Beauty Issue 16

Plastic-free beauty

In our last issue, I shared my review of Imelda Burke’s book, ‘The Nature of Beauty’, where she explores what ‘clean beauty’, ‘green beauty’, ‘eco-friendly beauty’, and ‘plastic-free beauty’ should be, along with a deep dive into skincare ingredients.

As a person who wears make-up, avoids products tested on animals, and is environmentally-conscious, naturally, plastic-free beauty is a topic close to my heart.

Plastic is a scourge to our planet.

We’ve known it for decades, and yet half of all plastics ever manufactured were made in the last 15 years, and expected to double by 2050 (source: National Geographic).

And, as we all know, too much of this plastic isn’t recycled or reused – instead, it’s littered in our parks, strewn at our roadsides, and polluting our seas.

It’s not just the plastics we can see that are causing damage to our environment.

As plastics break down, they become microplastics, which cause further irreparable damage to animals, plants, and our own health.

I don’t believe that the blame can be placed on consumers – individually, we tend to do what we can to fight against the plastic menace.

It’s multinational corporations that wield the power of plastic, creating millions of tonnes of plastic by-waste for products we use every day,  

Unfortunately, it’s cheaper for manufacturers to use new plastic rather than recycle old plastic, so those that dictate the industry tend to lean towards virgin plastic in their production cycles.

But not all manufacturers hold such disdain for our planet – many brands are opting for a plastic-free, zero waste, planet-friendly way to operate their businesses and produce products.

One particular industry trailblazing the plastic-free movement is the beauty industry, luckily for myself and my fellow make-up lovers.

Plastic-free beauty splits into two factions: beauty packaging and beauty ingredients.

Plastic-free beauty packaging is usually the focus for beauty brands looking to jump on the eco trend, foregoing traditionally plastic beauty containers in favour of wooden, glass, metal, and cardboard – packaging that can be more easily reused or recycled.

Plastic-free beauty ingredients are typically harder to come by, and can require more research to find.

Check the back of your shampoo, conditioner, and moisturiser for polyethylene glycols (PEGs), or your nail polish and hairspray for phthalates.

Yup, those are plastics.

Plastics that will likely end up washed down your plughole, ready to contaminate drinking water, marine life, and plants.

Not only will these plastics damage our environment, they could also be damaging your skin and your health.

So what can we do?

  • Just like every other impactful issue in society, it all starts with education – at the end of this article, I’ll share some sources and references I’ve found useful since starting my eco-journey a decade ago.
  • Simply having an awareness of plastics in your beauty products can help, dissuading your from supporting brands that have a heavy impact on the environment – look out for products with unnecessary packaging (plastic or not), and for ingredients including terms like ‘poly-’, ‘ethyl-’, ‘silicone’, ‘microbeads’ or ‘phthalates’.
  • Support plastic-free beauty brands wherever you can. Some products can be more expensive than ‘plastic-ful’ cosmetics, owing to necessary changes to the production cycle and processes outside of the beauty industry norm, so if you can’t afford to make the switch for all your beauty products, support them online.
  • Call out beauty brands with excessive plastic packaging or ingredients, and encourage them to make a change to their products. 
  • Follow the classic eco mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. In the first instance, reduce the number of beauty products you purchase (I won’t admit how many lipsticks I already have…), reuse the packaging of products you already have (that spray bottle could make a great spritzer for your plants), and recycle the plastic you have to throw away.

Recommended resources

Plastic-free beauty brands I love

  • LUSH – their bath bombs, shampoo bars, soap bars, and face masks, perfect for when you need some pampering!
  • Kjaer Weis – their refillable mascara is great for adding volume and length.
  • From Earth to Earth – beautiful bamboo toothbrushes with a subscription option.
  • MV Skintherapy – quite pricey, but their 9-Oil Tonic and Rose Hydrating Mist are absolutely perfect and well worth the hefty price tag.
  • All Earth Mineral Cosmetics – their cream tints are great for adding a touch of colour to lips, cheeks, and eyes.
  • Content Beauty & Wellbeing – Imelda Burke’s shop, with a great range of eco-friendly, cruelty-free, and plastic-free beauty and wellbeing brands. I don’t do as much shopping here as I’d like, because it’s a pricier option.
  • Superdrug – a great budget option I use for the majority of my beauty buys, their own range of beauty products are cruelty-free, mostly vegan-friendly, and made with recycled packaging.

If you have any questions about plastic-free beauty, or have any recommendations for me, feel free to reach out!

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