A common misconception about living sustainably is that our lives have to change. But in actuality, all it takes to lead a more Earth-friendly life, as consumers, is to simply consume less, and to make more conscious choices. Small switches to your daily routines and product habits can add up to impact significant change, especially when done consistently and as a community.
In the realm of beauty, there are dozens of swaps you can make effortlessly. Like replacing disposables with reusables, paying attention to packaging and ingredient sources, and actually recycling #empties. Of the product packaging that we can recycle—like cardboard boxes, biodegradable bottles and glass jars—half (or more) of us don’t do so properly, or even at all. Beauty brands and businesses are already making significant strides in sustainability, with countless product upgrades, supply chain interventions and recycling programmes in motion, we just need to play our part.
Here are seven effortless ways to make your skin and self-care regime more sustainable:
Swap disposables for reusables
Take a look at your beauty shelf or sink side and ask yourself: What are the single-use items here that come in reusable versions? The list could go on, but some of the more common quartet would be cotton pads, cotton buds, make-up wipes and dental floss.
Instead of cotton pads or make-up wipes, which can be too stripping for skin and majorly clogging for the sewers and environment, opt for reusable facial pads like Face Halo’s The Modern Makeup Remover. A fluffy round made of HaloTech fiber strands (which are 100 times finer than a human hair strand), this only needs cold or warm water to work, reaching deep into the pores to sweep away all traces of make-up, without the need for scrubbing or tugging. Each palm-sized pad can be washed around 200 times and comes in a pack of three, essentially replacing hundreds of single-use make-up wipes—plus they’re non-toxic and recyclable too.
As for cotton buds, it is estimated that 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used in England alone each year, according to The Guardian. This contributes to the 150 million-plus tonnes of plastic polluting the world’s oceans. There are, fortunately, two alternatives to this: Bamboo-stemmed options by Bambaw, which are 100 percent compostable, or Frank Skincare’s Reusable Swabs made of food-grade silicone—these come in a set of three with a round, pointed and spiky head for various purposes (like cleaning make-up smudges), and can be washed, reused and recycled multiple times.
Then there’s dental floss. Eco Vibe’s Activated Charcoal Bamboo Floss is a 100 percent vegan, mint flavoured, zero waste (recyclable, biodegradable and compostable) alternative that comes housed in a sturdy steel dispenser. It’s made of bamboo, which fast-growing grass with no need for fertiliser, and that comes coated in plant-based candelia wax.
Recycle your #empties properly
Pay attention to the recycling instructions as much as you do the expiry date of your products. Most recycling bins require empty product containers to be thoroughly cleaned and dismantled to remove any non-recyclable components—like mixed material pumps, caps or droppers, versus the recyclable glass jar, for example. If you carelessly toss full “empties” in the blue bin with following the right steps, these supposedly recyclable items may eventually be categorised as unrecyclable and end up in a landfill. Alternatively, Re:erth has set up a Sustainability Corner at its Tangs boutique where you can drop off any empty skincare product as is, and they’ll do the work, together with Environmental Solutions Asia, to turn these into a supply of sustainable, non-fossil-derived fuel, NewOil.
Swap liquids for solids
Remember bar soaps? Let’s go back to that. Because many of these come in cardboard boxes or paper wrapper, this is a quick and easy way to turn a step (or two, if you have one for hands and another for body) of your routine into a plastic-free one. You can also try shampoo and conditioner bars, which are a relatively newer concept and may take some getting used to, but may benefit your hair and scalp due to their generally gentler, botanical formulas. Crafted with organic rosemary, hand harvested rose petals and other nourishing ingredients to cleanse and replenish dry and damaged hair, Oasis: Skin’s Solid Shampoo in Rose leaves a delicate floral scent of geranium and lavandin, and soothes the soul while cleansing the scalp. And that’s not all, deodorant comes in solid form too—local brand Smood Natural Deodorants offers zero waste bars made with antibacterial baking soda and coconut oil, moisture-absorbing cassava starch, nourishing shea butter and beeswax, and lemon eucalyptus essential oil that also boasts surface and skin cleansing properties besides smelling great. These solid formulas are also the easiest way to go “naked” on the packaging, since you can just toss them into your own cloth bag upon purchase.
