We won’t get bogged down over who’s to blame for our obsession with multi-step skincare routines and our continual need to buy “the latest and greatest” products (cough – million-dollar marketing campaigns and beauty media). But there’s no doubt our fascination has come at a price. Today’s beauty industry is choking on plastic packaging, 70 per cent of which ends up in landfill. Then there are the toxic chemicals regularly embedded in ingredient lists that aren’t only harmful to you, but will eventually find their way into our soil and oceans. Sorry, we know that all sounds very stressful. But it doesn’t need to be. There are so many easy ways to make our bathroom rituals more sustainable, without sacrificing quality or good vibes.
One option is skin minimalism, which encourages individuals to drastically reduce the products they use. But if you’re not ready to commit to that, we’ll happily share the joys of embracing a “less is more” approach. Simplifying things will save you time and money and possibly even improve your skin; it will also help you cut down on the mountain of waste and packaging that is probably taking over your bathroom bin. For this week’s Swaps instalment, we’ve enlisted freelance beauty writer Rosie Dalton to help us help you make your next #shelfie a little more sustainable.
Image of Rosie Dalton by Ryan Cullen for RIISE
Let’s start with the gold standard for an environmentally friendly beauty cabinet: plastic-free products. Before you roll your eyes, we know how hard it can be to eliminate plastic completely from your beauty bag (we’re still in that process). But as more individuals pledge to reduce their plastic consumption, we’re seeing a number of brands come up with exciting, innovative and frankly stylish solutions.
Flavedo & Albedo is a great example of this – it has managed to completely ditch plastic from its supply chain and is heroing vibrant shades packed in aluminium pots. Going a step further, La bouche rouge has done the (almost) impossible, creating the world’s first microplastic-free and recyclable glass mascara.
For Rosie, it’s also about what’s on the outside of the beauty bag. “I am moving towards plastic-free soap in our home at the moment and have been loving the ORRIS range of botanical bars which are made in France. They are both luxurious and planet friendly.”
OK, perhaps you’re not ready to venture too far out yet and want to stick with brands you know and love? Luckily, there’s a number of premium brands which are offering refillable versions of our favourite products – which create up to 70 per cent less CO2 emissions. From Chanel to Dior, it’s becoming easier and easier to engage in this swap.
Rosie’s top recommendations for refillable skincare products are Emma Lewisham’s Supernatural Vitamin A Face Oil, N°1 de Chanel revitalising cream (whose sustainable reputation we recently put under the microscope) and Foile’s Classic Refills. Her top-rated makeup product is La bouche rouge’s lipstick because it’s not only plastic-free, recyclable and refillable (the trifecta), but also comes housed in the brand’s signature upcycled case. And for finishing touches, she recommends a spritz of a cult Le Labo fragrance.
Maybe you already have a routine filled with plastic-free and refillable beauty products; maybe you don’t. Wherever you are on your journey, you probably are still facing the issue of what you do with the (many or few) empties that you’ve accrued.
Annually, more than 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging are produced globally – the majority of which end up in landfill. Honestly, you’re not really to blame for that. Most of our cosmetics and skincare come packed in materials that can’t just be added to your kerbside recycling (in most council areas). Small items like lipstick, pumps, caps and droppers, anything squeezable like hand cream containers or toothpaste, and even many products made of glass and metal present real recycling challenges.
But before you put bathroom recycling in the too-hard basket, let us introduce you to TerraCycle which has partnered with leading retailers and brands including MECCA, David Jones, and Priceline (in partnership with Maybelline) to make this whole process easy. A quick check on its website will help you find your nearest drop-off location, where you can return your empties, granting them a second life. Additionally, some stores such as L’Occitane and Kiehls have programs which let you not only recycle, but also refill in store.
If you don’t live near a deposit point, you can still take advantage of TerraCycle’s “ship in” programs with brands like Sukin or Jurlique. As Rosie points out, “[it] really takes the guesswork out of responsible recycling”.
