More than half of Americans admit they throw away beauty products. Keep your out of the landfill with these simple changes.

By Deanna Pai
Updated March 15, 2019

Many companies are making the switch to eco-friendly packaging and incorporating more plant-based ingredients into their products. But there's also another side of green beauty, and it has to do with keeping unwanted purchases and used-up packaging from piling up on our planet. Here are five ways to shop smarter and give back to Mother Earth in the process.

Image courtesy of Getty.

Use Every Last Drop

Can’t reach the serum in the bottom of the jar? If a cotton swab doesn’t get it, consider a tool designed to keep products from going to waste. One to try: Recoup Beautiscoop, a wand with two spatulas that fit through the neck of small bottles. But don’t try to thin out the formula. “Water seriously impacts a product’s efficacy,” says Annie Jackson, cofounder of clean beauty brand retailer Credo. Better to turn a bottle over, give it a shake, then let gravity do the rest

Buy It: Recoup Beautiscoop, $11

Recycle Your Empties

Plastic bottles with an imprint of the number 1, 2, or 5 within a triangle are typically recyclable. Their caps, however, may not be. “Cosmetic packaging with mixed materials like metal and plastic are notoriously difficult to recycle,” says Ashlee Piper, an ecolifestyle expert. Happily, stores like Origins and Credo will recycle caps, empty tubes, and compacts—no purchase necessary. Some brands (like Burt’s Bees, L’Occitane, and Eos) have free recycling programs through TerraCycle, a company that creates new products from old packaging.

Give Away Old Products

Contact a local shelter to see if it will accept unopened or gently used products. Or send them to Project Beauty Share, which will distribute lightly used products (depending on the kind) to marginalized women. Piper recommends disinfecting anything that has been in contact with your skin with a mist or two of rubbing alcohol. (Put it in a spray bottle for mess-free cleaning.)

Related: 7 Women-Run Companies That Are Helping to Change the World

Reconsider the Packaging

Avoid hard-to-recycle materials by looking for items with minimal packaging, such as bar soaps that often come wrapped in recyclable paper. Lush sells solid bars of skin-care staples like cleansers, toners, facial oils, and serums. If you’re stuck with nonrecyclable packaging, repurpose it. A small plastic tub that held eye cream, for instance, could hold jewelry, other tiny items, or even beauty products when you travel. “I clean small containers and fill them with my face cream when I’m traveling instead of going out and buying travel-size containers,” Piper says.

Learn the Beauty Aisle Lingo

Knowing the meaning of the words on product packaging can help you make better-informed shopping decisions. Here's a guide.

  • Organic: Products labeled “organic” contain at least 95 percent organic agricultural ingredients. Those claiming “made with organic ingredients” must have at least 70 percent.
  • Clean: There’s no regulated definition, but it most often means the formula is free of controversial ingredients, including parabens (a common preservative), sulfates (a cleansing agent), and phthalates (often found in synthetic fragrances).
  • Vegan: No animal by-products, such as honey and lanolin, are in vegan products.
  • Cruelty-Free: This indicates that the formulas and ingredients weren’t tested on animals. The gold standard is the Leaping Bunny Program, which audits brands’ supply chains. PETA’s cruelty-free seal requires a written statement affirming the company doesn’t test on animals.


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