The subject of sustainable beauty is somewhat of an oxymoron, and it’s a tricky but important topic to explore as a someone who wears makeup daily. In this post I discuss the question: does sustainable makeup exist? One of the things I feel most guilty about from an environmental perspective is my love of makeup. Whether you opt for drugstore brands, luxury beauty, or ‘green’ alternatives, each product uses resource-intensive ingredients (some more sustainable than others). Moreover, these makeup items need to be manufactured, packaged, and transported.
The ‘greenest’ option would be to wear no makeup. However, if you’re like me, makeup is an important part of your ritual. It’s a way of expressing yourself, and it makes you feel good. There has to be a middle ground – the sweet spot in sustainable living that works for me and the planet. Right?
In early summer 2018, I bought myself several highlighters with the sole aim of doing a blog post on them. How many highlighters does one person need? Answer: none, or maybe only one. I still have at least 5 highlighters sitting in my drawer and while I do love and use some of them, others were a disappointment and a waste. This was the moment when I decided it was time to reduce my consumption of makeup. What’s more, I started to question whether the ingredients were good for my body.
If we start to evaluate the ingredients in our makeup, how they’re sourced, how and where the products are made, and the ethics of the company, the truth becomes clear. Most makeup is terrible (and, dare I say it, toxic) for us and the planet.
Why do I put the word green in quotation marks?
There is no legal or consistent definition of what ‘green’ beauty is. It’s also referred to as ‘clean’, ‘natural’ or ‘non-toxic’ beauty, but again these words have varied meaning. While something can be certified as organic, green is more of a spectrum.
I interpret ‘green’ beauty to mean ingredients in their purest state. Ingredients that I recognise on the label, and a product that is produced in an ethical and sustainable way, with packaging that can be recycled.
I know that some chemicals are included in makeup to act as preservatives, which can actually make the product safer and more hygienic. But, I think there is something to be said about the mindset of “if I wouldn’t eat it, I shouldn’t put it on my skin”. When I switched from shower gels to regular soap with natural ingredients, the dryness and irritation of my skin went away almost instantly! My body definitely prefers fewer synthetics.
What chemicals should I avoid?
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database is a great resource for learning about the ingredients found in cosmetics. You can search brands you’re curious about, or sort by their most trusted makeup products.
What have I done with all my old beauty products?
If my makeup products are expired (not just by the “best before” date – but actually gone off) I throw them out. Otherwise, I’m gradually using them up and either going without, switching to brands that offer ‘green’ beauty, or making my own products. It will take years for me to get through my blushes and eyeshadows. Other products like foundation will run out quickly and I’ll make the switch to a cleaner brand. I’m also wearing less makeup because some days I just don’t feel like spending the time applying layers onto my skin.
What about the cost?
There’s no denying that organic beauty companies are more expensive than drugstore makeup. Honestly, I can’t afford the prices of some of the big names like 100% Pure, RMS, Juice Beauty, Kjaer Weis, and Tata Harper. However, there are brands who are mid-priced like W3ll People, Lily Lolo, Elate Cosmetics, Lush, Dirty Hippie Cosmetics, and Zao Makeup. Having tried some of these mid-priced products, I think these brands are a great option if you can’t spend a fortune on cosmetics, but still want something that performs well. The claims of these brands vary, but many of them are organic, have plastic free packaging, are vegan and cruelty free.
As with the fast fashion industry, we need to be mindful of the actual cost of producing quality makeup that is good for us, the environment, and the workers. If you’re a makeup lover, the best thing you can do is look at your budget and vote with your money for the kind of world you want to live in.
Hopefully I’ve answered the question of “does sustainable makeup exist?”. Watch this space for future posts on reviews of organic and ‘green’ beauty products as I gradually test them out. I’ve also been DIYing a lot of beauty and skincare products with great success. 🙂