Zero Waste Makeup: What to Look Out for + We Review 18 Brands

If you wear makeup, you can associate it with a few things; unnecessary amounts of packaging, chemicals, and ‘beauty’ trends that promote regular buying and throwing away. For people who love makeup but are also building a zero-waste lifestyle, the idea of zero waste makeup may seem a challenging task. But new and innovative brands are promising that we can go waste-free and wear makeup at the same time.

Zero Waste Makeup Brands – A 5-Point Checklist

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 18 zero-waste makeup brands, and what makes them waste-free, or on the way to being eco-friendly and better for the planet.

But first, here’s a checklist you can use when shopping for makeup, or cosmetic items in general. They tell you what to look out for, what to avoid, and how to sidestep greenwashing from beauty brands effectively.

Ingredient list

Waste in cosmetics starts from the ingredient list. The first thing you want to confirm is that there are no microplastic ingredients used in your product. While brands and formulators may be tricky with their ingredient lists, plastic will probably carry one of the labels in the table on page 2 of the document here

Product container

If the product comes in a plastic container, that’s a waste item. However, we don’t always have to throw away plastic containers. If the brand offers to recycle your container for you, or if they provide refills, then that container won’t be condemned to waste for a long time.

Packaging

Makeup brands are notorious for using unnecessary packaging to support their marketing designs. Avoid products that come in large non-essential boxes, plastic packaging, and so on. If you’re shopping online, a zero-waste brand will most likely mention this to you.

If you can’t find information on packaging options on a brand’s website, it probably means that it is not a concern for them, and they don’t give much thought to waste. However, if you want to buy from a specific brand, you could reach out to their customer support to find out.

Shipping options

Shipping without plastic is tricky, but brands that are serious about being zero-waste manage to do it. Zero-waste brands pack their shipping using recycled, compostable paper or cardboard tubes. Or they use old papers such as newspapers and shredded printing paper which you can compost or dispose of with less harm. Look out for this information in their Shipping or FAQs sections, or reach out directly to the brand if you cannot easily find the information you want.

Refill options

Most-zero waste beauty brands offer refills. As such, you can send in your cleaned out containers, or they’ll send you a paper bag with product refills. Some brands even encourage you to keep the box in which you got your first product, so you both don’t have to use (and dispose of) new boxes when processing refills. Always ask a brand, before purchasing, if they offer refills.

18 Zero Waste Makeup Brands

Here are some zero waste makeup brands from which to choose for your eco-friendly cosmetics. We’ve chosen brands that have made steps to be environmentally friendly and highlighted their eco-creds where available. At the bottom of this article, we’ve also some thoughts on why we should go zero waste with makeup, and some tips when starting out. We hope you enjoy!

Affiliate Disclosure: TRVST is a participant in various affiliate programs, including Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and its international variants. As such, we may earn an advertising fee from qualifying purchases at no cost to you.

Click to Jump to the 18 Zero Waste Makeup Brands We’ve Featured:

1. Bee You Organics

Bee You Organics Zero Waste Makeup
Pictured: Bee You Organics Zero Waste Makeup Foundation. Photo Credit: Bee You Organics

This zero-waste makeup brand was born of the founder’s personal need. Larissa Warren was 16 years old when a drunk driver hit her. The accident resulted in permanent scarring on her face. Larissa quickly realized that most of the makeup available to her was loaded with chemicals, doing nothing to heal or cover her scars. She decided to learn how to heal her face herself, creating beauty products that contained no harsh chemicals.

Today, Bee You Organics carries a line of makeup items that are gentle and effective on all skin types. They also offer zero-waste skincare products for all-round beauty care.

Why We Recommend

All Bee You Organics products are made using natural ingredients such as organic beeswax and plant-based oils and never made with palm oil. They also come packaged in recyclable aluminium tins and bamboo cardboard tubes (for the lip products). BYO offers everything from mineral foundation powders to BB creams, and organic eyeliner. They also provide multi-use products, such as their cheek & lip stains, so you can get more use while buying less.

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2. Axiology

Axiology Lip to Lid Balms
Photo Credit: Axiology

Axiology started out creating clean, “evil-free” lipsticks. Today, they carry a range of products including lipsticks, lip balms, and lip crayons, as well as some hand care products. Ericka Rodriguez, a makeup enthusiast, founded the brand after her dissatisfied experience with the vegan lipsticks available on the market. Her solution? To successfully create better quality options all on a mission to make the most ethical lipsticks on the planet.

