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Natural Awakenings SW PA, Greater Pittsburgh

Eco-Cosmetics: Choosing Sustainable Beauty Products

Eco-friendly, sustainable beauty product bar of soap on tray and towel with cosmetic brush


Beauty is a $49 billion industry in the U.S. That’s a lot of plastic lipstick cases and shampoo tubes buried in landfills and breaking down into microplastics that leach poisonous chemicals into the world’s oceans and our drinking water. As consumers, we can vote with our wallets, sending a clear message to makeup and skincare brands: We want the planet to be beautiful, too. 

Sustainability to-do list:

  • Instead of using disposable cleansing wipes, make a reusable, washable alternative using a cut-up T-shirt or ultra-soft baby washcloths. Online DIY recipes for the liquid solution include water, witch hazel, essential oils and mild soaps.
  • Opt for products that eliminate water as the main ingredient, such as shampoo and conditioners that come in paper-wrapped bars, lowering shipping costs, eliminating the need for plastic bottles and conserving water.
  • Say no to single-use sheet masks wrapped in plastic or made of petroleum-based materials. Easier, eco-friendly swaps abound, such as cucumber slices for puffy eyes.
  • Go with glass packaging instead of plastic. Glass is recycled more easily and doesn’t release harmful toxic chemicals.
  • Choose brands that use the least amount of packaging materials as possible, eschewing plastic in favor of biodegradable, paper-wrapped, cartoned or package-less products.
  • Look for brands that use less packing material and planet-forward shippers.
  • Support, applaud and purchase refillable products.
  • In certain areas of the country, #1 and #2 plastic containers commonly used in the beauty industry are not accepted at local recycling centers. TerraCycle offers a mail-in solution with free shipping labels for packages weighing more than 15 pounds. Among the recyclable items accepted through this program are lip balm tubes, soap dispensers, shampoo and conditioner caps, hair spray triggers, lipstick cases, mascara tubes, eye shadow cases, foundation packaging and lip liner pencils.

Eco-friendly beauty brands:

  • By Humankind is reducing use of single-use plastics.
  • LOLI is a zero-waste brand that uses food-grade glass yogurt jars that can be repurposed in the kitchen.
  • Cadence offers refillable containers as an alternative to wasteful, travel-size products.
  • Lush champions package-less products.
  • Beautycounter has pledged to eliminate unit cartons; decrease its use of virgin plastic; use recycled, recyclable, reused or compostable packaging; and create refillable products.
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