The conventional beauty industry is far from clean. In fact, you might even call it dirty. When clean beauty hit shelves years ago, it took a big bite out of the industry (and for good reason! I mean, who wants to slather themselves with petroleum?) Today, consumers are demanding more from their favorite green beauty brands, not only with regard to safe ingredients but also in the way of more thoughtful packaging.
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When I talk about zero waste makeup, I am referring of course to the package the item comes in. Can it be reused? Can it actually be recycled? I say actually because recycling is a really difficult subject for most people to grasp. I am going to break it down to make it easier.
Skincare and makeup items come in bottles or palettes that have several materials: you've got the plastic bottle, the pump which has a metal cap in it, magnets, and other smaller parts. All of these parts make it very hard to actually recycle. You'd have to separate each piece and sadly, most people are just not doing it.
The recycling rate for all single-use items is really low — only 9% of what we put in the bin actually gets recycled. Most of it ends up in landfills. Recycling is very misleading; it gives us a very false sense that we are doing good when in fact we are not. It's all much cheaper to produce new plastic than it is to recycle it. More on this later on in the post.... but first...
9 Zero Waste makeup brands I am loving right now
If you are looking for zero waste makeup, these 9 brands are doing a great job at betting against plastic.
Elate is a Canadian brand with a huge range of zero waste cosmetics. They carry everything from lipstick to bronzer, foundation to eye-shadows, mascara, eye-liner primers, tools & kits—basically anything you want when it comes to low waste makeup and skincare!
I use a lot of items from Elate. Their mascara is honestly a game-changer. I love and use their eye shadows, bronzer (my favorite), blushes, and pressed powders, and I love them all. A lot of the time it's hard to find vivid colors (like MAC), in the natural makeup space, but that's not the case with Elate.
There are several really appealing things about Elate. First, you can buy an empty palette with customizable magnetic backing that allows you to design your powder layout, choose your colors, and pop them in. Each one can be re-used and refilled when you run out of a product. What an innovative way to reduce waste. Oh, and each individual item is packed in a plantable pouch.
Once you've used up the colors, you can easily replace them with no additional packaging. They each come in metal containers that can be fully recycled at the end of their life. Yay for that!
All of Elate's compacts and palettes are made of sustainably sourced FSC-Certified and water-treated bamboo, and they're meant to be repurposed. Bamboo is biodegradable, unlike plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down. So we want to try to always look for alternatives to that.
When it comes to ingredients, Elate's are top-notch. 75% of them are organic and they always choose fair trade to ensure that every person involved from farm to face is treated fairly and ethically. All of their products are free from toxic ingredients, they are cruelty-free (certified by Leaping Bunny and Beauty Without Bunnies by PETA) and 100% vegan too.
They do use palm oil but a note from the website that "some ingredients, such as Stearic Acid, are also palm-based and are supplied by RSPO certified suppliers who are regularly audited."
Elate is committed to giving at least 2% of sales to charities each year through their Amplify Initiative and Elate Impact Team. Their core values are simple: kindness, community, curiosity, integrity, and joy.
Axiology was born when founder Ericka was trying to find a vegan lipstick that didn't dry out and lasted longer than 5 minutes. After some trial and error in her kitchen, Axiology was born and is now one of the best green beauty brands to get that perfect pucker.
All of these lip goodies are made with some of the yummiest ingredients, like organic avocado oil, organic grapeseed oil, and organic hemp seed oil. About 70% of their ingredients are organic, but they are not certified organic. (That's okay because certifications can cost small brands a fortune.) The moringa oil and shea butter are purchased through fair trade partnerships.
Axiology carries some of the best lip colors on the market and offers consumers two kinds of packaging. The lipstick and crayons come in metal containers which you can recycle (just make sure to remove all the product before you do that.) They do carry one plastic tube but are looking to phase them out. Yay for that!
The Balmies are completely plastic-free, wrapped in recycled paper, and stored in boxes that are made from 100% recycled paper waste. They are also 3-in-1, which reduces waste even further because you can use these on your lips, eyes, and cheeks. #winning
The boxes can also be composted and are made by a group of women in Bali that collect trash from the island and turn it into gorgeous packaging. They are 100% vegan, contain no palm oil, and are 100% cruelty-free too. Axiology also donates to animal welfare organizations like the Orangutan Foundation International.
Not sure what color will be right for you? You can buy a sample for $2 to make sure! And with names like "Out of Office", "Malibu Magic" and "Cotton Candy Skies", you are sure to find one you love!
Grounded Sage Skincare makes zero waste cosmetics like foundation which can be hard to find. It's made with Aluminum-free, non-GMO modified tapioca starch.
You won't find Parabens, Phthalates, Petro ingredients, Nanoparticles, Propylene Glycol, or SLS in any of their foundations. They are handmade in Canada in small batches and are plant-powered and cruelty-free. They do carry a soap that does contain sustainable palm oil in it.
