“1.3 billion tons of waste is produced each year, and this number is expected to increase to 2.2 billion tons by 2025,” Susan Stevens, the CEO of Made With Respect, tells The Zoe Report — and the beauty industry isn't exactly blameless here. 20 million makeup wipes are reportedly tossed in the trash each day, making them the third most wasteful product in the world. Along with single-use sheet masks and endless plastic packaging, the need for eco-friendly beauty products becomes clearer and clearer each year. Luckily, it's 2019 and easier than ever to find options that still look (and feel) totally luxurious… although that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to buy them all.
One intriguing approach to cultivating a conscious beauty routine is adopting a “less is more” philosophy. “The industry, at large, is constantly promoting a need for more and more products — it's a level of waste and degradation that I have always felt uneasy with,” Neada Deters, the founder of LESSE and former editorial director of Atelier Doré, tells TZR. “Reducing beauty waste comes down to just having the essential products, always using until empty, taking care to clean and recycle packaging after use, and of course being conscious of the brands you use — are they focused on a better path forward for beauty?”
LOLI Beauty is one such brand. “We’re on a mission to stir up zero waste, waterless, food-grade beauty,” Tina Hedges, the brand’s founder, tells The Zoe Report. “Waterless” might sound strange, but it’s actually an innovative way to save the planet with skincare: The majority of products on the market are formulated with 80 to 95 percent water, according to Hedges. “It just doesn’t make sense to purchase expensive moisturizer that’s mostly plain water, despite the fact that around 700 million people across 43 countries today are suffering from water scarcity,” she says. Cocokind, Nanette de Gaspé Beauty, and One Love Organics also offer water-free options, as well.
Another way to eliminate water waste? Fewer wash days. Playa’s latest New Day Hair Mist allows you to “reset your style” without sudsing up, says the brand’s site, so you can go longer between washes. (And, yes, the next time you spritz an entire bottle of dry shampoo into your roots, you can say you’re just being “eco-friendly.”)
To champion sustainability across your skincare, makeup, and hair care regimens, look for glass bottles (which are infinitely recyclable), refillable products (like Lancôme’s Absolue Revitalizing & Brightening Soft Cream), post-consumer recycled materials (aka, non-virgin plastic, used by Love Beauty and Planet), sustainably sourced ingredients, biodegradable materials, and even packaging-free options (like LUSH's shampoo bars).
Ahead, 26 plastic-free, water-free, less-is-more beauty products that are good for the earth (and, incidentally, your aesthetic).
1. Croon Cleansing Starter Fibers
Croon's reusable pads remove makeup, cleanse skin, and even exfoliate; all you have to do is add water. A single cleansing puff lasts through up to 400 washes — compared to disposable makeup wipes that take over 100 years to decompose, it's a no-brainer.
2. Knours Be Kind To Your Skin Mask
Typical single-use sheet masks can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Opt for Knours' newest version instead; which, in addition to being packed with hydrating hyaluronic acid, is biodegradable.
3. Wrinkles Schminkles InfuseFAST Decolletage Sheet Mask
Why should your face have all the eco-friendly fun? This biodegradable décolletage sheet mask is a win-win for your skin and sustainability.
4. LESSE Ritual Serum
Made with high-quality ingredients like turmeric and sea minerals, LESSE's serum will effectively replace your current serum, moisturizer, and face oil. Less is more, indeed.
5. Youth To The People Superfood Cleanser
In honor of Earth Day, Youth to the People released a limited-edition bottle of its best-selling Superfood Cleanser. At 16 ounces, the glass container packs two times more product than usual; plus, for every Earth Day Edition of the cleanser sold, YTTP donates $1 to sustainability causes.
6. OSEA Ocean Cleanser
Formulated with sustainably sourced ingredients (like organic seaweed from Patagonia) and packaged in recyclable glass bottles, OSEA's cleanser is one that your face and the planet can both appreciate.
7. Lancome Absolue Revitalizing & Brightening Soft Face Cream
Who says conscious consumerism can't be chic? Lancôme's luxe face cream is refillable to cut down on packaging waste. (Refills are sold separately.)
8. LOLI Beauty Purple Corn Grains
No water here, just a powdered mix of purple corn grains, almond flour, and kaolin clay to buff away dead skin cells and absorb impurities. LOLI's multitasker can be used as a cleanser, exfoliator, or mask.
