Photo: Leander Lenzing

According to Plastic Oceans International, a non-profit organisation based in California, 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year—50% of which are single-use plastics, such as the packaging that your beauty products come in. You’d think that since they’re all made out of plastic that recycling them would be simple, but that’s not the case. The plastic packaging used in beauty products are more complex than they appear, and a lot harder to repurpose. Luckily, there’s a plethora of ways that you, as consumers, can help make the beauty industry more sustainable. The simplest way is to start at home by making more informed choices in your beauty routine. Here’s our tips on how you can start:

  1. 1. Opt for reusable cotton rounds
  1. From using toners to removing makeup, we’ve all used round cotton pads in our life. And although it may not be made out of plastic, it’s still harmful to our environment and unsustainable. Primarily because the methods of production20,000 litres of water is required to produce 1 kilogram of cotton. So, do the environment and your future self a favour by swapping out your cotton rounds for reusable ones. We recommend trying the 3 Pack from Face Halo, $29.80 via revolve. It’s a specially-designed microfiber pad that’s supposed to remove everything from foundation to mascara with just water. Which means it also eliminates the need for make remover (read: less packaging). Renowned British beauty editor and TV presenter, Nadine Baggott, is a huge fan of using microfiber cloths for makeup removal. If it’s good enough for Nadine, it’s good enough for us. Bonus? We did the math and it costs $0.05 per use, which is pretty much the same amount you’d pay for disposable ones. Alternatively, you can just use coconut oil which’ll remove all your makeup and moisturise your skin at the same time. 

2. Use a stainless steel razor

Let’s face itno one likes shaving (not even men) but it’s a necessary evil and we do it anyway. Or not, in which case, skip to our next tip. But for those of us who do shave, we’re all guilty of using disposable razors at some time in our lives and guess what? It’s hurting the environment. Especially if you count the number of times you have to toss it out for a new one because it became blunt. The metal blades in plastic razors make it difficult, if not impossible, to recycle so most of it ends up in landfills. So help the environment by taking a more sustainable approach to shaving with The Edwin Jagger Double Edge Safety Razor, $28.93, via amazon. And if you’re worried about the quality of shave you’ll be getting, fret not. Man Repeller’s Harling Ross tried it and wrote that “the shaving experience was excellent—super smooth, easy to hold (I barely had to exert pressure) and no irritation whatsoever”.

3. Bamboo toothbrush, anyone? 

You might be thinking, “how is using a wooden toothbrush more sustainable?”. Well, bamboo grows quicker than most trees used as wood and can thrive without fertiliser and pesticides. They’re also highly biodegradable and can be used as compost for your home garden (after removing the nylon bristles). Admittedly, nylon bristles aren’t that much more sustainable, but it beats using a boar bristle one which are incredibly harsh on the teeth. Bamboo toothbrushes are also naturally anti-microbiol. We like this Zero Waste Club Bamboo Toothbrush, $7.50, via selfridges. It’s handcrafted and 100-percent biodegradable. Not to mention, it’ll be a pretty addition to your vanity

4. Hit the bars

Soaps have been around since, well, the beginning of beauty products, which can be traced back to the Babylon times (around 2800 BC). These days, conventional soaps come in beautiful packaging with labels upon labels that’s made out of (you guessed it) plastic. Unless you’re using reusable bottles, the packaging for liquid soaps are tremendously wasteful and not sustainable at all. The best way to give your hair the TLC it needs (and deserves) whilst being environmentally-friendly, is to make the swap to bar shampoos. Which are a pretty recent addition to the Western beauty line-up. Most of these bar shampoos are made with natural ingredients, are paraben and sulfate-free and vegan. But the best part is that they’re generally more affordable, cost-per-use wise at least—you can generally use it for up to 80 washes, depending on usage frequency and volume of hair. We love this Christophe Robin Hydrating Shampoo Bar with Aloe Vera, $22 for 100g, via net-a-porter. It’s made with aloe vera, natural glycerin and castor oil which work together to gently eliminate dirt and restore hydration. It’s also suitable for all hair types and doubles up as body wash too.

5. Make your soaps work harder

We’ve become accustomed to having one product for our hair, one for our face and one for our body. That’s already three products with plastic packaging excluding conditioners and masks. Which is a lot of packaging and a lot of plastic. Have you ever considered using one soap for all of the above? Is it even possible? Yes, it is. With Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap, $11.90 for 237ml, via shopee, you can do all of the above, brush your teeth with it and even use it as aromatherapy. There’s a wide range of scents to choose from, ensuring there’s something for everyone. It’s a pretty versatile product that gets the job done and helps you save money, what’s not to love?

  1. 6. Swap out your moisturiser for oils

The myth that people with oily skin can’t use oils is just that, a myth. In fact, if you’ve got oily skin, the only thing you should be using on your face, if not anything else, should be a face oil. The science behind it is simple: Oils penetrate the epidermis better to deliver moisture, nourishment and all the other goodies deeper into your skin. Also, depending on which type of oil you use (based on your skin type), it can also help balance your pH levels and sebum production. All these points sound great, but how is it sustainable? For one, you’re generally going to use a lot less product which requires lesser repurchases. Furthermore, it’s a lot more “green” as it tends to contain more natural ingredients as opposed to chemicals—not all are bad, by the way. Our current favorite is the Sunday Riley, U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, $56 for 15ml via sephora. It’s a quick and easy-to-use medicated oil that helps clear up acne, blackheads and debris from congested pore for smooth and blemish-free skin. It contains salicylic acid which kills acne-causing bacteria and because it’s in an oil, it’ll penetrate deeper into your skin to give you better looking skin overtime.

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