I'd love to try their skincare products. They are rooted in holistic healing, noting on the website that "we handcraft skin supporting, peace of mind skincare products from nature’s abundant array of comforting, gentle ingredients."
Each foundation is packaged in a glass jar that can be reused or refilled. They are Certified Cruelty Free by PETA and Leaping Bunny. All of their ingredients are sustainably sourced and they use organically certified, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible.
They actively support organizations that fight against animal cruelty and are a monthly sponsor and supporter of animal rescue organizations and local farm sanctuaries (including their very own Lily's Place).
River Organics is a vegan, zero waste makeup brand that carries the cutest selection of highlighters, bronzing sticks, concealers, lip balm, and brow wax—all beautifully packaged in recyclable, compostable paper tubes.
Each one is packed full of beneficial skin ingredients like organic Shea Butter, Organic Cocoa Seed Butter, and Vitamin E made from wheat germ.
I'm dying to try the Rose Quartz Highlighting Makeup Stick! The products are the brainchild of wife and husband team Corinne & Fabien. Natives of Canada and France, two take waste into account in every phase of their business.
Although their tubes might seems small, a regular size blush is about 5g or less. Their paper tubes hold almost 14g of the actual product. Most blushes come with a bunch of extra plastic packaging which makes up over 60% of the size of the products. With River Organic's tubes, you get more for less!
They ship all of their products in Eco-Enclose's 100% Recycled Padded Mailers.
Sea Witch Botanicals is located in Washington, USA, and makes zero waste beauty products, including lip balms and lip/cheek tints. They also carry skin care products, but I'm going to focus on their pucker products for this post.
There are 17 lip tints to choose from. All the colors are just so pretty and you know how I feel about dual-purpose products! 💃
The lip tints are made with fairtrade and vegan ingredients like fair trade coconut oil, organic avocado oil, fair trade cocoa butter, and candelilla wax. All so beneficial for your lips, and all 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free.
Each tin is packaged in a reusable tin container, which is also really easy to recycle, so make sure you do! This is why they have to say about their packaging:
"Did you know that every year more steel is recycled than glass, paper, aluminum, and plastic combined? Not only can you recycle tin containers more easily than plastic, but also the tin itself is made of at least 25%-100% recycled metal (3). We don’t want our customers to be limited to recycling our products only where cosmetic packaging is accepted for proper recycling, hence the choice for recyclable tin containers."
Sea Witch Botanicals is a B. Certified Corp, part of 1% For The Planet, and are well on its way to becoming Toward Zero Waste certified.
They are not organic certified but as mentioned they do buy organic and fairtrade ingredients and they do have palm oil that is RSPO-certified. You can read about all of their eco-initiatives in their Sustainability Report.
RMS has been in the green beauty space for over 9 years now. Their eco-friendly beauty products range from makeup essentials like mascara, eye shadow, blush, cover-ups, and a small range of skincare. Their "un-cover up" is a cult hit and for good reason. It's made with raw coconut oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, and mineral pigments.
It's offered in a range of shades, you are sure to find one that suits you. All of RMS's products have a coconut oil base. Founder Rose Marie Swift is a makeup artist who has been in the industry for 35 years. She was looking for a specific range of items and couldn't find them, so she created RMS.
The brand is cruelty-free, meaning they do not test on animals, but they are not vegan (they do use beeswax in some of their products).
They use minimal packaging in all their products, most of it being glass that you can either reuse or recycle. Please reuse! The boxes they use are made with 80% post-consumer recycled fiber and manufactured using 100% wind power.
Their lip-to-cheek tints are dual-purpose, which will allow you to cut back on waste even more.
All RMS Beauty products are free of harmful chemicals, synthetic preservatives, synthetic vitamins, and genetically modified ingredients (GMO) and are gluten-free (with the exception of their mascara). They are not certified organic, but they do use organic ingredients in a lot of their products.
When it comes to sourcing ingredients, this is what they have to say:
"Our ingredients aren’t just organic, sustainably sourced, and processed as little as possible -- many of them are in raw form when they enter our formulations. That means the vital nutrients, oils, and plant derivatives are bioavailable for your skin when you use an RMS Beauty product."
7. Kjaer Weis
Kjaer Weis is another well-established brand in the green beauty space. They carry a full range of plastic-free makeup like eye shadow, mascara, blush, tools, eyeliner, etc. And their shades are on point as well!
Their makeup comes in beautiful, high-end metal compacts that you can refill. So you are only buying them once. The refills come packaged in paper, which can be recycled. The metal containers are also fully recyclable. They even have a refillable lipstick!
All of the ingredients are supernatural, but they do use beeswax in some of their items, so a head up on that if you are vegan.
