‘I’m a Sustainability Expert, and These Are My Top 4 Essentials for Making Your Beauty Routine More Planet-Friendly’

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Take a peek inside your bathroom cabinet. What do you see? Your collection of makeup, skin care, hair care, and other miscellaneous self-care products likely have one thing in common: Most of them will be tossed in the garbage.

If you’re diligent about recycling your empties, kudos to you! But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost 70 percent of the 14.5 million tons of plastic packaging that were generated in 2018 ended up in a landfill. Of that 14.5 million tons, approximately 120 billion units of plastic are attributed to the cosmetic and personal-care industry. TL;DR: That’s a lot of moisturizer containers piling up at the dump.

But before you start to feel discouraged, take some advice from sustainability expert Jhánneu Roberts: Simple, sustainable beauty swaps can make a big difference to the planet, with minimal impact on your regimen.

“We can choose products with less packaging and ones that are made with renewable materials,” Roberts says. “When we make sustainable choices, we’re showing businesses that we want them to do better, and that can lead to positive changes in the market.”

One simple place to start? Opt for more sustainable materials. Avoiding (or recycling) plastic is an obvious one, but choosing natural, biodegradable fabrics like cotton in your towels and other self-care products can also have a big impact on your beauty routine’s sustainability footprint. (FYI: Most synthetic fibers are made from forms of plastic.) Keep reading for more of Roberts’ planet-loving advice, plus a few suggestions for sustainable beauty swaps you can easily adopt.

1. Swap your disposable beauty staples with reusable ones

Take a second and think about how much trash your beauty routine generates. From taking off makeup and nail polish to putting on toner, it’s probably a lot. Although you might be thinking, “aren’t those things biodegradable?” many cheap staples like makeup remover wipes are actually made with synthetic fibers, meaning you’re basically just tossing more plastic into the trash.

Roberts suggestion? Switch to reusable cotton rounds. “By opting for reusable cotton rounds instead of disposable pads, you reduce waste and lessen the environmental impact associated with single-use products,” Roberts says.

If you’re still partial to disposable cotton rounds, no worries: Just check the label to ensure they’re made of 100 percent biodegradable cotton instead of synthetic fibers. And while you’re at it, you might as well get a reusable cotton makeup towel to replace your usual makeup wipes. Added bonus? There’s no need to worry about skin irritation with cotton products since they’re hypoallergenic.

2. Try bar soaps in the shower

Your shower is another place that houses a lot of plastic packaging. Although this one might seem unavoidable, there is a way around it: Try bar shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. “Using a solid bar soap eliminates the need for plastic packaging found in many liquid body washes, reducing plastic waste and promoting a more sustainable option for cleansing,” Roberts says.

The three options listed below (which all smell delicious, btw) are made by companies that take their commitment to environmental stewardship seriously. The limited packaging they do use is plastic-free, and the bars also last longer than typical plastic-packaged shampoo, conditioner, and body wash—they’re all around two to three bottles worth—while still costing essentially the same. Saving money and the planet is a win-win.

3. Choose beauty products that come in refillable containers

A few of your favorite beauty brands have a sustainable secret: Some of their popular products are refillable. “Choosing beauty products that come in refillable containers or have minimal packaging helps reduce unnecessary waste,” Roberts says. Plus, it’ll (once again) save you money, since re-purchasing just the refill is usually less expensive.

And it’s not just indie beauty brands offering refillable containers—big names such as Dior, Charlotte Tilbury, Drunk Elephant, and Glossier do too.

4. Opt for deodorant in non-plastic packaging

Another easy switch you can make in your beauty routine is replacing your plastic-packaged deodorant with ones packaged in paper or reusable containers. Roberts recommends Native’s paper-packaged deodorant, and all three of the brands below are vegan, aluminum-free, and well-loved by their users (and did we mention planet-friendly?).

Making these sustainable beauty swaps may seem like a small way of making an impact, but with 4.9 billion metric tons of plastic already in landfills, every little bit helps. “Sustainable living requires mindfulness about the impact of our actions on the environment and future generations,” Roberts says. “It involves being aware of our consumption patterns, reducing waste, conserving resources, and choosing eco-friendly alternatives.” Here’s to a less plastic-filled future.