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11 sustainable beauty switches

Updated: May 1, 2019

From adding a recycling bin to your bathroom, to seeking out sustainable sourced ingredients, these small switches to your product habits can make a big difference

The problem the beauty industry poses on the planet is well versed but bears repeating. According to Zero Waste, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, much of which is not recyclable. The majority of products come packaged in plastic, which – when talking about your average moisturiser pot – can take nearly 1,000 years to decompose. Then there’s the plastic wrappings, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, foam, mirrored glass and more, sometimes all present in one purchase.

Of the product packaging we can recycle, half of us don’t. Research from Garnier found that over 56 per cent of Brits (that’s 4.5 million people) don’t recycle bathroom products because of the inconvenience. If these items aren’t given a second life, they simply go into landfill – or potentially litter our environment. Then there's the problems of sustainability of ingredients, and planet-damaging chemicals.

Thankfully, beauty companies big and small have been cleaning up their act, and as consumers make more conscious choices – increasingly armed with information on sustainability – a collective attitude shift has been made. To ensure you’re doing your bit try these simple swaps for a greener beauty regime.

1.Swap liquid soaps for bar soaps

Bar soaps are back, and unlike their predecessors the new generation come in many good-for-skin guises. Mostly sold in plastic-free packaging, there’s a soap for all needs; from hands and body to hair and facial cleansing. Shop some of Bazaar’s favourites below.

If you don’t like the idea of a soap dish (plus, your natural soap will last longer if it can dry out between uses), try a soap pouch like that by Hydrophil. Made from fully biodegradable sisal (stronger than other natural fibres), it lets you store soap in a chic way and use it to the end.


A light and feminine scent, Diptyque’s Do Son Perfumed Soap combines notes of almond oil and tuberose flower for the perfect balance of sweet and delicate spice. Above all, skin feels soft and silky post-rinse.

Diptyque Do Son Perfumed Soap, £18

2. Swap plastic packaging for aluminium and glass (or go ‘naked’)

Clearly, going cosmetic packaging-free is the ideal option for the environment, with Lush leading the way in making solid products in the form of hair and body care (as seen above) and even make-up. But there’s no denying that–currently–‘naked’ is not for everyone and there is a demand for packaging that’s both aesthetically and environmentally pleasing.

With many of us happily choosing to pass on plastic, aluminium looks to be the best alternative for beauty product packaging. Aluminium is the only material that can be recycled on an infinite loop (allowing it to be reused in the same form again and again). It also has a better chance of actually being recycled: Around 55 per cent of aluminium cans are currently recycled correctly compared to 34 per cent of glass containers, while only five per cent of the world’s plastics are recycled effectively. Given the cost of aluminium to brands, it’s not currently a mainstream option, but look to the likes of We Are Paradoxx – a line of environmentally responsible haircare using 90 per cent aluminium packaging. The only plastic currently used within the brand’s packaging are the pumps, however they can be recycled, simply use a nutcracker to remove the metal springs.

When it comes to glass packaging, Neal’s Yard Remedies are considered leaders in the beauty world. The British brand uses glass bottles and jars, except for where weight and safety dictate (for example glass can be dangerous in the shower). Where they do use plastic, they pledge that by 2025, 100 per cent of its packaging will be recyclable, compostable or reusable.

3. Swap your bathroom bin for a recycling bin

With the vast majority of beauty packaging being thrown out after just one use, and only 50 per cent of recyclable bathroom waste currently being recycled, making sure you have a recycling bin to hand is obvious, but often overlooked. Invest in a bathroom recycling bin for starters, and for those products that you aren’t sure how to recycle try Terracycle. The programme in partnership with Garnier offers free recycling for all beauty product packaging, and also gives users the opportunity to fundraise for their favourite school or charity. Simply print a free shopping label and take your empties to your local drop-off location. Also take advantage of the excellent Return to Origins recycling programme, which welcomes all cosmetic containers (including tubes, lids and caps) regardless of brand.


Also think about how you can upcycle your empty products. From using jars and bottles as vases and vessels for your hair accessories and make-up brushes, look to Pinterest for endless ideas.

4. Swap single-use packaging for refillables

Cream BlushKjaer Weis £41.00

Invest in refillable beauty products and take advantage of companies offering refill schemes. Look to Soap Coand Method for hand care; L’Occitane and Rituals for bath and body care; L'Occitane and Windle & Moodiefor hair care; Kjaer Weis and Lush for make-up; By Killian and Experimental Perfume Club for fragrance. Many brands, including Kiehl’s and Mac also offer in-store recycling initiates with reward schemes.

