With a shift to sustainability felt across most industries and daily-life products, we’re also seeing bold claims highlighted across each of our favourite beauty products. ‘Sustainability’ is a big trend in the beauty world, but are the claims affecting change, or are they there to cash in?
Phoebe Dixon reveals her tried-and-tested, truly sustainable beauty favourites, as well as some easy switches you can make to give your make-up bag and bathroom cupboard an eco makeover.
Let’s talk ‘biodegradable beauty’
Face wipes and sheet masks are a big no-no for the planet–we know that. As the anti-wipe trend grew, manufacturers introduced the buzzwords (and certain steps, to their credit) to reduce the environmental impact. Face wipes labelled as biodegradable are likely only that at the root of the product. Once drenched in product, packaged in non-recyclable plastic, or not effectively thrown away, that claim is no longer fulfilled to the end consumer.
Whether biodegradable or not, single-use face wipes typically end up in landfill, an environment not always conducive to effectively breaking down a product. So any of those sustainability claims are thrown out of the window. Biodegradable beauty is almost certainly a step in the right direction, but don’t assume it’s the perfect solution.
Consider cruelty-free cosmetics
Similarly, we’ve seen an increase in appetite for animal-friendly products. Vegan and cruelty free are a key consideration for many consumers. If you seek these products out, you’ll notice how few have either the cruelty free or vegan society stamp of approval. While animal friendly standards in the UK may have seen a change, it may not be the same story overseas. Companies that source ingredients or packaging from other countries do not have the authority to claim 100% animal-friendly products. To ensure transparency, look out for the vegan and cruelty free logos labelled on your products.
There is undoubtedly truth in some of these updated beauty claims. Instead of looking for your usual products, let’s look at some easy swaps we can make to upgrade your beauty regime, with a much more sustainable base…
In the shower
Let’s start simple with soap. Soap and ‘beauty bars’ have replaced 90% of products in my shower. No more plastic bottles for shower gel, shampoo or conditioner, with the same great results. You can find soap anywhere but my favourites are from Lush, Friendly and local eco stores that offer packaging-free bars for body wash, shampoo and conditioner. Look out for cardboard or packaging-free where you can to take an extra step.
If you’re after a more luxury sustainable shower experience, why not try shower gel and shampoo refills? L’Occitane offers shower gel pouches with an in-store recycling point. Original Source provides its full range in pouches, and Faith in Nature has 5-litre refills (available at Holland & Barrett). This option is the perfect excuse to invest in some beautiful glassware for your bathroom to decant products into as needed.
In your makeup bag
My daily makeup is where I still struggle to find good eco alternatives to my favourites, especially as I’ve been faithful to some products for years. When you’re next looking to replace your foundation or blush, look out for glass and metal packaging—it will undoubtedly be at a higher price point, but currently this is the best option I’ve found.
Utilise brand initiatives where you can. The Body Shop and Kiehl’s have partnered with TerraCycle, which allows you to recycle all brand empties in-store. Pop into your local branch for specific information and availability in your area.
On your skincare shelf
Make the switch from pre-packaged, product drenched wipes and masks to reusable cotton pads, if you haven’t already. They’re washable too (just don’t use them with nail varnish as it will permanently stain). Use muslin cloths, which are gentle on the skin and great at removing make-up when paired with a cleanser. Not only are these options much better for the environment, they’re also more effective at removing make-up and kinder to your skin.
Similarly, look at other single-use items in your routine and seek out how to replace them. Cotton buds are a good example as the plastic versions are near impossible to completely get rid of, never mind recycle. If you prefer single use, switch to a bamboo alternative or, where you can, pick up the reusable LastSwab, which you can wash between uses.
Similarly to make-up switches, consider glass or metal containers. Refillable options for cleansers. Or larger containers to allow for fewer repurchases.
At the sink
Onto dental hygiene… Did you know that every single plastic toothbrush ever made is still on the planet in some form? The easy switch is moving to bamboo toothbrushes. You can buy them in bulk from Amazon and most eco stores. If you use an electric toothbrush, you’ll likely need to keep plastic heads on rotation. But look out for recycled and recyclable options where you can—Live Coco offers some great options.
There are also more sustainable alternatives for toothpaste and dental floss. I’ve been using the Georganics floss for some time now. For toothpaste, you may need to trial some options to find your preference. With sensitive teeth, I still find the big brand plastic tubes offer more than the eco alternative. But I’m sampling where I can.
Eco-friendly beauty swaps can be a key part of your sustainability journey, whether a full overhaul or starting with small changes. Look into the alternatives when you’re next due a restock. And don’t think you need to throw out your whole collection immediately.
Be conscious in your purchases. Think of the changes you can make in the future to upgrade your routine for sustainability and better skin health.
Do you have any suggestions on how to further green our routines?
Phoebe Dixon lives in Leeds, UK, and loves the local indie food scene, regularly visiting the bars and restaurants around the city. She's a blogger at heart, managing NorthofLondon.co.uk, which mainly covers food and Leeds and provides an opportunity to get her thoughts down on the page. When she's not exploring her local city, Phoebe loves to get lost in books, often losing hours of the day to reading, and enjoys cooking something up in her kitchen at home.