My struggle with finding plastic free beauty products

The transition to living a more sustainable lifestyle was not as hard or scary as it initially seemed. We started small and over time it has naturally grown into what it is today.  We aren't perfect, which is ok, but the changes we have made are making a dramatic difference in reducing our impact on the environment. 

I think it is fair to say we have done well in most areas, but the one area that I have struggled with the most is beauty products. Food shopping is almost entirely package free and things like cleaning products, body wash, shampoo etc are in a large 5L sugarcane containers or are refilled. However, when it comes to beauty products and trying to get rid of those baggy eyes without plastic, I’m still a little stumped.

Makeup is not really my thing, I like to keep it simple and typically don’t like spending much money on it. I don't wear much makeup and love days where I can go completely makeup free. Since working from home this has become more common, spending about half the week makeup free, which has been great for my skin. As a result, I don’t go through makeup quickly, so I buy less and buy it less frequently, which is great for my wallet. However, when I do buy makeup, I struggle to find plastic-free alternatives.

The Eco Society Zero waste Plastic free beauty products

When searching for makeup products, I want to know what the ingredients are, that they are cruelty-free and natural. This part is easy, and there are many products readily available here in New Zealand that tick these boxes. There is one thing, however, that is important to me which no one really seems to do, and that is sustainable packaging. I’ve found it incredibly difficult to find plastic-free alternatives or information on what the packaging is made from or how it can be recycled, and I can’t find any return schemes in New Zealand.

There are some products which come in glass, but they typically have some element of plastic to them. Most would argue that you could recycle these, but as you know already I have very little faith in our recycling system, in particular with plastic, and this is where my struggle begins.

So, what can we do to avoid plastic? We could go “naked” and forget makeup altogether, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go down this route. There is also the DIY option where we make our own makeup. It turns out there are loads of recipes and tutorials on how to do this, however, not everyone has the time or energy to make their own.  Leaving us with the question, what can we do to be more sustainable with our beauty regime? Honestly, I have yet to figure this out, but I'll let you know when I do.

The Eco Society Zero waste Plastic free beauty products

My current beauty kit.

Currently, my normal routine starts with chia seed oil, concealer under the eyes, bronzer all over, mascara and sometimes a little eyeshadow depending on the agenda for that day. If it’s a special occasion I will use foundation and bust out some lippy.  The most recent items I bought are Chia seed oil by Goodness, which I love, and Ere Peres concealer which I bought from Oh Natural. I get quite a bit from Oh Natural, they have a waste-free category and she is super helpful in recommending products that fit your needs. I was sold on Ere Peres as their product is cruelty-free, vegan, carbon neutral and the paper packaging is FSC.

At the moment I am using Natio bronzer and mascara, which I am about to finish. These will be replaced with a brand that has refills or comes in glass packaging, or I might even have a go at DIY makeup. I bought Nude by Nature Liquid foundation because it was in a glass bottle and is also natural and cruelty-free. I love a bit of lippy every now and then, and my current favourite is Karen Murrell which is another natural and cruelty-free brand with a focus on sustainability, their packaging is also FSC.  

Makeup brushes? The ugly blue one I use for bronzing, which belonged to my mum, it is an old natural glow brush. I have had it since I first started wearing makeup, it is still perfectly functional so there is no need to replace it. There are also some other brushes I use with wooden handles, I don’t remember where I bought these, but again they are perfectly functional so no need to replace them.

The Eco Society Zero waste Plastic free beauty products

Photo credit Twenty20 @Artfully79

My most shameful product is my eyeshadow. I bought this before I went natural and sustainable, and I also remember them being pretty cheap, so it’s unlikely it would meet my current values. This is no reason for me to stop using it and throw it out, as that is wasteful. I will use it until it is finished and replace it with a product that does meet my values.

It’s hard to tick all the boxes when it comes to beauty product, and even though I haven’t yet been able to avoid plastic packaging completely, or packaging in general for that matter (without making my own), when shopping for a new product I look for brands with sustainable business practices, which are cruelty free and use as little plastic as possible.

The ideal situation that I dream of is a refill beauty bar, where you can refill all beauty products. Maybe one day.

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