Pay attention to packaging
The next time you go beauty shopping, take some time to read the labels—this time of the packaging. Does the brand you love support the environment by using responsible materials? Are you torn between two very similar products, with one housed in layers of plastic versus the other in a glass bottle, box free? Take a chance on the latter. Either way, it pays to keep an eye out for the sustainability details on product packaging to give you a better understanding of how recyclable and responsible the product, and the brand, you love it before repurchasing.
Biossance delivers luscious, vegan and cruelty-free skin barrier-restoring formulations with ingredients that are ethically sourced, and packaged in bottles, tubes and jars that are completely recyclable. Even their outer cartons are made from renewable sugarcane paper without inks or dyes that could affect recyclability.
Sigi Skin only uses 100 percent recycled materials for all its skincare product packaging, uses soy-based inks for boxes, and as of January 2021, its ingredients list is free of any animal or animal-derived ingredients such as honey, beeswax and collagen. They’ve also adopted d2w biodegradable technology for their Sigi Skin Mini Dream Capsule, and this then creates a plastic-like material that will degrade and biodegrade in a continuous toxic-free process.
Hair care brand, Shiseido Professional will be launching premium hair colour brand, ULTIST, in May 2021, of which the packaging is wholly made from sustainable materials derived from sugarcane, while the rest of its packaging aims to turn 100 percent eco-friendly by 2025.
Act+Acre’s hair care formulas are made using its patented Cold Processed method that, by eliminating heat, consumes 90 percent less energy than conventional heat manufacturing processes. All of these are then packaged in the most recyclable form of plastic, designed to last up to two years allowing for refills that are available for purchase on its website.
Invest in responsible ingredients
Take note of whether ingredients are ethically sourced, and whether the product is vegan and cruelty-free—this means no animal ingredients or by-products have been used, and no animal testing has taken place.
Biossance is best known for its squalane formulas, powered by a sugarcane-derived alternative to squalene, which is a by-product of shark liver. You really don’t want that on your face. Also known for their luxurious botanical-powered formulas and global animal conservation initiatives, Chantecaille’s green movement sees the brand harnessing plant stem cell technology, meaning all their key botanicals are sustainably derived and use 10 to 30 times less water than traditional methods of sourcing plant ingredients.
There is also good reason to avoid ingredients like microbeads (found in some physical scrubs), which can get washed into our waterways leading to micro plastic pollution; and harmful chemicals in chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have life-threatening effects on the coral reefs and other marine life.
Swap to refillable options
It’s common sense to realise that the best way to live more eco-consciously is to simply consume less. Keeping the need for skincare, make-up, bodycare, haircare and selfcare in mind, brands and stores have quickly pivoted to offer refillable products so you get what you need without additional packaging waste.
Some of the products from big name beauty brands that offer refills include Dior’s Rouge Dior Couture Finish Refillable Lipstick, Shu Uemura Brow:Sword, Tata Harper Water Lock Moisturiser, Fenty Beauty’s Instant Reset Overnight Recovery Gel-Cream, YSL Beauty Pure Shots serums, and Hermès’ Rouge Hermès lipstick and H24 fragrance. There are, as well, the likes of Aesop and The Body Shop that offer refills for many of their skin-caring formulas, while local brand OASIS: houses a convenient refillery for liquid body soaps in its new store at Joo Chiat.
Order less, or in bulk
Whether shopping online or in-store, consolidate your orders or buy in bulk, and swap out minis for jumbo-sized options of products you love. This way, you reduce the need for repurchases and restrict the parcel packaging and carbon footprint required to manufacture, pack and ship your product to just one delivery cycle.