7 easy sustainable beauty swaps that really deliver for your skin and hair

7 easy sustainable beauty swaps that really deliver for your skin and hair

Let me begin by laying my cards on the table. I’m far from perfect when it comes to eco-beauty, so I’m certainly not here to lecture you about all things green and clean. However, it’s hard to ignore the ugly side of beauty: the fact it creates over 120 billion pieces of packaging each year, much of it impossible to recycle.

What’s more, 95% of beauty packaging is thrown out after just one use, and only 14% of plastic makes it to a recycling centre.

It’s this reality that’s prompted me to take a long, hard look at my beauty cabinet and suss out the simple changes that can add up to a big difference. And no, it doesn’t mean giving up all the good stuff for worthy yet useless natural alternatives.

Making sustainable beauty swaps doesn’t mean compromising on results

How to make eco-friendly beauty swaps

Get behind bars

The most obvious switch is to use plastic-free beauty bars instead of bottles of daily essentials like shower gels, shampoos and cleansers. With big high street brands on board, it’s no longer the niche option, and could save money as well your conscience. For instance a single Garnier Shampoo Bar, £7.99 here, lasts around two months, while each Nivea’s MagicBAR Face Cleansing Bar, £5,99 here, is easily equal to a whole bottle of regular facial cleanser. I’m not seeing a trade-off in results either. I’ve got fairly dry skin so I’ve been hesitant about using a cleansing bar rather than a wipe-off cream but I’m happy to say these pH balanced formats don’t leave my skin feeling tight.

Choose shampoo and cleansing bars

Bar shampoo takes a bit of an adjustment but it’s honestly not tricky or time-consuming. The main thing is get your hair drenched first. Then wet the bar, rub it to make it foam and then massage it in from root to tips.

Make solid skin swaps

Solid skincare comes in so many forms now, including ones with actives you might not expect in a bar. Even one of the trickiest ingredients – retinol – has found its way into a zero-plastic form, courtesy of SBTRCT Rejuvenating Night Balm, £32 here, with 2% granactive retinoid, a form hailed as both effective and less irritating. Love vitamin C? SBTRCT’s got that covered too, with its Vitamin C Booster Bar, £30 here.

You’ll also find solid rejuvenating options from Balade en Provence, including its Solid Eye Contour Serum, £16.99 here, with rejuvenating immortelle flower extract, and its Hydration Boosting Solid Serum, £14.99 here, featuring everyone’s moisture must-have, hyaluronic acid.

Look at the whole package

If a plastic product you can’t live without now has a refillable option, use it. This does at least cut carbon footprint. Better still, start using refillable “forever” bottles in infinitely reusable glass and aluminium. Recycle your refill pouches via TerraCycle, or buy from a brand like Fiils which you freepost your pouches back to. And seek out new must-haves from brands using only zero-plastic bottles, like We Are Paradoxx, and those offering a sustainably packaged “return, refill and reuse” ethos, like Beauty Kitchen.

We Are Paradoxx’s packaging contains no plastic

Rethink your sun care

SPF should be everyone’s daily non-negotiable, but it doesn’t have to mean using plastic. UpCircle has just launched its SPF25 Mineral Sunscreen, £24.99 here, which is the first-ever certified plastic negative suncream. It’s housed in a glass jar with an aluminium lid, and, like all UpCircle products, it uses by-products that would otherwise go to waste – in this case, raspberry seed oil which boosts your skin barrier. Plus there’s no chalky residue.

Make over your makeup

Admittedly, this area of beauty is a work in progress, but plastic-free makeup is a growing trend. I’m a fan of Ethique’s plastic-free lipsticks, £15 here, which feature natural pigments like mica, and cute home-compostable tubes.

Lush is also leading the charge with its new Naked Mascara, £10 here, a solid block formula made from butters and waxes. To use it, wet one of the plastic-free mascara wands (there are three to pick from), wiggle it into the balm to pick up pigment, then comb it through your lashes. I’m amazed by how much I like the finished effect: less like regular mascara than the soft and feathery texture of false lashes. No crispy feel, no spidery look and no clumping, this is natural beauty at its best.

Lush’s Naked Mascara comes in four colours, with three brush options

Shift eye makeup the sustainable way

Single-use cleansing wipes are a sewer-clogging eco nightmare. A green alternative is the washable Face Halo Make Up Remover Pad, which can be reused up to 500 times and shifts even mascara with nothing but water. Singles cost £7 here, or you can buy a Face Halo Glow Skin Set of two cleansers and exfoliator, £20 here.

Look for brands reducing their plastic footprint

Three names finding smart ways to be more eco-friendly


Not all plastics are equal. See BYBI, which packages in either glass or eco-friendly bioplastic. All BYBI tubes are made from sugarcane waste upcycled into a fossil fuel-free plastic that’s both recyclable and carbon neutral to manufacture.

BYBI uses plastic made from upcycled sugarcane

2. INIKA Organic

INIKA is the first make-up brand to go plastic neutral: for every kilo of plastic it uses, one kilo is collected and recycled. As well as using 84% less virgin plastic in the first place, it rescues waste plastic, turns it into fence posts and donates them to farming communities devastated by wildfires.

3. REN Clean Skincare

REN has hit its “zero waste pledge”, meaning it now only produces packaging designed to be recyclable, containing recycled materials or being reusable. It’s particularly proud of its reclosable aluminium tube which it now uses for sampling instead of sachets, a prime offender for single-use plastic.


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