Would you like to create a more sustainable beauty routine? It may seem like a daunting task but start with small changes and the rest will come. Here are some ideas to help you x
What is sustainable beauty?
Can beauty ever be sustainable? With the constant supply of new products hitting our shelves, it’s hard to imagine. Even if a product claims to be ‘sustainable’, what does that actually mean? The word seems to have become the new trend, however like many other buzzwords, there is no set definition or standard.
In the beauty world (or any marketing world for that matter) sustainable can mean whatever the brand wants it to mean, perhaps using it to their advantage and not really that of the planet. Many brands are of course genuine and have strict environmental policies that they adhere too. Unfortunately, there are many that don’t, bringing more confusion to the consumer. To perhaps add more confusion, contrary to common belief, natural beauty doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable beauty; in fact it can be quite the opposite in some cases – a prime example is sandalwood which became an endangered species due to us exploiting it. I wrote a piece on Bakuchiol exploring this more if you’d like a read.
The waste from the beauty industry is another concern. I saw a shocking statistic that our beauty regimes are responsible for 30-40% of landfill. How accurate that is I don’t know, but it certainly makes you think. There is so much information now about the planet, plastics, waste; while this awareness is essential, it can be incredibly overwhelming and hard to know how we as individuals can make a difference. However we really can make a difference.
“We don’t need one person doing zero waste perfectly, we need lots of people doing it imperfectly”
This is something I’ve seen on Instagram a lot and it is so true. As much as I try, I’m never going to be zerowaste – personally or professionally. However I can keep trying to make changes, each little one a victory. I recently wrote a piece on sustainable beauty for No Reply Magazine if you fancy a read.
There is so much uncertainty at the moment, but it is actually a great time to make positive change and it can be empowering.
There are many issues surrounding the beauty industry which are hard to tackle, however working on our own personal routines is a really great place to start. I’m not going to tell you to stop buying stuff, indeed I recommend products all the time. I believe it is good to look after ourselves, beauty routines have all kinds of benefits, but we can be really mindful in what we choose to buy and use. We can talk with our wallets – brands do listen to and are led by consumer demand.
Here are a few little tips if you’d like them..
Start with your skincare..
- Obvious but simple, only buy what you really need. It can be so tempting to buy all the latest launches; clever marketing convinces us that we need everything and that our problems will be solved. However a lot of the time a routine can become over complicated and we often forget what we’ve got!
- Use things up before you buy more. I like to do a little audit every couple of months or so to see what I’ve got open, this helps to stop products being wasted. I also note down when I’ve opened or bought something to help me keep track too. There is something very satisfying about a well used product!
- Having a regular check in with your skin and your routine is also a great way to understand your skin more, and know what products actually work for you. If something isn’t working for you then pass it to a friend maybe or could you use it for something else – face oils can also be used on the body for example.
- Remember to give skincare a good few weeks to see the real result and don’t try lots of new things at once – you won’t know what’s working for you and what isn’t..
- Multi-tasking products are wonderful, a good balm for example can do a myriad of things – cleanse, mask, moisturise, calm, soothe, tame.
- Think about the containers of the products you’re buying – are they glass, plastic – is the plastic recycled – can it be recycled?
Plastic isn’t always the villain – Weleda made a bold move to switch all their Skin Food tubes from aluminium to recycled plastic. Each of their aluminium tubes had to be made from virgin aluminium due to their thin structure, and the mining of aluminium is actually causing more of an ecological problem. Therefore the move to recycled plastic is more sustainable. Glass also has a higher carbon footprint when recycled, which is why some brands choose the recycled plastic option too. Glass is also heavier to transport, it can however be recycled infinitely which plastic cannot. The new bioplastics sound like a great solution however they more often than not will end up in landfill as the regional kerbsides don’t collect and can’t deal with these kinds of plastics. What we have is a very tricky situation!! Buying only what we need is a definite big help, as is choosing brands that are being responsible and transparent about the issue.
In April 2022 the UK government introduced the Plastic Packaging Tax which imposes a tax on any manufacture or import of plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content. A business has to produce or import over 10 tonnes for the tax to apply. Whether the tax will do good remains to be seen – last I heard the government had made more money from the tax than they had planned which suggests some businesses are simply paying the tax rather than reducing their use of virgin plastic.
