What Is Zero-Waste Beauty (and How Can We Incorporate It Into Our Routines)?

Lately you may have seen the words zero waste on your body lotion (and if that’s the case, we applaud you). It’s an emerging trend within the beauty industry, and as someone who has spent the better part of a decade reporting on such matters, it’s the trend I am most excited about.

To get a better understanding of what this term actually means, I spoke to Tiila Abbitt, the CEO and founder of Aether Beauty, a sustainable makeup company that launched the first zero-waste eye shadow palette in the industry.

"Zero waste means making sure nothing ends up in a landfill," explains Abbitt. "That can mean a few things: One is that a product is reusable, another is that it can actually be recycled." (I’m going to interrupt here briefly to drop in that oft-quoted National Geographic stat about how 91 percent of plastic ends up in landfills.) "And on that note, it’s making sure there is no packaging or packaging waste. The main idea is to limit what actually goes directly in your trash."

And it's not just the indie brands who are making strides toward sustainability. Procter & Gamble (the parent company behind Dove, Secret and Herbal Essences) joined forces with TerraCycle’s LOOP program last year, which provides shoppers with a simple website where they can request pick-ups and order refills of popular household products like shampoo and laundry detergent.

"The idea of adopting a zero-waste routine can be intimidating because people think they have to completely switch up their entire lifestyle, but this isn’t about perfection," says Abbitt. "We don’t need a few people creating a zero-waste lifestyle perfectly. We need millions of people trying their best, thinking more about their own footprint and making better choices with the goods they are purchasing, however imperfectly, to make a difference." In sum, it’s not an all-or-nothing affair.

So, how else can we be start being more conscious of our consumption? "Look for products that have less waste, are package-free or are fully recyclable. And avoid single-use items like face wipes and cotton rounds," shares Abbitt. We’re also fans of recycling programs from brands like M.A.C. and Lush, who offer new products in exchange for empties. And beyond carefully choosing your beauty products, start bringing reusable items like shopping bags, coffee mugs and water bottles, utensils and metal straws with you for when you are out and about. OK, now who’s ready to shop some of our favorite sustainable beauty products?

How This Woman Compiled 8 Years of Trash into a Mason Jar (Plus Her Easy Waste-Reducing Tips)

zero waste beauty aether rose quartz crystal gemstone palette

Aether Beauty Rose Quartz Crystal Gemstone Palette

Talk about a 360 approach. Everything from the palette itself (which is made from FSC-certified paper and printed with water-based soy ink) to the shadow pans (which are made from recycled aluminum) and the elastic closure (which replaces traditional magnets that are not recyclable) has sustainability in mind. Plus, the shadows themselves are richly pigmented and buttery in texture, with shades ranging from an everyday beige to a stunning rose-gold shimmer.

zero waste beauty ethique heali kiwi shampoo bar

Ethique Heali Kiwi Solid Shampoo Bar

Say goodbye to plastic bottles and pumps. Packaged with a compostable label and made with 100 percent sustainably sourced ingredients like neem and oatmeal, this solid shampoo smells delightfully of kiwi and is particularly soothing to dry, itchy scalps. (Also, 20 percent of the brand’s profits are donated to environmental charities.)

zero waste beauty follain refillable everything soap

Follain Refillable Everything Soap

Fans of castile soap will love this multipurpose (and completely nontoxic) cleanser. Use it to wash hands and dishes, on kids and on pets. The silky lather is gentle on every surface, and the glass bottle can be refilled at any Follain store, so you reduce the number of plastic bottles in your home. Choose from a fresh lavender or lemongrass scent (we’re partial to the lavender).

zero waste beauty makeup eraser makeup remover cloth

Makeup Eraser Makeup Remover Cloth

Fact: An estimated 7.6 billion pounds of makeup wipes are thrown into landfills each year (making them the third most wasteful product in the world). Pretty staggering, right? Enter the makeup eraser, a super-soft, reusable cloth that gently whisks away all traces of makeup on your face. To use, soak it in warm water and wipe off your makeup as you normally would. When you’re done, toss it in the laundry. Each cloth lasts up to a thousand washes and is just as effective (if not more) than its single-use counterparts.

zero waste beauty edwin jagger double edge safety razor

Edwin Jagger Double-edge Safety Razor

Though a safety razor may take some getting used to initially, it’s actually preferred by many because it delivers a closer shave with less irritation. (The trick is to hold the razor at a 30-degree angle and not press down too hard on the blade.) Simply guide it over your skin and take your time with it. In addition to its cosmetic benefits, think of all the plastic you’ll be saving by not using disposable razors anymore.

zero waste beauty love beauty and planet shampoo concentrate
Love Beauty and Planet

Love Beauty And Planet Coconut Water & Mimosa Flower Concentrated Shampoo

Love Beauty and Planet, which was launched by Unilever in 2017, uses ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients and packaging that is 100 percent recycled and recyclable. Their latest launch is one of our favorites: shampoo and conditioner concentrates. Requiring just half the amount of product you'd usually use in the shower, each bottle requires less water to make and uses less plastic per package.

Buy it ($7; available end of April)

zero waste beauty ck everyone eau de toilette

Ck Everyone Eau De Toilette.

Fans of the iconic CK One take note: Calvin Klein's latest fragrance is also their first environmentally conscious one. Boasting a Cradle to Cradle certification, it was formulated using 77 percent naturally derived ingredients and post-consumer recycled materials in its packaging. Crafted by Master perfumer Alberto Morillas, it smells of organic orange, blue tea and cedarwood.

Jenny Jin Headshot Vertical 2023

Beauty Director

Jenny Jin is PureWow’s Beauty Director and is currently based in Los Angeles. Since beginning her journalism career at Real Simple magazine, she has become a human encyclopedia of...