9. Playa New Day Hair Mist
Skip the wash day — and the water waste — with Playa's New Day Hair Mist. The brand calls it a "3-in-1 reboot for tired hair," since it acts as a hairspray, hydrator, and fragrance. In other words, your strands will look (and smell) like you just shampooed.
10. Captain Blankenship Mermaid Hair Oil
With packaging made from 100 percent recovered and recycled ocean plastic — and the promise of mermaid waves, to boot — Captain Blankenship's Mermaid Hair Oil is a must.
11. Seed Phytonutrients Moisture Leave-In Treatment
Thanks to a water-resistant paper covering, Seed Phytonutrients' hair care products use 60 percent less plastic than most plastic bottles.
12. LUSH Jason and the Argan Oil
Or, eliminate plastic altogether with Lush's shampoo bar, a solid block of hydrating argan oil and sweet-smelling rose that lasts three times longer than a single bottle of liquid shampoo.
13. Love Beauty and Planet Citrus Peel Radical Refresher Uplifting Dry Shampoo
Looking for an environmentally conscious dry shampoo? Look no further than Love Beauty and Planet, a brand that packages every product with post-consumer recycled plastic to cut down on waste.
14. Ethique Hair Mask
Ethique calls itself "the first zero waste beauty brand" — and that might not be an exaggeration. Every product is a solid (i.e., they don't need plastic containers) and all outer packaging is 100 percent compostable.
15. Hourglass Confession Ultra Slim High Intensity Refillable Lipstick
Hourglass' sleek, gold metal applicator can be refilled time after time with the lipstick color of your choice.
16. Kjaer Weis Lengthening Mascara
Every product Kjaer Weis puts out is refillable, from the cream blush to the face oil to this perfect, lashes-for-days mascara.
17. B-Glowing Enhance + Glow Palette
As B-Glowing says in an email to TZR, "What you wash down the drain does affect the ecosystem." That's why the beauty brand formulates without potentially harmful substances like parabens, PEGs, or petroleum (to name a few).
18. Ciaté London Glitter Flip Liquid Lipstick
Microplastic glitter is categorically bad for the environment — but you don't have to give it up completely. Just opt for an eco-friendly version, like mica, which can be found in Ciaté London's much-loved Glitter Flip Liquid Lipstick.
19. Bare Escentuals BareSkin Perfecting Veil
In honor of Earth Day, beauty e-tailer Akira Beauty is offering customers 10 percent off all its "clean beauty" inventory, including Bare Escentuals' mineral powder foundation.
20. Esker Clarifying Oil
Esker uses natural, sustainably sourced ingredients in its cult-favorite body oils — but what's even better? Every order includes an envelope of pollinator-friendly wildflower seeds. Plant them in your yard (or rooftop garden) to support your local bee population.
21. Bathing Culture Mind & Body Wash
Bathing Culture's "Mind & Body Wash" is an organic, concentrated soap in a biodegradable bottle. Bonus: Its rosemary scent is super refreshing, and you don't need a lot to get the job done.
22. Nécessaire The Starter Kit
Buzzy body care brand Nécessaire is serious about sustainability — and transparent about it, too. Currently, Nécessaire uses paper packaging made from 85 percent post-consumer waste materials and ships in boxes made from 100 percent post-consumer waste, and is working towards a future with no virgin plastic.
23. Farmhouse Fresh Triple Shot Caramel Coffee Whipped Shea Butter Body Polish
Farmhouse Fresh is more than just a name — it's an ethos. Ingredients for all of the brand's products are harvested on its own sustainable farm.
24. Henry Rose Last Light
Henry Rose is the "first line of fine fragrances created with 100 percent ingredient transparency," according to the brand's site. It's also the first high-end fragrance to be verified by the Environmental Working Group and Cradle to Cradle — so you can feel good about what you're spritzing into the air and onto your body.
25. Côte No. 1
Nail polish bottles are notoriously tricky to recycle — so let côte do it for you. Customers who bring in any used bottle of polish to the brand's New York City or Los Angeles shops will get 10 percent off their next purchase, and the guarantee that those bottles are being recycled the right way.
26. Saalt Saalt Cup
OK, so this one isn't technically a beauty product... but if you want to clean up your personal care routine, consider trading in tampons for a reusable menstrual cup, like this one from Saalt. The brand tells TZR that a single tampon "takes longer to decompose than the lifetime of the person who wears it — and during that time, tampon applicators find their way to the ocean and are commonly found on beaches and inside the stomachs of dead fish and seabirds." In contrast, one Saalt Cup lasts for up to 10 years (and saves you about $1,500 in over the course of your life).