Here’s the lowdown on what sustainable beauty is these days and 10 tips to help you create a sustainable and eco-friendly beauty routine.

We recently published an article on daily tips to help reduce waste and make your home more sustainable. A regular part of our daily lives – for women and men, given the explosion of the male beauty industry in the last decade – is our beauty and grooming routine. This everyday ritual is probably second nature for many of us, and you’d be forgiven for not thinking about the impact it has on the environment.

10 Tips For A Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Beauty Routine

Wellness | 17th January 2019 by Ciara McArdle

Here’s the lowdown on what sustainable beauty is these days and 10 tips to help you create a sustainable and eco-friendly beauty routine.

We recently published an article on daily tips to help reduce waste and make your home more sustainable. A regular part of our daily lives – for women and men, given the explosion of the male beauty industry in the last decade – is our beauty and grooming routine. This everyday ritual is probably second nature for many of us, and you’d be forgiven for not thinking about the impact it has on the environment.

10 tips for a sustainable and eco-friendly beauty routine

But every year, the cosmetics industry around the world produces 120 billion units of packaging. And while 90% of Brits are recycling in our kitchens, staggeringly, only 1 in 2 of us are recycling waste from our bathrooms such as plastic bottles from shampoo, and other personal care products.  It means bottles and squeezy tubes are ending up in general waste bins and then ultimately, in a landfill and sadly in the ocean.

We reckon you may want to take some action to help make your beauty routine more sustainable and eco-friendly. Here are our top tips for a sustainable beauty routine and being kinder to the planet. But first…

What is a sustainable beauty product or brand?

Okay, this can be confusing! But we will do our best to explain what sustainability in the beauty industry can look like. A beauty product or brand may be considered sustainable by looking at all or one of the different aspects contributing to a product – whether it be the choice of ingredients in the formulation, the production process, packaging, shipping and distribution, as well as recycling options offered. Sustainable formulations and the sustainability of the production process should go some way to fit in with the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.

What this means is a product containing both natural and synthetic ingredients may be regarded as sustainable if the production process fits in with green principles. Similarly, a product without natural or organic ingredients or eco-friendly packaging may be regarded as contributing to the sustainable movement if there is a recycling programme in place. E.g. if there is an incentive-based programme to return empty product packaging back to the brand. Also, if a brand contributes to charitable and green organisations and projects, this could also be seen as a sustainable business practice contributing to the sustainability mindset and movement.

However, similar to other industries, sustainable, natural beauty brands have in the past, received a bad reputation for compromising on quality or smell. But, do not underestimate consumer demand for eco-friendly products. Because of this demand, well known and favourite brands are creating and rethinking products as they are increasingly compelled to adopt sustainable business practices. Next time you are visiting a store stocking your favourite brand, why not ask the consultant if they have any sustainable products available?

Established beauty brands are also conscious of new sustainable beauty brands,  arriving on the scene, keeping the industry as a whole on their toes! Once you’ve found a  few brands you can trust to be eco-friendly, all you have to do is try out their products and pick your favourites!


1 Think eco-friendly when choosing your next beauty or personal care product

We suggest you start introducing sustainable and eco-friendly thinking when making your next essential beauty or personal care purchase. As you continue to use and finish products you already have, consider what may be the most straightforward product to replace with a sustainable alternative. An excellent place to begin would be to consider changing products where you have less brand loyalty and are more open to shopping around.

For instance, hand, body and bath wash and soaps could be a good starting point. Finding a sustainable body wash may result in a quicker buying decision than would be shopping around for a sustainable face cream meeting your exacting skin requirements. With our different skin types taking longer to find a suitable and sustainable replacement is understandable.

2 Take the slow approach

Searching for products one by one as you need to replace them could be the easiest way to establishing a sustainable beauty or grooming routine. This way you can spend time focusing on each product you need by researching and trying out alternatives. A few weeks before you run out of your favourite and what you consider an irreplaceable product, read reviews online, visit beauty counters and ask for samples for sustainable alternatives. This gives you the opportunity to try and test in time for your next purchase. When you buy, you’ll be on the road to a more sustainable beauty routine. Hoorah!

3 Look for eco-friendly packaging

Ideally, shop for a beauty or personal care brand with environmentally friendly packaging, avoiding the use of plastic in particular.  For example, products in glass bottles are more easily recycled.

4 Look at the formulation’s ingredients

Natural & organic

You can also seek brands using natural and organic ingredients in their formulations produced and packaged in an environmentally friendly way.

Marine extracts and algae

Looking for products containing marine extracts and algae can make a big difference. These ingredients turn carbon dioxide into oxygen as they grow. They are also miracle workers for your skin!

