Safety razors promise a closer shave thanks to their extra sharp blades. Photo / Supplied

Clean Up Your Act: Consider These 7 Sustainable Beauty Swaps

Make the switch to refillable products, seek sustainably sourced ingredients and more planet-friendly beauty swaps

The impacts of the beauty industry on the environment are well-documented.

According to a report issued by Zero Waste, the global cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging every year – the majority of which is not recyclable and ends up in landfill.

It’s not just the plastic pot your moisturiser comes in, either, it’s the plastic wrapping, paper inserts, cardboard sleeves, mirrored glass, bubble wrap – sometimes existing all at once for just one product.

Beyond packaging, there’s a whole host of issues around the sustainability of ingredients, or the amount of water needed to either formulate or produce beauty products.

Thankfully, many beauty companies are putting measures in place to become more sustainable, largely driven by the attitudes of conscious consumers who demand more accountability from brands.

There’s no better time than now to start being more mindful of how we consume and discard of beauty products. Read on for seven ways to a greener beauty regime.

Remember to wash reusable makeup pads, muslin cloths and towels after each use to avoid a build up of bacteria. Photo / Supplied

Swap to products containing sustainably sourced ingredients  
In the same way that consumers are pushing for greater transparency in the fashion industry, so, too, do these same attitudes apply in the personal care industry. A growing consumer awareness of end-to-end supply chains has pushed for brands to seek out sustainably-sourced ingredients.

Consumers now want to know how ingredients are sourced, and what the long-term impacts are of farming them for use in the cosmetic industry. There’s no better example of this than palm oil.

According to an article published on the, palm oil production has been a major driver in deforestation, therefore destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. Not sure if the product you’re using contains sustainably sourced ingredients? Look out for the Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance logos on the packaging.

Swap to water-responsible beauty brands
The demand for water in the beauty industry is high – and now many watchdogs are warning that this demand could outweigh supply.  Brands are responding to the water crisis by releasing richer products that use less water, or by making pledges to reduce water usage in the production of each unit of product. One such company is L’Oreal, who has set a range of measurable targets to achieve by 2030 through its ‘L’Oreal For The Future’ initiative. This includes managing water more sustainably. By 2030, the company says its goal is for 100 percent of the water used in its industrial processes to be recycled and reused in a loop. The ‘waterless beauty’ trend originated in South Korea in 2015 and is a step in the right direction.

Today, waterless beauty products come in a variety of forms, including cleansing balms, powders, solid bars, concentrated oils, body butters and serums. But the impacts of waterless beauty products remains to be seen – it’s not as simple as removing water from a product’s formula to reduce its water footprint. 

Go packaging-free with solid or bar options like Good Cube's 5in1 Multitasker, $30. Photo / Supplied

Swap single-use packaging in favour of refillable options 
Extend the life of your products by refilling them rather than purchasing new. A number of companies already offer refill schemes, including Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Tata Harper, La Mer, Ouai, Evo, Lancome, Jane Iredale, Tailor Skincare, L’Occitane, Hourglass and more. We love Lancome Absolue Soft Cream, $430 for the jar and capsule, or $365 for the capsule refill. M.A.C’s in-store recycling initiative, Back 2 M.A.C rewards customers for returning six empty full-sized M.A.C products with a free gift – one of 20 lipsticks or one of three mascara formulas.

Previously, the initiative meant customers had to collect all six products before returning in-store, but now the reward system has been simplified with a stamp system so customers can return products one at a time. For hair, refilleries like The Dispensary inside Auckland-based salon Commune encourages clients to return their O WAY product packaging to be refilled rather than repurchased.

Among our picks of refillable products is Lancome's Absolue Soft Cream, $430 for the jar and refillable capsule. Photo / Supplied

Swap cotton pads and makeup remover wipes for reusable versions  
An easy way to cut back on waste is to swap out disposable cotton pads and makeup remover wipes for their reusable counterparts. Brands like The Quick Flick are leading the charge with Flick Off! Reusable Makeup Remover Pads, $34. These dual-sided pads feature two different types of fabric designed specifically for eyes (a butter-soft velour fabric) and face (textured terry cotton) and are fully machine washable. Or try Biologi Microfibre Cloth 3-pack for $25, which includes a wash bag.

