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Going Zero: The Beauty Makeover You Need To Try

The beauty industry is an undying industry, which is killing the environment at the same time!

Makeup items (eyeshadow palettes, blush, mascara, highlighter, a lip balm tube) are laid on a marble table
Moving towards a zero-waste beauty routine

Source: Elemen5 Digital [20]

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In 2019, the beauty industry was valued at $532 billion [1].

It’s certainly an impressive feat, but we can’t powder away from the fact that the beauty industry is also partially responsible for our overflowing landfills and plastic-filled oceans considering that only a small portion of our waste is recycled.

So, should we just give up on beauty products?

The simple answer is no. Rather than giving up, it’s time to take a long, hard look at our beauty routine and start making changes. Moving towards a zero-waste beauty routine is one, if not, the best way to be accountable and also reduce our environmental impact. Without further ado, here are 5 ways on how you can start your zero-waste beauty routine:


Understand the environmental impact of the beauty industry

First thing first, you need to know the reason why a zero-waste beauty routine is so necessary. Currently, the beauty industry does create a grand amount of waste, especially packaging, which amounts to 120 billion units [2], and for once, plastic packaging is not the only one at fault here! Now you might be thinking: wait a minute, isn’t packaging made anything other than plastic is always a more sustainable option?

Well, you’re partially right, but regardless how sustainable they are, the majority still ends up in landfills where they leak into the ocean. An article from Allure explains that packaging for beauty products is not easy to recycle due to the high risk of contamination and a lack of demand for recycled packaging [3].

Not to further rain down on the parade, but your beauty products may come with components and contain chemicals that are detrimental to the ecosystem once they’ve washed down the sink [4]. The most prominent example would be microbeads, tiny plastic particles that are present in beauty and/or personal skincare products like facial scrubs, eyes and lips makeup as well as moisturizers—they are a lot more common than you think.

Why are they receiving so much hate nowadays, you ask? Well, they do not get filtered out nor degrade before they reach the ocean [5]. We might not notice their impact right off the bat, but marine animals are highly vulnerable to microbeads in the ocean and this risk passes to us [6].


Beware of greenwashing

Before you make the switch to zero-waste beauty products, be alert of greenwashing. Some beauty brands want to leverage the green movement by adding one or two natural ingredients masking other toxic ingredients, which not only dupe customers but also depletes our scarce natural resources [7].

A line of new and empty pump bottles and two rows of empty compact containers in front of it
Be alert of greenwashing

Source: Polina Tankilevitch [21]

Use eco-friendly replacements

Using eco-friendly replacements sounds simple enough, but how do we know which beauty product is eco-friendly the next time we go to the makeup aisle? Remember these two magic words: naked and clean.

Naked beauty products have limited to no packaging [8], making the product a direct zero-waste replacement. If you cannot find any naked beauty products, there are also many easy DIYs, such as making your own solid perfume personalized with your favorite scents [9].

A stack of square shaped bars of soap without any packaging
Naked and clean!

Source: Tabitha Mort [22]

Clean beauty is made with non-toxic ingredients that are ethically sourced and don’t negatively impact our health and the environment [10]. There are some components to be aware of, since they leave a mark in the environment. These include but are NOT limited to: microbeads polyethene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), nylon (PA), etc.) and triclosan (an antibacterial ingredient) [5,10].

If you are unsure about the other components in your beauty or skincare products, DIY or simple ingredients are a possible option. An example is using coconut oil as a makeup remover [11].


Break up with single-use products and use less

The beauty industry has a great way to seduce us with overly packed packaged products, most of which are designed to be single-use, such as simple cotton pads. You might not realize it when you wash off your makeup at the end of a tiring day, but one person could use up 730 cotton pads in a year [12]. This could be prevented by committing to a long-term relationship with reusable beauty products [13]! You can make your own cotton pads from cloth to remove makeup [13]

In addition to breaking up of single-use items, it is also time to value quality over quantity, where a simple beauty routine could be more than enough for you. Having a more minimal beauty routine would make it a lot easier for being more zero-waste [14].

A hand holding a reusable cotton pad above a table that has various other items (other reusable cotton pads, a scented candle, flowers, cloth and some needle and thread)
Long-term relationships with reusable beauty products

Source: Melina Trinova [23]

Recycle, Recycle and Recycle!

Recycling the empties from our bathroom to our makeup bag is challenging. In the UK, only 52% of people say they often recycle what they can from their bathroom [15]. Regardless of how challenging it is, let’s do it for our future and our environment!

If you are unsure of how to start recycling empties, the first step is to always rinse and clean. Try to make sure that they are really empty [16]. Then, you should find out which beauty products and component parts can be recycled [16,17], how empties can be recycled in your area [17] if the packaging type and their components (e.g. caps) can be recycled [17], and if the beauty brand has any recycling program [18]. An example of a company recycling program is one from The Body Shop with their Bring Our Bottles Back program, where they encourage customers to return empties in exchange for store points [19].

A compact powder, glitter pot, mascara and a lip applicator laid on a velvet flat surface
Find out which components can be recycled

Source: Annie Spratt [24]

CONCLUSION - The beauty industry still has a long way to go, but as consumers, there is nothing stopping us. While the transition to a zero-waste beauty routine can feel confusing and difficult at first, you will get better each and every day. A small piece of advice would be to take a good look at what beauty products you use daily. ask yourself if you really need it and whether the product itself is very wasteful. Then ask yourself a second question “what can I do to replace it?” Let’s take the first step in revolutionizing the beauty industry. Don’t let the beauty industry be a beautiful disaster.





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