Simple swaps for a zero waste beauty routine

There really are lot’s of simple ways to create less waste. We can use natural products and the purest ingredients, but if our beauty routine remains unnecessarily wasteful then I don’t think it can ever be truly green. I have been really inspired by lot’s of zero waste blogs and books lately, but I will admit some of their suggestions take things a little too far, for example you won’t be finding me grinding burnt almonds to make eye liner any time soon! I fully accept that I am never going to be a minimalist in my beauty routine but there are some simple changes I have implemented to reduce waste. Here are the swaps that I find the most helpful, they are easy and they are sustainable over time as well as being good for your pocket, because they should save money in the long run. Wasting less shouldn’t make life more complicated, in fact the opposite is true!

Swap #1: Hair removal

There are a few options when it comes to hair removal and cutting waste. You could go the entirely natural route and let it all grow out, but I appreciate that isn’t right for everyone, me included. There are razors made from recycled plastics which are definitely a better option, for example Preserve, which is made from Recycled yoghurt pots.  Electric razors are technically zero waste, but electrical equipment for the most part isn’t build to last, so at some point it will break and perhaps end up in landfill. The other option is a safety razor (see how I use mine here), these are generally really well made and should, with care last a lifetime. The only waste created will be the metal blade, although quality blades can last one to two months so it really is fairly minimal. Mr Green is very happy with his safety razor, he tells me it gives a much better shave than what he was using before. Success!

The other hair removal option I love is sugaring, it’s entirely natural, easy to use (much easier than wax!) and gentler on the skin. You can buy pre-made kits, like this one from Sugar Strip Ease*. This is perhaps the best option when you are just starting out, although it’s obviously not zero waste, it allows to try and get used to the method first. When you are comfortable with sugaring it is quite simple to make your own at home, you only need three ingredients, sugar, water and lemon juice, melted in a pan, so it’s not complicated.

Swap #2: Invest in a glass nail file

Emery boards are made of cardboard and glue and generally not built to last very long, meaning they constantly need replacing. Add to that they often will come packaged in plastic and you can save lot’s of packaging by avoiding them. I invested in a crystal nail file* six years ago and haven’t looked back, I have also bought them as presents for friends and family and I think they are just fantastic. They are inexpensive and really durable, mine has been dropped multiple times and has never smashed and they are also kinder on your nails. A word of warning, make sure you are buying a genuine crystal file and not one that has an abrasive material glued to it, they are a little cheaper, but will ruin your nails very quickly.

Swap #3: Use less cotton wool

There are times when cotton wool is useful or necessary, but I have dramatically reduced how much cotton wool I use because of the environmental impact it has. Cotton is a very water intensive crop and can be heavily sprayed with pesticides which has a big impact on the health of the farmers growing it, so I always recommend going organic* if you do use it. I use a toner that can be directly spritzed on to the skin, a simple hydrosol like rose works perfectly. If you want to reduce waste further buy a big bottle of floral water and refill a glass bottle with spray nozzle.

I also stopped using cotton wool to remove eye make up, if I am honest I find cotton rounds quite abrasive on the skin anyway so this wasn’t a hardship. I have old muslin cloths and cotton flannels specifically I use for removing make up, paired with a cream or oil/balm cleanser you don’t need anything else. I like the Complete cleansing kit* from Lyonsleaf as you don’t need anything else, plus the ingredients in the cleanser are just fabulous so you can also use it as your moisturiser.

Swap #4: Ditch the sponge

Sponges are made from petroleum sources and are not made to last. There are sponges that are sold as natural, but there are concerns about their harvesting and the environmental impact they have, so I still avoid. If you are looking for a sponge alternative to wash with I like a Konjac Sponge*, they are made from roots of the plant and are renewable and entirely natural. They do come with some packaging (what kind depends on the brand), but the sponge itself can be composted when you are done with it which is great. I love these for cleansing or for using on baby. Alternatively although not as trendy a good old flannel works just as well. As I already said cotton can be quite heavily sprayed as a crop so I like to use a bamboo or bamboo/cotton mix flannel, preferably organic.

When it comes to make up application, sponges still seem to be really popular and all over You Tube, but to be honest I really don’t rate them. For one, they are particularly hard to keep clean but two they tend to absorb a lot of product and make you get through make up much quicker. I use my fingers or make up brushes with synthetic bristles. Good quality brushes*, unlike sponges can last indefinitely; in fact I have brushes that are nearly ten years old and still work perfectly. Make sure when you wash your brushes you lie them on a towel to dry and avoid getting water in the ferrule and hopefully you won’t have an issue.

Swap #5: Sheet masks for clay masks

As a skincare enthusiast I completely understand that the green beauty community is going a bit crazy for options such as cleaner sheet masks, in fact I have been known to indulge in them myself, but there are less wasteful ways to mask. You can get bulk packets of clays and add floral waters, honey or other ingredients you have around the house (for some simple combinations take a look at my DIY mask post). Each packet of clay will last for ages, in some places I hear clay is even sold in bulk, although sadly not where I am.

Swap #6: Keep travel sizes for travel only

When I purchase products I tend to only do it in full sizes these days, however I save all my gift with purchase or beauty box travel sizes for when I go away as they are really useful. Buying options you use a lot of in larger sizes means overall less packaging is used, it also means less trips to the shops or deliveries if you are shopping online. If you need to purchase a smaller size to try a brand or product first, think about if that packaging could be reused somehow before you toss it in the bin.

Swap #7: Embrace bar soap

Bars of soap are having a bit of a comeback, rightly so I think. One bar of soap can replace around three or four products in your bathroom cabinet, so if you minimalism is for you, soap is your friend. You can find lot’s of organic soaps made with minimal packaging, some places even offer them unpackaged and in bulk. You want to look for a soap that has plenty of moisturising ingredients such as glycerine, it should produce a nice lather and make skin feel fresh not tight. I use bar soaps for washing hands, washing the kids, instead of shower gel (I haven’t quite managed to kick the shower gel habit completely yet, but I try!) and they are also brilliant for washing make up brushes or shaving with. Soap is much, much cheaper than liquid products and even if you are going organic is still very affordable. Weleda have some lovely bar soaps that don’t go soft in the soap dish, you can find them here*.

Swap #8: Reusable menstrual products

Reusable menstrual products are better for you and the environment. I recently reviewed some reusable pads by Bloom and Nora  and Earthwise and I am really pleased with them, they are extremely comfortable and easy to use. The other option is a Menstrual cup, I know lot’s of people who swear by their cup, so it is definitely an option worth exploring.

Have you got any tips for cutting waste from your beauty routine? Let me know below!

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Ana Green

Written by Ana – A beauty industry professional who is passionate about product and helping people navigate the marketing hype in the beauty industry.