Products are made in Italy with the highest standard when it comes to natural and organic ingredients, all of which have been "Certified Natural or Certified Organic by the stringent standards of the country’s certification body, the Controllo e Certificazione Prodotti Biologici."
They're also free from silicones, petrochemical emulsifiers, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. They have a full ingredient list on their website, so make sure to check that out.
All of their products, packaging, and shipping materials are 100% recyclable, compostable, refillable, sourced from FSC-certified materials, and printed with water-based ink. All the ingredients are sustainably sourced and their formulas are certified by one of two leading European certifications for organic: COSMOS or CCPB.
Antomyn's waste-free makeup includes foundations, lips, eyes, cheeks, and tools. The good news is they are certified by ECOCERT and are also cruelty-free (but not vegan — they do use beeswax). They are free from things like parabens, artificial fragrances, and sulfates.
Like Elate, they use bamboo compacts, which is a better alternative to plastic. The outer packaging is made from either FSC-certified paper or recycled content. The foundations do come in plastic, FYI!
All Antonym makeup brushes are certified vegan though. ECOCERT also ensures that the ingredients are sourced ethically.
Clean Faced Cosmetics is a plastic-free sustainable makeup brand that is mostly organic (but not completely vegan). There are lots to choose from here like mascara (which you can also use as eyeliner, lipstick, lip balm, eye shadow — you name it!)
I love this brand because it's an affordable zero waste makeup and all the items are packaged in reusable tins. You can also order refills that come in cello bags that are compostable.
Shop owner Laura is all about no B.S. when it comes to the ingredients she uses. Almost all of them are natural (though she does use Yellow No. 5 FD&C Lake and Red No. 40 FD&C Lake in some of her foundation powders). You can contact her directly to talk about other options if this is a concern for you.
As far as the mica she uses, this is what she says: "I purchase the mica used in CFC's products from a cruelty-free supplier based on the West Coast here in the U.S. The mica itself is mined in Germany and the US. Be assured that I would NEVER, EVER use mica (or anything else) from an unethical source."
A big part of her business is giving to charities like Rainforest Trust, Environmental Defense Fund, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Terrapass (carbon offsets).
How to choose zero waste makeup brands?
It's just about impossible to create zero waste. Even sustainable makeup brands still do create some form of waste, which is why it's important to understand what the concept of zero waste really is. I tried to choose brands where thoughtful packaging was one of the pillars of their sustainable offerings.
All of these brands are doing a great job at helping consumers to minimize their waste by opting for packaging that can be reused or recycled. Where recycling is concerned, we actually need to do it. If you buy an item and toss it in the garbage, it's kind of defeating the whole purpose!
Like with all things on The Eco Hub we look for companies that are sustainable in every facet of their business and we take the following into account when featuring beauty items on The Eco Hub:
- Corporate Responsibility
- Ethical sourcing
- Environmentally-conscious packaging
Learn more about our ethical criteria for clean beauty. It will give you the tools you need to make more sustainable choices. And take a look at these zero waste skincare brands that we love.
DIY Zero Waste Makeup
I'm all for making your own products. You know how much I talk about zero waste cleaning and making your own products to clean your home, but when it comes to makeup, I am not quite there yet. I have made my own dry shampoo, though. It's so easy; you just need arrowroot and cocoa powder if you are a brunette like me.
There are certain things you need to be cautious of when making your own makeup or skincare. Sometimes preservatives are needed, which means chemistry comes into play (and I am not a chemist). I started to make mascara once and it turned into a goopy mess. You might have better luck. Just make sure you do the proper research.
I've seen videos where DIY-ers tell people to make eyeliner using burnt almond ashes, coconut oil, and aloe vera gel. The issue is that when you mix oil and water, you need a preservative. And when you are putting something so close to the eye, I'd be really cautious, as bacteria can cause an eye infection.
This is by no means me trying to deter people from DIY zero waste makeup, but I just want you to be aware. If you are making your own waste-free makeup then keep these tips in mind:
Double-check facts and claims made about the DIY. Seek professional guidance from skincare formulators, and follow professional DIY-ers like DIY Beauty Diva.
A final word on zero waste makeup
I am a true believer that less is more when it comes to makeup. I have been using the same few brands for more time than I can remember. Slow skincare and slow beauty are more aligned with my beauty routine.
When it comes to choosing what we put on our bodies, knowledge is power. So get to know the ingredients and when it comes to waste, it's best to pick beauty products where the packaging is reusable or refillable. Support brands and retailers who have take-back programs that encourage recycling. Packaging is unavoidable, but you can make better choices and align with brands like the ones featured in this post. You can read more about packaging and how it relates to a new movement called Blue Beauty.
I'd love to hear from you. Do you have a favorite zero waste makeup brand? Drop their name in the comments below. And if you need more ideas on green beauty, you can always browse our curated brand directory.
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