How to care for your skin and the planet – beauty regimes that don’t cost the Earth.

Everyone wants to look their best, but our constant pursuit of smooth skin, shiny hair and the latest on-trend makeup looks can have a seriously ugly impact on the environment. Here’s how to make sure looking on-point isn’t making the Earth look a lot worse.

  1. Avoid the plastic packaging

It’s no secret that plastic is a major environmental offender, and the beauty industry is full of it. Choose products that are packaged in plastic alternatives – such as Ben & Anna’s paper-covered deodorant stick or Zao’s refillable, bamboo-packaged makeup line. Better yet, go for products that have no packaging at all. Lush, for example, has a huge array of shampoos, lotions and cleansers in bar form.

  1. Inspect the ingredients

Ingredient lists on beauty products contain a baffling array of items and terms you’ve probably never heard of, and while some are completely harmless, others are a bit more problematic. Palm oil is found in a lot of lotions and creams, but the environmental impact of sourcing this product is enormous (read more about that here).

Other troublesome ingredients include phthalates, mercury, toluene, lead, formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, parabens and BHA – these are generally considered bad for our health, and subsequently the planet. If in doubt, choose organic products instead. The Soil Association has created The Cosmetics Standard, which will help you suss out certified organic cosmetics.

  1. Go easy on the cotton wool and face wipes

Taking your make-up off properly every night is one of the best things you can do for your skin, but if you're heavy-handed with the cotton wool and wet wipes, it’s not so good for Mother Nature. Cotton uses a frightening amount of water and chemicals to produce, while cotton wool buds are even worse, since the plastic sticks will sit in landfill forever. Meanwhile, facial wipes are frequently the main culprits in the revolting ‘fat balls’ that clog up sewer systems and pollute waterways.

Reusable make up pads, such as these from Face Halo, will do the trick just as well and for a fraction of the environmental impact – and you only need to add water! If you can’t do without cotton swabs, go for these ones from It’s All About You – they’re completely biodegradable.

  1. Ditch the disposable razors

Billions of disposable razors are chucked away every year across the globe. They can’t be recycled, their blades pose a health and safety risk, and their metal parts eventually rust, contaminating landfills and the areas around them – and they’re not even that effective! Instead of contributing to the waste mountain in pursuit of silky smooth skin, invest in a reusable razor instead. This one from Bambaw is made partially from bamboo and all of its parts are completely recyclable, whereas this one from Preserve is made from recycled plastic and can also be completely recycled after use – it’s a top pick according to Ethical Consumer, too.

  1. Recycle right

When you’re finished with your products – whether that’s because they’re empty or because you’re simply not using them anymore – make sure the packaging ends up in the right place. The labels on bottles and containers will tell you whether or not something can be recycled – check whether your local recycling collection service will accept these materials. Don’t worry if they won’t – a lot of major cosmetics brands now run their own take-back recycling programmes. Origins, for example, will take cosmetic empties from any brand, while Garnier will recycle its packaging for free, as will The Body Shop. Even better Neal’s Yard will give you a 10% discount as an incentive for returning your empties.

For a long time the beauty industry was a major problem for the environment – and in many ways it still is, but the good news is that more and more companies are waking up to the need for sustainable cosmetics and products. Choosing these where you can sends the important message to brands that nothing’s worth jeopardising the beauty of the planet.

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