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5 Simple Sustainable Swaps to Make Your Beauty Routine More Earth-Friendly


Vogue Arabia, March 2019. Photo: Christine Hahn

Most of us are here for making our beauty routine more sustainable. After all, we don’t want a regime that’s supposed to be beautiful, creating ugly problems for our planet and future. So, if there’s more we can do (and there definitely is), consider us sponges. We’re here to mop up those lifestyle switches that can make all the difference.

We know that product pick-me-ups are costing the earth. From the plastic packaging filling land fills, to cosmetic chemicals washing away down the drain and disrupting marine life. And we know our beauty routines and habits can have a huge impact.

We might think we can’t change the world in a big way through the beauty products that we choose, but cumulatively, a switch as simple as ditching our daily face wipes could save thousands from entering our oceans throughout our lifetime.


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With more brands innovating to come up with a league of creative and sustainable solutions to the problem, the choice is ours. We just have to make it.

Here’s 5 easy ways to make our beauty routine more planet-friendly…

1. Switch to solid soaps and shampoo

When you consider that 80 billion (!!!) plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles get thrown out globally each year, it’s easy to see why we’re in need of a switch-up here. Increasingly, brands are turning to solid bars to massively reduce on waste on three fronts.

First, they reduce the use of packaging. Lush’s Naked bars leave behind zero trace, while others from the likes of Ethique and Garnier’s Shampoo bars use only a small amount of recyclable FSC certified cardboard packaging.

Second, they reduce water consumption, since they make use of the water you’re already showering in to lather up.

Third, they save on emissions since they weigh considerably less than heavy bottles of shampoo and conditioner and take up far less space when being transported. Making it an easy switch with a huge environmental pay-off.


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2. Treat your skin to a hot cloth cleanse rather than face wipes

There’s no denying that face wipes are convenient, but their cost to the environment is horrifying. In the UK alone, we use 11 billion wet wipes a year – the majority of which end up in the bin (and therefore, landfill) or are flushed down the loo (and make it into our oceans). Water UK revealed that wipes accounted for 93% of sewer blockages, while a gruesome phenomenon called fatbergs (floating stacks of congealed waste including face wipes and sanitary items) have built up in our rivers.

Combine this with the fact that every derm and their dog will tell you face wipes don’t clean our skin well enough, it’s high time we switched to a cleaner alternative. There’s numerous options open to us, but the old-fashioned route of a hot cloth cleanse with a flannel is one of the most effective ways to thoroughly clean skin. However, new innovations in the category have brought us the Face Halo. The high-tech fibre discs require only water to loosen and lift away makeup. Since they can be thrown in with your washing and reused, each Face Halo can replace up to 500 face wipes.

Likewise, Garnier’s Micellar Reusable Eco Pads can be paired with micellar water to ease away stubborn mascara and long-wearing makeup and can be washed and reused up to 1,000 times. Or, Etsy has plenty of reusable cotton pads in a variety of pretty prints.


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3. Consider refillable options

Once we have a pump bottle for our hand wash, or a beautiful compact for our blusher, we really don’t need the full shebang all over again when they run out. Think of how much packaging goes into the exterior of our products – springs in pumps, mirrors in compacts, heavy jars for fancy moisturizers. That’s where refills come in, and you’d be surprised at just how many brands have already got on board.

Fenty Skin’s Hydra Vizor Moisturiser and Overnight Recovery Gel Cream launched with refillable options. Body care brand Rituals have refillable options for a range of hand washes, body creams, car fragrances and fragrance sticks.

L’Occitane offers refills for its shower gels, conditioners, shampoos and more. YSL, Dior and Chanel have refills for their foundation and powder compacts. As for lips, Charlotte Tilbury’s Hot Lips 2 and Hourglass’ Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Lipstick can be replaced with refills.

OG refill veteran Kjaer Weiss has a range of makeup, housed in beautiful keepsake metal packaging, all with refill options. And fragrance-wise, Jo Loves groundbreaking Fragrance Paintbrushes now come with refills, Mugler’s iconic scents can be topped up in store or with the online refills and niche fragrance brand Le Labo actually offer money off when you bring back your bottle for a refill.


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A post shared by Rituals Cosmetics (@ritualscosmetics)

4. Switch to products in recycled, recyclable and reusable packaging

If you haven’t heard of of PCR (that’s post-consumer recycled) plastic, you’re about to see a lot more of it. Brands recognize that creating packaging out of virgin plastic when there’s so much of the stuff going to waste already, is madness. That’s why brands like REN are leading the way by putting existing plastic to good use. Their Ocean Plastic bottles use materials collected from oceans, rivers, river banks and beaches. The compromise is a slightly grey hue (which makes each bottle unique) as the bottles carry over some of the color from their past life. And the metal free pumps are much easier to recycle, too.

Dove has been introducing 100% recycled plastic bottles into its range since the end of 2019. More than 85% of Aveda’s skin and haircare products contain 100% PCR plastic and soap brand Soaper Duper’s distinctive green packaging comes from the green milk bottle tops used to create their bottles.

Now, brands like Garnier, Maybelline, Kiehl’s and L’Occitane are working with recycling company TerraCycle to create drop-off points (you can usually find them in supermarkets) for your beauty empties, with some exceptions such as aerosol cans, perfume bottles, nail polish bottles, and nail polish remover bottles.

Elsewhere, brands have turned their focus to materials that can be more easily reused such as glass and aluminium. The trailblazing initiative, LOOP, has partnered with beauty brands such as Nivea, REN, Beauty Kitchen and Molton Brown (alongside food and drink brands and TESCO) to create a waste-free delivery system of sustainably packaged products straight to your doorstep. Think of it like the milkman of beauty. They’ll drop off a glass or aluminium bottle full of your favourite body wash or shampoo, and when you’ve used it up, they’ll come and collect it.

5. Get a recycle bin for your bathroom

It seems an obvious one, but there’s no point in making the switch to more recyclable beauty products if we then don’t stick them in the right bin. A study from Recycle Now found that even though we’re pretty good at recycling our kitchen waste (90% of kitchen packaging is recycled), we’re falling behind in our bathrooms, where only 50% of packaging is recycled.

To make it easier, stick two bins in your bathroom, one for general waste and one for recycling. Or get a split bin that has a compartment for each, like this one from JosephJoseph.


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A post shared by Joseph Joseph (@josephjosephofficial)

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