Upgrade your regimen and be kinder to Mother Nature with these tips.

By Deanna Pai
Updated April 21, 2021
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Beauty companies are getting serious about saving Mother Nature (as they should be). Although there might have been a time when single-use plastic and non-recyclable materials were highly desirable, that's no longer the case. We're now seeing eco-friendly swaps for your everyday productsalternatives for your favorite bath items, and makeup that's good for both you and the earth. However, that's not everything you can do. Here, we came up with five useful tips to benefit you (making smarter buying choices) and the world (not wasting any of your precious product). Implementing these tricks into your routine are just a few small ways that can add up to a big difference.

person dropping empty beauty product container into recycling box
Credit: Courtesy of Nordstrom

1. Use Every Last Drop

Can't reach the serum at the bottom of the jar? If a cotton swab doesn't get it, consider a tool designed to keep products from going to waste. A top-rated option is the Every Drop Beauty Spatula, which you can buy on Amazon for just $5. But don't try to thin out the formula. "Water seriously impacts a product's efficacy," says Annie Jackson, co-founder of clean beauty brand retailer Credo. Better to turn a bottle over, give it a shake, then let gravity do the rest

2. Recycle Your Empties

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

3. 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 the rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle for mess-free cleaning.)

4. 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 such as cleansers, toners, facial oils, and serums. If you're stuck with non-recyclable 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.

5. 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% organic agricultural ingredients. Those claiming "made with organic ingredients" must have at least 70%.
  • 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 (usually 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 are not 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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