It's clear, the beauty industry needs to make more changes to address the global climate crisis.
Zero Waste Week estimates that more than 120 billion units of plastic packaging is produced each year by the cosmetics industry. This comes as no surprise when you think about how saturated the market is with single-use products. Or how nearly every beauty item we buy is double or triple packaged in clear plastic film. Then stored in a plastic tray that sits in a plastic box, with plastic seals signalling if the product has been opened. This kind of ubiquity can feel overwhelming and make ethical beauty choices seem impossible.
But in the fight against climate change the greatest impact we can make is often in our own homes. More specifically our own bathrooms. If you’re looking for new ways to eliminate plastic and live sustainably, why not turn toward your beauty routine? Here are ways you can sustainably rethink your beauty routine without abandoning it completely.
1. Introduce a face washer or muslin cloth
There’s something luxurious about a fluffy white towel to pat your face dry with after cleansing. The best thing? You need only wash it to repeat the experience. If you’re looking for more exfoliating power, try a cotton muslin cloth instead. They’re the perfect way to take your beauty routine to the next level while you forget about tissues and disposable wipes.
2. Switch to a bamboo toothbrush
This is one of the easier transitions to make if you want to eliminate plastic from your beauty routine. Especially when you realise that Australians throw out 900 tonnes of 20 gram toothbrushes every year. Bamboo toothbrushes have become a popular alternative to the plastic ones we’ve grown accustomed to. They’re also very affordable. You just have to remember to remove the bristles once you’re done, they’re usually made of nylon and won’t decompose.
3. Try a solid shampoo, conditioner or body soap
Opting for a solid shampoo, conditioner or body soap is a great way to rid your routine of plastic packaging that isn’t always biodegradable. It also saves you the dilemma of having to find a way to reuse the package once the product is finished. There is a wealth of solid shampoo and conditioners out there. And bar soap is as old as the sun. If, like me bar soap tends to strip your skin of moisture, then check out this NueBar solid body wash. It has cacao butter and glycerin to promote hydration.
4. Choose reusable cotton rounds
Cotton pads are another one of those niggly beauty necessities that we tend to throw away without blinking an eye. Fortunately for us, there are loads of great reusable options that make it easy to cut down on waste. Just make sure you pick ones made out of bamboo or cotton. Check out these ones from Seed and Sprout.
5. Invest in a safety razor
How many times have you tried to get one last shave out of your disposable razor only to end up with an angry rash and ingrown hairs? Cue the safety razor. It will mean less plastic in your beauty routine and a more reliable shave as the blade stays sharper for longer. While this kind of razor calls for some research on your end and will require maintenance, it’s the most environmentally friendly grooming option next to growing your hair out. I've been coveting this Aesop one for months, it's handmade by English craftsman.
6. Swap to bamboo cotton buds
This is another beauty tool where bamboo stands in as an affordable and eco friendly alternative.
7. Use refillable products
Refillable beauty is not a new idea but in recent years it’s one that has caught on. It calls into question the waste that accrues from our old beauty compacts, tubs and tubes and offers an opportunity for mindful consumption. It’s not just a niche market anymore either with some of our favourite brands embracing the concept like Charlotte Tilbury, Foile and Fluff Casual Cosmetics. Buying refills often means you’ll be saving money on packaging too.
8. Make your own deodorant
Changing deodorant might be one of the more confronting shifts to a no-plastic beauty routine. Especially as historically natural deodorant has had a bad rep. And while you can buy both cream and solid deodorant in glass and cardboard packaging, why not try making it yourself? All you need to do is mix your favourite essential oils with a blend of unrefined coconut oil, baking soda, shea butter and arrowroot starch. Voila!
9. Say no to glitter
While we’re here we might as well mention our messy pal glitter. Removing glitter from our beauty bag means eschewing micro plastics which are harmful to our waterways, rivers and oceans taking many years to decompose. Although these days most makeup will contain mica as a shimmery alternative. Mica’s mining history is shrouded in stories of exploitation and child labour. So you might want to check your cosmetics for both mica and glitter. But if you’re looking for extra glow, dab your favourite oil or lip salve onto those high points instead.
10. Buy in bulk
This one is all about the long game. While it doesn’t completely eliminate plastic, it does slow down your intake of it. You’ll find buying your body moisturiser, shampoo and conditioner in bulk to be the most effective as these are the items you use most. And while you may find it to be more expensive upfront, it’s a great investment in the environment and will save you money in the long run.
11. Pick a glass nail file
It’s time to ditch that flaky, pink foam and sandpaper emery board that you never seem to be able to find and switch to a glass nail file. The glass nail file is made from, you guessed it, tempered glass which increases its longevity and makes it easier to clean than your plastic or foam variation. It’s also gentle on your nails and gets the job done sans chipping and peeling. It’s our idea of self care.
12. Use plastic-free beauty brands
If you're looking to take your beauty routine to the next step, these brands are pioneering plastic-free cosmetics.