Why We Recommend

Axiology is the answer for anyone who loves brightly coloured lip products, but can’t find alternatives to the wasteful options on the market. Their colours range from pink to red, purple and orange… as bright as you can get. The brand uses recyclable aluminium for the lipstick. Other packaging materials are 100% compostable paper.

SHOP AXIOLOGY ON AMAZON

3. Ilia Beauty

Ilia Zero Waste Makeup
Photo Credit: Ilia

Ilia claims to be a skincare-powered makeup brand. The brand creates products that feed the skin while boosting appearance for double benefits. Ilia Beauty offers a variety of products that can easily find a home in your daily essentials bag.

Why We Recommend

Ilia not only encourages customers to send in their Ilia Beauty packaging for recycling, but they also ask for packaging from other brands. So if you have empties from any other brand, Ilia will take them and recycle for you. Beyond their recycling offer, Ilia creates its zero -waste makeup products with certified organic ingredients. They make their packaging from recycled aluminium, glass and paper sourced responsibly. And if you’re looking for a zero-waste brand with a wide range of foundation shades, Ilia is a great place to start.

SHOP ILIA BEAUTY ON AMAZON

4. Dab Herb Makeup

Dab Herb Organic Makeup Set
Pictured: Dab Herb Organic Makeup Set. Photo Credit: Dab Herb Makeup

Dab Herb is a brand founded on the mantra of “nature to nurture”. The founder, Crissy Beredo, says that she always wanted this reflected in both formulation and packaging. Dab Herb makes all its products using food-grade, palm oil-free, plant-derived organic ingredients. Anyone can build their zero-waste skincare and makeup routines using Dab Herb products.

The brand started as a personal project, with Crissy cooking up her own makeup to support her clean lifestyle. Today, they’ve sold thousands of Dab Herb makeup products, helping others along their clean beauty journey.

Why We Recommend

Dab Herb offers a wide range of products, enough to build a full makeup routine. They offer everything from serum foundations to lip paint, eyeshadows, coloured multi-use balms, and luminescent balms (which we can assume are highlighters). Their packaging is minimal and practical. They also manage to ship without plastic by using recyclable paper mailers.

However, it’s important to note that some of their products are in PP plastic containers. But you can reuse or recycle these. Everything else comes in recyclable glass, aluminium, and paper containers. And if you want to return your containers to Dab Herb after you’ve finished the products, they’re happy to take them back.

SHOP DAB HERB MAKEUP ON ETSY

5. Eco Glitter Fun

Eco Glitter Fun Zero Waste Glitter
Photo Credit: Eco Glitter Fun

Love to wear glitter? So do the folks at Eco Glitter Fun. The founders of this brand, Sophie Awdry and Noemi Lamanna, are two self-described “fun-loving party animals”. They realized the environmental damage from all the glitter used during their partying days, which is why they created this brand of natural, plastic-free glitters to replace the popular microplastics glitter in makeup products.

Why We Recommend

Eco Glitter Fun allows you to use as much glitter as you want, guilt-free. They make their registered Bioglitter Pure from biodegradable materials and are packaged and sold in plastic-free packaging. The company claims that the glitter will decompose like a leaf in natural environments, which means that you can wash it down the drain with no worries.

Bioglitter comes in different colours, shines, and chunk sizes, so you have enough options to create as much zero-waste makeup looks as you want.

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6. Keeping it Natural

Keeping it Natural Naked Pink Lipstick
Pictured: Naked Pink Zero Waste Lipstick. Photo Credit: Keeping It Natural

Created in 2011, Keeping it Natural is a 100% waste-free makeup brand. Its founder, Linda Hoffman, is a cosmetics industry veteran. She was a professional makeup artist, counter manager, and district trainer. When she retired from the corporate environment of the beauty industry, Lucy decided to launch a beauty brand for people who want to wear handmade, natural, and beautiful makeup. Like her.

Why We Recommend

Keeping It Natural focuses on the basics. If you’re someone who loves to create everyday looks from the most uncomplicated products possible, you should check out this brand. They offer vegan, cruelty-free lipsticks, mineral lip colours, and cake mascaras in different playful shades. All products come in recyclable aluminium tins. Keeping It Natural makes all products in small batches, so you can feel assured that you’re getting a fresh product.

