How To Make Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable

In honor of Earth Day, we’re breaking down sustainable ways to clean up your beauty routine and the products that can make it more eco-friendly.
Written by Vivien Moon
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How To Make Your Beauty Routine More SustainableOlesia Bekh/Shutterstock

The beauty industry is notoriously ugly on the planet. Although the market is working on improvements, there are still a lot of blurred lines in eco-messaging and strategy. It’s estimated that personal care and beauty items make up a third of the landfill waste, and the harsh reality is that many beauty products have a short lifespan that leads to a landfill finish. But that’s not to say all is lost. Consumers (i.e. you!) are more educated than ever before and are expecting more from the brands you purchase from, and we’re here to shed light on the steps you can take to clean up your beauty routine and make it more sustainable — without feeling overwhelmed by the process.

5 Tips Towards Sustainability

As we mentioned, there is a new generation of beauty brands to go along with a new generation of buyers that is taking action. Take Taos Aer. The personal care brand was co-founded by Kristine Keheley, a formulator and expert in anhydrous products, who is working to offer more earth-friendly deodorant. “We use a waterless formulation to create the cleanest product possible and use minimally processed ingredients,” she explains. Working in an anhydrous way allows for water conservation. Below, Keheley shares her tips for what to look for from brands and how to refine your own beauty habits.

1. Do Your Research

The landscape of sustainable beauty can be hard to navigate with so-called greenwashing being a prevalent issue. Some brands utilize fear-based tactics in their marketing to position their products as non-harmful alternatives, but a lack of clarity around verbiage is often what causes the most confusion. As we’ve covered, there are no formal definitions of what terms like ‘green,’ ‘clean,’ or ‘natural’ mean, and a product doesn’t necessarily need to be free of synthetics or waterless to be environmentally conscious. Instead, the entire manufacturing and production process needs to be taken into account to ensure a truly eco-friendly outcome.

Wondering whether the brands you are purchasing from practice what they preach? Do your homework. Dig deeper into their ethos and strategy when it comes to farming or ingredient sourcing to understand if they align to your values. More often than not, all it requires is an online search. Brands like Thrive Natural Care and True Botanicals, for example, are finding ways to sustainably grow and replenish resources through regenerative farming.

And, if you are curious about the use of water in products (a quick look at the ingredient list will show that it often comes up first), Keheley offers this explanation: “Water is where bacteria can grow, so, by removing water, you can help create a safe space and reduce microbial growth. Waterless products will contain more of the ingredients you want with less filler.”

2. Use Only What You Need

It’s easy to be tempted by a sale or the innovation of a new product (we’re all guilty of it!), but nobody needs an expansive routine if the products they currently use are working. It’s also worth noting that all beauty products have a shelf life that dictates how long they are stable and effective after opening. Lasting anywhere from three to 24 months (depending on the type of product), certain makeup, serums, sunblocks, and creams should be used consistently so that they don’t expire before you finish them. Try using each product as it is intended and only replacing it once it’s empty — you’ll be cutting down on waste and ensuring you’re using them at the peak of their effectiveness.

3. Reduce Packaging

It’s not just the paper, glass, or plastic that your skincare comes in but the manufacturing systems in place to produce everything from the ink to the glue that makes for a large carbon footprint. “What’s been lagging in the 20 years of my career is interest on behalf of the packaging companies to offer sustainable options – they haven’t come up with good solutions yet,” Keheley explains.

Fortunately, there have been some recent improvements in this sector that have her hopeful, though it’s a process that requires effort from both manufacturers and consumers. Limiting the need for single-use products (more on that below) will allow for a longer lifespan and decrease demand. Plus, a new personal care brand, is attempting to take packaging out of the equation all together. Its biodegradable body wash is waterless and comes in fully dissolvable packaging that breaks down into water, carbon dioxide, and organic matter.

4. Opt for Reusable Products

Perhaps the best way to get the most from your products and to reduce the cycle of repurchasing is to find ones that are reusable. Common of many Asian skincare and makeup brands, companies around the globe are increasingly offering refillable solutions that allow you to replace part of the product instead of the whole thing.

Rihanna’s Fenty Skin, for example, only makes you purchase the outer packaging of her cult-favorite Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen once. When you run out of the product, you can simply purchase a refill at a reduced price. Dior, meanwhile, updated the tubes of its iconic Rouge Lipstick to be refillable across 45 matte, metallic, and satin shades. And then there are brands like L’Occitane that offer convenient refills for household staples that have been in particularly heavy rotation this past year, hand soap.

