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A Beginners Guide To Making Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable

Image by: Kamila Maciejewska

Eager to transform your beauty routine and shopping habits for the better? These ten simple steps will get you started.

If 2019 was the year of sustainability - a year that industries and individuals alike finally took their ecological impact seriously - then 2020 has been a year where change is now non-negotiable. With the Covid-19 pandemic dramatically altering our usual way of life (perhaps?) forever, we are presented with the time and opportunity to reflect and readdress our shopping habits and tendency to over-consume. 

For myself, it’s my beauty habits and overcrowded vanity table that I’m eager to transform; my new, simplified lockdown routine calling for a more streamlined, simplified approach; all this extra spare time calling for more conscious shopping habits. 

So, in the spirit of sharing, below are ten simple transformations that I’ve made to my beauty routine. Read on to make your own changes for good.

1.Take the slow approach and shop savvy

Eager to transform your beauty habits? There’s no need to panic-clear your entire vanity table and bathroom cabinet in order to buy all-new. This isn’t a race but a marathon, so it’s all about slow and steady changes. Use up what you already have (wasting perfectly good products is not the way to go), start doing your research into the world of sustainable beauty, and when it’s time to replace a product, shop with sustainability in mind. It may take you a few months, but eventually you’ll have amassed an eco-conscious collection without unnecessary waste. 

2.Read the label, especially the ingredient list

An alarming number of products contain harmful petroleum derivatives - anything with paraffin oil, propylene glycol and ethylene - and microplastics and microbeads that can’t be recycled and can go on to clog oceans with further plastic pollution (ingredients like polyethylene, polypropylene, poly-e-terephthalate and poly methyl methacrylate). Likewise, other dangerous chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, mercury, lead, toluene and formaldehyde. Do your research and look for brands that are truly sustainable. Symbols to look out for are: 

The Fairtrade logo: Fairtrade ensures fairer conditions for farmers and workers, so they can invest in a better future for themselves and their communities.

The Vegan Society sunflower symbol: guarantees that all raw materials and final products marked with this symbol are free of ingredients derived from or tested on animals.

The Ecocert logo: ensures the optimal use of natural ingredients and a minimum of synthetics by brands and promotes the use of ingredients from organic farming.

The FSC certification: considered the ‘gold standard’ guarantee for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, the FSC symbol also ensures products are socially beneficial, environmentally conscious and economically viable.

PETA’s Cruelty Free Bunny logo: If you spot this on the back on your beauty product, it means that the company has committed in a written statement that they do not conduct, commission or pay for any tests on animals for ingredients, formulations or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future. This written assurance is then verified by PETA (requiring companies to sign a commitment), after which a brand can pay to use and license the bunny logo.

The Friend of the Sea (FOS) certified sailboat logo: Friend of the Sea is the leading certification standard for products and services which respect and protect our oceans and marine life. Their certification awards sustainable practices in fisheries, aquaculture, fishmeal and Omega 3 fish oil - it’s best to look out for this on UV creams and suncare to ensure that it is safe for marine environments.

The Green Dot: This is a license symbol which shows that the brand in question has contributed finances to the organisation of collection, sorting and recovery of used packaging.

The Leaping Bunny logo: This symbol is a Cruelty Free International initiative to stop testing on animals. According to their website, the ‘use of the Leaping Bunny logo provides shoppers with the best assurance that a brand is doing all it can to remove animal testing throughout its supply chain’.

3.Look for products with recyclable or reusable packaging

When shopping for new sustainable products, also consider their packaging. Avoid Styrofoam, PVCs (Polyvinyl chloride) and cartons where you can; instead look for recyclable packaging like reusable glass and paper bags and labels rather than plastic.

4.Opt for products with multi-uses

Owning multi-use products reduces the amount of products we are buying and so too the amount of packaging consumed and waste left behind. For example, a bronzer can double up as contour, shimmery eyeshadow as highlighter and a lip stain as blush. It’s time to be inventive with your makeup collection.

5.Take this as an opportunity to simplify your skincare routine

Often, we are convinced that we need a complicated list of products for our best skin; in fact, this is not always the case. Taking a sustainably-conscious approach to beauty, reconsider exactly what you feel your skin needs rather than what you have been made to think that you should buy.

6.Swap out your makeup remover wipes and cotton buds

Sure, single-use makeup remover wipes and cotton buds are useful, but they are not biodegradable and will eventually end up in landfill. Even if they do promise to be biodegradable or compostable, they won’t degrade quick enough not to be a danger to our planet. This is not to mention the amount of plastic packaging they are wrapped in, doubling the waste produced. Instead, simply swap yours out for washable, reusable pads.

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7.Re-consider your beauty tools too

It is not only our beauty products that need attention, but also our beauty tools. This could mean opting for makeup and hair brushes made from recycled or sustainable materials such as bamboo and avoiding real animal hair in favour of synthetic bristles, or choosing a bamboo safety razor or bamboo toothbrush rather than cheap, disposable plastic razors and brushes.

8.Rethink your shower or bath routine

A great way to make your beauty routine more sustainable is to swap out the endless plastic bottles crowding your shower for multi-use bath products (for hair and body), or to invest in packaging-free shampoo bars.

9.Be mindful of how you use your products

A little product goes a long way - how many times have you pumped out too much foundation, only to wash it away? By being more mindful of how you use your products, you will cut down on waste and save money.

10.Learn how to properly recycle your old and used beauty products

The biggest beauty sin is not recycling your empty products, meaning that they end up clogging up our landfills and oceans. A simple way to change this is to get yourself a recycling bin for your bathroom, thus forcing you to consider which packaging can be recycled and not. Another solution is to look for brands that offer their own recyclable service (like Unilever who have partnered with Terracycle to collect hard-to-recycle items from around the world and convert them into consumer products) or who offer recycling options in-house like Origins, L’Occitane and Lush).