How to Give Your Makeup Bag a Green Makeover

by Caitlin Reid

Sustainable beauty brands are heating up the beauty world, and now’s your chance to embrace the movement. From minimizing your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals to protecting our natural world and the fascinating animal species in it, green beauty is the most exciting cosmetics trend today. It can also be an overwhelming new world of makeup to wade into. So with that in mind, we’ve broken down five easy ways to ease yourself into a greener beauty routine.

1. Choose Vegan, Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands to Protect Animals

Choosing vegan, cruelty-free beauty products is a vote for the planet, and even more directly, for our four-legged friends. Many beauty products use animal-derived ingredients which are harvested in a number of ways that can be cruel, as well as damaging to the animal and their health. Green beauty brands are usually both vegan and cruelty-free which means their ingredients aren’t derived from animals, and they don’t test on animals either. 

Here’s a list of non-vegan ingredients to avoid:

  • Keratin
  • Beeswax
  • Honey
  • Lanolin
  • Milk
  • Carmine

Though going vegan with your beauty is a step in the right direction, it’s also important to consider where vegan ingredients come from too. Some ingredients — like palm oil — are vegan, but if they’re obtained from deforestation farming, they can still damage at-risk species. Luckily, most sustainable beauty brands won’t use oils and ingredients sourced from unethical farming practices. If you’re not sure though, investigate the brand’s ingredients. This helps understand where they’re sourced from, and will inspire you to choose sustainable beauty brands in future. 

2. Stay Motivated by Your Own Long-Term Health

Perhaps the most compelling reason to try sustainable brands is their ability to enhance your overall health. The long-term health implications of many chemical ingredients used in makeup and skin care are unknown. One study has warned that cosmetics chemicals may have consequences ranging from serious ill effects on skin to organ damage and cancer. Similar studies have led many experts to make changes to the beauty industry. The European Union has banned 1,377 ingredients in cosmetics, although the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. cites only 10.

The good news is, by choosing green beauty brands you’re minimizing your exposure to harmful chemicals. Instead of you having to memorize all 1,377 banned ingredients, sustainable beauty brands do the work for you by cutting out nasties like parabens and talc. Great green beauty brands offer clean, natural products with safe ingredients. They work to protect your health as well as the health of our natural world. These factors are handy to remember when choosing which products to add to your makeup bag.

3. Donate Unwanted Makeup and Skin Care as You Transition into Green Beauty

Transitioning to sustainable beauty brands from traditional cosmetics can see you throwing out your old products to make room for green beauty. Instead of putting them in the trash, though, consider donating to a charity such as Project Beauty Share.

Project Beauty Share collects unused and barely used personal-hygiene, cosmetics and beauty products and distributes them to non-profit organizations. Their mission is to empower women who need it, serving women and families overcoming abuse, addiction, homelessness and poverty.

“Women who are poverty stricken or women in transition cannot afford these luxury items,” says Julie Farley, founder of Project Beauty Share. “A lot of what we do is about health and hygiene, but it’s really about dignity.”

Small items such as that purple lipstick you never tried or hotel toiletries you snuck into your handbag can mean so much to someone with very little. Save them from the trash and find your nearest charity to donate them. You’ll feel great, create less waste and empower another woman who needs a hand (talk about true beauty!).

4. Start Slow: Try Swapping Two of Your High-Rotation Products over to Sustainable Beauty Alternatives

Take it easy on yourself and ease into your transition to green beauty. Start with two products you use often and swap them for eco-friendly alternatives.

A great place to begin is with your lip gloss and eye-shadow. With countless high-quality green beauty options available, you will definitely find products to suit your skin type and taste. Once you've made the switch, you’ll find yourself searching for more green alternatives for your other products — like your go-to moisturizer or highlighters — too.

5. Find a Green Way to Take it all Off 

Choosing to double cleanse instead of using makeup wipes is one of the most eco-friendly decisions you can make. Not only are most makeup wipes packed full of preservatives and harmful exfoliants, they’re ruining our environment.

In 2018, public- works officials discovered a ”fatberg” containing oils, grease, diapers, and baby and makeup wipes underneath Baltimore. It was reportedly 100 feet long, 11 feet wide and 6 feet tall. Remarkably, this is just one of countless such deposits discovered around the world underneath major cities. Not only are these mammoths gross, they block sewers and damage ocean life. If makeup wipes containing non-biodegradable polyester do escape to the sea, they can linger in small pieces for up to 500 years.

Sadly, use of disposable wipes is increasing. “In the past decade we’ve seen a 700 percent rise in wipes washed up on beaches,” said Laura Foster, head of pollution at the UK’s Marine Conservation Society.

Thankfully there is an eco-friendly alternative: double cleansing. Choose two eco-friendly cleansers that work for your skin type. After cleansing twice, your makeup will be gone and your skin will feel soft without posing any risk to seahorses, turtles and whales.

Whether you want to boost your own health, protect your skin or shake up your beauty routine, embracing the green beauty trend has never been more fun. Starting slow by swapping just a few products for green alternatives is a great place to begin, and now is the time. Your skin, your health and the world around you will thank you for making the transition.

Caitlin Reid is a freelance journalist, copywriter and PR coordinator with over 10 years of experience with clients around the world. She is also a physiotherapist with a special interest in holistic and environmental well-being, blending the realms of evidence-based medicine with inspiring holistic health.