I’ve been thinking about how I can refine my approach to low waste living. After making over my budget for this year so I can save for a deposit, it became very clear to me that the biggest area I can cut down on is beauty—both the amount I buy and the kind of products I buy.
While I’ve taken big steps to reduce the amount of plastic I use, I still buy a lot each month. But the most low waste (zero waste, even) thing you can do is buy nothing at all. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a high from ordering something new (a pattern which started when I first got my student loan back in the day), so I’d like to be more strict. My goal is to buy less and buy better.
Here are my low waste beauty rules for 2020.
Curate a collection of well-loved favourites and necessities
I’m currently on a mission to use up everything I already own. And as I do, I’m starting to think about which products I’d buy again, and which turned out to be one-offs. The body oil from Holland & Barrett? A one-off, since it was packaged solely in plastic. The refillable eyeliner and brow powder from Zao? I’m committing—I’m getting the refills. The Charlotte Tilbury lipstick? It’s gorgeous, but I’ve spotted a similar shade in refillable packaging, so it’s goodbye from me. We’ve shared some good times.
Ideally, I’ll reach the stage where I’ve got one of each product. And if those products are refillable, packaging free, or plastic-free? Even better.
Only buy new products when I’ve nearly run out of the old ones
“Ooh, I’ll just try this” was my motto when I was a regular customer at the big Cardiff Superdrug. It always felt good at the time, but shop this way and you quickly end up with a large collection of products. Worse, a lot of them used to languish at the back of a drawer once the novelty had worn off.
I don’t do this quite so regularly anymore. But whether it’s a quick flit round Boots while I’m in town or a look round the Content Beauty website, I’ve been known to window shop. And the temptation to try something new is still there—it might be something I’d use frequently, but that doesn’t mean it’s something I need.
So my number-one low waste beauty rule? I’m only going to buy new products when the old ones are nearly gone.
Buy products that would otherwise go to waste
Like Bloomtown’s brilliantly-named Wonky Soap—offcuts from their regular bars. Or body scrubs from Upcircle, which are made from unwanted natural ingredients that would have been thrown away. They’re packaged in aluminium tubes and when you run out, you can keep the plastic cap and buy a cap-free refill. I’ve got my eye on the peppermint version—but only when my current scrub runs out.
Invest in a refillable Tropic palette
I won a Tropic makeover at a vegan fair last summer. The lovely Francoise did my skincare and make-up, and it was relaxing to sit back and let someone else take over. It was also helpful having someone else advise me on the best shades to use. I came away with a wishlist of products to buy for the refillable palettes (but only when I need them!).
The idea of the palette is this: rather than buying a ready-made palette where one shade inevitably gets used more than the others, you’re in control of it all. You choose the configuration of the palette, plus the products and shades that go in it. When a product runs out, you buy the individual tray and replace it, instead of getting a whole new palette. Pretty cool, right?
I’ve just run out of concealer and I’m low on blush, so the time has come to invest. I’m going to get two eyeshadows, concealer, blush, and highlighter. While it’s a big investment initially, I’ll only need to replace them individually as they run out, which shouldn’t be for long time. Let me know if you’d be interested in a review once I’ve bought the palette and used it regularly.
How are you approaching beauty in 2020? Do you have any low waste beauty rules? And is there anything you’d like to hear about as I continue my own low waste experiments? Let me know in the comments.
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Beth, 26, South East England.
Lover of books, dogs, yoga, travelling, and gin. Always thinking about my next meal.
I write about ethical & eco-friendly living, minimalism, and mental health, as I muddle through one step at a time. Enjoy!