There’s no time to wait or waste as the alarm over climate change is “ringing at a fever pitch,” according to United Nations secretary-general António Guterres. “Sustainability-minded people used to have a longer time horizon,” says Davis, “but as climate change, toxic chemical production, and the global waste crisis have all rapidly accelerated, protecting the future is an urgent mandate!” Here, a trio of sustainability experts break down how to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly.
Use Up What You Have
“There’s often this impetus in anything new people undertake, but especially in sustainable living, that in order to ‘do it right,’ you have to rid your life of all the old, bad, plastic-cloaked stuff and go out and buy all new eco-friendly stuff,” says Piper. “That’s simply not true; in fact, it’s worse. I always encourage people to work with what they have.” Simply put, the first step to making your beauty routine more eco-friendly is: Use up anything you have before you buy a replacement. If there’s something you can’t make use of, you want to give it a circular second life. “The way we offload items at their end of usefulness to us is just as important as how and what we acquire new,” explains Piper. “So if something isn’t your color or isn’t working for you, consider selling it on Poshmark, offering it up to your neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook group (makeup, even used makeup, goes like hotcakes in my group), or giving some to a friend who loves to experiment with new-to-them products.”
Buy More Ethically, Environmentally-Friendly, and—Most Important—Less
In navigating the oversaturated beauty and personal-care market, packaging should be your first area of focus. “What you want to look for is something that has compostable, easily recyclable, refillable, or reusable packaging—or better yet, no packaging,” says Piper. In terms of plastic alternatives, Jhánneu tends to look for more sustainable and easily recyclable materials, like aluminum, bamboo, and glass.
Additionally, formulations are important but can often be difficult to decode on your own. Thankfully, there are plenty of online resources. “If you’re concerned about purity and safety, the EWG database is a good tool, and you should get familiar with ingredient names (of which there are sometimes hundreds for just one item) and determine what your values are around those,” she says. For both recycling and understanding formulations, the symbols stamped on the packaging, such as the Green Dot or Leaping Bunny, can be helpful.
Reduce Consumption Wherever Possible
To put beauty waste and consumption into perspective, Piper will often pose the question: When was the last time you used up a lipstick? “I love having a variety of makeup items, but it’s rare that we hit pan on many of our products,” she explains. “The single best thing anyone can do is to use what you have before you buy anything else, eco-friendly item or not. And then be really thoughtful about how your replacement for that item can be more sustainable.” Another fruitful way to consume consciously is to opt for double-duty products. “Less is more!” stresses Jhánneu. “I always try to look for products that can be used for more than one purpose, such as a blush that can also be used on your lips.” In this spirit, Davis looks to products that “can swipe across your lids, lips and cheeks” like Jillian Dempsey Cheek and Lip Tint or Exa Light Show Multi-Use Pigment.