The behemoth that is the beauty industry leaves in its wake a trail of devastation for the planet. In 2018 alone, it generated a jaw-dropping 120 billion units of cosmetic packaging and over two-thirds of the plastic waste is not recycled.
Grim reading, do you agree?
This doesn’t mean we turn our backs completely on beauty products. Changing the state of the environment does not mean we diss makeup altogether. There is this lovely alternative of an eco-friendly beauty routine by which we can still look great and, at the same time, help the planet upgrade to its original beauty. Green looks good on all of us.
“…she slicked her lips with a balm she suspected was secretly made in the same factory as ChapStick, but at the end of the mixing process, instead of pouring it into a tube, they poured it into a little round plastic thing, added a drop of vanilla, and sold it for sixteen dollars.
There are plenty of ways to go about creating an eco-friendly beauty routine and the points listed below are just Part 1 of this post.
1. Wordings on labels don’t convey the entire truth
“All natural” and “organic” labels are misleading sometimes.
Not everything we put on our skin is harmless, even if companies want us to believe otherwise. A quick glance though the ingredients list can help you decide.
Take the scythe to anything that contains harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, lead, petroleum distillates, phthalates, mercury and toluene, among others. Plus, be aware of preservatives such as butylparaben, ethylparaben and methylparaben.
On the other hand, some of the best products to buy are those containing marine extracts and algae which turn carbon dioxide into oxygen over time. Opt for reef-safe products, like sunscreens made with zinc oxide or titanium oxide which are safer for marine life.
Go for natural ingredients like honey, beeswax and cocoa butter.
A good rule to follow is to opt for ingredients that you can eat. If you can’t eat them, skip them.
2. Choose natural to smell good
Speaking of petrochemicals, almost all of the perfumes in the market are derived from these chemical products. Styrene, which is often used to generate the wonderful smell in our perfumes and cleaning products, is a petrochemical.
Aluminum is another major offender that features regularly in deodorants. Almost two-thirds of aluminum that you apply on the skin find their way in to the bloodstream. The armpit area is particularly vulnerable; almost 100 percent of the aluminum is absorbed through the skin.
Don’t easily buy into labels with catchy phrases like “notes of lavender” or “sandalwood.” There’s a high chance these are made synthetically. Instead, go for fragrances that are made of 100 percent natural oils and are paraben-free and cruelty-free.
Companies like Pour le Monde, Phlur and One Seed are companies that offer such fragrances.
3. All that glitters is not green
As with glitters you use for parties, even the ones in your makeup may contain microplastics. The good news is that many companies these days offer eco-friendly versions. You might want to seek out natural glitter.
Mica is a natural ingredient though the mineral is mined so you will have to find out where the company is getting it from.
4. Beware of microplastics and microbeads in your products
Microplastics and microbeads tend to go under the radar but are found regularly in “green” products.
These are miniscule ingredients but they have a huge effect on the environment. Impossible to recycle, they also get in to water bodies where aquatic life ingests them with fatal consequences.
Look carefully for ingredients such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and poly-e-terephthalate.
Microbeads are everywhere, from face wash and toothpaste to lipsticks and deodorants. Opt for products with labels such as PA PE, PET, PMMA and PP; they are free of microbeads.
5. Use the product in small amounts
When using a product, a little goes a long way. Here are some guidelines on the amount you should use.
- Serum: size of a pea
- Cleanser: size of a nickel
- Moisturizer: nickel-sized for the face and a slightly bigger amount if you want to moisturize the neck as well
- Sunscreen: amount of an average-sized grape as the standard
- Exfoliator: size of a dime
- Mask: depends on the surface areas of the face, but a dime-sized dollop should suffice
- Eye-lotions: pea-sized amount should be enough for both eyes
6. Marie Kondo your beauty products
Stop hoarding products, especially those free samples. The problem with hoarding is that we may not be able to optimize all of them before they reach their expiry date. That’s just needless expenditure and free gifts to the landfill, don’t you think?
Declutter them. Decide on which products you will definitely use and others that you’ll end up admiring forever without using. The latter you can gift to friends and Beauty Banks or other places that accept such donations. At least they’ll serve a purpose than when they’re just sitting ignored on the shelf.
Stop buying on impulse and start buying from those companies that are actually doing their best for the environment.
You may end up buying less for the same amount but the purchase will be quality, and best of all green.
7. Stick to one product if possible
There are so many products “great” for the skin, if you go by the marketing for them. If that were true, the world would be teeming with Cleopatras.
Stick to one instead of buying multiple products that serve the same purpose. Being loyal to one product from a sustainable brand will not only save you money but cuts down on your waste.
8. Opt for products that are multi-purpose
Multi-purpose products are invaluable. For example, a powder foundation is a good alternative for a separate powder and foundation. Even if something is not multi-purpose, get creative. Eyebrow pencils for example can be used as an option for eyeliner, lip stains can be applied on the cheek, and a highlighter palette can be used as an eyeshadow.
