I love makeup. The ugly truth, however, is that makeup is helping ruin the planet. Take a look at your makeup bag. What do you find? Plastic, plastic, and more plastic.
My current makeup routine is filled with plastic tubes and compacts that all wind up in the trash when I’m done with them. And I’m not alone. Our cosmetics—from foundation to blush—resulted in more than 8 billion units of packaging in 2017, according to data market analysis group Euromonitor International shared with Earther. This number doesn’t even reflect all the packaging for items like our lipsticks and mascara, and most of this stuff isn’t easily recyclable. So I decided to look for alternatives that create less waste and are easier on the planet.
The materials used—metal versus plastic, recycled paper versus virgin, and even synthetic brushes versus animal hair—all have separate pros and cons. Consumers have to figure what’s more valuable to them and decide what to buy based on that. As someone who hates the way plastic has infiltrated our oceans, I opted for some reusable items. And as someone who adores orangutans and appreciates the rainforests they call home, I went the palm oil-free route because palm oil—found in a variety of snacky foods and yes, lipsticks—is speeding along the demise of their habitats.
Ultimately, buying less is always better for the planet. So if you’re going to buy anything at all, be mindful. Make sure you love it and make sure it’ll last. Some of the products I’m highlighting here are on the pricier side, but then, these are higher-quality products. I kinda fell in love with them all.
This California-based company uses recycled water bottles to create its brush bristles. It also runs its 8-acre headquarters entirely with solar power (though this isn’t where its products are manufactured).
Cruelty Free Blush Brush F20 | Cruelty Free Angled Contour Brush F30 | Cruelty Free Flat Shader Brush E30 |
This award-winning makeup company is all about refillable products. Even its mascara tubes are refillable! They’re made from metals like zinc and aluminium, which do require energy to mine and manufacture, but the refillable nature of the containers help reduce waste. The mascara is a winner.
Cream Foundation | Feathery | Glow | Radiance | Mascara | Lengthening |
Refillable like Kjar Weis, Elate makes its compacts and such using bamboo instead of metals. Bamboo is decomposable as it’s a wood, but it grows much faster than typical lumber, which can make it a better alternative. However, be wary as bamboo has a reputation similar to palm oil in that loggers have cut Chinese forests to grow it. Elate’s bamboo is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures it’s coming from responsibly managed plantations.
Pressed Cheek Colour | Fever | Create Pressed EyeColour | Rave | Elate Liquid EyeLine | Origin | Brow Kit | Suede |
Probably my favourite of the bunch, Axiology does only lipsticks. It offers lip crayons and the more traditional lipstick—all without palm oil. The company also donates to conservation groups like the Orangutan Foundation at different levels each a year “depending on the needs and requests,” founder Ericka Rodriguez told Earther in an email. And Axiology works with a women-run cooperative in Bali to make its packaging out of recycled paper that would otherwise litter their yards.
Lipstick | Clarity |