The cosmetics industry generates lots of waste, and the ingredients of many makeup products can be harvested unethically (see Mica harvesting). Most products are non recyclable, like palettes, pumps, and makeup wipes. Also, people overconsume makeup all the time- There are so many clever marketing schemes to suck you into buying more than you really need. Buying makeup on impulse to ‘experiment’ will most likely end up with the product sitting in your drawer after being used once, only to sit around far past its expiration date. I’ve included some products I use and love below. There are a lot of sustainable makeup options on Earthhero too, if you’re interested in finding other sustainable products.
(some of the products have affiliate links.)
Keep in mind, I am not a makeup guru at all. It’s not really my thing. For those folks who love to play with all kinds of styles and brands and whatnot, keep doing what makes you passionate! However, next time you purchase a product really think about if it will actually give you happiness. Think about if the company tests on animals and how they process their products. Even if you use one less pump of foundation or swipe of a mascara brush, reduce what you can live without.
Face products I use
The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer
My primer is The Ordinary High-Spreadability Fluid Primer which is packaged in glass and it is my favorite primer I have ever used. It is incredibly affordable at $7.90, which is less expensive than the plastic packaged Elf Poreless Primer I used before, and works exactly the same- and if you’ve ever used that primer, just know this primer gives the same mattifying and silky feeling to the skin. The only drawback is the dropper can sometimes make it so I use more product than I need, so be mindful of that and you shouldn’t have a problem! The Ordinary is owned by parent company DECIEM which is strongly opposed to animal testing and has made several sustainability commitments clearly marked on their website including recycled shipping materials, carbon neutral shipping boxes, in-store recycling, composting at their offices, and reducing waste in production. You can read about those initiatives here.
Elate Cosmetics Organic Pressed Powder Foundation
I am a big fan of Elate Cosmetics, as they have incredible values- from prioritizing fair trade ingredients and gorgeous refillable packaging, their brand is truly one of my favorites. The Organic Pressed Powder Foundation comes in a first time order with a bamboo case, and a magnetic pan with the pressed powder inside. I switch off between using the shade PN1 (light) or PW2 (medium light). Both look fine on me. When it’s finished, I simply remove the magnetic pan, clean, and recycle it and reuse the same compact over and over again. You can then order a refill in seed plantable or compostable paper for a lower price!This is the case with most Elate products that come in pans, like the bronzer, concealer, and highlight I use from them. If you’re looking to save some money, you can even reuse any magnetic makeup palette that would hold this size if you have one. In order to reduce waste, the company also has a Perfectly Imperfect program where you can purchase products with packaging that has slight imperfections for a reduced cost. It has excellent coverage and what I love about pressed foundations is they last incredibly long- making the price more sustainable for me. On the site I have linked you can use my discount code WORTHNOTWASTE for 10% off.
The Ordinary Coverage Foundation
The Ordinary Coverage Foundation doesn’t come in glass packaging, but it’s important to remember that not all plastic is bad- in fact, plastic packaging often has a smaller carbon footprint than glass and less fragility. I typically only use powder foundation so spending lots of money on the glass bottled foundation that Elate has when it might expire before I use all of it would be a waste.The Ordinary, like I mentioned before, has lots of environmental initiatives, including recycling dropoff at DECIEM stores, carbon neutral shipping, and it is free from animal testing. Price is. Also, the formulation provides good coverage and doesn’t break out my skin- typically the case with most liquid products for me.
Elate Cosmetics Sunbeam Bronzer
I use Elate Cosmetics’ Sunbeam Bronzer and it is such a gorgeous color! All but one of Elate’s products’ I use are refillable, and this one lasts such a long time. It is an auburn/brown color and very buildable. Again, the refill is less expensive. (Also just a tip- if you live in the US it is faster to buy their products off of Earthhero, which is where I get mine! All the links I have for them are from that site.) Use code WORTHNOTWASTE for 10% off.
Ilia Beauty Multi Stick
I love multi use products and this one has a shade I love too! I got this Ilia beauty multi stick from Sephora which can use as blush (what I primarily use it for), a light lip tint, or eye shadow. Ilia makes makeup (it’s typically a bit out of my price range) with sustainable recycled packaging and organic ingredients, and even has a recycling program where you can send back the packaging of 5 products from ANY beauty company once a month.