A basic tenet of an eco-friendly beauty routine is to stick to just a few products. This way, you will be doing your bit to reduce the effects of packaging and bringing down landfill waste.
9. Use reusable products
There are many one-time products that have ready, sustainable alternatives. The quintessential example is reusable shopping bags. While they are a fixture in the eco-friendly household, how many of us only use them for our grocery products?
What if we use them for our cosmetics and moisturizers the next time we go shopping for them?
Then there are cotton pads. The crop takes a lot of water to grow and is among the worst offenders when it comes to expanding carbon footprint.
In this case, go for reusable alternatives like bamboo makeup wipes. You can cleanse your face and exfoliate with them. Just ensure you wash them properly so that you don’t transfer bacteria and other germs to your body when you use them the next time.
While we are on make-up appliances, why not buy brushes and applicator that are made from sustainable and recyclable material? Disposable sponges, flossers, and razors – there are sustainable alternatives to all of them.
In the case of one-time use razors, simply replace them with longer-lasting stainless steel razors. Even these will have to be replaced in due course of time but they can be recycled. What’s more, stainless steel razors are known to provide a better, long-lasting shave. And, unlike disposable razors, is an effective way to reduce your plastic footprint.
10. Packaging matters
The packaging of the product should be recyclable or reusable. In other words, buy products packaged with material such as glass and steel. Glass is easily recyclable and glass jars and bottles are multi-purpose in use.
Glossy packaging or those with ornate add-ons are often a tell-tale sign that the packaging is not eco-friendly. Combine that with the burden of shipping on the environment. It’s not great for planet.
If you are buying online, choose companies that offer recyclable packaging. Green packaging is simple, done with minimal fuss and made of recyclable and reusable material. Typically, the packaging will have this symbol on it:
11. Opt for product refills
There are many companies that enable customers to bring their original packaging to refill them. Shampoos, foundations and eyes-shadows are all sold in packages which can be refilled. L’Occcitane, Ren Skincare, and Kiehl’s and are companies that accept packaging in their stores and refill them. Kjaer Weis is another that offers its luxury products in a metal case that is easy to refill.
Instead of buying a new product, try to refill it. By refilling, you are not only reducing the amount of waste but it is also often the cheaper option than buying a new product. Plus, it takes the load off recycling.
The refill option is also handy while traveling. Buy travel-sized containers, ideally made of recyclable material, and refill them for trips. This saves you the money of buying a new product and the environment will be healthier for it.
12. Stop using micellar water
The trending micellar water for makeup removal is not an eco-friendly product. One of the ingredients of this special form of water is glycerine which is derived from palm oil which in turn is a huge contributor to deforestation.
There are eco-friendly alternatives to micellar water and if you have trouble finding them, use tap water instead.
13. Use low-flow showerheads and reduce the number of washes
Usable water is not as plentiful as we think. As per WWF, close to 70 percent of the population could be facing water shortages in five years’ time.
We can do our bit at home.
A traditional showerhead releases, on average, 2.5 gallons of water per one minute. The solution to this is simply to use a low-flow showerhead and take shorter showers.
Washing the hair too many times is also not healthy and takes away natural oils. Even hot showers tend to have a similar effect on the body, resulting in dry skin.
And how many times do we leave the tap running when it takes a second to switch it off? It doesn’t take much to turn off the faucet after washing our face and before we apply our products. We can turn it on when the time comes to rinse the face.
14. Use bars for hair and body
Let’s give the devil its due. Shampoos are some of the best marketed products out there.
The problem with them is that most of them come in wonderfully packaged plastic bottles.
If you are not lucky enough to find them in sustainable containers then try shampoo and soap bars instead. These not only do a bang up job of reducing plastic footprint, they also on average tend to last distinctly longer than bottled products. And you are not limited for choices in terms of variety; there are plenty to go around.
Still, do remember to read the ingredients list and check them for microplastics.
Also, do remember to check the pH value of the bars. Anything 4–7 is considered all right. A value over that limit means the shampoo is alkaline and that leads to hair issues such as dry scalp.
15. Shelve the curling iron and the conventional blow drier
There are energy efficient options that you can use post-shower. In place of curling iron, you can try rollers or seek out solutions that do not require the use of energy, like braiding your hair perhaps?
Blow dries are also more damaging than we think. Consider this – a conventional blow drier over the course of one year emits two-thirds the amount of carbon dioxide than a gas-powered lawn mower.
Energy efficient alternatives cuts down on the drying time and is healthier for your hair.
What to look for in a sustainable product
There are many aspects to what makes an eco-friendly beauty routine. Here are a few pointers.
The products must be made of ingredients that do not harm the planet. Plus, the production process should be such that the negative impact on the environment is none or minimal. And these products should be manufactured in a way that requires minimal usage of energy and water.
Think your purchases carefully and constantly look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint. We can bring down the greenhouse effect drastically just by choosing the right beauty routine.
There are more ways to establish an eco-friendly beauty routine which we have covered here.
Don’t you think these tips are very doable? Do you have something you wish to add? Let us know in the comments.