As much as we all adore the world of beauty and everything it has to offer, it’s no secret that there’s a huge problem when it comes to the cosmetics industry and sustainability. According to annual awareness campaign ‘Zero Waste Week’, more than 120 BILLION units of packaging are produced by the global cosmetics industry each year, contributing to the annual loss of 18 million acres of forest.
Most of us use dozens of products every day, and the thought of overhauling your entire skincare and beauty regime to a sustainable one might sound a little overwhelming. But with new, independent brands cropping up all over the world it’s never been easier to make simple swaps in your routine that are good for both your skin and the planet.
We’ve spoken before on the Indy Box blog about how consumers tend to feel more drawn to cosmetics brands that perform ethically in terms of animal testing, and this is also true for brands that are known to be eco-responsible and create sustainable products that don’t cost the earth (quite literally). The industry is shifting towards re-usable and recyclable products, and it seems to be the smaller, independent brands that are paving the way towards sustainability.
Take a look at ‘Bambu Babe’, the reusable bamboo face cleaning pads that help their customers ditch the disposables. 11 billion single-use makeup and wet wipes are thrown away each year in the UK alone, with each wipe taking 100 years to decompose, and Bambu Babe want to change that.
Their ‘Daily Care’ pack includes 10 velvety bamboo face pads and an eco laundry bag to chuck them in the wash (more than 200 times!), all for £17.50. Not only does this save 2,600 cotton rounds from landfill, but it will also save you quite a bit of money in the long run. The bamboo pads can be used for cleansers, toners, masks, exfoliators or make-up removal, so no more panic-buying makeup wipes or cotton pads when you realise you’re on your last one...
Next up is ‘Made By Sunday’, the clean, conscious and accessible brand, home to the viral microfibre blender that absorbs 70% less product than your average makeup sponge. Their best-selling ‘big fuzz’ has caused quite a stir on social media and costs just £8.00 – not bad when you consider the huge amount of expensive foundation you’ll be saving.
Hand-made, packed and shipped in Banbury, Oxfordshire, ‘Made By Sunday’ take care with their production methods and vet the international suppliers they work with. Most of their products are also self-preserving, meaning that they are preserved using natural ingredients and clever formulation rather than nasty chemicals. They also promote re-usable packaging in products like their ‘super serums’ which are first sold in glass bottles and then in refills, resulting in far less packaging waste.
Then there’s Afrocenchix, a female black-owned hair care brand with a sustainable and ethical business practice at heart. Founded by two women who want the best for Afro and curly hair, their award-winning products became the first British brand specifically for afro hair to be stocked in a major retailer. Afrocenchix products blend natural and organic ingredients, including raw shea butter from a cooperative in Ghana that is certified organic by the Soil Association and certified Fairtrade by the Fairtrade labelling organisation.
‘The Full Set’ features all the products in their award-winning range formulated to keep afro hair moisturised while limiting breakage; £85.00 will get you their sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner, a moisturising hair spray, moisture locking hair oil and hair cream, and a lightweight scalp oil. Their packaging is fully recyclable and even their postal boxes and filling nuts are plant based and 100% compostable.
Another one to search for is &SISTERS; a femcare brand with a conscience who produce organic tampons, pads and menstrual cups. People who bleed use an average of 11,000 sanitary products in their lifetime, with around 200,000 used products going into landfill each year in the UK alone. That’s why &SISTERS developed the Nüdie cup - a zero-waste alternative to pads and tampons that will save on over 2,000 disposable period products over a 10 year period (the lifespan of a nudie).
The Nüdie cup is made from naturally occurring silica and costs £24.95, which seems like a no-brainer investment on a product that can last you an entire decade. But if that’s not quite up your street (so to speak) then &SISTERS also produce organic tampons and pads that are sustainably-sourced, recyclable and fully biodegradable. And to top it all off, 10% of all &SISTERS profits are donated to organisations that help tackle period poverty around the globe.
And finally we have Scrubbee, a women-led and ethically driven skincare brand due to launch next month. Their first product line features four face scrubs made from repurposed coffee grounds from cafes, saving on waste and giving the ingredient a whole new lease of life.
Scrubbee use an honest and transparent supply chain by ordering their natural ingredients from one key stockist in the UK. The product packaging is completely plastic-free and has been designed to fit with through your letterbox. The little tins themselves can even be repurposed (if you’re feeling crafty) and recycled, so you’ll be doing good for your skin and the planet.
The beauty industry still has a long way to go and there are a lot of products out there that continue to produce excess waste, but things ARE changing. So whether you want to cut down on your own waste, spend less money, or both, there are countless independent brands out there to help you create a sustainable routine.
Incase you’re stuck for where to begin, here’s a little checklist of easy first steps towards an eco-friendly beauty routine:
All things considered, it’s important to remember that living sustainably isn’t about being perfect. A large group of people who have made little changes to their routine will be FAR more impactful than a small group who have managed to go completely waste-free; so let’s be a part of that big group and work our way towards a carbon footprint that would make Greta Thunberg proud.
I’m Catherine and I’m a freelance writer and ESL teacher based in sunny Scotland. If you liked this article you’ll find plenty more ramblings over on my website and some shamefully average content on my Instagram. Don’t be shy, come and say hello!