Our resident beauty columnist, Ava Welsing-Kitcher, is ready to answer all your questions
We’re all on a mission to be greener, and it’s so amazing to see the leaps that brands and consumers have made in the past couple of years alone. But when it comes to practices in the home, I’ve discovered that smaller, incremental steps are much easier than a total overhaul. It’s not sustainable to throw everything out that isn’t recyclable, made from recycled materials or harvested ethically. Instead, use up what you have and go eco-friendly when it comes to replenishing. When disposing of empties, I cannot recommend TerraCycle’s resources enough for recycling properly; you can even drop off tricky items, such as pumps and toothpaste tubes, at one of their thousands of locations. Read on for the sustainable swaps I’ve made that have changed my routine for the better, and the brands working so hard to help create a better future for us all.
The average lifespan of a hairbrush is six months to a year – not as short as toothbrushes, but nevertheless a lot of plastic waste. I usually prefer combs for my curly hair (Afroani’s pretty tutti-frutti marbled one is made from plant fibres), but WetBrush’s biodegradable version gently glides through any knots and tangles. Once the super-fine bristles get a bit skewed, toss it in your food-waste bin and grab a guilt-free replacement.
It can take 20,000 litres of water to make just 15 packs of cotton pads, and I definitely used to go through at least a pack a fortnight. L’Occitane, the hero brand of refills and recyclable packaging, has this cute trio of square cotton pads for swiping on toners and actives and removing make-up – just use stain remover for any mascara smears plus a delicates bag to prevent them getting stuck in the rubber seal of the washing machine.
Partnering with PhytoTrade Africa, Aurelia Skincare helps to ensure fair trade for the communities (mostly made up of women) who harvest key ingredients for the range, like baobab and kigelia Africana. I personally love how so many of the products are housed in dark glass jars, which are easy to wash out and reuse for anything, from DIY bath-salt blends to kitchen spices storage. Don’t miss out on the latest launch, which uses bakuchiol and niacinamide to gently smooth skin while tackling redness, spots and hyperpigmentation – with the most divine neroli and rose scent.
Sheet masks have become one of my guilty beauty pleasures since they were labelled the plastic straws of skincare. I was thrilled to discover two innovations that try to tackle the plastic waste issue. Nurse Jamie’s can be used up to 20 times, with the super-thin stretchy silicone locking in any mask or moisturiser underneath. Alternatively, Decree’s newly launched SOS Revitalising Mask is derived from plant fibres and coconut juice, with the outer sheets crafted from rose fibre and a serum packed with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and ceramides.
REN Clean Skincare
REN have been working so hard since 2018 in a mission to become zero-waste by the end of 2021. Having already produced 250,000 of their bestsellers in plastic that’s recycled or fished out from the ocean, they’ve also removed cardboard boxes from all cleansers and done away with sample sachets completely. Look out for the new glass bottles with printed ink labels, which can be sent to waste-free shopping service LOOP to clean, refill and send back to you.
I’ve been switching out difficult-to-recycle items, like toothpaste tubes, flossing sticks and interdental brushes, for less plasticky versions. While I love The Humble Co.’s corn-starch flossers and bamboo toothbrushes for travel, Pärla has got me truly excited. Created by Dr Rhona Eskander (the dentist everyone’s obsessed with right now), these toothpaste tabs have the perfect amount of fluoride, unlike many of the newer dental brands. Dr Rhona explains: “Instead of irritating, abrasive ingredients like SLS or charcoal, we use natural, gentle stain removers to keep teeth and gums healthy.”
Having recently made all its products 100% vegan, Aveda has been one of the front runners in sustainability for over 30 years. As one of the first beauty brands to use 100% recycled plastic per bottle, 85% of its products today follow suit. Last autumn, it launched its carbon-offset shipping programme, to counterbalance all its carbon emissions made by online purchases, at no extra cost to customers. It’s one of my top hair brands that I love and use constantly; the new Nutriplenish leave-in treatment nurtures all hair types with a superfood blend of pomegranate oil and mango butter, and I can’t live without it.
Don’t be fooled by the cute, punchy colours – this indie brand is serious about sustainability. The range is housed in bioplastic made from sugar cane and grass-paper boxes that save 4,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared with cardboard. Go for their berry-seed booster oils, which upcycle food-industry waste, or my personal favourite: a bright green Cornish clay mask with spirulina plus jojoba, tomato and broccoli-seed oils, to seriously cleanse and nourish skin simultaneously.
Davines has been using renewable energy to supply its farm and offices in Parma since 2006, with four of its product lines having carbon-neutral packaging that’s offset by contributions to forests in Ethiopia, Madagascar, and more. Davines Village itself is a green paradise, which explains why so many of the formulations are naturally derived and biodegradable. I’ve ensured that my bathroom’s well-stocked with the Nounou mask for years, it being a saviour for damaged strands thanks to olive, jojoba and cherry oils.
I’ll admit that I’ve never paid much attention to capsules, simply because I want them for travel purposes only, and most of the ones I’ve seen are active ingredients such as retinol, which I wouldn’t use every day. But Bolt Beauty snatched my attention with its line-up of a gentle cleanser (the hero), hyaluronic acid, mattifying moisturiser and retinol pods, designed to dissolve in water. And refills come in compostable bag deliveries. The fact that I can downsize a shelf’s worth of a routine into the palm of my hand gives me pure joy. It’s the little things.
Tata Harper’s a real person, with a famed magical Vermont farm, where she’s very hands-on in crafting small-batch, handmade products created with renewable energy and GMO-free ingredients. The majority of the packaging is made of glass, the plastic resin for tubes is derived from sugar cane, cardboard for the leaf-green boxes comes from responsible sources, and the labels are printed using soy-ink. I can’t pick my favourite product, between the regenerating cleanser and resurfacing serum, so I’ll shine a light on the refillable and gently exfoliating moisturiser – a must for dull and dehydrated skin.
According to the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) Centre, refilling a product rather than buying a completely new one can save up to 70% of the amount of CO2 used, plus 65% energy and 45% water. With so many of our favourite brands offering refills in-store and online, there’s no reason not to – especially if it means saving on price, too. My pick is Diptyque’s floral hand soap, with its tiny olive-stone grains to exfoliate. Le Labo and Ouai are also setting a fine example, while for make-up, which is the trickiest to recycle due to the small size, look no further than MAC, Kjaer Weis, Charlotte Tilbury and La Mer, which all offer refillable lipsticks, foundation compacts, eyeshadow, blushers and more.
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