Eliminate microplastics and microbeads

Similarly, make sure your products do not contain microplastics usually made from polyethylene. These are tiny particles of plastic that have many harmful effects on the environment. They are not recyclable and can go on to pollute oceans and be ingested by marine life, fish and animals.

Although microbeads in rinse-off products like face wash and toothpaste are banned in the UK and US, there is still a long list of cosmetics where microbeads are still used. Lipsticks, deodorants, sun creams and hair gels are a few examples. Ingredients to look out for are polyethylene, polypropylene, poly-e-terephthalate, and polymethyl methacrylate.


Avoid petroleum derivatives

We should also try and avoid the alarming number of products containing petroleum derivatives. Steer clear of anything with paraffin oil, propylene glycol and ethylene. Instead, try products with alternative ingredients such as beeswax, cocoa butter and vegetable oils.


10 Tips For A Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Beauty Routine

10 Tips For A Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Beauty Routine continued…

5 Swap your tools as well as your ingredients

There are numerous straightforward, one-time swaps you can implement to help make a difference and move towards a sustainable and eco-friendly beauty routine.

Wipes and cotton pads

Firstly, ditch makeup wipes and cotton pads. Instead, you can buy reusable, washable pads. It will likely save you money in the long run – imagine never having to buy makeup remover pads or wipes ever again! Or, if you want to be really savvy with your sustainability, why not make your own reusable pads by cutting up an old towel. If you make seven or eight, you can use them every night with one spare, washing them once a week.


You can also swap your razor for a more sustainable option. Disposable razors are probably the most common, but why not try a stainless steel safety razor? These razors are free of plastic and a great investment – if you care for them, they can last a lifetime. They are said to give a cleaner longer-lasting shave. While you still have to change the metal blades and throw the old ones away, they can be recycled. At the same time, you’re avoiding contributing to plastic pollution!

Makeup brushes, applicators and hairbrushes

Similarly, seek makeup brushes, applicators and hairbrushes made from recycled or sustainable materials such as bamboo. Avoid brushes with real animal hair, and instead, look for synthetic bristles.

6 Shampoo bars

Shampoo bars are a great way to reduce your environmental impact. They can be used for your hair and body, meaning you don’t need to buy any plastic bottles for your shower at all. They also tend to last longer – you can get as many washes from one bar as you would from two or three shampoo bottles. There are plenty to choose from, so regardless of your preference of scent, you’re sure to find one you like.  

7 Opt for multi-purpose products

Reducing the number of products we buy and use means reducing the amount of packaging we consume as well as our waste. Why not try a lip and cheek stain, or a powder foundation rather than using a separate foundation and powder. Use a combined foaming makeup remover and cleanser using water to save on wipes and cotton pads. You know eyebrow pencils can easily double up as an alternative daytime eyeliner eliminating the need to buy or carry both.

8 Simplify your skincare routine

In the same way, we simply don’t need the numerous face creams, serums and other skincare products. You’d be surprised how similar the ingredients are in all the products you’ve been convinced into thinking you need for good skin! Stick to a cleanser, toner and moisturiser you like, and you won’t want for anything else. Keeping it simple will save you time and money in the long run with the added bonus of reducing your household waste. If you try a product and find it’s not for you, why not give it to someone else for them to try out, rather than throwing it away.

9 Be mindful of how much product you’re using

It’s so easy to overuse products – how many times have you used your face moisturiser as a hand cream because you have excess after moisturising your face? Or had to wash the excess foundation from the back of your hand? Remember a small amount of product goes a long way! Again, this will save you money as well as helping you to cut back on waste.

10 Recycling beauty products

Once you are finished with products, take the time to recycle them properly. Washing containers can be beneficial to the recycling process. Keeping screw tops and lids with containers is also helpful. You’d be forgiven for having been lazy about this in the past. It can be confusing to recycle something comprising of various different materials, and still have residue product (like a lipstick, perhaps).

Recycling programmes offered by brands

However, there are more recycling options for beauty products than you may realise! Although it is more complicated with some makeup products; brands such as MAC, Lush, Origins and Kiehl’s offer their own makeup return programmes whereby you receive a free product when returning old ones. It’s worth checking whether your favourite beauty brand has a similar scheme!

Imagine the difference each of us could make if we all made an effort to incorporate just a few of these simple steps into our daily beauty and grooming routines! We also like to think you’ll feel better after all the effort because what naturally comes with feeling better is looking better! Do you have any top tips for how you keep your personal care routine sustainable? Let us know in the comments.

10 Tips For A Sustainable & Eco-Friendly Beauty Routine

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Ciara McArdle
Ciara is a Glasgow based writer and digital marketing ninja who loves travel, Instagram and fashion. As a graduate of politics, she is equally passionate about social issues. Ciara combines her talent and passions by writing for Solo Living because of our shared values.

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