​Zero Waste Beauty: Feel Radiant Without Generating Waste

The beauty industry may not generate quite as much plastic pollution as other industries. But it still has environmental impact, and an ugly one (no pun intended) at that.

Non-recyclable cosmetic packaging may never biodegrade once tossed into a landfill. Unregulated chemicals in mascara, concealers, and eye shadows can swirl down our drains, leech into soils, and ultimately harm livestock, aquatic species, and food production.

What’s more, we often need more chemicals to remove the chemicals applied to our faces or skin. These, too, can seep back into the world we live in and leave harmful fingerprints.

Let’s not even get started with the cosmetic industry’s reliance on plastic.

I’m not saying that we should forgo makeup. I, for one, will likely always keep a cupboard stocked with mascara, face masks, eyeshadows, and lip stain. Yet it is possible to feel radiant without generating waste.

Zero waste beauty is possible. I even venture to claim that it is on the rise (and soon to be in vogue).

This post is not meant to be comprehensive. But it does give a thorough overview of zero waste beauty best practices. (Stay tuned for a comprehensive overview of my morning face routine!)

Know What’s In Your Products

When it comes to zero waste living, I am quite nuanced.

This is largely because of the home my partner and I are building, one supported by a 100% gray water system. We have to ensure that everything that goes down our drains is biodegradable, plant-safe, and natural.

Even if we weren’t building such a home, however, I would still follow the same protocol. To me, a truly zero waste lifestyle is plastic-free, landfill independent, vegan, and biodegradable.

As a result, I’ve become really good at scrutinizing product labels. Really, really good.

The next time you’re in your favorite store’s makeup aisle, get those eyes on. Read those labels. Know what is actually in the products you love.

Sometimes, recognizing what is actually in that painfully small font can compel a transition to zero waste beauty--or at least, environmentally conscious beauty.

Take basic mascara, for example. A standard mascara formula includes a foundation of water, wax, polymers (binding agents), pigment, and perfume. But not all of these ingredients are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, or even natural.

Many pack in the chemicals to live up to the claims of their packaging. Mascara labels promise to lengthen, thicken, fend off water, and even target your senses. (Some mascaras are using CBD oil these days.) What accomplishes these things? In many cases, chemicals.

Yes, it is possible to seek out manufacturers who rely on 100% natural ingredients to craft their products. Check out 100% Pure as an example of such a manufacturer.

But recognize that the terms “natural” and “organic” do not necessarily designate a wholesome and zero waste friendly cosmetic. (The same goes, ironically, for food.)

Get conscious about what you’re putting on your face. This was where I began: with the desire for products that are plastic independent and include ingredients I can pronounce and recognize!

Be Serious About Packaging

I know, I know--where in the world can one find a mascara tube not made of plastic? What about creams and foundations packaged in non-recyclable materials?

These questions have been agonizing for me. And believe me, the hunt is real. But forgoing wasteful packaging is the heart of zero waste beauty.

Seek out creams or other beauty products packaged in glass (rather than plastic). I was meandering through Target the other day and was pleased to see more glass bottles than expected in the spa aisle.

Some companies are even starting to package powders and dry cosmetics in cardboard or metal. I’ve even seen bamboo containers!

My solution to the packaging problem? I make my own makeup.

But there are some companies that supply zero-waste beauty items, including 100% Pure mentioned above. I’ve even found some luck on Etsy with various third-party sellers and artisans.

While this company does not offer extensive cosmetics, they do supply a variety of skin care and hygiene products that are 100% natural and zero-waste. Check out Fat and the Moon to learn more.

(Stay tuned for a more comprehensive list in the future.)

Make Your Own

Here, my friends, is the solution to my zero waste beauty needs. I have transitioned into crafting all of my beauty products--sans waste, sans plastic, and sans toxins.

DIY living is truly the remedy when it comes to a zero waste lifestyle. But more about that later.

I really like this mascara recipe from Wellness Mama. I’ve made it recently and it is currently my solution for zero waste mascara needs! The thing I like about it the most? It is wildly inexpensive, particularly once you source the ingredients, and it smells amazing.

While not waterproof, it is easy to wash off at day’s end and makes my lashes look impressive and my eyes striking. It can also double as eyeliner, provided you have the right tools.

I am also in the midst of crafting my own lip stain, face lotion, and facial cleanser. Stay tuned for these recipes and recommendations.

Making your own beauty products does not, however, guarantee a 100% zero waste beauty routine. It’s important to source the ingredients from bulk suppliers, if possible.

In some cases, however, I have been forced to purchase ingredients packaged in plastic, simply because there was no alternative.

However, many wholesale manufacturers do have bulk ingredients of basic DIY cosmetics, such as rhassoul clay and even honey powder. Check with your local health food store to see if they would be able to acquire a special order (mine has in the past).

Lastly, be mindful about your containers. Reach for glass or metal, not plastic, if you can. If you do have to opt for plastic, be sure you can reuse and sterilize for future purposes.

Seek Out Alternative Treatments

Chemicals aren’t the only solution to cosmetic hiccups.

It’s possible to treat spider veins, for example, without reaching for chemicals or turning to surgery. The same goes for topical skin conditions--even acne--and facial “blemishes.”

Consider visiting a naturopath or other alternative medicine practitioner to seek out chemical-free (and often plastic-free) cosmetic solutions. Don’t underestimate the power of a vitamin regime or even, quite simply, drinking more water.

Creating your own face masks, too, can replace those expensive (and often environmentally impactful) facials at your local spa. The same goes for foot soaks and even manicures.

Think About What You Really Need

A zero waste lifestyle is not easy. But it is (and pardon the cliche) fundamentally life-changing. Making this transition has forced me to evaluate a variety of habits and preferences, including my diet and relationships.

In most cases, I’ve ended up changing those habits--for the better, in my perspective.

When evaluating my beauty routine, I realized that I don’t need as much makeup as I think I need (if any). What’s more, I did not want to be putting anything on my skin that I wouldn’t personally eat.

(Well, relatively speaking.)

Your skin absorbs 60-70% of whatever you slather on it. I would much rather be absorbing pounds of honey powder, lavender essential oils, and rosewater--not kilograms of chemical compounds and nitrates!

My beauty routine has, as a result, simplified dramatically. What’s more, I feel happier, cleaner, and more pleased with my appearance than I did prior to my zero waste lifestyle.

Think about what you really need. This may be the heart of zero waste beauty, after all: philosophical questions that probe the corners of our dependencies.

Asking them, however, may just change your life (they did mine).

Be Creative and Flexible

The secret to zero waste living lies in your flexibility. It is a commitment, and a transformative one at that. But such a commitment should not be without creativity (and the willingness to bend in some cases).

I have tried multiple DIY beauty recipes, for example. Some were pure and utter flops. Others made a mess of my kitchen counters. I’ve accidentally lined my carpets with activated charcoal and spilled hot beeswax all over my stove.

Many of these recipes were not helpful in their results, either, leaving me with raccoon eyes and pimple-plastered skin.

Take deep breaths. Acknowledge your transition. You won’t make it there in a day (I certainly did not). Turn to the internet as a resource and chat with friends for recommendations.

At this point in your journey, the effort is all that matters. Radiance is soon to follow.