Cover (Image: I Never Use Foundation Breakfast Club)

Looking for ways to clean up and green up your lifestyle? There are plenty of small steps you can take to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly. Here are five ideas to get you started

Additional reporting by Andrea Saadan

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Ditch the disposables

While most of us have got the memo about avoiding plastic straws and shopping bags, our beauty cabinets could also do with a bit of work. Think about swapping disposable items for more sustainable, long-lasting alternatives—for instance, metal safety razors instead of plastic disposable razors, reusable cloth facial rounds instead of single-use cotton wool pads or cleansing wipes, and brushes made from natural materials like wood or bamboo rather than plastic.

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Look for less packaging

Over the last few years, “naked” beauty products have become much easier to find—so now’s the time to trade in those plastic bottles of shampoo and shower gel for minimally-packaged items like soap and shampoo bars.

New Zealand brand Ethique has an extensive range of handcrafted solid beauty bars, including shampoos, conditioners, body wash, shaving soap and even face cleansers, serums, scrubs and creams. British green beauty pioneers Lush also sells products that are completely packaging-free, such as facial oils, cleansing wipes and cold cream cleansers.

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Buy better

If zero packaging isn’t completely feasible for all your beauty needs, choosing brands that minimise their use of single-use plastic packaging is another good option. Brands like Tata Harper and Aesop use mostly recyclable glass bottles for their packaging, Elate Cosmetics uses fair-trade bamboo packaging for their make-up line, local brand Coconut Matter use zero-waste cardboard and paper packaging for their all-natural deodorants, lipsticks and lip balms, and ILIA mainly uses recycled aluminium to house their cosmetics.

While many Japanese brands such as Shu Uemura and Clé de Peau Beauté have always championed the concept of having long-lasting and refillable packaging to stem the tide of single-use culture, it is becoming increasingly common amongst several other brands now. Kjaer Weis’ entire make-up line has been designed to be refillable (including foundation, blush, eye shadow, highlighter, lipstick and mascara), while Elate Cosmetics offers create-your-own, refillable bamboo palettes and compacts.

Refillable lipsticks are currently trending in the world of luxury cosmetics too—Hourglass has a line of refillable sleek gold lipsticks, La Bouche Rouge’s sustainable lipsticks come in refillable leather cases, and Charlotte Tilbury’s latest Hot Lips 2 collection uses interchangeable refillable cases.

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Reuse, refill and recycle

A number of stores in Singapore now offer refill stations for products like body wash, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and even toothpaste; simply bring your own containers to restock your supplies. Some bring-your-own-container stores with refill stations in Singapore include The Social Space, Eco.Le, Unpackt—which also conducts workshops on how to make beauty products such as lip balms and cleansing bars—and more. 

This should have you covered for all your refillable essentials.

Several beauty brands also have their own recycling schemes in place to encourage you to bring back their packaging. Brands such as Innisfree and MAC Cosmetics offer complimentary gifts and rewards to customers who return a certain amount of containers.

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Read the labels

Green beauty is a bit of a catch-all term, so the best way to ensure you support the issues you care about most is to get better at reading the labels and understanding the terminology behind beauty brands. Look out for certifications from places such as the Leaping Bunny Programme, PETA, the Soil Association and Ecocert, which offer independent verification that brands are definitely what they claim to be—like being cruelty-free, vegan or using organic ingredients.

Perhaps there are certain ingredients you want to avoid instead? Plastic microbeads (often found in exfoliators) that pollute the oceans have been banned in rinse-off cosmetics in countries like the UK and US; look out for ingredients like polyethylene and nylon on product labels.

There have been health and eco concerns about many other common beauty ingredients including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, petroleum derivatives, palm oil, and synthetic colours and fragrances; study product labels, check out specific brand’s FAQ pages or email them to find out if they’re including them in their formulations.

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