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7. Dirty Hippie Cosmetics

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics Cream Concealers
Pictured: Zero Waste Cream Concealers. Photo Credit: Dirty Hippie Cosmetics

Danielle White, the founder of Dirty Hippie Cosmetics, grew up in a mostly untouched part of Australia, which taught her to appreciate nature early enough. When she returned to her childhood home after years of chasing a career, she saw, first-hand, the damage of plastic pollution on her beloved beaches. With her long-term love for experimenting with makeup products and growing concerns for the environment, she created Dirty Hippie Cosmetics.

What started as a few vital plastic-free products; BB creams, tooth powders, and deodorants has grown into a well-loved beauty brand.

Why We Recommend

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics offers practical vegan, eco-friendly makeup products for everyday looks. Their face products include an organic primer, cream concealers, cacao foundation, highlighters, and a translucent powder. They also offer eye products (such as eye shadows and liners) and lip & cheek stain colours.

Dirty Hippie products come in recyclable aluminium tins, and the company will accept these tins for refills. They even advise that you keep your boxes from the original order, so you can reuse it when shipping your empty tins. They pack their orders for shipping with repurposed newspapers and post-consumer recycled paper tape and boxes.

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8. Nudi Goods

Nudi Good Zero Waste Starter
Pictured: Nudi Back to Earth Starter. Photo Credit: Nudi Goods

Nudi Goods is a full-scale plastic-free cosmetics brand, with a small makeup line of essential products. The founder, Jamie Boddorff, created the brand in 2017 while studying and working with marine animals. Her primary concern was the effect of plastic pollution on these animals as much of plastic waste eventually ends up in the oceans. With Nudi Goods, Jamie and her team offer users handmade beauty products, made with minimal ingredients, and with no plastic packaging.

Why We Recommend

This brand does not (yet) offer coverage products like foundations and concealers, but they have everything you need for a soft, loosely defined everyday look. You can get Nudi Goods’ brow taming wax, zero-waste mascara, highlight sticks, and tinted lip balms.

What we love about this brand is that all packaging is either made from biodegradable bamboo or recyclable aluminium tins. For packing during shipping, they reuse old paper such as newspapers. Nudi Goods should be a good fit for anyone who is minimalist with their makeup and lives the zero-waste lifestyle.

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9. Bésame

Besamé Cosmetics
Pictured: Besamé Cosmetics Vintage Blusher (on amazon). Photo Credit: Besamé Cosmetics

Designer and cosmetic historian, Gabriela Hernandez, founded Bésame Cosmetics in 2004. To customers’ delight, Gabriela put her knowledge of the industry’s history to good use by designing historically inspired makeup collections. And she did all of this with the importance of long-term use and minimal waste as core principles in her brand framework. Over the years, Bésame Cosmetics has gained a (growing) cult following of customers who love the brand and share its principles of being eco-friendly and waste-free.

Why We Recommend

If you love vintage makeup, we recommend that you explore this brand. Their plastic-free makeup shades contain a lot of vintage reproductions. Which means that they’ve gathered vintage makeup from estate sales, auctions and antique stores, and recreated these colours using ethical, organic ingredients. Their lipstick tubes are recyclable metals, and other products come in aluminium tins and paper packaging, which you can also recycle.

SHOP BESAMÉ COSMETICS ON AMAZON

(US Store)

10. Vapour Beauty

Pictured: Vapour Matter Smoothing Primer. Photo Credit: Vapour Beauty

Vapour Beauty offers luxury, “plant-powered” zero-waste makeup products in impressively wide shade ranges. Kristine Keheley, a colourist and product formulator, and Krysia Boinis, a creative and brand strategist, started Vapour together. They combined their skills and passion, building a makeup brand that would offer both quality and integrity to its customers.

Why We Recommend

One of Vapour’s core values is environmental respect, which is crucial to anyone going zero-waste. Vapour claims to currently use 50% renewable energy both at their offices and manufacturing plants. They also take back all product empties for recycling, and offer customers loyalty points as an incentive.

