The beauty industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to depleting the earth’s natural resources, and cosmetics packaging plays a large part in that equation.
While it may be simple to throw mascara in with your macaroni at the grocery store, or to pick out an eyeshadow while you’re waiting for your prescription at the drug store, it’s definitely worth taking a little time to think about what’s in your makeup and what you’re going to do with that pretty packaging once all the product is used up!
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The Problem With Traditional Makeup
Did you know that the US has only outlawed 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics manufacturing, while the EU has banned more than 1300? It makes you think twice about what you’re slathering on your face every morning doesn’t it.
But while clean beauty brands have come to the rescue to bring us safe, often ethically produced makeup, they don’t always have sustainability at the core of their business. They may still source their ingredients from unethical suppliers, or use packaging that is as damaging to the environment as traditional makeup.
So What are Zero Waste Makeup Brands Doing Differently?
Makeup packaging is tricky to get 100% zero waste, but while 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry – it’s vital that some changes are being made in the right direction.
When looking for zero waste cosmetics, we need to think about packaging, company ethics, shipping, manufacturing, and so much more. But don’t worry – we’ve got some great brands lined up for you below so you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself!
Where to Buy Sustainable Makeup
When shopping for the best eco-friendly makeup brands, it’s also important to look at who & where you’re buying it from.
Buying direct from the manufacturer is often a good choice – unless that manufacturer lives halfway around the world from where you live! This just adds to the carbon footprint of your purchase.
This doesn’t mean you can’t buy your favorite brand if it’s made in the UK and you live in the US (as an example), but think about purchasing it from a local retailer who at least imported the product in bulk – and preferably offset their shipping emissions.
Another important factor to think about is how the products are packaged – not only by the manufacturer – but by the reseller. It’d be disappointing to do your bit by buying zero waste makeup products, only to have them arrive on your doorstep in single-use plastic packaging!
Also, if you’re buying many different brands for your makeup & skincare needs, it may pay off to find one local retailer that can deliver them all to your door in a single package. Cutting down on the materials used, but also the emissions generated as a consequence of transport.
Online vs In-Store?
Many people believe that buying in-store is a more eco-friendly choice than shopping online. But that hasn’t always proven to be the case. An MIT study conducted in 2013 found that the carbon footprint of a consumer purchasing a toy in-store was higher than that when the same item was bought online.
Best Places to Buy Plastic Free Makeup Online
So, that brings us to the best places to buy environmentally-friendly makeup online. The below choices are highlighted for their commitment to sustainable practices, as well as other eco-friendly attributes. Choose the one closest to you, and you can be assured you’re making the most sustainable shopping choice.
The home of ethical beauty, Naturisimo showcase green beauty brands from around the world. A 1% for the Planet member, they make it easy to choose eco-friendly makeup that’s good for you and the environment.
When you order from Naturisimo, you’ll receive your goods in FSC approved and recyclable cardboard boxes, eco-friendly printed paper, and protected with biodegradable packing peanuts. Their website is a hive of useful information, and you can save money and waste by shopping in their ‘no waste sale’ section!
Naturisimo also offers loyalty points and a great monthly discovery box to discover new ethical makeup brands.
Clean beauty advocates, women-led, and sustainable, Credo Beauty are leaders in the fight against unsustainable packaging. Having banned single-use plastics in their physical stores – including those pesky sample sachets and single-use sheet masks – they’ve gone a whole level further by co-founding Pact, a recycling programme for hard-to-recycle beauty packaging.
You can find these recycling bins in their stores across the US, and they’ve also published a handy guide about how to properly recycle beauty product packaging. Read it here.
Canada’s The Detox Market emphasises clean beauty, and all of the products sold on their site undergo a strict review process before being accepted (or declined!). They also make it super easy to shop sustainably with their curated “sustainability collection” where you can find the most environmentally friendly brands and products.
As for their own eco-cred, you can be assured you’re buying from a sustainable company. Plastic neutral, and with a goal to achieving carbon negative status by 2025 – they also have an in-store program that allows you to recycle your empties, and earn points in return!
Founded in 2003, Biome is a pioneer in the sustainable lifestyle space in Australia. They aim to showcase ethical and eco-friendly brands that share their mission, and they engage in a number of initiatives to fight climate change.
When shopping from Biome, your order will arrive plastic-free and you can rest assured the shipping emissions will be offset. You can even send back your empties and they’ll take care of recycling them!
Top 10 Zero & Low Waste Makeup Brands
Now you know where to shop your plastic-free makeup, let’s look at some of our favorite zero waste, or almost zero waste makeup brands. Naturally, these clean beauty brands are all cruelty-free too.
KJAER WEIS – TOP CHOICE
For those only wanting the very best, Kjaer Weis is the brand for you. Developed by a renowned makeup artist, Kirsten Kjaer Weis, this brand manages to combine luxury, organic, skin-safe ingredients, and eco-friendly makeup packaging in one.
