As consumers, we're becoming increasingly aware of the negative impact beauty product packaging has on the environment. The sustainable beauty movement has gained traction in recent years, encouraging us to be more eco-conscious consumers. But what does it actually mean to be sustainable on a consumer level? Ahead, I explore the concept of sustainable beauty and how I've incorporated it into my daily life. Keep scrolling to learn more.
What Does Sustainability Mean?
Sustainability as a concept is overwhelming. Brands have adopted the word, and it has become a selling hook. At this point, sustainable beauty is an extremely malleable term rather than a specific goal to strive for. Cruelty-Free Kitty, a clean beauty resource site, defines sustainability as the creation and maintenance of "the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the food, feed, and fiber needs of our country and the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations." I applied this philosophy to my beauty routine in five different ways.
How I Made My Beauty Routine More Sustainable
Over the last year, I began to look at my beauty routine through a sustainable lens. I began by organizing my beauty collection into two piles; pile one for products to keep and pile two for products to give away. Let’s just say one pile looked a load bigger than the other, oops.
Over the lockdown, the familiarity and comfort of my beauty stash brought me more joy than I would like to admit. I visited them often, organizing and reorganizing over and over. There was something immensely calming and purposeful about my collection of enticingly adorned lotions and potions.
However, while these items sparked joy, hoarding beauty products is not a sustainable option. Beauty products have a shelf life, and having excess amounts means many will likely end up in the trash, which brings me no pleasure. It is important to note throwing away all your products and starting fresh is not a sustainable option. The easiest and most conscious way to embark on a zero-waste beauty routine is to use up all your products in your collection and then go from there. Another option is to donate to loved ones or charities. There are many wonderful charities accepting donations of unused beauty products, like Project Beauty Share.
I then focused my attention on recycling, which was a minefield to navigate. There are so many things to take into consideration. For example, black plastic is unrecognized by the sorting machines at recycling centers and often ends up in landfills. Smaller items are less likely to be recycled and often end up in landfills.
Waste production is a glaring issue for beauty brands. Zero Waste Week reported the beauty industry contributes over 120 billion units of packaging a year. More brands are taking ownership of the issue and implementing recycling initiatives, such as Lush. The handmade cosmetics company is combating black plastic through its Recycled Black Pots program. In the UK, Maybelline partnered with TerraCycle to create a free recycling program that allows people to drop off all brands of empty makeup packaging.
Foregoing Packaging or Using Refillable Options
The goal is to omit packaging altogether or at least try. I revamped my routine with packaging-free products—like hand washes, body washes, and shampoos. Solid shampoo bars took a while to wrap my head around. Like the novice I was, I was scrubbing away at my hair with the shampoo bar, only to realize the trick was to lather on the palm of your hand. Another way I tried to become more sustainable is by using beauty products with refillable packaging.
Use Single-Portion Products
Buying new products comes with its own set of problems—there are just so many options. Where do you even begin, and how do you know if a product will work for you? A way to combat this problem is to purchase single doses of products. Brands such as Wo skincare offer single portioned blister packs in recyclable packaging, an effective way to test a product and reduce waste.
Eliminate Single-Use Products From Your Routine
Another easy way to become a conscious beauty consumer is to eliminate single-use products like makeup remover pads and sheet masks from your routine. You can find sustainable versions of all these products at most beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta Beauty.
Remember: biodegradable products are only environmentally friendly if you dispose of them properly. The plant-based fibers in biodegradable products require very specific composting conditions to break down.
Through trying to be a more sustainable beauty consumer, I've learned the joy of beauty isn't in overconsumption. I plan to approach my beauty routine with more awareness of its environmental impact moving forward. While the climate issue may be seemingly too large for an individual to combat, it is important for us to do what we can to help. Introducing sustainable practices into our beauty routines is one way we can positively impact the environment.