SHOP VAPOUR BEAUTY ON AMAZON

(US Store)

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(UK & Europe)

11. Antonym Cosmetics

Autonym Duo
Pictured: Autonym Duo. Photo Credit: Autonym

Valerie (Val) Giraud, a Miami makeup artist, started this brand to close the gap between clean makeup, and high-performing makeup that anyone would love to wear. The brand’s primary focus is on formulations that are natural while offering great pigmentation and colour payoffs.

Since 2010, the brand has been working on perfecting its formulation for these results. We can even consider Antonym to be a celebrity brand, as many notable people have worn this brand on the red carpet of the Golden Globes, at Sundance, AMA awards, and to film premieres. Some of these names include Keira Knightley, Ashley Green, Robin Wright, Kate Mara, and Ruth Wilson.

Why We Recommend

Antonym is a full-range brand. Here, you can get all the makeup items you need to create everything from an everyday work look to a glam night-out look. If you’re a makeup artist looking to clean out your shelves and replace your products with clean options, Antonym will provide you with discounts to do so.

Their packaging is all plastic-free; made using bamboo and glass. The pressed powders and colours come in bamboo packaging, which is biodegradable. And liquid products, such as liquid foundations, come in glass containers which you can recycle.

SHOP AUTONYM COSMETICS ON AMAZON

(US Store)

12. Clean Faced Cosmetics

Clean Faced Cosmetics Zero Waste Makeup Palette
Pictured: Vegan Zero Waste Makeup Palette: Photo Credit: Clean Faced Cosmetics

As the name implies, Clean Faced Cosmetics was created for people who love to wear makeup without all the damaging personal and environmental effects that could come with it. They make their products with the phrase “less is more” in mind, and are multi-use. For example, the cake also serves as eyeliner, brow filler, and eyeshadow if you’re adventurous enough.

Why We Recommend

Every product in this store is made with vegan, cruelty-free natural ingredients, and is 100% zero-waste. And they offer a wide selection of products including foundations, lipstick, lip balms, eye shadows, cake mascaras, bronzers, highlighters, and so on. These products come in plastic-free packaging. The brand uses recyclable aluminium tins and glass bottles (with aluminium toppers) for packaging.

Clean Faced Cosmetics also offers refills, so you can send in your empty containers as many times as you want.

Also, we don’t see this often, but this brand offers custom products. As such, this means that if you want a specific product, shade, or amount, the owner, Laura, can make it happen. Custom products are practically impossible with big brands (except you’re paying a LOT of money). But with small, customer-focused brands like Clean Faced Cosmetics, you can get a product tailored to suit you perfectly.

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13. Noto

Noto Moisturiser Cream
Photo Credit: Noto

Gloria Noto, the founder of this brand, worked as a makeup artist dating back to 2006. Her regular use of makeup products enlightened her about the amount of chemical and plastic waste the industry was generating. She also realized the exclusion culture perpetuated in the industry. Her contribution to solving these problems was Noto. A natural, fluid-in-gender, multi-use makeup line with natural and certified organic products.

Noto also gives a portion of its sales from its AGENDER OIL product to causes that protect vulnerable communities, the arts, and the environment.

Why We Recommend

Noto offers a small range of lip & cheek stains and highlighters. Although this range is still small, the different colours should appeal to anyone who loves to play with colours. Their stain sticks come in polypropylene/HDPE (High-density polyethylene), which you can clean out and recycle once finished with the product.

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(US Store)

14. Nicmac Beauty

Nimac Beauty
Photo Credit: Nicmac Beauty

Nicmac’s history is an inspiring story of one woman who decided to do something about the poor selection of makeup products on the market. Nicola, the founder of Nicmac, was particularly concerned about how she could only find plastic-packaged eyeshadow palettes to buy. So she did her research, and within 18 months, created the Nic x Mix plastic-free custom palettes. Today, Nicmac has a good handful more makeup products including brushes and highlighters.

Why We Recommend

The biggest waste-free point with Nicmac is that you never have to buy something you won’t use. The Nic x Mix eyeshadow palette is customizable. When you shop Nicmac, you can select the colours that go into your palette. Anyone who wears eyeshadow should easily recognize why this is good. Because when you buy a generic palette, you probably never get to use up to half of the colours included.