Image of Rosie Dalton by Ryan Cullen for RIISE
While recycling your big-ticket items (like moisturisers and serums) with TerraCycle helps you leap over one hurdle, you’re still left to deal with single-use items. Sheet masks, face wipes, blotting sheets, wax strips, cotton buds and those gross-but-satisfying foot-peeling socks are impossible (in our experience) to get rid of without adding to landfill.
You might be thinking: that’s a lot of items to source alternatives to. But you’ll be surprised by how easy they are to find, and how affordable they are in the long run.
Instead of cotton rounds, Rosie suggests the Rose Inc reusable cosmetic rounds which are made from organic bamboo cotton and naturally antibacterial. “They are softer than disposables and so easy to rinse and repeat,” she says. Sheet masks can be subbed out for reusable versions such as these from The Base Collective which apparently you can literally use forever. And ditch the tampons in favour of a moon cup or period undies.
When it comes to our beauty products, the back of the bottle isn’t always as pretty as the front. Some of the chemical ingredients hidden in our moisturisers, serums, masks and hygiene products can have a harmful effect on the environment as they are washed down the sink and into the ocean. In fact, their threat to coral reefs, algae and marine life has seen many banned in certain countries around the world.
We’re not expecting you to dig out your year 9 chemistry text books, but here’s a list of four common skincare ingredients that have been linked to ecotoxicity, and great alternatives to replace them with.
1. Oxybenzone and octinoxate are compounds commonly found in chemical sunscreens. They can cause damaging effects to coral reefs, increasing their vulnerability to bleaching and preventing growth, so swap your everyday chemist variety to MOTHER SPF’s organic mineral sunscreen.
2. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent often present in soap and hand sanitiser. It’s toxic to aquatic bacteria and is currently being phased out in the EU (although they’ve stopped short of banning it). Avoid it altogether by trying Sphaera’s sweet almond and French clay soap bar.
3. Parabens are everywhere. If you’ve been following the clean beauty movement you’ll know a lot of brands have stopped using this family of preservatives because they are believed to have a negative effect on the environment. As a result, it’s become a lot easier to find paraben-free products at your regular supermarket or pharmacy. But for our money, a great standout is Foile’s jojoba face oil.
4. Siloxanes are part of the silicone family and, while research is still ongoing, it’s said that they bioaccumulate in aquatic food chains, making them toxic for fish and other organisms. They’re usually used in primers to make your skin silky-smooth; instead try REN’s Perfect Canvas Clean Primer.
Ryan Cullen for RIISE
Ryan Cullen for RIISE
Beware of a multipack or sampler! Instead of buying that 24-shade eyeshadow palette, which looks pretty (but honestly who wears that many glitter shades?), purchase a few individual pots you know you’ll wear. Multipacks of any kind tend to lead to a lot of wastage; sometimes it’s better to buy what you actually want individually.
For Rosie, being a new mum means being mindful of what you actually use daily. “To reduce wastage, I choose quality over quantity and gravitate towards a tight rotation of hardworking products – preferably those that come in plastic-free packaging.”
She has a targeted range of individual products that she swears by: “my favourite natural beauty products and the ones I use every day include the LESSE Ritual Serum – which is great for both morning and evening – and Josh Rosebrook’s tinted nutrient day cream, which offers light coverage and hydration, along with SPF 30. I am also a big fan of products by Weleda and Living Libations and humble-but-hardworking oils such as rosehip.”
Homemade beauty and skincare have long been a part of many cultures around the world – shout out to grandma’s oatmeal mask. In recent years we’ve seen a revival in interest as we become more aware of what’s actually in our products. There’s no need to worry about a murky ingredient list if you literally made the product (out of items you’d happily eat).
For example: avocados aren’t just delicious on toast. You can use them to add gloss to your hair. Green tea bags are great for reducing redness and inflammation and yogurt is an effective single-use sheet mask alternative – it’s high in lactic acid which exfoliates the skin. For a makeup remover you can try coconut or olive oil. And lastly, for general body oil, Rosie recommends mixing up your own concoction using a base of sweet almond oil and soothing essential oils.
Of course, just because something is natural doesn’t mean you won’t have an adverse reaction. In order to create homemade recipes successfully, make sure you have all the facts first.