Beauty

7 eco-friendly ways to improve your beauty routine

Spoiler: You don't need to scrimp on personal care to be kinder to the earth.

A woman wearing a towel on her head and smiling as she holds up a jar of cream in front of her eye. She has a strip of moisturizer on her forehead and on her nose. Credit: Getty Images / LaylaBird

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One meaningful way to thank the planet this Earth Day is to take a hard look at your beauty and grooming routine. There are ways to improve your habits for the better, even if you’re already careful about how much water you use, you mostly remember to recycle, and you even look for buzzwords like “sustainable” on the packaging (but as that word has no official, agreed-upon definition, it’s hard to know what a company even means when they use it).

Still, you can always be more mindful in your approach to skincare and makeup. These smart hacks can help reduce your environmental impact.

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1. Add an easy-access recycle bin to your bathroom

Recycling bin
Credit: JosephJoseph

Make recycling an easier habit by adding a trash-recycle bin hybrid to your bathroom.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective. When you’ve finished a beauty product, you may need to carry the empty plastic tube or the glass serum bottle to your kitchen. It seems easy enough, but those extra steps could make it less likely you’ll actually do it. Banish your laziness by keeping a smaller bin next to your vanity. Then, just as you take out the bathroom trash, you can tote the bathroom recycling to the proper place. If you don’t have enough space for two separate bins, consider replacing your normal trash can with a split-compartment one, like the Joseph Joseph Split Trash Can.

2. Follow the proper steps when recycling

Recycling empties
Credit: Getty Images / yuliash

Make sure you follow your area's instructions to properly recycle all of your empty beauty items.

In theory, recycling should be an easy everyday task. In reality, it’s often more complicated than we realize. Not only do the rules of what’s considered recyclable change by zip code, you may have to prepare certain materials before they are accepted by your local waste and recycling center. Check your local city’s policies to find specific information for your area, but Eco Cycle is also a reliable resource on what items are typically acceptable, how to clean them, and how to make sure they don’t end up in a landfill.

As an example, many people don’t realize aerosol cans (a.k.a. spray deodorants or hairsprays) are recyclable, but they likely are, because they’re made from aluminum or tin-plated steel. Also, glass bottles are often more recyclable than plastic ones, but they have to be thoroughly washed and cleaned to pass inspection. While it’s unlikely your hair tools, like curling irons or straighteners, are accepted by your general recycling pick-up, you can bring them to specialized centers to be disposed of properly.

3. Recycle in stores when you shop

Return
Credit: Getty Images / fstop123

Consider returning used-up makeup to a retailer that can dispose of it.

To encourage customers to be more mindful with their products, many brands offer incentives for recycling in-store. This not only makes it easier to get rid of packaging waste, but often also also gives you discounts! As an example, when you return six full-size empty lipsticks to your local Mac Cosmetics store, you’ll get a free lipstick through its “Back to Mac” program. If you bring your empty Le Labo bottle to one of its locations, you’ll receive a refill for 20% off. Other companies like Origins, Kiehls, Lush, and L’Occitane all offer similar promotions, so it’s worth researching the brands you frequently buy from as well as new ones to try, if these programs appeal to you.

4. Reduce your water use

Shower
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Pay attention to how much water you use while washing your hair, shaving, or removing your makeup.

You already know you should shut the faucet off while you brush your teeth at the sink or shave in the shower. But a product like a showerhead that can pause the flow of water while maintaining temperature can help make it easier. If you’re looking for a new one, the best showerhead we tested, from Hydroluxe, does the trick. It features a pause button for halting the flow while you shave, lather your shampoo, or apply a deep-conditioning treatment, as well as a number of conservation-minded settings, including a “water-saving economy rain.”

If you’re in the habit of filling the tub to soak your feet or give yourself a pedicure, upgrade your experience and save water with a foot spa, like our favorite from Ivation, or just a simple basin.

5. Replace disposable products with reusable options

Makeup Eraser
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Swap disposable cotton rounds or towelettes for reusable makeup remover options.

You may have used makeup remover wipes, cotton pads, or cotton balls since your teenage years. They work great for many beauty and grooming tasks but, unfortunately, are not recyclable or biodegradable. When you think about how many of these you may use to wipe away mascara or apply toner, that’s a lot of waste piling up over time. Consider switching to a washable, reusable option that you can toss into your laundry. For a larger cloth that removes makeup on its own, try the Makeup Eraser, which our tester says effectively removed all face and eye makeup. If you like to use individual rounds for removing makeup or applying products to the skin, a set of 20 reusable pads from Greenzla fills the bill.

6. Choose companies that offer refillable options

Refill
Credit: Getty Images / Natalia Deriabina

Choose beauty products that are refillable or come with minimal packaging.

If you like to find a great product and remain loyal to it for years, it could be worthwhile to test out a brand that offers a refillable option. You make a one-time purchase of a recyclable glass or stainless steel container, and when you run low on product, you order a refill, which has less waste. This can cut down on the number of goods produced, limiting carbon monoxide (CO) emissions, and creating a more sustainable experience for you, them, and the planet. If you’re looking for a service like this, check out By Humankind, which our tester loved for its easy-to-use hair, skin, and hygiene products that come in either refillable containers or innovative formulas, such as a solid shampoo bar, that come in significantly less packaging (like a simple paper box).

7. Slowly swap out your go-to’s for earth-friendly alternatives

Leaf Shave
Credit: Leaf Shave

Choose products made entirely of recyclable or biodegradable materials.

It’s likely unreasonable to think you would toss out everything you have in your vanity drawer or shower today and swap every item you use for more eco-friendly options. (Not to mention, that’s wasteful in itself!) However, over time, you can gradually improve the impact of your beauty routine by making small shifts.

As an example, disposable razors with replaceable heads are better than the cheap plastic ones that you're expected to toss in full when the blade dulls, but if the handle contains a cushy-gel grip for your fingers, you may not be able to recycle it once it eventually wears out. However, a stainless steel razor, like The Leaf Razor, will likely last longer and can be fully recycled. And rather than using a plastic toothbrush, you can swap to one with a handle made of compostable bamboo, like The Humble Co. Humble Brush. The company recommends removing the nylon bristles with pliers (to go in the trash) and composting the handle at home or with a municipal program—it claims it will break down in six months' time.

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