The eyeshadow pans are also refillable, and you only ever have to buy what you need. Nicmac pressed powder pans are recyclable, everything is plastic-free (except their cruelty-free makeup brushes), and you can compost all paper packaging included.

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15. Aether Beauty

Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Palette
Pictured: Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette on Amazon. Photo Credit: Aether Beauty

Started by sculpture and fashion design expert, Tiila Abbitt, Aether Beauty is one of the most aesthetically pleasing brands on this list. Tiila spent seven years at Sephora in a management role before leaving to learn how she could start her own sustainable beauty brand. She had been a vegetarian for over 24 years but fully recognized that her diet was only one way to reduce her negative impact on the environment. She had to do more.

With Aether Beauty, Tiila offers high-performing zero-waste makeup products that are all formulated with natural, certified organic alternatives.

Why We Recommend

Aether Beauty is an excellent choice if you love versatile eyeshadow colours. Their eyeshadows are very pigmented and come in different collections. They are also made entirely without animal derivatives, not even beeswax.

Aether Beauty product packaging is all 100% reusable and recyclable. They do, however, expect you to remove the eyeshadow pans and recycle them separately. You cannot compost the paper packaging, but you can recycle them. And the brand recommends that you reuse the rubber band in the packs as a hair tie.

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(US Store only with International Shipping)

16. Kjaer Weis

Kjaer Weis Flush Glow Duo
Picture: Flush & Glow Duo. Photo Credit: Kjaer Weis

Kirsten Kjaer Weis, a popular makeup artist, founded this brand to provide high-performing zero-waste makeup products with quality organic formulations. KW products come with a CCPB (Controllo e Certificazione Prodotti Biologici) certification, as the brand’s production facility is in Italy. This certification shows that they have met the standard for natural and organic beauty products in Europe.

Why We Recommend

Kjaer Weis’ compact products are refillable, so you never have to worry about accumulating packaging. Including everything from lipsticks to pressed powders. Their packaging is well-built and well-designed so that you can reuse them over and over again. All paper components that come with your Kjaer Weis order are 100% paper, and you can compost them easily.

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(US)

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(UK & Europe)

17. Elate Cosmetics

Elate Cosmetics Foundations
Photo Credit: Elate

Elate Cosmetics refers to itself as an “ethical marketplace” where people can buy safe and effective beauty products. The brand uses cruelty-free ingredients along with ethical practices to help their customers buy well and use less. Elate is a brand focused on providing people with those small items we use in our daily rituals which have a significant impact on the environment.

Why We Recommend

With Elate products, you can easily complete your full zero waste makeup routine. They offer eye products, a range of face products for priming, concealing, and zero waste foundation, as well as lipsticks and glosses.  Elate products come in bamboo and recyclable aluminium packaging. And they ship using post-consumer paper fill to pad orders during transit.

They also make their envelopes from seed paper. Packed with seeds, you can literally plant them and watch flowers, herbs or vegetables grow while the paper naturally biodegrades. They also offer free samples in recyclable aluminium packaging, so full-sized products never have to go to waste.

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18. Eco Minerals

Eco Minerals Refills
Photo Credit: Eco Minerals

Started in 2007, Eco Minerals has been providing its customers with eco-friendly, waste-free, makeup options. The brand is located in Byron Bay, Australia, which is where they design and produce their formulations.

Amber and Lulu, the co-founders, started the brand after they had babies around the same time. When child care and other responsibilities set in, they started noticing the first signs of ageing on their skins. They wanted to take care of their looks using natural options and also create a business. But not in a way that would mean spending less time with their babies. And so, Eco Minerals was born.

Today, the brand offers those zero-waste makeup solutions to its customers around the globe.

Why We Recommend

Eco Minerals offers a wide range of face, eye, and lip products for you to choose from. Their foundations and concealers come in both matte and dewy options, so you can pick the finish that works best for you.

While the brand carries product packaging that will need recycling, loyal customers won’t have to recycle anything for a long time. They offer paper refill packets for most of their products. Also, if you’re unsure about your product shades or preferred colours, you can order small sample packs first. This way, full-sized products don’t have to go to waste if they don’t fit your needs.

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Why Go Zero-Waste With Makeup?

Zero Waste Makeup Hard to Acheive
Photo Credit: Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

We’re convinced we need everything.

