Finding the right zero waste makeup brand can seem almost impossible… so here’s a huge list of options that will fit everyone’s needs and budget!
But first a look at why we should care about low-waste beauty – then onto why you’re actually here, the list of zero waste makeup brands!
The down-low on cosmetics packaging
Walk through any store with cosmetics and you’ll be struck by the amount of packaging attached to a seemingly endless amount of items lining the walls.
Euromonitor reports that in 2008 the cosmetics industry created 120.8 billion units of packaging. (I didn’t find more recent statistics, but who’d care to wager that number went up?) Worse still, a lot of cosmetic packaging comes in plastics which are either non-recyclable or are at the very least iffy for the average consumer to guess about.
And, as one article succinctly states: “Though all technically recyclable, ‘difficult-to-recycle’ waste streams are not typically profitable to recycle in our current infrastructure. Cosmetics are often packaged in containers that are hard to clean, and the packaging is often comprised of mixed materials” (source).
There are alternatives like TerraCycle, which sells boxes which you fill with traditionally unrecyclable items and send the box to be recycled. A great idea in theory, but the prohibitive costs of their boxes make the program inaccessible to many. (Plus, why is it my job as a consumer to do the dirty work companies should already be doing themselves?!)
I try to avoid the problem altogether by not purchasing containers which can’t be repurposed in some way; thanks to that, my makeup routine is fairly low waste.
Brands to consider
With such a wide array of cosmetics products available, it can be overwhelming to try and narrow down your options. In this section I’ve highlighted zero waste makeup brands focused on being eco-conscious, even if I wouldn’t deem any of them the perfect company.
This section contain affiliate links. This means if you buy something through these links, I get a small commission at no cost to you.
V = vegan / CF = cruelty free / O = certified organic / PFP = plastic-free packaging
$ = drugstore prices / $$ = mid-range / $$$ = splurge
Brands with Take-Back Programs
While they might not be zero waste oriented, there are some brands that offer take-back programs for packaging that would be otherwise thrown away. Better yet, most of these companies are much more accessible than the others listed below. Lush ($$), Kiehl’s ($$$), Origins ($$), and MAC ($$$) are a few.
Alima Pure (CF / PFP)
Overview: not only are the ingredients natural and not tested on animals, Alima Pure has some major dedication to the Earth. They’re a carbon neutral company (unlike any other on this list), they donate 1% of their gross sales to grassroots organizations, and all their ingredients are listed and explained in an easy-to-understand way.
Packaging: they offer refillable compacts with magnetic pans for an easy switch-out once you hit empty. A lot of their sustainability works makes me inclined to support them even if they don’t offer a return program. In terms of shipping, Alima Pure ships their items in paper with minimal plastic waste.
Besame Cosmetics ($$ – CF / PFP)
Overview: Besame Cosmetics is one of my favorite brands because of its vintage-inspired looks. While not specifically zero waste in any way, their cosmetics are packaged in the sturdier, non-plastic packaging of the past, making them beautiful and functional.
Packaging: Besame Cosmetics comes with minimal cardboard packaging on their items. The packing peanuts they include in their shipping are water-soluble.
Elate ($$ – CF / V / PFP)
Overview: Elate Clean Cosmetics dubs itself as a sustainable company boasting vegan, cruelty free, gluten free, and toxin free cosmetics made in Canada. Their cases and containers are made of sustainable bamboo, although some do contain plastic parts which are so small I doubt they could be recycled and as far as I can tell, they don’t have a take-back program.
Packaging: “We use water soluble packing peanuts made from corn to pack your order. Any plastic you may find for added protection is always re-used by our company and never purchased. If you are taking a plastic free challenge or have a plastic free lifestyle please let us know in the notes section at checkout and we will do our best to accommodate you.” While that’s nice, it would be nicer if they just didn’t include the plastic. Don’t put that job on the consumer, companies.
Fat and the Moon ($-$$ – PFP)
Overview: Fat and the Moon is a small business that sells natural “potions” for the body including creams, deodorants, and cosmetics. The company touts its organic ingredients but is not certified organic; likely because of the cost rather than anything shady in their ingredients. Several sites claim they are vegan although the company does not explicitly state that on their site.
Packaging: on their site, Fat and the Moon state their priority “is to use reusable, recyclable containers, and to minimize superfluous packaging”. Products are in metal tins or glass and shipped with minimal packaging.
RMS Beauty (O / CF / PFP)
Overview: RMS Beauty products are formulated with raw, food grade and organic ingredients in their natural state. If you’re into all-natural, RMS is where it’s at. They offer foundation, lip, and blush products in metal and glass, but be careful; they’ve recently included plastic containers for some of their new products.
Packaging: RMS Beauty states “Packaging for RMS Beauty products is minimal, and all of it is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable.” The website doesn’t state what they use for shipping, but there is a space for comments on the order.
Kjaer Weis (CF / O / PFP)
Overview: Kjaer Weis sells luxury, sustainable cosmetics. If I had a coherent aesthetic, this would be it. Their compacts and other cosmetics containers are high-quality metal which are meant to last; the company offers refills for its products that drastically reduces the amount of packaging you create with their products.
Packaging: they don’t comment on their packaging or how they send their items safely, but it is possible to buy the items in-store to avoid shipping packaging.
Etsy has a huge range of zero waste makeup brands from all over the world. I’ve listed just a few below:
- Clean Faced Cosmetics: Clean Faced Cosmetics is a vegan, handmade cosmetics business with a healthy range of products from makeup to skincare to lotion and more. I have their foundation powder and mixing medium and I can’t recommend it more for simple, sheer coverage. Makeup [MI, USA]
- dirtyhippiecosmetics: one of the zero waste heavy-hitters on Etsy, dirtyhippiecosmetics offers tons of products. The one drawback is that the store is located in Australia, making it an unsustainable choice for most shoppers. Makeup, skincare, toiletries. [AUS]
- URBAPOTHECARY: this shop offers “plant centered organic body care for mind, body, spirit”. It offers face masks, beard oil, candles, and more – all in low-waste packaging. If you’re looking for a larger gift, I’d suggest one of their lovely themed sets. Makeup, skincare, selfcare. [CA, USA]
- SunnyBrae Buzz: Items for adults, kids, and pets alike! It’s not all vegan (some items use local beeswax), but everything else is fair trade and organic. Best of all the packaging is either reusable metal tins or recyclable/compostable cardboard tubes. [PA, USA]