I don’t know about you, but lately I have been thinking A LOT about sustainability and specifically, sustainable beauty. I’ve also been trying to audit my daily routines to see where I can make small changes and improvements. As a makeup artist and educator, I’m specifically spending a lot of time thinking about the beauty industry, and how I (we) can be better consumers.
You’re probably thinking “how does sustainability relate to the beauty industry”? Well, first let’s start with what is sustainability? Environmental sustainability is the responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect global ecosystems. This in turn helps to support health and wellbeing for now and in the future.
OK, so we have the definition – now how does that relate to the beauty industry? Well…there is a massive environmental impact on the earth from hard-to-recycle cosmetic packaging. That is so hard to imagine! And it gets worse, the ingredients in the products we use aren’t just harmful to the planet (particularly aquatic and marine life) but also to us!
So, how can we help the planet, ourselves, and in turn be better makeup consumers? Well…It really all comes down to self-regulation and making “cleaner” choices to help preserve us and the earth.
So that’s what I’m kinda going to talk about today. Not in a way to scare monger or to force shift your view on cosmetic products – or even tell you to throw everything away and start fresh! No, what I’m here to do, as always, is just educate you on all things makeup and allow you to be empowered by the info you receive.
To be better Makeup Consumers there are four key things I think we can do as consumers to improve sustainability as we shop for, wear, and dispose of makeup and beauty products:
I’m going to expand on each of these and share some insider tips with you so you can start to think about makeup differently in your everyday life! I also want to remind you all that I am not sponsored in any way to promote these products. I have either done research on them, have heard great things, or they are tried and true to my daily routine. Either way – these brands deserve shout outs for their dedication to sustainability.
Speaking of Sponsors (wink, wink)…If you have been enjoying these posts and / or you’re ready to take things to the next level – join my Patreon! A few dollars from you in my virtual tip jar will give you access to exclusive perks for both makeup artists and makeup lovers!
I know we’ve all done it: we buy a palette and only end up using a few of the colors while the rest of the palette just sits there, totally unused, until it expires and we end up having to throw it away. So wasteful, right?
That’s why I love the concept of building your own palettes. You can get an empty palette container, then fill it yourself with individual pods of eye, face, and cheek colors that you actually like and that actually work for your skin tone and undertone.
Here are a few brands I recommend if you want to get into build your own or refillable palettes:
(Links to these brands and more can be found at the end of this post)
Offers a customizable refillable “build your own” palette. You can fill the palette with eyeshadow, cream clay blush, blush, highlighter, bronzer, or even their cake liner! It’s so nice because refilling items is as easy as just purchasing a new pod; no need to buy a whole new palette.
Their packaging is pretty awesome too — which we discuss in Tip 2– but it’s good to keep at top of mind. Their packaging is made up of 50-100% post-consumer recycled PET resin? What is PET resin? It is the most easily recycled resin available today!
I do have to say, this company lives up to its mission – and that is to do beauty better! Wait until later in this post when I talk about clean products – MOB truly lives up to its mission here, too!
MAC also offers a build your own palette (which is what the pros do) to save money and save packaging! I feel like this brand is a little more well-known among MUAs, but they’re also a great option for beginners who want to go to a counter and be “matched” to the right foundation! For palettes, they offer lots of different options like concealer, eyeshadow, and blush.
The norm these days is to package beauty products in plastic. Every year, the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging globally. Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled, and about 12% incinerated and all the rest — 79% — end up in landfills, dumps, or the natural environment.
There’s no denying it, we have a serious problem with plastic! Specifically with plastic used for packaging. What exactly is packaging? Packaging is the product used to wrap or protect goods, including food, beverages, medications, and you guessed it…cosmetic products!
Packaging (and containers) make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW). And the beauty industry – glamorous and feel-good as it may be – is a major contributor. Statistics report that the 120 billion units of packaging are produced by the cosmetics industry is bulked out by the use of complex lids, multi-layered boxes, and cellophane. Most of the cosmetic packaging is superfluous, non-recyclable, ends up in our landfills and in our oceans.
Wow! That was a lot of info, numbers, percentages…all bringing us back to the same question, how can we be better makeup consumers? And how can we be better when it comes to sustainable packaging?
First and foremost we can self regulate and choose “cleaner” options in packaging. Some examples of what we should look for when considering “cleaner” packaging is packaging consisting of the following:
– Silicone (did you know that silicone is sourced from sand?)
– Metal, e.g. aluminum and stainless steel (metal takes less energy to recycle than glass).
– Post-Consumer Packaging
So now that we know what to look for in packaging – here are a few brands I personally recommend if you want to choose products that come in more sustainable packaging.
This brand uses FSC certified paper for its outer packaging and marketing materials. FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social, and economic benefits. Eco-chic = sustainability!
