You want to look and feel radiant — with a healthy glow inside and out. And beauty products can help highlight what’s naturally beautiful about you.
But it can be hard to know which products are actually good for you (and the planet).
The clean beauty revolution has brought more attention to the ingredients we use on our skin. Zero-waste beauty goes even further, choosing only ingredients and packaging that help you look your best and care for the environment, too.
In this post, you'll learn more about clean & zero-waste beauty, and how to get started with detoxifying your beauty routine.
What does “clean beauty” mean?
At its ideal, clean beauty means beauty products that are free from harsh or harmful ingredients.
Clean beauty means avoiding products with irritating or damaging ingredients.
Clean Beauty & Your Skin
Think about how many products you use on a daily basis. For most people, the average number is around nine products. And these nine products have over 126 individual ingredients! (1)
The problem is that many of these ingredients can be hazardous to your health and the planet.
Our skin is our largest organ. It keeps us healthy by releasing toxins, keeping in moisture, and protecting our bodies. But the skin’s protective barrier has a delicate balance — and harsh ingredients can disrupt that barrier. Some also studies show that harmful products absorbed through the skin can cause problems throughout the body. (2)
Benefits of Choosing Clean Beauty
When you choose clean beauty products, you choose to keep toxic ingredients out of your routine. Some of the potential benefits include:
- Less exposure to harmful or harsh ingredients. This way you won’t have to worry about toxins from your beauty routine building up over time.
- Happier skin. Especially if you have sensitive skin, many conventional products can cause irritation or breakouts.
- Freedom from fragrance headaches. Your beauty routine doesn’t need to leave you feeling like you just walked into a perfume shop. Many strong fragrances induce headaches, so avoiding these can give you relief.
- Peace of mind. Saying goodbye to harmful ingredients feels good — and once you feel the difference, you won’t want to go back.
But before you go on a clean beauty shopping spree, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Challenges of the Clean Beauty Trend
The idea of clean beauty is simple, but the reality can be more complicated.
Since consumers want clean beauty products, more companies have jumped on the trend. Some of these brands make wholesome products that are truly clean. Unfortunately, there are some problem areas to consider, too.
1. Lack of Regulation
In the United States, cosmetics and beauty products are mostly unregulated. The FDA regulates color additives, but most other ingredients are left up to the manufacturers. And in most cases, product recalls are voluntary — not mandated by the government.(3)
Also, the US has only banned 11 toxic cosmetic ingredients. (Compared to over 1300 in the EU.) This means that companies can claim their products are “clean” even while using potentially harmful ingredients.(4)
2. Confusing Terms
Similarly, there’s very little regulation for labeling. Just because something is labeled “Clean Beauty” doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. Here are a few terms that can often be misleading:
Instead of taking these terms at face value, look closer.
3. Greenwashing & “Cleanwashing”
Misleading labels are one way companies can greenwash (or cleanwash) their products. Some companies hope you won’t look any further than their packaging. If you walk down a beauty aisle at the store, you’ll probably see lots of green-colored labels and plant themes. Sadly, many of these products are anything but clean or green.
Check ingredients yourself so you can know what you’re getting. You can also do homework on an unfamiliar brand before buying.
Once you’re aware of harmful ingredients, it can be easy to shy away from anything with a long name. However, there are some long-named natural ingredients (or even synthetic ones) that are safe. So if you see an ingredient you don’t recognize, try looking it up to find more information.
4. Sustainability Challenges
One big challenge with the clean beauty movement is that these products don’t always take the planet into account. Avoiding harmful ingredients is a good step — but reducing pollution is another crucial goal.
Why Zero Waste Beauty is the Best Choice in 2021
Every year, the beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging. Packaging is the top contributor to plastic pollution worldwide, and very little of this packaging ever gets recycled.(5)
Many clean beauty products are still packaged in plastic. That’s why we choose to go one step further — by sharing products that are not only clean, but 100% zero-waste. :
What is zero-waste beauty?
Zero-waste beauty products are created to be good for you and for the planet. This means they’re free from plastic and packaged in recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials.
Most zero-waste brands also focus on choosing minimal, sustainable ingredients. A simple ingredients list helps reduce your environmental impact. It can also be easier on your skin!