A few decades ago, the average person’s makeup items could fit into a small purse. Today, inventions in the industry, paired with heavy advertisements, means that many people around the world have bags and drawers full of makeup items, and still plan to buy more. The beauty industry and many makeup brands manage to convince us that we need everything.

Something as simple as concealer now comes in tons of orange and green and pink shades to target several “issues”. And as the beauty industry continues to innovate, we will only continue to believe that we need more. The only way to stop is by telling yourself that enough is enough.

There’s an ongoing planet crisis.

The damage of indulging heavily in makeup doesn’t just happen to your bank balance. It is everywhere on the planet. Today we find our lands and water bodies overrun with non-degradable packaging materials. Look at the popular makeup items in your beauty bag, shelf, or at your local stores. Most of them come packaged in a plastic container. These containers often come wrapped in nylon and then packaged in paper (or more plastics) for marketing purposes.

The US alone generates up to 80 million tons of solid waste made up entirely of containers and packaging2. According to the EPA, cosmetics contribute substantially to this waste.

There’s also the issue of microplastics, not in packaging, but the actual beauty products. Yes, many of your favourite makeup brand products contain microplastics. Makeup specifically, can contain nylon for bulking, Poly(butylene terephthalate) for film formation, Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) as a skin conditioner… and the list goes on3.

Eye and lip glitter products are also often made using microplastics for the glitter effect. When you use these products and wash them down the drain, they end up in large water bodies with marine animals. The result leads to water pollution, the potential to poison these animals, plastic ingestion and so on. Plastic pollution in our water bodies is a planet crisis, and makeup is a significant contributor.

Corporations know this, but they are not slowing down any time soon.

Big corporations own the most popular, and most accessible, makeup brands. And they are often for-profit-only conglomerates. They are more concerned about the bottom line than the impact of their products on the environment. And while you may see them launch ‘sustainable’ makeup brands to stay on the eco-conscious trend’, a closer look may well reveal that these ‘sustainable’ options are, at best, marginally better than their other brands.

As consumers, we need to stop contributing to the problem.

A lipstick tube here, a few eyeshadow palettes there, and we’re continually using and disposing of plastic and paper packaging. It’s easy to want to place the blame solely on these beauty brands. After all, if they don’t produce these items, no one would buy them, right? But until that radical reform in the makeup industry comes, we need to figure out how to go zero-waste or at least low-waste on our own.

But going zero waste beauty or low-waste is hard to achieve. Even as we identify the contributions of the industry and consumers, we must also point out the problems they encounter while trying to become waste-free. Recognizing these challenges promotes innovation; finding new ways to get around the problem. It also helps us identify when a makeup brand is claiming to be low-waste to stay on trend, and when they are making an authentic promise to their consumers.

Why Zero-Waste Makeup is Hard to Achieve

There are many makeup brands out there that promise zero-waste. As such, we can continue to enjoy wearing makeup without contributing to the waste and pollution that this industry has normalized. But on both sides- brand and consumer- there are many reasons why going zero-waste, or even low-waste is not as easy to achieve as it may sound.

For the brand…

Many of their formulation options are not waste-free

While makeup companies like to convince us that they have a brand-new product every day, this is not true. Makeup brands product launches are often just revised versions of what already exists, with new colours, shades, flavours, and so on. Their factories make all of these products from slightly varied formats of the same formulation. Therefore, for them to go completely zero-waste, they would have to revise all the formulations they already use.

For example,  a brand that uses Ethylene/acrylate copolymer in their lipstick formula, or Polyurethane in their mascara, would have to find non-plastic replacements for these ingredients. Doing this costs money; from paying cosmetic chemists, to ingredient research, running tests, and so on. It is possibly more manageable for new makeup brands to start as zero-waste than for an existing brand to pivot to low-waste.

Plastic is cheap, and they want to spend less.

Most cosmetics products come packaged in plastics for the simple reason that plastic is cheap. Both to purchase and to design to your brand’s needs. For large companies that sell millions of units of products per year, switching to waste-free packaging options will mean more costs than they currently have.

Also, these demands may have a just as damaging effect on the environment. For example, switching to bamboo from plastic for millions (or potentially billions) of cosmetics packaging will put a strain on the population of bamboo trees. Without a well-planned replanting strategy, the industry could quickly be creating a new problem.