OK, you all know that my HERO product is MASCARA! So this one is so cool to me. Izzy mascara comes with no outer packaging and is shipped in reusable mailers made from upcycled materials. The mascara container is made from medical-grade stainless steel that’s designed to be cleaned and refilled over 10,000 times! You never have to throw away another mascara for the rest of your life! And the tubes contain zero plastic components, while the plastic wipers and brushes are reground and recycled–resulting in a mascara that uses 94% less plastic than the leading brands.
In addition to consuming makeup products with a reduced amount of plastic packaging, we should also think about ways we can recycle and repurpose packaging to extend a products life. Many companies have gotten creative with elements of packaging that would normally be discarded.
Here are a few honorable mentions of companies who have gotten creative with repurposing and recycling:
MOB partners with Pact, a beauty industry collective on a mission to address the massive environmental impact of cosmetics and skincare packaging by providing a sustainable solution for hard-to-recycle packaging. Pact provides a recycling program for those packages as well as truthful information and education to help you make informed, sustainable choices.
Through the BACK 2 M·A·C take-back program, M∙A∙C is working to reduce the environmental impact of packaging by helping reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills. Return six empty M∙A∙C makeup containers to a participating M∙A∙C counter (or send them via mail), and you can choose a standard M∙A∙C lipstick for free as a thank you!
TerraCycle offers a range of national, easy-to-use recycling platforms allowing everyone to #RecycleEverything, as well as Loop, a sustainable shopping experience that aims to move the world away from single-use packaging.
They have also partnered with brands like Arbonne, L’Occitane, Nordstrom BeautyCycle, Garnier®, and more for their Cosmetic Recycling program. What I also found so cool about this company is that even salons can recycle a majority of their packaging and even hair, yes…hair! They even have a selection of boxes or bags that the recyclable items can be placed in and collected by Terracycle.
Wands for Wildlife is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that inspires people to help wildlife and the environment through repurposing used mascara wands. Their collection of mascara wands is currently paused. But you can try reaching out to your local zoos and see if they can use the wands to provide care and treatment to the animals or even to clean items, like syringes.
Finally, let’s chat a little bit about what is in the products themselves!
Of course, we want to be choosing products that are made from ingredients that aren’t harmful to our skin and health BUT we also want to choose products with ingredients that aren’t harmful to the earth, too.
If you can, you should also consider switching to cruelty-free formulas, since animal testing is also a very problematic practice that as consumers, we should be thinking about.
Their products are cruelty-free, animal-friendly, and ethically made. They create products that are richly pigmented and have professional quality. They also have an extensive list of Vegan products including eyeshadows, blushes, lip glaze, highlighters, and powder pigments. Plus, you can buy refillable palettes and make your own!
I see this brand all over and while I do not use their products in my professional kit, I know lots of people who love their blushes and affordable brushes Elf Cosmetics formulas are 100% vegan, no animal testing, and are made without phthalates, parabens, nonylphenol ethoxylates, triclosan, triclocarban, and hydroquinone. All Elf skincare is also free from sulfates.
While their products are at really cost-effective price points, we have to ask ourselves “who is paying the price?” for our low prices? You can’t have good quality, fair wages, high-performing products at such a low price point, can we?
A great example of greenwashing at work is Tarte Cosmetics. When Monique was doing her research for the show (as a beauty industry outsider), I asked her to come up with some brands that would fit in nicely into the “green and clean” category. Now, while I do love some Tarte products and do not have anything against the brand, I do not reach for Tarte products because they are “green”. I reach for their matte eyeshadow palettes because they are one of my favorite formulations… and I know a lot of pros who love their concealer. But we don’t use and reach for Tarte because they are green.
Not their packaging, not their ingredients.
Tarte products are all cruelty-free and formulated without parabens, mineral oil phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, and/or gluten! All Tarte products are formulated with a blend of naturally derived & other ingredients designed to perform. They also have some vegan options, and their products are consumer tested.
Thank you all so much for reading (or listening) to this post today! These steps help us be better makeup consumers. And to educate us on how much waste the beauty industry can bring to the earth. Who knew that something that makes us look and feel so good could be so damaging?
Let’s do our part so that the future can continue to look and feel good! Look for any beauty products that can be refillable and are made with sustainable materials. Choose cleaner ingredients for your skin and our environment, and last but not least – recycle!
Ok, I hope this information has all been super helpful. If you have any comments or questions about sustainable cosmetics – drop them in the comments.
Also, in your search for more sustainable makeup – if you find yourself questioning the application of it all I’d love to suggest my book Be Your Own Makeup Artist. It’s an inclusive hardback or paperback book that is the fairy godmother to everything makeup!
Here’s a helpful link to other cruelty-free and/or clean cosmetic brands if you want to be a more mindful consumer: https://www.crueltyfreekitty.com/ultimate-guide-to-cruelty-free-makeup/
Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.