Alternatively, reusable muslin cloths or makeup towels make easy work of makeup removal - try Take It Off Makeup Removal Towel, $20, which requires only water to shift even waterproof eyeliner. Reusable cotton pads, muslin cloths and makeup towels must be washed every each use, as the oil, dirt and makeup they remove from skin make them an excellent breeding ground for bacteria. If you can’t give up your face wipe addiction, switch to biodegradable versions like Nivea Daily Essentials Biodegradable Face Wipes, $11 for a pack of 25, which are made from 100 per cent renewable plant fibres.

Extend the life of your Syrene Skincare vessels by upcycling them into jars to house fresh blooms. Photo / Nadia Els

Swap bottles for bars
Bar soap has shed its lowly reputation, and is no longer just reserved for the soap dish next to your sink. The packaging-free movement continues to gain momentum, with both local and global beauty brands ushering in the next generation of ‘go naked’ products. From facial cleansers and body bars to solid shampoos and conditioners, you’ll be hard-pressed to not find a soap to suit. Lush passed on plastic a while ago, but New Zealand brands like Good Cube, Ahhh, Ethique, and more recently, EcoStore, are gaining traction with their packaging-free options. Viva loves the Good Cube 5in1 Multitasker Shampoo Bar, $30

Swap your regular bathroom bin for a recycling bin
It’s an obvious but often overlooked suggestion, but keeping a recycling bin next to your bathroom vanity will encourage good habits by reminding you to recycle items like toilet rolls, empty shampoo bottles or cardboard packaging, rather than having them end up in landfill.

For those products you are unsure on how to recycle, try Emma Lewisham’s Beauty Circle recycling programme, which sees any brand of facial skin care product packaging returned and recycled via TerraCycle. Accepted waste includes plastic bottles, tubes and pots, lids, droppers, pumps and pots, along with some glass bottles and jars (conditions apply). Following collection, the packaging is sorted, cleaned and melted into pellets that can be used to create new recycled products. For every four facial products received, you will be issued a $15 Emma Lewisham voucher for your efforts. See to sign up.

Look out for The Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade logos on the back of the bottle. Photos / Supplied

Swap out your disposable razor for a reusable one (or recycle) 
Disposable razors are one of the biggest culprits of plastic waste from the bathroom. Safety razors are a great alternative. We love Sustainablah Stainless Steel Safety Razor, $40, for its close shave thanks to its ultra-shape blade, plus its rose gold hue won’t look out of place in your next #shelfie.

Last month, Procter & Gamble shaving brands Gilette and Venus teamed up with TerraCycle to launch the country’s first-ever national recycling programme for all brands of razors and their packaging.

The Gilette Razor Recycling Programme will mean shavers can collect and ship their disposable and refillable razors, blade cartridges and plastic packaging to TerraCycle, who will turn them into new products. To participate, visit, download the shipping label and place used razors in a cardboard box or carton to be sent for free by New Zealand Post.

Keep Mother Nature happy with these small (but significant) beauty swaps. Photo / Getty Images


Is packaging too pretty to throw out? Here are four ways to give your empties new life:  

1. Remove the lid from jars or pots and use the base to store cotton pads, stationery or jewellery. 

2. Use a craft knife to carefully remove the cap or pump from the top of a cleanser or toner to transform it into a vase for fresh or dried flowers. 

3. Once you've burnt out your candle, scoop out the remaining wax and clean the glass vessel with hot water (not boiling) to melt away the excess. The glass vessel is ideal for stashing beauty tools and hair accessories. 

4. Empty lipstick bullets are an excellent option for housing bobby pins, earrings or hair ties. Be sure to wash the bullet thoroughly with warm soapy water to remove leftover lippie and dry well before use. 

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