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Plastic-Free Living

Low Waste Beauty Tips

January 24, 2020


Written by: Clare Cogan, Customer Experience @blueland

Your beauty routine is an important part of your day, but have you ever stopped to think about how much waste this routine might be creating? The beauty and personal care industry rely heavily on plastic packaging with over 120 billion units of packaging every year, and much of it made of plastic–that’s a lot of waste! Taking care of our skin and bodies is important and so is taking care of our planet! We have some tips on how to do both, and make your beauty routine eco-friendly and low waste, so you can feel good and the planet can too.

Plastic Waste In the Beauty Industry

The beauty industry didn’t always rely on plastic packaging. In the early days of the beauty industry, cosmetics and personal care items were packaged in refillable containers. But in the 1920’s, plastic became a popular packaging material. Plastic packaging was and continues to be inexpensive to manufacture and easy to personalize, allowing brands to use their packaging to differentiate themselves. As the beauty industry grew, so did its reliance on cheap plastic packaging. Now a $500 billion per year industry, the beauty industry is a large contributor to waste that ends up in landfills and oceans.

Much of the plastic waste comes from the plastic packaging of personal care items such as shampoo and conditioner, facial cleansers, creams and cosmetic containers. However, other sources of waste come from the products themselves. Microbeads made of tiny plastic pieces were a common ingredient in facial cleansers and toothpaste.

Plastic Microbeads

A large problem in the beauty space are small plastic pieces called microbeads. Why are microbeads so bad? Microbeads are so small, that when they wash down the drain they don’t get filtered out by any water filtration systems. Instead, they go through our waterways and eventually end up in the ocean. Microbeads contribute to the already large number of microplastics that float in the ocean as pollution. These plastic pieces are so small that fish mistake them for food. Microplastics like microbeads and other pieces of plastic debris end up back in our the water we drink and the fish we eat!

Microbeads are now banned from personal care products in the U.S, but they were a big problem for the beauty industry. Like Microbeads, glitter is another pollutant found in cosmetics and lotions that ends up in our oceans as pollution. With so much waste, how can you cut back in your daily routine? We have some low waste beauty swaps to make it easy along with some great brands creating solutions!

Low Waste Beauty Swaps

There are tons of ways to make your personal care routine more sustainable and you can start by swapping out a few staples.

  • Refillable Cosmetics

Most cosmetics come packaged in plastic. These items are really hard to recycle, and most can’t be recycled at all as they are made with mixed materials. Next time you look for a new cosmetic product, consider looking for products that can be refilled. Brands like Elate and Kjaer Weis made refillable mascaras, blushes and more! If you can’t find a refillable brand you love check and see if your current makeup brands offer recycling programs. Brands like MAC will take back your old products and recycle them for you, and even give you a free product after recycling a certain number!

  • Refillable Personal Care Products

There are a lot of plastic packaged liquid personal care items. Everything from shampoo and conditioner to face and body washes come in single-use plastics. Instead of purchasing plastic packaged shower products, switch to refillable versions that come in reusable bottles. BEAST and EarthHero make refillable shampoo and conditioners that come in reusable aluminum bottles. You can rinse and repeat as many times as you like without any plastic waste with these refillable brands! For body wash, try Bathing Culture, which offers body wash in a reusable glass bottle and refill locations across the country!

  • Low Waste DIY Skin Pare Products

DIY face masks and lip balms are fun and affordable ways to keep your personal care routine low waste. The sheet masks we love? Unfortunately they’re not great for the planet. Not only is each mask packaged in mixed materials, (usually plastic and aluminum) making them difficult to recycle, but sometimes the mask itself is even wrapped in plastic! To make matters worse, only sheet masks made from 100% cotton can be composted! If a sheet mask is made from mixed materials it has to go in the trash.

Instead of using a single-use sheet mask or another mask that comes in a plastic container, make your own! Most DIY masks can be made with ingredients you already have in your kitchen. While you’re mixing up a facemask, another easy personal care item to make yourself is lip balm. Lip Balms usually come in plastic tubes that you throw out after use. Instead, use an old jar and make your own.

Low-Waste Beauty Investments

Making an upfront investment can be one of the best low-waste beauty solutions. Instead of purchasing single-use items, invest in quality beauty and personal care items that you can reuse over and over again.

  • Reusable Q-Tips

You’ve probably seen the photo of the sea horse carrying a Q-Tip. Yikes! Instead of buying disposable single-use Q-Tips that end up in oceans, purchase a few reusable Q-Tips instead. You can find them from FinalStraw!

  • Reusable Makeup Remover Wipes

Face wipes are a big polluter and if you use them you might be using one every day! In the U.K. 93% of blocked sewage pipes are due to single-use wipes. You can swap out traditional cotton rounds for reusable ones instead, you can find some at Bambaw and Marley’s Monsters. Brands like FaceHalo even make a pad specifically for makeup removal that you can reuse!

  • Reusable Facial Rollers

Rather than purchasing a serum that comes packaged in plastic, try using a facial roller like a jade roller. Jade rollers are completely sustainable and help decrease the appearance of fine lines and help remove any puffiness.

  • Eco-Friendly Makeup Brushes

Makeup sponges are extremely popular, but while they are also not great for the environment. Beauty sponges are disposable, and like dish sponges, they usually can’t be recycled. Instead they go straight to a landfill. Instead of using makeup sponges, use makeup brushes! Brushes are longer lasting with the proper care and they can be sourced sustainably. Brushes from Eco Tools and Bdellium Tools are great sustainable brushes that will last!

With these swaps you can care for your skin and the planet!


Refill is the New Recycle

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