As a beauty-lover, I often feel I pang of guilt at how my unsustainable purchasing patterns and personal care habits are affecting the environment around me – and I’m not alone in my thoughts. Research conducted by the leading market research group, Mintel, indicates that sustainability is a growing concern amongst millennial consumers. But what can we do to reduce our environmental impact?
There are many ways we can implement changes to make our Beauty and Personal Care routines more sustainable.
Helpful Sustainability Vocabulary
Biodegradable:a term which refers to a product’s ability to break down naturally in the environment via bacteria or other living organisms; note: in the US, this term is not regulated, so many brands can falsely claim they sell biodegradable products
Single-Use: a term that refers to a product which may be used once before being thrown out. Examples include Q-Tips, plastic plates, makeup remover wipes
Sustainable:products that are eco-conscious and focused on maintaining ecological balance through ethical and biodegradable ingredient sourcing that avoids natural resource overconsumption
5 Sustainable Beauty Routine Swaps
1 | Ask for samples to avoid returning cosmetics or skincare products
I’ve heard from my European friends that beauty products do not qualify for returns in many countries, so returning beauty products is more of an issue in the US. Full disclaimer: I don’t think anyone should feel guilty for returning a product that doesn’t work for him or her OR for returning a product that produced an allergic reaction.
However, I do recommend trying to reduce the chance you’ll dislike a product and want to return it. The easiest way to avoid returns is by asking for free samples at retailers such as Sephora or Ulta.
Why are returns wasteful? Simply put, retailers cannot resell any of these returned products so they end up in the trash. Moreover, due to the prevalence of dumpster diving, many retail locations will outright destroy used makeup before tossing it in the bin.
Don’t be afraid to ask for samples!
2 | Avoid aerosol-based facial sprays and hairsprays
Traditionally, aerosol sprays contained ingredients that depleted the ozone layer. While aerosols sold in the US are prohibited, not all countries prohibit these types of aerosols. More importantly, aerosol sprays can be difficult to recycle as not all recycling centers in the US can properly break these down.
3 | Consider trying plastic-free personal care products
I love that brands like LUSH are pioneering a new genre of entirely plastic-free beauty products. Shampoo, conditioner, and soap bars are not only more environmentally friendly, but they can be wonderful for sensitive scalps and anyone who travels frequently.
LUSH Jumping Juniper Shampoo Bar
4 | Try bamboo toothbrushes and plant or silk-based dental floss
How many of us think about how our toothbrushes and dental flosses are made entirely out of plastic? I know that I didn’t actually think about my toothbrush waste until this year. There are some awesome bamboo-based and silk-based dental flosses on the market.
Pure Silk Eco Floss is a Plastic-Free Dental Floss Solution in Reusable Packaging
Having a passion or sudden interest in making sustainable swaps is a wonderful feeling, but there are definite considerations to keep in mind before making any transitions:
Research, Research, Research | Before you buy any new, sustainable goods, conduct your own research to figure out what brands or products will be easiest to incorporate into your lifestyle.
Lookout for Green-washing | In the US, many terms such as “sustainable,” “biodegradable,” “natural,” and “organic” aren’t officially regulated which means that major corporations can use these terms to advertise their products without offering a solution that is actually better for the environment.
Be Price-Conscious | In other words, don’t spend beyond your means. Sustainable options are often more expensive than more traditional goods because they are investments that will last a long time. Although it may be tempting to make sustainable purchases all at once, don’t spend beyond your means.
Think About What is Feasible For You | Think about your abilities and your lifestyle. Deep down, if you know in your heart-of-hearts that something won’t be a good fit for you, don’t buy it.
Don’t Just Toss Out Your Unsustainable Goods | It is much better to use up what you already own and then buy a sustainable alternative than to buy something sustainable and toss out the less sustainable options you already own. For example, if you already own a ton of single-use cotton rounds or makeup wipes, use up what you own AND THEN incorporate your new sustainable alternatives into your routine.
Takeaways on Sustainable Swaps
As always, don’t send yourself on a guilt trip if you don’t follow all of these tips. Even a small change can help to reduce your environmental impact.
Disclaimer: Please note, I recognize that these sustainable swaps or alternative ways of doing things may not be viable for everyone due to personal finances or ability-status. I am in no way passing judgment on anyone’s habits or purchases but sharing this post to inspire those who can make more sustainable choices.