- A good old fashioned bar of soap works a treat for washing hands and pretty much everything really 🙂 we love the Dr Bronner’s Castille Bar Soap. Soap bars are so popular now you can get them specifically for washing hair too..
- Buying in bulk or bigger sizes also helps as less material will be used in the long run. Look for refill options too – local health stores and zerowaste shops are a good place to explore or encourage this. They often offer shower gels, shampoos and conditioners. Many skincare brands now offer a refill service such as Beauty Kitchen and UpCircle which is fab. Lots offer the option of no pump or spray for second purchases which again saves materials and waste.
- As well as packaging, we need to think about the formulations inside – are they biodegradable when washed down the plughole or do they contain microplastics? The Beat The Microbead App is very helpful to make purchasing decisions.
- How and where are the ingredients sourced from – if they’re coming from a natural source then are they being farmed and replenished in a sustainable way – don’t be afraid to ask brands questions about this – it is a really great way to learn and if brands are doing their best, I find they love to tell you about it.
- Think about your disposable beauty items. In October 2020 the UK government put a ban in place that prohibited the supply or sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds (there are some exemptions to the rule for medical and scientific uses) which was a great move. Why not go one step further and try a reusable one – Last Object make a silicone based one that will last up to 1000 uses, they have different shapes available too.
- Switching your cotton pads to reusable washable pads is also a great move. There are so many options available now – look for ones made of organic cotton or bamboo. I’ve seen some made of polyester which is a plastic so isn’t ideal. I’ve found my washable cotton pads can get grubby so quickly – I’ve seen patterned ones that might be great to hide that! Or make your own – I’ve still got mine that my friend Crystabel Riley made for use out of an old black towel for her show we assisted her on. If you still use disposable cotton pads – I still have them in my kit for certain things – then choose organic cotton. The organic cotton is way better for the environment and the cotton farmers, and traditional cotton pads can contain microplastics.
- Muslin cloths and flannels are great options too. Be mindful that using this is a gentle form of exfoliation so some skins might be sensitive to overuse, especially if using other exfoliating products. Bamboo cloths can sometimes be softer on skin.
- I also love a konjac sponge – it removes all my make-up, make sure it is suitable for sensitive skin and use very gently around the eyes. I find it cleans better than a muslin cloth. You rinse it there and then, so no washing machine required, they last a few months and then you dispose of it in your food waste or home compost. Again some skins may be too sensitive for daily use.
- Wipes – simple answer don’t use them. They’re really not great for the environment or your skin. That said I do usually have a pack in my kit as I know they can be so convenient, especially if out and about, or after a long night of dancing 😉 If you do need to use them then choose those that contain no plastic and biodegrade and don’t flush them down the toilet, and recycle the packaging via The Body Shop’s in-store recycling scheme. It’s shocking how much plastic the majority of wipes contain – really look at packaging and if in doubt don’t buy. Holland and Barrett and The Body Shop have both stopped selling wipes which is a great move. Many are calling on the government to place a ban on wipes containing plastic.
- With your makeup think multi-purpose and outside the box – lipsticks make great cream blushers for example. Become your own mixologist and mix mineral powders with creams to make cream blush or illuminsing body lotions. If you have a colour that doesn’t quite work for you, can you custom blend it with something else?
- Like your skincare, do a regular makeup bag audit and keep note of when you open things.
- Samples are a great way to try before you buy properly. Foundations for example can be an expensive mistake to get wrong; it’s important to get the colour and the texture right. Trying beforehand can avoid waste and is also more sustainable for your bank account! I’ve got lots of reviews on the blog that should help too – just shout with any questions or come and have a lesson with me.
- Lots of makeup contains silicones and other microplastics. These can be harder to avoid than skincare formulations, as makeup needs the durability. It is possible though – check out the Beat The Microbead App and look for the Zero Plastic Inside logo.
- Choose refillable options, this will cut down on the amount of packaging enormously. Refillable makeup has been harder to get but now there are many more options available. Lush have makeup with naked packaging which is interesting.
- Makeup packaging is notoriously hard to recycle because of the mixed components and the majority cannot go in kerbside recycling. Luckily there are more and more schemes for us to use now, I’ve got a guide here. While these schemes are great, the better thing for us to do is to reduce consumption so again using things up to the end and before we buy new is great.
I found this previous post on switching to a greener routine which has some other ideas too.
I’d love to know some of your favourite tips to create a more sustainable beauty routine – what do you do?