5. Recycle

Recycling isn’t as easy as placing a used bottle into a bin. Despite our best intentions, many items never find their way to a recycling plant, and a recent study showed that only nine percent of the world's plastic was recycled. But that doesn’t mean beauty brands aren’t stepping up to help tackle this issue. Retailers like Credo and Detox Market offer programs to help patrons recycle properly and diminish ‘wish-cycling.’

If you’re keen on recycling from home, there are a few factors to keep in mind — especially when it comes to the components of your used products. “Most products are made with mixed material, which makes them harder to process by recycling plants,” Keheley notes. Mirrors and magnets, for example, often interfere with the recycling process, and Luxe Botanics has a great video that is worth watching to understand more about taking bottles apart for easier disposal.

Eco-Minded Beauty Products to Try

If you’re interested in reducing your reliance on single-use products, making your eye creams last longer, or getting the most from the skincare you already have, check out the products below that can help clean up your beauty routine.

Taos AER Deodorant


Long-lasting and genderless, this deodorant not only keeps you smelling fresh, but it is also kind on the planet. Great for sensitive skin, it is made without water and with ethically sourced ingredients. $19,

Dieux Skin Forever Eye Mask


These darling eye patches not only make for fun selfies — they can also help you get the most out of your eye creams. Decreasing the evaporation of product and locking in moisture in an area that needs it, the reusable silicone patches are meant to stand the test of time. $25,

Common Heir Vitamin C Serum


Vitamin C is a finicky ingredient to formulate with, and it requires just as much attention once it enters your home (be wary of light and oxidation!). Common Heir is working to reduce waste of spoiled product and useless packaging with these biodegradable vegan capsules that brighten the complexion and are good for the planet. $88,

Izzy Zero Waste Beauty Zero Waste Mascara


Zero-waste, carbon-neutral, and 100 percent recyclable, this is the first-of-its-kind beauty innovation that will change the way you purchase mascara. No more throwaway tubes, every component is made to be reused or recycled by the professionals (just send the mascara back in the mailer it came in). Opt-in for a membership to receive a high-quality mascara on a regular basis or try it out once – the entire process is simplified and your lashes will love it. $39,

Nurse Jamie Face Wrap


Say ‘goodbye’ to single-use sheet masks and ‘hello’ to a reusable face mask that lets you look good and feel good. Allowing for easy and comfortable absorption of product, this mask enhances the efficacy of your existing skincare, which means less waste and more improvements in your skin. After you’re done, simply wash it and leave it out to dry for your next self-care Sunday. $30,

Beautyblender Biopure Sustainable Makeup Sponge


The brand’s new BioPlush foam is 60 percent plant-based thanks to renewable sugarcane that boasts the same cushion and coverage of the OG sponge — but with more eco-friendly production. The updated process includes less synthetics, minimal water, and more post-consumer recycled materials (for the outer packaging) at the same price point as the original. $20,

KVD Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Foundation Balm


It made waves on social media for its flawless finish, but the real beauty of this vegan foundation balm is its revolutionary design. Made without a mirror, magnet, or metal (components that are not recyclable), the compact is fully recyclable and does not require any disassembly. $38,

Plus Body Wash


As we mentioned, packaging is a major pollutant, so Plus decided to forego it altogether with these biodegradable papers. The dissolvable wrap is made from wood pulp and the body wash itself requires only a little water to transform into a scintillating lather. Available in scented and unscented options, it’s a great option for both travel and at-home use. $17,

Oui The People The Single


Want to avoid the pink tax and having to constantly repurchase a new razor once the old one loses its edge? This rose gold safety razor provides a smooth shave, reduces razor burn, and comes with 10 replacement blades that can be easily disposed of. $75,

Clean Circle Reusable Bamboo Velour Skincare Pads


At this point, we know that single-use makeup remover wipes are one of the most wasteful items in a beauty routine, so why not swap them out for a more sustainable option? These 100 percent bamboo velour rounds also come with a drawstring pouch to ensure they don’t get lost in the wash. $22,

Fenty Beauty Day + Night Moisturizer Refill Bundle


Let’s be honest, we all love cute packaging. But, what can make it harmful is that it’s often not refillable and goes to waste. Enter: Rihanna’s Fenty Skin. The brand offers a few refillable options (including this A.M./P.M. duo) in its skincare collection for guilt-free shopping. $56,

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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VIVIEN MOONis a senior editor at AEDIT.

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