Think you don’t make that much impact on the environment? The average household produces over 2.2 tonnes of waste each year. No small part of that is created through our daily hygiene routines – including the products and tools we use in our skin care.
As much as we want to all be eco-warriors, sometimes our busy lives or pressing skin concerns take priority and changing our entire routine isn’t possible. What’s a beauty-conscious person to do when faced with the dilemma of maintaining their skin while also being kind to the environment? So how can we find a happy balance?
Luckily, there are some easy swaps you can make that will cut down on your skin care waste without having to totally overhaul your habits. These low- and no-waste replacements are just as good if not BETTER than their single use counterparts. So take the time to make the shift and be a part of the positive change to your skin and our planet.
Swap face wipes for microfibre cloths
A staple of lazy millennials struggling with exams and work everywhere, face wipes litter bathrooms worldwide. When you’re busy or tired, what’s not to love about a convenient, one-and-done cleansing solution? But unfortunately not only are the surfactants in standard wipes overly irritating, the waste levels of single-use-products like that are less than ideal.
Both issues can be solved by switching to microfibre face cloths, which can be dampened and gently rubbed over the face to remove even stubborn makeup in place of a cleansing wipe. If you replace your throw-away wipes you used twice a day, that’s 728 wipes you’re saving from landfill each year! Multiply that by all the people you know who use them and you can start to see the how a small change like making zero waste skin care replacements can make an impact. Better yet, skip the wipes all together and use a cleansing oil!
Swap regular packaging to low, reusable or refillable packaging
Japan has an incredible system for incentivising recycling and waste reduction. PET plastic bottles used for cosmetics are not able to be recycled like food product are, for health & safety reasons, so to limit their abundance, almost every cosmetic or household hygiene product is offered in two versions: original hard, plastic packaging and a soft recyclable bag version at a reduced price. That way, you only ever have to buy your favourite products once, then you can refill it time and time again! Or, you can just buy the refills from the get-go and use some cute bottle you already have around the house.
Similarly, many eco-conscious brands like Lush offer products that are eco-friendly or packaging-free options. One of my favorites is Lush’s baby face cleansing balm, which is great for breaking down waterproof makeup as port of a double cleanse! Once you’re finished, you’ll either have nothing to throw away (yay!) or a container you can reuse for all sorts of things around the house, or send it to be recycled.
Swap cotton pads for reusable pads
I’m guilty of producing so much rubbish in the form of cotton pads. Seeing as I used micellar water twice a day every day as a cleanser for years, my bin could be up to 90% these bad boys. So I’ve decided to make the switch to reusable cotton pads. Exactly the same convenience, with even better results and none of the waste. You can either make the machine-washable fabric rounds yourself, or purchase them pre-made. And best of all, they come in all sorts of cute designs and colours so your routine can feel a little more personalised!
Swap Q-Tips for ear picks
This is probably stretching the definition of skin care, but not only are Q-tips/cotton swabs gross and ineffective at healthily cleaning your ears, but they’re a total burden on the environment. Yet again, when visiting Japan for the first time, I was introduced to an ear pick. This long stick has a gently curved end and can be inserted into your ears the scrape wax out of the outer ear canal. Then you simply wash the stick and put it away for next time. Used properly, they’re far healthier for your ears than compacting the wax with a soft Q-tip and barely getting anything out. And as a very affordable one-time purchase, it’s well worth the money you’ll save never buying Q-tips again.
Being environmentally conscious isn’t limited to your beauty routine. Tons of household and hygiene products can be replaced with different options that are more sustainable without sacrificing their efficacy. And zero-waste is the goal, not a hard and fast rule. Any change is good.
But while all the little changes like this add up to a lot, it’s nothing in comparison to big companies and industries’ waste. It’s often said that the commercial to household waste ratio sits at around 97 parts commercial to 3 parts household. To fully be part of the environmental movement, in conjunction with mindful habits and purchases you should support activism on a larger scale. There are tons of amazing resources for every aspect of environmental conservation, from animal sanctuaries to fossil fuel reduction campaigns to ocean clean up programs, so you’re sure to find one that suits you.