A Sustainable Beauty Routine in 5 Steps

Sustainable beauty

Learn how to develop a sustainable beauty routine in 5 steps.

Ethical, eco-friendly, cruelty-free. All are worthy goals. But it can be hard to know how these ideals fit with our own beauty and wellness goals. All the choices make it even harder: natural, organic, clean. How do you even start?

Of course, there probably is a guide by an expert somewhere out there. But I wanted to share how I began my sustainable beauty journey. These 5 steps helped me reduce my ecological footprint and I think they will help you too.

1. Use what you have

It can be tempting to immediately replace everything with more sustainable products. However, this just creates more waste. Instead, replace each product one at time. I started with ILIA Beauty’s Limitless mascara. The aluminum tube contains much less plastic than my previous mascara. My collection now includes products from sustainable companies like Alima Pure and Alpyn Beauty.

If your makeup tends to go bad before you’ve had a chance to use it, check out multi-purpose products. The Nudist multi-use cream stick by W3LL PEOPLE can be used as an eye shadow, blush, and lip tint. Āether Beauty eye shadow palettes often include shades that can be used as highlighters, blushes, or contours.

For things you absolutely will not use, consider sharing with a friend or donating. This article by Allure provides a list of organizations that accept unwanted makeup and skincare. Send your clean mascara wands to Wand for Wildlife.

Sustainable Skin Care
Sustainable Skincare (from left to right): Ethique hair sampler, Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, STYLEFOX Beauty Skin-a-colada Coconut & Pineapple Mask, Atolla personal serum (gifted), Tata Harper Crème Riche, Alpyn Melt Mositurizer, Booni Doon Calm Cleansing Capsules (gifted)

2. Decide on your priorities

Decide what aspects of suitability are most important to you and look for brands with the same values. For example, if you eat a vegan diet, you probably want to limit yourself to vegan beauty brands like Fitglow Beauty and Pai Skincare. For me, cruelty-free is an absolute must.

Explore the Sustainable Beauty Brands list for beauty companies with ethical and eco-friendly practices. I’m currently developing an improved list that will make it easier to find brands with values that match yours.

3. Replace single-use products with reusables

Instead of repurchasing disposable makeup wipes or cotton rounds, replace them with reusable makeup removing cloths. Personally, I don’t bother with rounds. I just splash toner or micellar water directly on my face. You can even get reusable cotton swabs, aka Q-Tips. LastSwab makes 2 reusable cotton swabs, a traditional swab and a beauty swab.

But you can’t live without your weekly sheet mask? Try a wash off mask. Influencers love Leahlani’s Mermaid Mask. Or make your own sheet mask. Cut eye holes, a nose and mouth out of a piece of cotton or silk. Then soak it in your favorite serum. You can also try one of these recipes for a DIY sheet mask.

Sustainable Makeup
Sustainable makeup (from left to right): ILIA Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint, Alima Pure Eye Primer, Āether Beauty Summer Solstice palette, ILIA Beauty Limitless Lash mascara

4. Return packaging to the circular economy

Now that you’ve enjoyed that serum down to the last drop, it’s time to dispose of the packaging. And I don’t mean throwing it in the trash. In a circular economy materials, including packaging, stay in use. The materials might change form and purpose, but they are somehow reused. There are 4 ways to keep beauty packaging in the circle: recycle, refill, compost, or upcycle.


Recycling is the option we are most familiar with. Many cities have recycling programs. Several brands accept recycling by mail. Some even provide gifts in exchange for empties. I discuss each of these recycling choices in my post on plastic and beauty.


In addition to recyclable packaging, the list of refillable beauty products is growing.  Kjaer Weis sells refills for all their makeup products. Plaine Products, a hair, body, and skincare brand, sends you a postage label to return your empty when you reorder. US readers can also refill products from brands like REN Clean Skincare and Pantene through Loop.


Composting is the breakdown of organic materials (e.g. food waste, paper, yard clippings) into soil. Most people compost in their yards but even apartment dwellers can compost. Many products, like Booni Doon’s Calm Cleansing Capsules and Atolla’s custom serums, have components that can be composted. Ethique’s bars come in packaging that is 100% compostable.


The last option is my favorite: upcycling! Upcycling gives new life to packaging by giving your waste a new purpose. Turn that empty face cream jar into a succulent planter. Use those clean serum bottles as wildflower vases. Browse Pinterest for even more ideas.

Sustainable Nails
Sustainable nails (from left to right): Nailtopia Fresh Avocado Nail Polish Remover, Nailtopia base coat, Nailtopia Nails are Nourished Kit (gifted), Nailtopia nail lacquer in Yacht Week, and Nailtopia top coat

5. Be kind to yourself

My last tip in adopting a sustainable beauty routine is to be kind to yourself. It is not uncommon to feel guilty about the impact of your activities on the planet. It even has a name, Environmental Guilt. Sure, there are some Instagrammers who appear to live a perfectly eco-conscious lifestyle, but even they leave a footprint.

Remember, climate change is not your fault. A 2017 report by CDP found that 71% of greenhouse emissions can be traced back to just 100 fossil fuel producers. By purchasing from sustainable companies, we are communicating our values to all beauty companies.

And the beauty companies are listening. Earlier this year L’Oréal committed to making significant changes. Unfortunately, many of L’Oréal’s brands, including L’Oréal Paris and Garnier still allow animal testing. Beauty and the Planet only recommends products that are cruelty-free.

To summarize, you don’t need to flip your beauty routine overnight to make it earth friendly. These 5 steps will get you started. Once you’ve started you will find yourself making eco-conscious decisions without even thinking about it.

Let me know what steps you’ve taken to make your beauty routine more planet friendly.

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