Seal from Green America, meaning that its quality and sustainability standards are among the highest.
Waste assessment: Not only is this superfood cleanser packed with skin-loving ingredients like kale, spinach, green tea, alfalfa, and vitamins C, E, and K, but it's also housed in a glass bottle just like all Youth to the People products. Unlike plastic, glass won't leak chemicals into the formulations contained inside and can be recycled and reused to your heart's content.
Waste assessment: As mentioned above, Lush really is a go-to when it comes to zero-waste beauty, especially in bar form. This wheat-based facial cleanser is rich in vitamin E and employs wheat breadcrumbs to lightly exfoliate away dead skin.
Waste assessment: Here's a cleansing bar for those who love French beauty products. This one is specifically formulated with your skin's microbiome in mind and is suitable for use on the entire body. (Face included!) It's soap-free, instead using prebiotics and lactic acid to gently cleanse and maintain your skin's natural pH.