Finding a more eco-friendly beauty regime

7 Mins read

Sustainability is all the buzz right now in the beauty community, and switching to an environmentally-friendly routine can be a really great thing, especially for our planet’s future.

I know we’ve all heard it time and time again, but the Earth depends on us.

The horrible truth is, humans have created 8.3 billions of tons of plastic since it was invented, and every year eight million of which gets thrown into the ocean, where it stays for over 500 years – and it’s only getting worse.

It’s time we start showing Earth some love by switching out some super simple steps in our everyday routines.

The words “eco-friendly,” and “sustainable” are thrown around a lot in the beauty world, but what does it actually mean? The term “sustainable” is not just about being vegan and cruelty-free; being a sustainable brand means that everything from the sourcing of ingredients to the manufacturing is positively impacting the environment.

Non-recyclable beauty products are so deeply rooted in our routines; it’s straightforward not to think about the negative impact.

Switching up our routines isn’t as hard as you may think, whether you aim to limit your plastic usage, recycle more or take a more eco-friendly approach to your beauty routine, here are a few ways you can start:


1. Ditch the face wipes

Kylie Skin face wipes

Face wipes are clogging sewers and oceans [Instagram: Kylie Skin]

Are you guilty of using face wipes to remove your make up? There’s no denying they’re convenient, but their damage to the environment is horrific.

More than nine million wet wipes are flushed down the toilet every day and cause 93% of sewer blockages. As well as clogging our sewers; they’re overtaking the oceans, creating ‘fatbergs’ (floating balls of waste, including wipes and sanitary products) and are causing long-term negative effects to marine.

Even when face wipes are tossed in the bin, they, unfortunately, cannot be recycled or composted. Which means they will sit in landfill sites for over 100 years to biodegrade as they contain fundamentally indestructible chemicals.

With all that being said, the 11 billion  consumers of wet wipes still aren’t being convinced to give them up. However, face wipes aren’t only terrible for the environment. They’re also harmful to your skin. If you thought that one swipe of the wipe was efficient, it’s not. The chemicals found in face wipes can be severely irritating for our skin, causing us to age quicker, breakout more often and cause micro-tears in the surface of our skin.

“Face wipes do not clean our skin thoroughly, they leave behind dirt, oil and bacteria which over time can cause extremely irritated, clogged and red skin,” says skincare blogger, Jo Free.

“They will only remove part of your makeup that we see on the surface, but the make up we can’t see on our skin is left behind. Prolonged use of wipes can cause so much damage in the long run,” she adds.

“Our skin can get extremely dehydrated, and it can even lead to wrinkles. If we spend a little extra time in the evening removing our makeup more efficiently and effectively, our skin and the Earth will thank us.”

So what alternatives are available?

Face Halo (Three-pack: £18)

Made from unique HaloTech fibres, each pad remove all traces of makeup, dirt and grime by only using water and can be reused up to 500 times.

REN – Perfect Canvas Clean Jelly Oil Cleanser (£25)

An oil cleanser that is gentle but effective when removing all makeup traces, including waterproof makeup and SPF. The tube is made from 50% PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) plastic.

Facetheory – Tendertouch Reusable 100% Organic Cotton Pads (Eight-pack: £9.99) 

Plastic-free and unbleached, these reusable organic cotton pads are a great addition to your routine for cleansing and toning. The pads are fully biodegradable and can be chucked in the compost once they reach the end of their life.


2. Switch to refillable options

L'occitane refill packs

L’Occitane refills [Instagram: L’Occitane]

It’s common knowledge that the beauty industry is one of the biggest offenders when negatively impacting the environment. In a market based on appearances, beauty products have certainly contributed to the single-use plastic problem. From excess outer packaging to plastic spatulas, our personal care product extras amount to 120 units every year.

Although recycling is heavily encouraged, it isn’t always as easy as throwing our empty serum bottle in the bin. According to National Geographic, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, and only 7% of plastic that is recycled is reused. Unfortunately, as consumers, we are consuming too much for the system to process, and it’s easy to be confused by what can be recycled and what can’t.

We all know by now that plastic is extremely problematic, so why not try switching to refillable beauty products – a stepping stone in the right direction. Ahead of the curve, L’Occitane was quietly offering refillable options back in 2008, being the first high street brand to do so. The pouches use 90% less plastic than regular bottles, saving more than 200 tonnes of plastic a year.

“Producing refillable pouches has been extremely successful for us as a brand, and in result, consumers view us as a company that has a positive environmental impact, which is what we want,” Olivia Kaufmann, head of PR and communications told us.

“In 2020 we tested in-store refillable products in Spain and Germany, which replaces the use of the current refill pack in the form of a fountain, which will reduce even more plastic use,” Olivia adds.

Ouai offers refill pouches for their haircare products

Ouai refill pouches [Instagram: Ouai]

You can try other alternatives:

Ouai – Fine, Medium and Thick Shampoo and Conditioner (£44)

Ouai offers a near-litre refill pack that uses 60% less plastic, generates less carbon dioxide, takes up less space in landfills and requires less manufacturing.

Charlotte Tilbury – Hot Lips 2 (£28 for lipstick, £19 for refill)

There are 11 lipstick shades inspired by 11 different celebrities such as Olivia Palermo and JK Rowling, which come in five different refillable cases.

Le Labo (From £127)

Le Labo offers refills for empty perfume bottles in-store and offers a 20% discount on the originally purchased scent’s fresh batch.