The iconic metal refillable lipsticks, eye shadows, blushes, and mascaras are a staple item in any fashionista’s makeup bag. Their refills, and Red Edition products are sold in recyclable and compostable materials sourced from FSC-certified materials.
Using only natural, clean ingredients to develop their expansive range of makeup and beauty products, RMS Beauty are one of the more well-known eco-beauty brands. But what you may not realize, it that their dedication to sustainability extends to looking after the planet as well as your skin.
RMS Beauty has gone minimalist with its packaging. While the range does include some plastic, most products are sold in recyclable glass pots with aluminium lids. They are typically packaged in post-consumer recycled cardboard.
Clean beauty is great for your skin, but it should be good for the earth too. Ilia Beauty uses packaging that’s made from recycled aluminum, glass, and FSC certified cardboard. What can’t be recycled easily by the consumer, at home, can be sent back to Ilia for recycling by the Pact Collective program.
But the best part is that you can send back any empty beauty products for recycling – not just Ilia products! This is a great option for those who are transitioning away from traditional makeup brands.
With solar-powered workspaces, carbon-neutral shipping, water-saving formulations, FSC-Certified paper boxes, a commitment to transition to PCR (post-consumer recycled) packaging, and a take-back recycling program, you can be assured of this beauty brand’s dedication to sustainability.
We love that they take responsibility for their products right through to end-of-life when you can return them to the company for recycling with Terracycle. They’ll even give you a reward for doing so!
‘Green beauty’ brand Kari Gran champion eco-friendly practices in everything they do. From banning single-use bottles in their workspace to composting, and subscribing to TerraCycle for their hard-to-recycle waste, they really walk the talk.
When it comes to their eco-friendly makeup products, there’s still room for improvement, but they’ve made great strides in the right direction. While they haven’t eradicated plastic from their assembly line, they’ve partnered with Plastic Bank to become 100% plastic neutral. This means that for every plastic packaged item you purchase, the same amount of plastic is taken out of waterways and recycled back into something useful.
Their signature Lip Whip lip colors also come in beautiful reusable and recyclable glass bottles.
As the first color cosmetics company to become a B Corporation, Alima Pure is a leader in sustainable cosmetics. They’re also a member of 1% for the Planet, they’re 100% carbon-neutral, they’re powered by green energy (100% renewable sources), and they give back by planting trees – what’s not to love!
When it comes to their clean beauty products, you can be assured that all of their compacts can be refilled time and time again. While their powder cosmetics are packaged in recyclable plastic, and sent out in recycled paper boxes.
Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle are at the core of Australian brand Ere Perez’s business ethos. Not only are their beautiful makeup products created from natural, ethically produced and sourced ingredients, but they also go a step further by thinking of the least harmful way to package everything too!
While there is still work to be done in this space, they have made headway by using FSC certified materials for their boxes – which are fully recyclable, and Eco Inks for printing. Their eyeshadow palettes are refillable, and the beautiful glass bottles are reusable & recyclable.
This plastic-free cosmetics brand develops a small but curated range of hydrating balms, makeup sticks, and lip tints. Formulated using luxurious oils that will leave your skin looking and feeling amazing, it’s all too easy to get that natural glow with River Organics.
Their products, which include stick blushers, highlighters, bronzers and lip tints, are simply packaged in compostable and recyclable cardboard, and are sent out in 100% Recycled Padded Mailers.
Specialising in lipstick and ‘lip to lid’ balmies, grassroots company Axiology keeps things simple with their eco-friendly makeup products. But what they do, they excel at!
100% vegan makeup without palm oil, their balmies are completely plastic-free, and come packaged in recycled paper before being placed in a recycled paper box. The packaging for their more traditional looking lipsticks and crayons is recyclable and made of 50% PCR (post-consumer recycled plastic).
We’ve been fans of Beauty Counter for a while now, and that adoration hasn’t faded! We love that they’ve been dedicated to clean beauty and sustainability long before they became buzz words.
They put people and the planet at the forefront of everything they do. Right from sourcing the ingredients for their products (and making sure the supply chain upholds ethical standards), to transitioning to more sustainable packaging, to working towards Carbon Neutrality. They’re not perfect yet, but they’ve set lofty goals.
Other Options for Plastic Free Makeup
If you’re looking for the lowest impact makeup, you could also try DIY zero waste makeup! It’s not for everyone, but if you have the time and like a sheer coverage/minimalist look, it could be a great option. Check out my tutorials on DIY powder foundation and DIY cheek & lip stain.
Another option is to buy DIY zero waste makeup online at a marketplace such as Etsy. I haven’t included these brands in the list above, as there can sometimes be less transparency about shipping packaging, ingredients (how they’re sourced and safety), and company ethics. However, it can still be a great option for those who want to support small local businesses!
Check out some of my favorite Etsy Stores for Eco-Friendly Cosmetics: