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Ask a room of people if they'd like a more sustainable beauty routine, and very few would say no. Beauty is a notoriously wasteful industry and most of us are aware, however vaguely, that we need to be kinder to our planet.
With that said, eco-friendly beauty routines have an image problem. We imagine intense recycling bin complications, having to swap our favorite lipstick for a tricky-to-source and even trickier-to-love natural alternative, and, oh I don't know, making toothbrushes out of composted lentils.
Realistically, sustainable beauty is perceived as more complicated because it is—but only ever-so-slightly. It's a hassle in the same way that bringing your own tote to the shop is ever-so-slightly more hassle than taking a plastic carrier, but so worth it for the feeling of doing your little bit. You really don't need to radically change your lifestyle to build a nod to sustainability into your beauty routine. And these are the easiest earth-friendly expert hacks you need to do it. Try one, or try them all. A satisfied (ok smug) 'I'm being eco'-glow is the best look of all.
Six sustainable beauty hacks, by the experts
1. Buy more bins
How many empty products in your bathroom or bedroom bins could actually have been recycled if it didn't involve extra legwork? "Put recycling bins in other rooms in your home, not just your kitchen" advises Stephen Clarke, Head of Communications at TerraCycle Europe. "The bathroom is a prime example of where the addition of a recycling bin can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill."
2. Cleanse with a conscience
Recycling is brilliant, but using less in the first place is even better. Cleansing products such as cotton pads and face wipes are a great place to start as their reusable counterparts are cheap, but also superior in quality and performance. "For your beauty accessories that are not dispensable, you can explore re-usable alternatives," says L’Oréal UK & Ireland’s sustainable beauty expert, Natalia Agathou. "Washable items such as face cloths and cotton pads are a great way of minimizing the amount of waste we create during our daily skincare routines."
3. Supersize your shopping
Most of us are creatures of habit, so if there's a product you come back to again and again buy it in the largest size available. Aside from offering better value—and of course the sheer childlike joy of having a jumbo-sized version of your best face moisturizer or fancy flower fragrance—It'll save on packaging waste as well as energy emissions.
4. Try solid haircare
Time was when even the best shampoo bars were a lackluster bunch. But they've come on leaps and bounds in recent years, so if you're only going to try one eco-beauty product make is this. "With UK households throwing away up to 520 million shampoo bottles per year, using a solid shampoo bar is a great way to help reduce plastic waste in your bathroom," explains Agathou. "Solid shampoo bars are also great products as they are lighter than liquid ones and less emissions are generated when those are transported." Win-win!
5. Chill while you wash
The benefits of wild swimming famously advertise how the occasional dunk in cold water can offer improved circulation, shinier hair, and renewed energy—but now we can add saving the planet to that list too. Hot water creates more CO2 than cold water and uses more energy, so try turning your shower (or sink tap) cold for part of your wash. Icy cold facial cleansing is particularly great for reducing puffy eyes and giving skin an instant glow. If the idea of a cold shower for any length of time sounds like torture, take it down to lukewarm with just a few seconds of cold at the end. Devotees of wellness guru Wim Hof swear by the mood-boosting powers of a 30-second final blast, which is something to aim for.
6. Recycle the unrecyclable
Where there's a will, there's a way not to chuck your bathroom products in the 'bad bin'—and said ways are actually pretty straightforward, according to Clarke. "If a bathroom item isn’t collected by your council, check out TerraCycle’s free recycling programmes (opens in new tab), collect your waste in a separate bin at home and take it to your nearest drop-off location." Think of it like going to the bottle bank, but for nicer smelling bottles.
And if there are no convenient Terracycle locations for you? "If there’s nothing nearby you can purchase a Zero Waste Box for beauty products and packaging, contact lenses, oral care waste, and more for any room in the house," explains Clarke. "The cost covers the entire recycling process, from the box itself, to the shipping and the waste being recycled."
7. Hang on to some packaging
Keep old packaging out of the system by keeping it at home! Pretty beauty jars and tools can be reused in so many useful ways. The empty jar of a posh candle makes a perfect makeup brush holder, while old mascara wands can be cleaned up and used as spoolies to groom eyebrows and separate lashes. Empty eyeshadow palettes can become mixing palettes, to blend shades of lipstick and concealer together, while an empty bronzer or blush compact makes excellent storage for all those little kirby grips and hair elastics that, without a home, tend to get lost in the carpet and never seen again.
woman&home thanks Stephen Clarke and Natalia Agathou for their time and expertise
As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.