When it comes to sheet masks, reusable versions are becoming more readily available. The new Miss de Gaspé sheet masks from Nannette de Gaspé can be used up to five times; while the dry sheet masks by Charlotte Tilbury and Trish McEvoy can be reworn around three times. Also opt for biodegradable versions, such as The Body Shop Drops of Youth Concentrate Facial Sheet Mask.

5. Swap minis and regulars for supersize versions

Jumbo versions of beauty favourites are currently a big trend. Given a supersized product uses less packaging and requires less regular shipping it’s a more ecologically-conscious option. (It’s nearly always kinder to your wallet, too.) A whole range of luxury classics, from Crème de La Mer to Kiehl's Crème de Corps, are now available in 500ml and upwards versions. Shop 10 of the best buys below:

6. Swap regular dental floss for biodegradable versions

Georganics Natural Silk Dental 30m Floss -£5.90SHOP NOW

There are many different types of dental floss, but typically it’s made from wax-coated nylon (which is derived from crude oil) and is housed in a plastic case. Frankly, floss has little chance of being recycled, so shop for biodegradable versions. Try Georganics Silk Dental Floss which is made of silk coated in natural, food grade candelilla wax. It’s biodegradable and packaged in a zero-waste glass container with a metal dispensing lid allowing you to cut the floss.

7. Swap plastic for bamboo cotton buds

Hydrophil sustainable cotton swabs made from bamboo and £9.00

Another big problem hiding in our bathroom cupboards are traditional cotton buds. According to The Guardian, it’s estimated that 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England each year. Around ten per cent are flushed down toilets, ending up in waterways and oceans, adding to the 150 million-plus tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans. It should go without saying not to flush cotton buds, but beyond that replace your plastic versions with swabs made of bamboo, such as the Hydro Phil Cotton Swabs.

8. Swap cotton wool and face wipes for reusable versions

If you can’t kick your face wipe habit, remember to place used ones in your rubbish bins (never down the toilet), or switch to versions such as the Neal’s Yard Organic Facial Wipes which are compostable, or can be added to textiles recycling collection points (once dried out). Alternatively, reusable muslin cloths and traditional flannels make light work of make-up removal – when used with your cleanser – or try Face Halo, reusable face pads that require only water. These clever dual-sided make-up removers which can be machine washed up to 200 times are made up of fibres 100 times finer than human hair to ensure a gentle but thorough cleanse.

9. Swap to sustainably sourced ingredients

Sustainability of ingredients used in products is another area of environmental concern, from how they’re sourced to the long-term impact of farming them for cosmetic purposes. Palm oil for example, which is used in approximately half of all consumer goods, is causing widespread deforestation plus the extinction of many animal species.

To avoid adding to the problem, the best way to identify if a product’s ingredients have been sustainably sourced is to look out for the Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance logos on the packaging.

Also look out for sustainability partnerships within the industry. Various beauty brands, including Caudalie, are members of ‘1% for the Planet’, meaning they contribute one per cent of the company's worldwide turnover to organisations working to protect the environment.

10. Swap to water-responsible beauty brands

As the industry’s most used ingredient, there are concerns that demand for water could outstrip supply. Some brands are responding by formulating with richer ingredients and less (or no) water, with the likes of L'Oréal pledging to reduce water usage by 60 per cent per each unit of product by 2020.

While the trend for ‘waterless beauty’ may be a positive one, it’s not to say that by removing water from formulas means a product won’t have a significant water footprint – it undoubtedly still will. But seek out water-responsible brands, and those giving back.

Aveda, for example, partners with ‘charity: water’, and since 2007 has raised $300 million for clean water initiatives, completed over 29,000 water projects, and served 8.4 million people.

11. Swap to reef-friendly chemicals

Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF 30 50mlDermalogica £58.00

Chemicals in cosmetics, most notably sunscreens, can be devastating for ocean reefs, with scientists discovering that up to 10 per cent of coral reefs are threatened by sunscreen-induced bleaching. Reef-friendly options Bazaar recommends include the suncare ranges by Eau Thermale Avène and Soleil Toujours, plus Dermalogica’s new Prisma Protect SPF30 for face.

1 Comment

Jan 26, 2021

I prefer those brads who are against plastic. Products must be eco-friendly. And also use environmentally friendly skincare brands. I normally do my shopping at ReeCoupons.

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