How To Perceptively Make Your Beauty Routine More Sustainable 

Spring has sprung: fresh skin, barely-there brows and a single wash of matte sundial graze the eyes. Photography by Harold Julian

Small habit shifts matter when it comes to saving the planet

We know that our actions have a colossal effect on the planet and all that thrives on it. What we don’t often grasp is how even the most mundane and day-to-day choices we make can impact the well-being of the environment. Since its inception, we’ve been conditioned to treat beauty products as wholly disposable, so we never really gave its consumption (or over-consumption) a real thought. How often do we give our shampoo bottle a second thought after we’ve squeezed out the last drop of product and mindlessly tossed it in the trash? Or the possibility that even a recyclable product is left to rot in landfills because we don’t realize how hard it could be to separate the recyclable part from the leftover residue, glue, labels, ink, etc.? “Cosmetics packaging is notoriously wasteful, and usually composed of mixed materials that cannot be easily disassembled or recycled,” says Ashlee Piper, a sustainability expert and author, whose continuous goal is to teach folks how to live more sustainably without sacrificing convenience. Sustainable practices don’t need to be unattainable, overwhelming or complex. “Small habit shifts matter when it comes to saving the planet,” adds Piper, “just as we approach our food, wardrobe and home with attention to reusability, we need to examine and tweak our personal care and beauty routine.” Refillable, reusable, waterless, recycled, recyclable, and multipurpose… brands today present plenty of options to help us make conscious choices. But a real change, however small it may be to begin with, is only possible if there is a switch in how we perceive our beauty consumption. Ahead, Piper advises on how to make our beauty routine more sustainable by making mindful choices:

Do a beauty fast to determine what you actually use and need

Pare down to a set number of items for a designated period of time, say a month. The rest of the beauty products that don’t make the cut, put in a box out of sight. Then, go about your grooming. If you sorely miss an item you put away, that’s an indication you might need/use it. If after the month, you haven’t thought much about most or all the items you put out of sight, you probably don’t need them and it’s time to donate them in an ethical way, like holding a fun beauty swap with friends

Use up what you have before replacing 

So often, we’ve been conditioned to think that sustainable living means we have to run out and buy all new eco-friendly things, but that’s counteractive. Using up what you already have—the last bit of shampoo, that lipstick you’ve been ignoring, is an equally important part of responsible eco stewardship and key to both exercising the consumer moderation we need to be better to the planet, and practically approaching creating less waste.

When it’s time to re-up, look for versatility 

Look for products that can serve a variety of functions. A moisturizer that can be used for the face and body, a bar that can shampoo and clean the body, an essential oil that can be used to clean blemishes as well as serve as a perfumer. Makeup can serve the same purpose—a brown liner pencil you can use for eyes or brows. Multipurpose products will not only lighten your makeup bag, but also lessen the environmental toll. 

When acquiring a new product, be conscious about how it’s made

Ensure it’s cruelty-free and vegan, has the least amount of packaging possible (or has packaging that can be refilled, repurposed, or reused), and is eco-friendly in other ways (was made with fair-trade ingredients by people making a living wage, etc).

Follow ‘ethical offloading’ of even used beauty products

No need to send them all to the landfill if they don’t work for you—gather your friends, sterilize what you can with some rubbing alcohol and have a beauty swap. It’s fun and people leave with new-to-them beauty goodies. 

Discard mindfully

A good rule of thumb is to separate the materials however you can. Think of a glass foundation bottle—the glass can be unscrewed from the pump, the label removed, the contents inside washed out and dried, and then likely recycled. Ensure anything you’re aiming to recycle is completely clean (even though no small feat with makeup and beauty items) and dry.

This article was originally published on Vogue India.

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