Elate Cosmetics Creme Revealer Concealer
The concealer by Elate is probably the face product I use the most. It’s a really good concealer that you apply with your fingers or a brush- it’s a cream pot concealer, but know that this pan is a lot smaller than the others. It lasts a while depending on how generous you are with application.
Elate Cosmetics Universal Creme Highlighter
Yes, another Elate product. However the shade ‘Wonder’ shade Universal Creme Highlighter is one I won’t be repurchasing. It is a really nice cream highlighter that you use your fingers to apply, but I’m not really a fan of the sparkles. If you want a sparkly and gorgeous highlighter you will definitely enjoy it, I’m just more of a shimmer fan and don’t prefer sparkles. I’m thinking of getting the LUSH cosmetics Feeling Younger highlighter or the Fat and the Moon Beam highlighter next.
Eye products I use
Besame Cake Mascara/Eyeliner
I use Besame’s Mascara Cake as both eyeliner and mascara but much prefer it as an eyeliner because I don’t use eyeliner every day and it isn’t as convenient, but it is very low waste. You receive a brick of mascara inside a small tin, and can order refills in compostable packaging. It’s the original method of applying mascara, and this company offers a lot of different vintage products. This mascara cake is pricier than what I would normally spend but it lasts such a long time and is more hygienic. If you want a more conventional method of applying eyeliner, Elate makes a water resistant liner.
Pacifica Highest Lash Chronic Volume Mascara
The Pacifica Highest Lash Chronic Volume vegan mascara I use is a lot less expensive than the others, and can be found in a lot of different grocery stores. It is made out of recycled plastic and Pacifica has a recycling program that will take back their packaging! It’s not perfect but it’s great start for an affordable company. I use a lot of their haircare products too that are difficult to find in sustainable packaging, but we aren’t actually recycling if we don’t use recycled materials.
Elate Essential Mascara
The Elate Essential Mascara works really well and has pretty sustainable packaging. The inner tube is recycled plastic that is very thin, and has a bamboo casing to ensure it doesn’t crack. The wand’s handle is also bamboo. To dispose of it you can crush the bamboo casing open with either an Xacto knife or a hammer, and compost. I can send the wand back through Ilia’s recycling company or the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge. To clean out the plastic tube remove the rubber stopper, and it’s pretty easy to rinse out and recycle.
Morphe eyeshadow singles
I made my own magnetic palette to put eyeshadow singles in years ago, and I also have one by Elate and Morphe. Morphe eyeshadow singles come in plastic, but they are really pigmented and inexpensive and come in magnetic tins as well. I figured getting the couple colors I liked instead of a whole palette is still a lot less wasteful. Elate also makes the same type of eyeshadow packaging, but I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on such little product and colors that I’m not personally a big fan of. Morphe has discontinued a lot of my favorite shades and their site is slim pickings right now, so I’m thinking of looking at Colourpop‘s next after some recommendations on Instagram from all of you!
Elate Brow Balm
I use Elate’s brow balm in the shade “suede” as brow pomade, and I have 0 complaints. It works really well and lasts quite a while! It has the same refill function as the rest of Elate pan products. And a reminder that you don’t even have to buy the compact and just buy the refill if you have a magnetic palette.
Elate Creme Lipsticks
I absolutely love lipstick. It would be the product I cannot live without. I used to wear bright red lipstick almost every day in high school. I use Elate’s lipsticks, which come in bamboo and aluminum, and a small plastic insert.. You can compost the bamboo and recycle the metal. There They claim that the small plastic tube lining is recyclable, but I can only recycle plastic containers in my area. I have the shades Brazen (my favorite), Grace, Apropos, and Rosebud. Be careful to not shove the bamboo cap all the way down, a bit of the metal lining is supposed to show. I made that mistake and accidentally cracked the caps but it still works.
I also use these makeup remover wipes I got from Amazon (before I knew the impact of it) but I’ve had them for years and love them. If you’re looking for some sustainably made ones, I have had good things from Marley’s Monsters in so many different patterns, and Face Halo. I also use safflower oil to remove makeup and then cleanse it off using these wipes and water, and then wash my face as normal.