Choosing zero-waste beauty helps you:
- Simplify your routine
- Cut waste out of your life
- Care for your skin naturally
- Shrink your carbon footprint
- Look and feel your best
And best of all, when you’re finished with a zero-waste beauty product, there’s nothing left behind to pollute the environment.
Your New Favorite Zero-Waste Beauty Products
To help make things easier for you, we’ve curated a new line of clean, zero-waste beauty products. We’ve done all the homework to find tried-and-true products without any nasties, plastic waste, or animal testing.
Here are a few sustainable beauty products we can’t get enough of.
1. Zero-Waste Lip Balm
Lip balm is one of our must-have products (we don’t go anywhere without it). With rich, nourishing ingredients, this lip balm keeps your lips soft and happy. And it’s free from synthetic dyes, drying alcohol, or artificial fragrance.
2. Plastic-Free Creams & Salves
One amazing zero-waste beauty brand is Rose + Water. Each product is hand-crafted with pure ingredients and soothing herbal infusions. Some of our favorites are:
- Golden Hour Everyday Face Cream - Balanced for every skin type, this face cream is packed with powerhouse ingredients to give your skin a healthy glow.
- Elderflower & Yarrow Eye Cream - Whether you’re in exam season, hitting a work deadline, or up all night with kids, this salve helps soothe tired or stressed eyes.
- Luna Mood Balance + Sleep Salve - When you need extra TLC, this salve can help you relax. Organic jojoba oil is carefully infused with herbs like Valerian Root, Lavender, and Chamomile to calm and balance your mind.
- Arnica Muscle + Joint Warming Salve - A deep-penetrating ointment made with gently warming herbs infused into organic jojoba oil for a full moon cycle. Stimulates blood flow, releases overworked muscles, heals wounds, and relieves chronic pain, inflammation, and stiffness in joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
3. Zero-Waste Face Oil & Toning Mist
4. Plant-Based Skincare with Repurposed Superfoods - from Upcircle Beauty
Upcircle Beauty takes high-quality food ingredients and gives them new life.
We also love this maple & coffee eye cream — it’s great for treating any problem areas.
5. Zero-Waste Makeup & Cosmetics
Finding zero-waste makeup that actually works can be tricky. So we’ve partnered with Tart Peach to bring you a line of plastic-free makeup made with only the best ingredients. Plus, many of these products have more than one use!
You can try out:
- Natural Mascara & Brow Tint
- Natural Lip Stick (in a recyclable tube)
- Zero-Waste Cheek & Lip Tint
- Cheek & Lip Highlighter
- Vegan Nail Polish
- Reusable Makeup Remover Rounds
Each of these products is carefully formulated to give you five-star results. All with the peace of conscience that comes with knowing you’re doing something great for the planet.
How to Start a Zero-Waste Beauty Routine (Without Breaking the Bank)
You don’t have to go out and replace everything at once. If you’re on a budget, here are some simple steps to help you get started with zero-waste beauty.
- Use what you have first (unless it’s toxic). Unless a product is harmful to your skin, don’t throw everything out and start over. This can create extra waste — and it’s expensive. Instead, slowly use what you have and find zero-waste swaps as you run out.
- Start with high-impact products. These include products you use the most frequently, like lip balm. And products you use on a large area of your skin, like lotion or face cream.
- Reduce the number of products you use. One way to do this is by finding products that serve more than one purpose — this helps you simplify, reduce waste, and save space!
- Cut out single-use products. Single-use makeup remover pads and wipes create tons of waste every year. Find reusable alternatives to save money and avoid waste.
- Try making some things yourself. Some products, like facial scrubs or masks, are easy to make at home! Check out this article for a few simple DIY recipes. Or learn how to make your own lip balm here.
- Watch for sales or specials. Most brands regularly run special deals to help make their products more accessible. You can join our email list to get a first look at new products & access all our deals and sales. :)
Little by little, you can remove waste and harmful ingredients from your routine. And trust us — you’ll be able to feel the difference!
Discover the Simple Joy of Zero-Waste Beauty
Now that you know a little more about clean beauty, the sky's the limit. You can start anywhere you like. The key is to get started!
Check out our zero-waste beauty collection to find your new favorites. Or browse our blog to find more DIYs, recipes, and zero-waste tips.
Thank you for everything you’re doing to help keep our planet beautiful. :)
Which part of your beauty routine do you want to “clean up” first?
Writer, baker, and lover of nature.