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How To Make Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable

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How To Make Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable

By Alice Cattley 

We’ve bought our reusable water bottles, switched to slow fashion, and reduced the amount of meat in our diets. But as the climate crisis urges us all to live more sustainably, one aspect of our lifestyles can still feel hard to overhaul: our beauty routines.

Many of us will have been using the same products for years. Whether it’s a favourite mascara, a cult foundation, or a facial serum we swear by, the prospect of switching out our tried and tested items can be an unwelcome one. To take the first steps towards a greener beauty routine, why not try making small changes that can pave the way for greater ones? Irvetta has compiled three ways you can make your cosmetics bag more sustainable, responsible, and ethical.

Switch to Reusable Cotton Pads

Cotton wool pads have long been considered a beauty routine staple – from removing your makeup, to bathing your eyes, to cleaning up your nail polish after a home manicure. Many people believe that pure organic cotton pads (which are plastic-free) are in fact a sustainable option, but the Organic Trade Association tells us a different story:

‘Cotton is considered the world’s ‘dirtiest’ crop due to its heavy use of insecticides, the most hazardous pesticide to human and animal health. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop.’

Add to this the fact that most cotton wool pads are sold in plastic bags, and it’s clear that these beauty routine all-rounders aren’t as guilt-free as we thought. The good news is that you can make an easy substitution – reusable cotton pads, such as these ones made of bamboo fleece. Simply use them as you would a disposable cotton pad, then put them in a laundry bag in the washing machine to clean for next time. 

Choose Sustainable Beauty Brands 

When it comes to beauty, a brand’s sustainable credentials can be hard to pin down. This is because there are so many aspects to sustainability, from the sourcing of ingredients, to the type of materials used for packaging, to the treatment of workers.

As the dirty secrets surrounding cotton wool remind us, it’s not enough for a product to be biodegradable – sustainability should be the key word throughout the supply chain, safeguarding the wellbeing of workers, as well as the environment, from the point of origin to time of disposal.

Packaging made from sugarcane, for example, is often marketed as the sustainable alternative to plastic. But sugarcane requires huge amount of water and is often grown in areas which can suffer drought, such as Kenya and Sudan. This industry takes water supplies (and land) away from local farmers, who need the resources themselves.

While it’s true that almost every brand could (and should) be doing more to protect the planet, there are plenty that are making encouraging headway with sustainable initiatives and ethos.


US-based brand Axiology, which takes its name from the Greek word for ‘worth’, set out to make the world’s most ethical lipsticks and lip crayons. Its products – which are free from palm oil and PETA-approved – come in a wide range of shades and finishes, packaged in a recyclable (and recycled) aluminium tube. There’s no plastic to be found in their boxes, either, which are made from recycled paper in a factory which provides jobs for women in Bali.


Like Irvetta, Tropic believes in taking inspiration from the natural world. Its range of skincare, makeup, hair care, and body products are made from sustainably-sourced ingredients from Australia, Polynesia, and the Amazon (where it also funds conservation work). Tropic is a certified Carbon Neutral company that sends 0% of its waste to landfill.


REN’s clean skincare is on course to be zero waste by 2021. In the meantime, its primers, sunscreens, balms, serums and retinoid oils are made in the UK and packaged in recycled ocean plastic as part of a circular recycling scheme. REN also showcases a curated collection of sustainable brands on its website, helping small businesses gain online traction. 

Donate Your Unwanted Makeup

No matter how hard we try to streamline our beauty routines and keep a minimalist makeup bag, many of us have an assortment of unused – or barely used – beauty products hiding away in our bathrooms or at the bottom of our dressing tables.

Around the world, the cosmetics industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging every year. This includes protective wrapping and shipping boxes, as well as the tubs, tubes and pots our cosmetics come in. When you throw away an unused product, it’s not just the packaging you’re inflicting on the planet – you’re also sending potentially harmful chemicals to landfill or the ocean, where they can contaminate wildlife such as birds, turtles and fish. 

Rather than throwing away your unwanted cosmetics, sort through your supplies and identify anything which is in ‘nearly new’ condition. The community interest company DropPoint, which believes that ‘nothing is waste until it’s wasted’, can direct you towards any local initiatives that accept cosmetics donations.

Whether it’s a group that supports survivors of domestic abuse, refugees, or people braving cancer treatments, there are charities both at national and regional level which pass on barely-used cosmetics to those who can use them. After all, makeup doesn’t just have to look good – in the right circumstances, it can also do good.

With these simple steps, you can start your journey towards a cleaner, greener and more mindful beauty routine.