The use of waste-free packaging methods in a sustainable way will cost beauty brands more money than their plastic options. And this hinders many brands from making the change. Especially beauty brands that are owned by billion-dollar parent corporations who want to make the most money for shareholders.

For the consumer…

Zero waste options may not be easily accessible.

The most accessible makeup options to people with low income are usually cheaply made and cheaply packaged. The result is lots of plastics, microplastics, palm oil and chemicals. Even if they want to use waste-free brands, many people can only do as much as they can afford.

Sustainable products are usually more expensive because they ethically source their raw materials, and workers receive fair wages. In a world where industries normalize low-wages to churn out super cheap products, it may be hard to justify the cost of using sustainable makeup options. And so the cycle continues.

Lack of information and greenwashing

As pointed out earlier, many brands are jumping on the bandwagon of ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’, but aren’t really doing due diligence to keep this promise. They intend to convince customers that they are something other than every other regular makeup brand. This is what we know as greenwashing. Unfortunately, it is a growing practice in the cosmetics industry, and many countries don’t have the right policies in place to fight it.

For a consumer to successfully avoid greenwashing, they need to be well versed in cosmetics ‘talk’. And unless you have some background in cosmetic chemistry (which many don’t), ‘green’ labels, or palm oil-free, could easily convince anyone that a brand will be an excellent addition to their zero-waste lifestyle.

Are you starting out with zero waste makeup? Do these things first.

With the list of zero-waste makeup brands above, you’re probably itching to empty your home of those plastic-packaged makeup items and replace them with more responsible options. But before you spend any money, make sure you do these five things first.

Use up what you already have.

Whether you’re living a zero-waste lifestyle or not, the itch to buy is often there, which is why you need to make a conscious effort to use up your non-zero-waste makeup products before purchasing more. If you throw out a half-full mascara tube, or a barely-touched eyeshadow palette because they come in plastic containers, then you’ve created more waste. Before you buy, exhaust the products that are already available to you.

Take unused donations from friends.

Remember that the zero waste lifestyle also extends to how you spend money. Again, avoid buying until you have to. If you have friends who wear makeup too, the chances are that they have makeup items they’ve never worn. You can reach out with a simple, “Hey, I need a new mascara, and I don’t want to buy one yet. Do you have any you haven’t used?”

You’ll be surprised at how many people have makeup items they want to unload on someone else. In the same light, take only what you need.

Empty your samples drawer

If you haven’t mastered the art of refusing free samples, then the chances are that you have a small drawer of them. Go through your makeup samples drawer and use the products there. If there’s any product you don’t see yourself wearing, then give it away, so it finds a use elsewhere.

Stop accepting free samples.

The next time someone offers you a free sample, say no. First, brands that offer free samples are usually not waste-free brands; Zero-waste makeup brands use samples to ensure that customers are not buying full-sized products that they will eventually trash. Traditional samples will most likely come in wasteful packaging.

Next, accepting samples increases the societal pressure to buy. There’s a reason why the beauty industry spends billions to create free samples. It’s because they work. And a study from the British Food Journal shows that free sampling can draw consumers into purchasing from a category that they initially did not intend to1.

Be intentional about your purchases.

Everywhere we look, there’s advertising targeted at us. It’s easy to think that a purchase was your decision, without realizing that it was induced by an ad you watched a few days ago. As such, this still applies to you even if you’re already living a zero-waste lifestyle.

If you’re buying zero-waste makeup products but buying too much you’re still wasting. Be intentional about your purchasing. In simple words, buy what you will surely use, not what you may need.

Conclusion

Are you looking to go zero-waste? Already living a zero-waste lifestyle? You don’t have to give up wearing makeup as an expression of yourself. With the brands reviewed above, you can create full-glam looks, or soft everyday looks to fit your personal style. And with our checklist for buying zero-waste makeup, you should be able to sidestep brands that greenwash their products effectively.

Further Inspiration:

Sources & References:

#Description
1Heilman, C., Lakishyk, K. and Radas, S. (2011), "An empirical investigation of inā€store sampling promotions", British Food Journal, Vol. 113 No. 10, pp. 1252-1266. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070701111177674
2epa.gov: Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling. Containers and Packaging: Product-Specific Data
3UNEP, 2015: Plastic in Cosmetics Fact Sheet
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