Beauty doesn’t have to be wasteful: Sustainable Switches for 2020

We’ve all heard “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but what about beauty products? Beauty is an $8.1 billion global industry, and with it comes a lot of plastic and packaging. Shower products, soaps, skincare bottles, sheet masks, makeup remover cotton pads-it all add up in our trash to be, well, trash! 

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

Some consumers and advocates have started pushing against big brands when it comes to packaging and other waste. The Instagram account Estee Laundry has called out repeat offenders such as Pat McGrath Labs, who include handfuls of gold sequins in her packaging. Sequins are not recyclable and take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. 

Another repeat offender is Sephora, who will send a little lipstick or a single eyeshadow in a comically large box filled with bubble wrap. Some customers send complaints in the comments section of Sephora’s Instagram or through other channels such as online products reviews. 

It is heartwarming that some consumers have started to push back against brands. But the tides haven’t turned to really impact the industry in a meaningful way.  But before you start feeling too guilty, know that major corporations contribute much more to global waste than individuals. You still may feel like being a part of the solution, rather than the problem. Fear not! You can have some control over your consumption.

Here are some tips for becoming a more conscious beauty consumer in 2020. 


Switch to Reusable Cotton Makeup Remover Pads

In theory, single-use cotton pads are great for the environment. They’re natural and should break down in the compost. But your makeup is not compostable. Once you use your cotton pad, it has to go into the trash. But you can make the switch to reusable pads like these by Freon Collective. Made by hand in downtown Toronto, these reusable cotton pads come with a mesh bag where you can put your used ones. Throw them in the washing machine, lay flat to dry, and they’re as good as new!


Start using eco-friendly products

Whether it’s changing your laundry detergent or reducing the amount of single-use plastic, there are small changes you can make nowadays to make a big difference. For detergent, we’ve recently made a change and even when it comes to replacing any single-use plastic, there are great brands like Ecoy that offer sustainable options.


Shop Package Free or Refillable Products

Products with no packaging? It seems sacrilegious! But you often don’t need fancy frills. Lush Cosmetics  is mostly package free. Customers pop their bath bombs and slices of soap into brown paper bags. You can also check out stores that offer product refills. Rather than buying a new bottle when the product runs out, refill it at your local store! Eco+Armour is a Canadian company that partners with stores in Ontario and New Brunswick. They offer refillable beauty products such as hand soap, laundry detergent, lotion and bath salts. If you’re on the west coast, The Soap Dispensary has a wide range of refill categories, including clays, oils, hair products and hydrosols. This is a great way to reduce your consumption and get to know a local business. 


Try A Menstrual Cup

Menstrual care is an essential part of being human but can feel like a burdensome chore. Similarly, soap is essential to our hygiene but is in many ways thought of as a beauty product. So too is menstrual care. Basic hygiene is a chore that has been made more fun through packaging and targeted advertising. Let’s get real. Brushing your teeth as a kid was basically fluoride flavoured icing for toothpaste! So I have decided it falls under beauty care, and here we are! While it is a chore, menstruation is becoming less and less taboo and more openly discussed, which is beautiful. So I have, a person who menstruates, you will use approximately 9,600 tampons throughout your lifetime. Menstrual cups are a great alternative. Menstrual cups like the Divacup are made from medical grade silicone and can be used for a year before needing to be replaced. That will save you a lot of money on tampons and pads. It’ll also save you last-minute trips to the store when you, surprise, surprise, forgot to stock up on tampons since your last cycle. Unlike tampons, there are no added chemicals, which removes the risk of toxic shock syndrome and can be worn inside the body for 12 hours. I honestly cannot rave about menstrual cups enough, and it was such a glorious switch for me. Try it out and see if it works for you!


Recycle Your Packages in Store

Recycling facilities differ in every city, and they do not all accept beauty packaging. However, some brands are beginning to recognize the consumer desire to properly recycle packaging and make a greater effort, and they reward customers with perks. MAC Cosmetics has long had its “Back to MAC” program where customers can bring six empty MAC products to a store in exchange for a single free lipstick or eyeshadow. MAC will then properly recycle the empty packages. L’Occitane has partnered with TerraCycle, where customers receive 10% off one product when they bring back their accepted empty packaging. Toronto spa Pure+Simple credits customers one dollar when they bring in their empty Pure+Simple branded skincare products. That may not seem like a lot, but it really adds up when you’re drowning your skin in vitamin c serum, face masks and hydrosols. You may be surprised to hear the brands you shop for already offer a program. Check it out and get your rewards!


There are many ways we can impact the beauty industry to turn the tides towards sustainability. We can also try to take back some power by shifting our own practices. Share any changes you’ve made in your beauty routine!



Kaley Ames

Kaley Ames

Contributor at Addicted
Kaley Ames is a feminist stylist, PR consultant and podcaster living in downtown Toronto. She traded in a career in politics to help people express their personalities through fashion, beauty and storytelling. Kaley is a co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast and holds a masters degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from York University. She can often be seen at the movie theatre watching the latest blockbuster hit or watering her many houseplants.
Kaley Ames
Kaley Ames