What is it about the term “eco-friendly skincare” that used to instantly fill me with anxiety? Maybe it was the flashbacks to the week I tried to wash my face using only olive oil (not a good idea), or that time in high school that I tried to treat my enormous zit with toothpaste and was rewarded by having it as a third wheel for prom night.
I could go on, but I’ll spare you my embarrassing memories. The point is, I’ve always struggled with my skin, so I understand why people are a little hesitant to mess with their successful skincare routines in search of more sustainable options.
It’s taken me a while to develop a more eco-friendly skincare routine, and I haven’t perfected it yet. So far, I’ve found some really great brands + products, and learned about the darker side of the cosmetic industry. In this post, I’ll share my favorite brands, ingredients/packaging to avoid and some tips to make small but effective changes to your current routine.
Eco Friendly Skincare 101: Packaging + Ingredients
It’s easy to spot problematic skincare packaging – plastic is number one, followed by cardboard that’s been coated in plastic. It’s not so easy to avoid these two, especially plastic. Most skincare products come in plastic squeeze bottles, plastic pump bottles or plastic tubs with plastic lids.
Look for products that come in glass containers or non-coated cardboard. You can usually find lotions and creams that come in glass jars. Most serums come in glass dropper-style bottles already. When it comes to face wash, the best option is usually a cleansing bar that comes in a cardboard box or wrapped in paper.
If you can’t avoid plastic packaging, make sure it’s recyclable or, better yet, something that you can re-purpose when you’re done with it.
Common Ingredients To Avoid
There are so many ingredients to avoid that it’s actually kind of scary. Below, I’ve listed a few of the most prevalent ones. Visit Campaign For Safe Cosmetics if you’d like to learn more.
Microbeads: did you know that the little beads in your favorite liquid face soap are actually made out of plastic? This is bad, and it’s unnerving that companies don’t really feel the need to let consumers know about this. I don’t really want to rub plastic all over my sensitive skin. Also, when we rinse our faces, we send tiny plastic beads down the drain and into our public water system. Not cool.
Synthetic fragrance: this ingredient is a double threat. Not only is it irritating to sensitive skin, it also doesn’t break down easily, if at all. This means it makes it back into our waterways and just chills. It’s weird, and it’s totally unnecessary when there are plenty of naturally occurring scents that smell great. In fact, most synthetic fragrances are formulated to mimic natural scents. So do your skin, and the world’s marine life, a favor and ditch products that contain synthetic fragrances.
Parabens: these preservatives keep bacteria and other icky things from growing in skincare products. They’re meant to prolong shelf life, but they have some nasty side effects. Parabens have been shown to have negative effects on humans, including interfering with hormone development. The small doses in our products are likely not enough to harm us, but this is another case of and ingredient that refuses to break down. As parabens make their way into our public water system, they can cause real harm to plants + animals that live in water and those of us who drink it.
Single Use Cotton: if you use cotton pads/balls for makeup removal, consider buying some washable ones instead. I bought these from Amazon a few months ago and they’re great. They even came with a mesh laundry bag. I put them in when I’m done, and when it’s full I throw it in the wash.
Shopping For Eco Friendly Skincare
There are a ton of companies out there striving to be just as environmentally friendly as they are effective. It would be impossible to try them all, and also not very sustainable. Some of my favorite brands are Herbivore, Origins, Mad Hippie and Youth To The People.
Obviously, the most important feature of any skincare product is that it actually works for you. When changing your routine, you should choose one product at a time so you know for sure what works and what doesn’t. Take a look at the active ingredient(s) in the product you plan on switching and choose a more sustainable one that has the same active ingredient list.
Credo Beauty is a great company to support if you’re ready to dive into clean beauty 100%. According to their website, they’re the world’s largest clean beauty store! They have pretty strict guidelines for what they consider “clean,” and also have a “Dirty List” that explains why/how certain ingredients are harmful. Most brands out there are doing way better with ingredients than packaging, and this is reflected with what Credo offers. BUT, they do have a four phase sustainable packaging plan in place to improve this over time, which will help brands grow greener along with them.
Clean at Sephora is a great place to start if you want to get all of your stuff in the same place as you make your transition. The tool will help you explore and compare different brands/products without buying all of them. Sephora does the research and lets you know which products are formulated without weird and potentially toxic ingredients, like formaldehyde. You can use their ratings and reviews to narrow things down from there.