The beauty industry has a packaging problem.
Have you ever actually paid attention to how much packaging is used for any single product? One jar of moisturizer may come in a cardboard box, with an info sheet tucked inside, along with a small plastic spatula for application and sealed with a round plastic disc that ensures the product’s freshness. And of course, there’s the container itself, which is often made of plastic. (The amount of waste always seems to drastically increase with e-commerce/mail order purchases.)
It’s true that many types of plastic can be recycled, but the majority of it ends up in landfills. And the fact is, beauty packaging no doubt a contributes to the hundreds of millions of tons of waste in America’s landfills.
Luckily, there are a bunch of beauty brands hoping to change that, implementing cleaner practices and putting sustainability at the forefront. Many of those companies also put an emphasis on natural ingredients that are ethically sourced, helping you feel a little better about what you’re putting on your skin and back into the earth.
If you’re looking for some simple ways to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly, here are a few things to keep an eye out for when purchasing your products.
There are brands committed to reducing and potentially eliminating their waste, which in turn will help you reduce your waste. For context, the definition of zero-waste varies, but the general philosophy is to work toward a goal of sending nothing to landfills.
One such company taking this philosophy to heart is LOLI Beauty. (LOLI stands for “living organic loving ingredients.”) The brand’s mission is to “make a conscious change” in the beauty industry with natural and organic products, many of which come in food-grade glass jars that can be repurposed for food storage. According to the brand’s website, LOLI also eliminates 95 percent of water, fillers, synthetics and chemicals from its products.
Another brand, Elate, sells pressed eye, cheek and face powders without packaging, instead wrapping them in seeded paper that can be planted. To hold the powders, the company also sells reusable compacts made of bamboo. Since the compacts and colors are sold separately, each palette can be totally customized to a customer’s liking.
Lush has also been a leader in the natural beauty space for years, offering plenty of products (like their solid shampoo bars) with no packaging at all. According to the brand’s website, 35 percent of its product offerings come sans packaging. When the products do require some sort of package, the brand uses recycled, recyclable, reusable or compostable materials, which brings us to our next round of sustainability buzzwords ...
Compostable, Recycled Or Post-Consumer Materials
If you want to be more conscious with your beauty products, you can also look for products that come in compostable packaging and/or packaging made from recycled, post-consumer materials.
When packaging is absolutely necessary for their products, Lush and LOLI keep the environment in mind. As noted above, Lush uses recycled, recyclable, reusable or compostable materials for its products. Those materials include plastic recovered from the ocean, plant-based packing peanuts (for mail orders) and biodegradable cellophane. As for LOLI, the brand notes that all of its labels, bags and boxes are certified compostable.
Tata Harper, which focuses on natural skincare, is another brand that has been focused on green beauty and sustainability for years. The brand uses glass bottles that can be recycled or reused by customers. According to the brand’s site, the plastic it does use is sourced from corn or sugar cane instead of petroleum, and cartons are made from either 100 percent post-consumer materials or recycled paperboard. Even the ink used for printing is plant-based.
But those are just three of an increasing number of beauty brands taking a more environmentally friendly approach to their products. There are others out there, such as Meow Meow Tweet, which uses biodegradable tubes for many of its products, and Pangea Organics, which uses both glass and a moulded fiber packaging that can actually be planted for wildflowers.
Recycling Rewards Programs
Another simple way to make your beauty cabinet a little more environmentally friendly is to buy products from brands that have a refill or recycle program.
Lush encourages customers to either recycle their empty containers on their own or bring them into the store to be recycled. In exchange for five empties, Lush offers a free face mask. MAC has been doing something similar for years with their Back to MAC program. For every six lipstick tubes you return, you get one free lipstick.
Then there’s Kjaer Weis, a natural organic cosmetics brand founded by Danish makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis. Kjaer Weis makeup comes in metal compacts that are meant to be reused over and over again.
“With our intelligent refill system,” the company’s website reads, “you don’t need to waste money or create waste on packaging that’s made to be discarded.”
An additional benefit to the refill system, aside from the eco-friendly aspect, is that refills cost less than buying fully new products each time.
French lipstick company La Bouche Rouge has a similar philosophy to Kjaer Weis, encouraging customers to buy one ultra luxe (albeit expensive) lipstick case that can be refilled and reused. The company also aims to minimize its use of plastic.
The brands mentioned here are just a few of the ones making sustainability and the environment part of their mission and, in turn, making it easier for us to reduce our waste. We can only hope other beauty brands follow suit for the future of the planet.