You try your best to live a sustainable life. You’ve ditched plastic straws, shop with a reusable tote bag and carry a bamboo cutlery set with you for meals on the go. Perhaps you even make your own cleaning products to eliminate the need for plastic bottles and jugs (good for you—seriously!). But there’s one area in particular that you’re still struggling to go plastic-free: your beauty routine.
Honestly, we get it. The beauty industry’s deep-rooted love affair with plastic packaging doesn’t make it easy for the average consumer to go waste-free. But we can assure you that it is far from impossible to have a plastic-free beauty routine.
In fact, there are a number of easy, plastic-free switches — like ditching plastic bottles in favor of using a solid lotion bar — that can make your self-care routine just as waste-free as it is luxurious. If you’re ready to give your self-care an eco-conscious glow-up, read on to find out how to start a plastic-free beauty routine.
Why Is Beauty Waste a Problem?
We probably don’t need to remind you that we’re currently experiencing a plastic pollution crisis. Plastic waste is accumulating at a rapid pace and poses a serious threat to our oceans, food safety, wildlife and our health. If our wasteful habits continue, there will be roughly 12,000 million metric tons of plastic waste in landfills and the natural environment by 2050.
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While the beauty world isn’t entirely to blame for our plastic pollution problem, there’s no denying that it’s a big contributor to plastic waste. Currently valued at $532 billion, the beauty industry is massive and continues to grow. It’s also worth pointing out that containers and plastic packaging account for 42 percent of total plastic usage.
Can’t I Just Recycle My Beauty Products?
Unfortunately, recycling isn’t the end-all-be-all solution to the beauty world’s plastic problem. That’s because recycled plastic packaging can only be downcycled into a less valuable product that will eventually get thrown away. In other words, your plastic beauty products are still destined for a landfill. You’re simply slowing down their journey.
Don’t get us wrong — recycling your empties is definitely helpful! However, it’s better to cut out waste entirely by going plastic-free.
How to Start a Plastic-Free Beauty Routine
Now that you know why beauty waste is a problem, you can start taking small but meaningful steps to reduce your own plastic consumption. Here are a few ways to start a plastic-free beauty routine.
1. Cut Out Needless Buys – One of the best ways to keep plastic out of your beauty routine is by simply refusing products that you don’t need. We know, easier said than done, right? But the truth is, you don’t actually need a bunch of beauty products to look and feel good. That’s just a lie that beauty advertisers want you to believe to sell more products. Before you buy that new lip primer or dark spot corrector, ask yourself whether it’s absolutely essential to your beauty routine.
2. Switch to Solids – Looking for an easy way to cut back on wasteful, plastic bottles in your shower? Switch to a plastic-free shampoo bar and don’t look back. Packed with nourishing, plant-based ingredients, these solid sudsers are good for both your hair and Mother Earth. It’s no wonder they’ve gone mainstream so quickly! Likewise, you can swap your liquid conditioner for a solid conditioner bar and enjoy soft, moisturized tresses without harming the planet.
3. Ditch the Disposables – Along with plastic packaging, single-use plastics such as cotton rounds and facial wipes are among the biggest plastic waste offenders. Cut them out of your routine permanently by switching to reusable versions made from sustainable and biodegradable materials. For example, instead of single-use cotton rounds (which contain plastic, by the way), pick up a pack of reusable organic cotton rounds. Instead of disposable razors, invest in a stainless steel safety razor. Along with reducing plastic waste, you’ll end up saving a lot of money in the long-term!
4. Pay Attention to the Ingredients Label – Sorry to be the bearer of bad news (again), but shampoo bottles and single-use plastics may not be the only wasteful parts of your beauty routine. In fact, plastic could be hiding inside your cosmetics in the form of petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are a set of chemical compounds extracted from petroleum oil, and they’re pervasive in the beauty industry. Flip the package over and keep an eye out for paraffin wax, mineral oil, toluene, benzene and anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol), to name just a few.
5. DIY Where You Can – Another way to avoid toxic chemicals and plastic in your beauty routine? Make your own beauty products at home. Sure, making your own makeup palette from scratch is probably out of the question, but other beauty essentials — like sugar exfoliating scrubs and natural facial masks — are super easy to DIY. By making these products yourself, you can skip the plastic packaging and all the nasty ingredients that are lurking in beauty products.
Source: Alina Kruk/Shutterstock
6. Think About Shipping – Are you still with us? Great! In that case, you’ll also want to consider the plastic packaging that may be used to ship your beauty products to your door. Yes, we know that it’s a lot to consider on top of everything else, but all that bubble wrap and protective plastic aren’t good for the planet. To eliminate plastic waste, purchase your beauty products in person or shop exclusively from brands that use 100 percent recyclable or compostable shipping materials.
Building a More Sustainable Beauty Routine
Self-care and plastic don’t need to go hand-in-hand. On the contrary, we think that freeing yourself from the grip of plastic and toxic chemicals is the ultimate form of self-care. By taking a few small steps to reduce plastic waste, you can make a big difference to your health and the planet.