Zero-Waste Personal Care? Why and How to Make the Swap

Let’s face it – our personal care products aren’t going anywhere. Items like shampoo, lotion, hair care, skincare, and makeup are a must-have for our daily routines. But the personal care and beauty industries currently rely heavily on plastics. Just about every personal care product you can think of comes encased in plastic, much of which can’t be recycled. And even if it can be recycled, this is usually an intensive process of dismantling the plastic containers or cleaning them prior to recycling. And let’s admit it – we’re all usually a bit too busy to deal with that. Cue the rise of zero-waste personal care.

The booming $500 billion per year global personal care industry relies on plastic. That shampoo? Housed in a plastic bottle—often fully or partly unrecyclable. That body wash? Same. 

National Geographic

Because of the size of the personal care industry, its environmental footprint is equally as staggering. National Geographic describes how in just the U.S. alone, “the amount of plastic packaging on U.S. products (not just on personal care items) has increased by over 120 times since 1960—with almost 70 percent of that waste piling up in landfills.” This need for packaging for the personal care industry ties into yet another industry – the global packaging industry for personal care and beauty products (which is very plastic-reliant) makes up almost $25 billion in sales.

Plastic-free packaging

Some brands have turned to plastic-free packaging alternatives such as glass, which can be recycled indefinitely. But this choice has its own drawbacks. According to National Geographic, glass packaging costs as much as 10 times as a plastic alternative. Plus, glass is heavier, causing shipping costs and the carbon footprint of shipping to quickly rise. Adina Gregoire, the founder of S.W. Basics, a personal care brand that exclusively uses glass packaging, commented on this issue. “I can’t believe how behind the consumer product world is in terms of sustainability,” she says. “The options just aren’t really there yet, and the smaller brands have to ride the tailwinds of the larger companies who are pushing for R&D” (National Geographic).

Other than glass, some brands are using metal containers that can be refilled or reused, or alternatively using cardboard or compostable packaging.

Zero-Waste Products – A Packaging-Free Option?

As an alternative, many brands have begun looking into zero-waste, personal care products – items that often come in solid forms, eliminating the need for plastic bottles or packaging. Solid shampoos are a great example of this. After all, if bar soap can exist without a plastic container, why can’t shampoos? Other brands are doing the same with products like face washes, opting to create solid products that, once used, have little to no packaging waste. These zero-waste items might take a little getting used to, since most of us are more familiar with more traditional liquid products. But as more and more brands jump on this bandwagon, the industry is seeing an influx of products that help the earth without sacrificing functionality.

Read on for just a few brands that are currently offering zero-waste personal care and beauty products, whether in solid forms that don’t require packaging, or in reusable or refillable packaging.

Zero-Waste Personal Care Brands

Etee Skincare

  • body soap, facial cleansing bars, lip balm, and lotion bars

Meow Meow Tweet

  • various formulations of facial cleansing bars

Empire Squid Organics

  • sunscreen, lotions, toners, serums, cleansers and face masks (all in paper or glass packaging)

Ethique

  • all bar-form products – facial cleansers, scrubs, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions

Zero-Waste Beauty Brands

Dab Herb Makeup

  • makeup and face primer (packaged in paper, refillable metal tins or glass jars)

River Organics Makeup

  • makeup including tinted lip balms, bronzer and highlighter (compostable packaging or reusable glass)

Beeyou Organics

  • bb creams, face powder, mineral eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara (tin, glass or paperboard packaging)

Nudi Goods

  • lip balm, mascara, highlighter, and brow wax (metal tins or compostable cardboard)

As you continue your sustainable lifestyle journey, Atlys is here for you. Explore more of our blog for brand recommendations and lifestyle tips, or visit our Directory to search for brands we’ve rated for sustainability and ethics.