You must have been living under a rock under the last few years to miss the depressing news: we are surrounded by plastic. The fact that plastic is an extremely versatile and inexpensive material means it can be found in abundance in our homes, offices, shops, supermarkets, clothes and beauty products. The increase in the use of plastic over the last few decades means we are now in the midst of a plastic crisis which is seriously harming the environment and our health. The good news is that since the world has woken up to just how harmful plastic is, things are slowly changing. It is now becoming second nature for many people to keep a reusable coffee cup in their bag and make sure they have shopping bags handy to avoid using carrier bags. But just how easy is it to cut down on plastic in other areas, such as your beauty routine?
The not-so-pretty plastic threat
With so many amazing cruelty-free products now on the market, it is hard not to want to try them all. However, the majority of cosmetics and toiletries still come in some form of plastic packaging. Although most of this could be recycled, the average family still throws away about 40kg of plastic per year, meaning it ends up in landfill. With this in mind, wouldn’t it be better to choose products that are plastic-free? Zero-waste beauty is a growing trend and one that is without a doubt here to stay, as consumers demand a need for more eco-friendly products.
Plastic in beauty is a big problem. Not only do most of our hair products, shower gels, dental products, body lotions, hand creams, lip balms, mascaras, lipsticks, foundations and eyeshadows all come in plastic packaging, but other items such as tools and even the products themselves can also contain plastic. Cotton buds with plastic stems, face wipes, disposable razors and toothbrushes pose a big problem, but fortunately some of these single-use plastics could soon face a ban.
The hidden plastic you don’t know is lurking in your beauty products
Plastic can also be found hidden in some beauty products, such as microbeads which are used as an exfoliating agent. Although the use of microbeads in cosmetics has now been banned in many countries, products may still contain other types of plastic. Names to look out for in ingredients lists include Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon (PA).
Finding plastic-reducing alternatives
Although trying to reduce the plastic in our beauty routines may seem overwhelming, a good place to start is by doing a few simple swaps. Many liquid products such as shampoo, shower gel and hand wash can be replaced with a solid version. Shampoo bars are a fun way to wash your hair and can often last longer than liquid shampoo if left to dry between uses. Lush are perhaps the first brand that comes to mind when you think of solid shampoo; they have a big range of bars for all different hair types. If you prefer to avoid ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), some natural alternative brands are Friendly Soap and Beauty Kubes. Bar soap is easy to find online, in local shops and market stalls and can be used for washing your hands and body.
When it comes to skincare and body care products, look out for glass or aluminium packaging and try to keep the products you need to a minimum. Less is a zero-waste organic skincare brand aiming to simplify our beauty routines with a radically reduced product range. Some makeup companies are now using bamboo packaging for their products, such as Zao. Most of Zao’s products are refillable, including their mascaras, blushers, foundations, powders, concealers, eyeshadows and lipsticks.
Luna Beauty: the zero-waste way to be cruelty-free and gorgeous
Luna Beauty is a UK-designed and manufactured zero waste makeup brand. Their products are totally vegan and never come in plastic packaging, using glass and aluminium containers instead. Luna’s founder Elisha tells us more about the brand.
What makes you a zero-waste brand?
Luna Beauty has two main aspects to being a zero-waste brand. The first is that we avoid using all plastic packaging. All of our products come in either glass, metal or cardboard packaging meaning that they are easy to recycle. The second aspect is the re-fill scheme. Anyone who has purchased a Luna Beauty product (directly or via one of our stockists) can send the empty packaging back to us for a re-fill. We give a 15% discount on re-fills and there is theoretically no limit on the number of times one tin or glass bottle can be re-filled. You could have the same glass mascara bottle for the next 20 years if you wanted!
Why did you decide to start making your own products?
I initially started making products for my own use. I had become interested in zero waste and had realized that my beauty products were all packaged in plastic and that there seemed to be no alternative available in Europe. Shipping from the US or Australia seemed like it would cancel out any benefits from the products being plastic free. I had always loved making things and liked the idea of having my own business. The more I read about plastic free beauty the more I realized that there was so many other people out there looking for similar products. This motivated me to look into selling my own products and after getting all of my safety tests done and perfecting my recipes, I launched Luna Beauty (then Luna Zero Waste) on Etsy and Instagram. I started making sales on my first day and there was a hugely positive reaction to my products.
How is your packaging made?
I buy all my packaging from an external company. I only use glass, metal and card packaging right now which fits in with my plastic free values. The labels were designed by a UK based designer I found on Etsy and are printed by another UK based Etsy seller. I first started Luna Beauty on there and so I try to support other small, local businesses through the same channel. The packaging is filled with product and labeled by me in Oxfordshire.
Have you encountered any difficulties with making only zero-waste products?
Yes. My main difficulty is finding my ingredients in plastic free packaging. It is pretty much impossible and production is the biggest creator of waste anywhere in the business – although by general standards it is still quite minimal. I have reduced this by reusing and recycling what I can (while everyone else is storing dry food in lovely glass jars, mine is in washed out Aloe Vera Gel tubs), and have also recently found a supplier that will take old tubs back and re-fill them for you which I will be doing from now on.
Do you have plans to add more products to your range?
Yes! I have just added a moisturizer to my range and there will be a body butter, an exfoliating scrub and face mask added in the next week or so. In July, I am planning on introducing ‘DIY kits’ where you will be able to buy a kit containing everything you need to make your own beauty products. For example there will be a mascara kit, with everything needed to make your own mascara. These will hopefully be great for all those out there who want to make their own products but can’t find the small quantities of ingredients needed or reliable recipes.
Once you’ve switched to plastic-free products, have a look at other plastic beauty items that you may be using. If shaving is your preferred method of hair removal, stop buying disposable razors and buy a metal safety razor instead. Ditch makeup wipes (which usually contain plastic fibres and are not biodegradable) and use a cleanser and washable face cloth instead (your skin will thank you for it too). Bamboo toothbrushes are a great alternative to plastic ones and can be found in online zero-waste shops such as Plastic Freedom along with solid versions of products like toothpaste and mouthwash.
Don’t stress if you cannot find a plastic-free alternative to everything, just do the best that you can. Some products can be bought in bulk and refilled, which cuts down on the use of plastic bottles. A good old jar of coconut oil has many uses and can be used as a cleanser, moisturiser, highlighter, lip balm and more. Make small changes so you don’t feel overwhelmed – swap one product at a time as you use things up. As we strive to reduce our plastic consumption, it can only get easier to make our beauty routines plastic-free.
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