Fenty Skin (From £20)

The sleek modern skincare line offers some refillable products, has eliminated boxes where possible and has incorporated post-consumer recycled materials.


3. Switch to solid shampoo and conditioner bars

Making the switch from liquid shampoo and conditioner to solid bars is great for the planet, better for your hair and your bank account.

The average person is likely to use between 450 and 500 bottles of shampoo/conditioner throughout their life, which adds up to a shocking amount of unneeded plastic.

More than 500 million plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles end up in landfills each year and they never fully decompose, meaning the old bottle you chucked out will eventually break down, but only into microscopic pieces and they will remain in our water system.

Solid bars reduce packaging usage as they use a small amount of recyclable cardboard packaging, so say goodbye to single-use plastic! Using plastic-free shampoo, conditioner and soap bars can also be great for your hair, they are much more gentle to your scalp and nourishing to your hair.

There are plenty of options:

Foamie soap bar

The Foamie body bar needs minimal packaging [Instagram: Foamie]

Foamie – Body bar (£6.99)

Reinventing the ‘soap’ bar, Foamie created a solid cleansing bar; they are all pH-Balanced for skin and hair.

Kind2 – Shampoo bar (£12.50)

High performing solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Their formulas are all vegan and free from plastic, soap, sulphates, silicones and parabens. Instead, they are full of active plant-based extracts to treat specific hair needs gently.

Lush – Solid deodrant (£6.50)

A solid, natural deodorant that leaves behind zero traces.

Garnier – Ultimate Blends shampoo bar (£7.99)

A new range of solid shampoo bars that are 94% plant-based and have zero plastic waste. Comes in four different versions to suit different hair types and needs.

Ethique – Dreamy Face Moisturiser (£25)

The first solid face cream, perfect either as a day or night moisturiser for dry skin types.


4. Switch to products in recycled or recyclable packaging

REN LOOP collaboration

Ren and Loop [Instagram: Ren Skincare]

Going cosmetic packaging-free is the ideal situation for the planet, but it’s not for everyone and the demand for ‘aesthetically’ pleasing packaging is high right now. Most beauty junkies will happily pass on plastic packaging and opt for more environmentally friendly options such as glass or aluminium.

Aluminium is, in fact, the only material that can be recycled on an infinite loop, meaning it can be reused in the same form over and over again. Around 50% of aluminium cans are recycled correctly, whereas only 34% of glass is recycled.

More beauty brands are finally cleaning up their acts, moving away from single-use plastics and switching to more earth-friendly materials. Many brands are starting to work with the recycling company TerraCycle to introduce drop-off points for empty containers in supermarkets. Loop, a company, started by TerraCycle, has partnered with big beauty brands such as REN, Molton Brown and Nivea to create a waste-free delivery system. They will deliver your favourite beauty products, all sustainably packaged in either glass or aluminium.

When it comes to balancing our beauty obsession with our sustainability efforts, the high-end department store Selfridges recently unveiled a new sustainability initiative called ‘Project Earth’, as part of its commitment to change the way consumers shop by 2025, which is bound to make it a whole lot easier.

More than 80 beauty brands are featured in the plastic-conscious beauty edit, and the department store has also added refill stations into the store.

Neal's Yard Remedies

Neal’s Yard Remedies [Instagram: Neal’s Yard Remedies]

Other potential recyclable products include:

LastSwab – Pointed Makeup Q-Tip (£10)

LastSwab is a reusable, sustainable and sanitary alternative to cotton swabs and buds. It helps combat the billions of single-use cotton swabs that are produced every day.

We are Paradoxx (From £20)

We Are Paradoxx is an organic haircare brand that is vegan and cruelty-free. The brand strives to use as little plastic as possible and currently uses 90% aluminium instead. The only plastic used within their packaging is the pumps which can be recycled, after removing the metal spring.

Neal’s Yard Remedies (From £15)

Neal’s Yard Remedies is working towards ensuring that none of their packagings ends up in the landfill; they use glass jars and bottles that are all 100% recyclable and reusable. Neal’s Yard Remedies also provides refills for their bath and body products and offer discounted prices for customers who reuse their packaging.

Truthbrush – Bamboo Toothbrush (£6)

The Truthbrush has been made from pure bamboo, while the bristles are made from 62% castor oil and 38% nylon. Truthbrush says no to single-use items and packaging and only chooses products made from recycled materials and ingredients.


5. Get a recycling bin in your bathroom

Joseph Joseph bathroom recycling bin

Joseph Joseph bin [Instagram: JosephJoseph]

Lastly, it seems quite obvious, but there is absolutely no point switching out our beauty products to more sustainable options if we don’t have anywhere to recycle them?

Only half of all bathroom waste that is recyclable is actually being recycled, so ensuring you have somewhere to recycle is obvious.

For those products that you’re unsure on, Terracycle offers free recycling for all beauty products and packaging.

REN – Split Steel Recycler Bin (£50)

A handy 2-in-1 compartment compact bin for your bathroom which separates recyclables from general waste.

JosephJoeseph – Split Waste and Recycling Bin, (£20)

A handy bathroom bin, with eight litres capacity in two compartments, allows you to split your waste in one compact design.




Featured image by Charlotte Gamage.
Edited by: Natalia Zmarzlik, Jussi Grut and Susu Hagos.

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