16 Low-Waste Beauty Brands That Have a High Impact
These companies are committed to reducing landfill debris and improving sustainability without compromising quality and user experience.
Please note that some products listed are linked to affiliate websites and we may collect a small commission on your purchase.
As a fellow beauty product junkie, I’ll admit I’ve created more than my fair share of waste over the years—which is unfair to our planet. From makeup to hair care to every kind of lotion and potion lining store shelves (and filling online carts), the beauty industry alone is responsible for over 120 billion units of waste every year, with about 70% coming from packaging alone. That’s one too many shampoo bottles and tubes of lipstick to justify, but as everyday items, how are we supposed to help protect our world while living in it?
Before you say to recycle, it’s important to understand that the empty products in your bathroom trashcan are often unique and can make recycling a bit complicated. The cosmetics industry typically uses mixed materials in packaging, including paper, plastic, glass, and metals. While some of these components are recyclable, it’s up to the consumer or the recycling facility to deconstruct and adequately sort the items to ensure they don’t end up in a landfill or our oceans—which is too costly for the facility and hardly a long-term solution overall.
One of the most efficient ways to improve our waste problem is to create less waste, period. Some beauty and wellness brands are pivoting to more sustainable models by using recycled materials for their products, packaging, and marketing materials, offering refillable options, and providing a way for consumers to discard items when necessary. By buying low- or zero-waste beauty products and throwing away as little as possible, each of us can do our small-but-important part to prioritize the health of our planet.
Axiology Multi-Use Balmie Set
In 2022, Axiology committed to being a true zero-waste brand and ditched all plastic. Today, their signature red boxes are handmade from island trash and are 100% recyclable. These balmies sets are organic, vegan, cruelty-free, and made without palm oil. Each can be used on lips, cheeks, or eyelids, adding a moisturizing, subtle matte finish with great color. Note that while balmies appear small, each is the standard size for lipstick at .12 ounces—just without the plastic tube!
The Earthling Co. Dry Shampoo
It could be argued that dry shampoo is one of the most essential products for everyday parenting, and we sure go through a lot of it. Refresh your locks while avoiding excessive waste with The Earthling Co’s dry shampoo. Made with bamboo stem powder, rice protein, and biotin, this dry shampoo formula absorbs oil, softens hair, and adds fullness and volume for in-between days you go without a wash. It’s also talc-free, aerosol-free, and plastic-free, with 100% recycled paper packaging.
Izzy Zero-Waste Mascara
Izzy’s zero-waste model for mascara is brilliant: choose your product, enjoy your clean, cruelty-free, premium mascara, and once your 90-day supply is empty, send it back to be sterilized, refilled, and reused. You can either make purchases as needed or opt into their membership and automatically receive a new supply every 90 days. Your Izzy mascara comes in medical-grade stainless steel tubes and is shipped in a reusable mailer made from upcycled materials.
Antonym Cosmetics Baked Foundation
Say farewell to the typical plastic compacts of powder foundations. Antonym’s makeup uses refillable bamboo compacts and outer packaging made from recycled or FSC-certified paper (paper made of responsibly sourced wood fiber). Their vegan baked foundation brightens complexions and is ECOCERT-certified and free from parabens, sulfates, and artificial fragrances.
Bite Toothpaste Bits
Can toothpaste be cute? What about plastic-free? Bite toothpaste bits are a genius way to keep your teeth and gums healthy using clean ingredients without harsh chemicals, artificial flavors, dyes, or sweeteners. Each order contains two glass bottles of 62 toothpaste bits (124 bits total) for a two-month supply for twice-daily brushing. Simply bite down on your bit, brush with a wet toothbrush, and watch the formula foam up instantly.
RMS Back2Brow Pencil
RMS makes a range of organic and toxic-free makeup products packaged in boxes from 80% post-consumer recycled (PCR) materials manufactured using wind power. This new wooden eyebrow pencil features an aluminum cap and casing that makes recycling a cinch; RMS is also a proud member of PACT, a non-profit organization that aims to improve the beauty industry’s packaging problem. Simply drop off your used or empty products at a location near you or at any Sephora retailer.
ĀTHR Desert Sunset Eyeshadow Palette
Clean and sustainable beauty doesn’t have to mean a lack of color. This 10-shade eyeshadow palette from ĀTHR Beauty offers warm tones and shimmery metallics that deliver high pigmentation. Each palette is made without magnets, mirrors, or other wasteful materials and is packaged with FSC-certified paper, recycled aluminum pans, and water-based soy ink. To properly discard, pop out the aluminum pans and recycle parts separately.
KORA Organics Turmeric Glow Moisturizer
KORA Organics is a Climate Neutral Certified brand, meaning it is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from making and distributing its products—and compensating for any remaining emissions. To reduce waste, this turmeric sustainability set comes with a pre-filled glass jar and a refill pod for when you’re running low. Use this agent to target the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, dullness, fine lines, and wrinkles for smoother, more radiant skin.
Le Prunier Plumscreen SPF
“Upcycling” (reusing discarded materials to create a higher-quality product) isn’t only reserved for things like paper, wood, and glass. Le Prunier Plumscreen’s broad-spectrum SPF uses upcycled plum kernels (usually considered farm waste) to create an antioxidant-rich skin protector that shields against pollution, blue light and UV damage, and free radicals. Its non-nano zinc oxide formula also means less white residue and zero harm to coral reefs.
Trestique Prime + Shine Lip Crayon
If you prefer a glossier lip versus something more matte, this dual-ended shiny lip crayon from Trestique will do the trick. The priming side will smooth and moisturize your lips; the other end offers balmy, buildable color. Trestique is both zero-waste and refillable, allowing you to really reduce your trash output by shopping their essential products for the face, eyes, and lips.
EcoRoots Lotion Bar
Like the toothpaste bits, the EcoRoots solid lotion bar takes on a different shape and texture that benefits our environment. It’s 100% vegan, cruelty-free, plastic-free, and made without silicone, parabens, and synthetic fragrances. It’s also easily portable and effective, packing in a bevy of good-for-your-skin ingredients like cocoa and shea butters, coconut and jojoba oils, and arrowroot powder.
MOB Beauty 01 Brush
Another area to shop sustainably is the tools you use to apply cosmetics. The bamboo handle and the vegan, cruelty-free, synthetic hairs on this MOB Beauty eyeliner brush make it a better choice with less negative impact on our planet. The 01 brush can achieve precision with all powder, cream, and gel liners.
River Organics Vegan Highlighter
Highlighters can give a hint of the sun’s subtle glow and emphasize your best features with a celestial glimmer, all while being earth-friendly. Dab a little dew on your cheekbones, the outside corners of your eyes, and the bridge of your nose to look hydrated and refreshed. The River Organics highlighter boasts an eco-friendly paper tube and paper-based packaging that’s completely compostable.
ZOYA Nail Polish
Nail polish is one of those harder-to-recycle products because the flammable chemicals usually found in its formula are categorized as hazardous waste—not to mention it’s difficult to clean the bottle. ZOYA takes the challenging task off your hands by encouraging sending your empty or used bottles to their facility to be appropriately disposed of according to environmental guidelines. Now’s a great time to collect old nail polish bottles to participate in Zoya’s Earth Day Exchange Program, happening now through April 30. You can get 50% off your purchase and free shipping, plus the added perk of decluttering your bathroom vanity. ZOYA’s nail polish is also at-least 5-free, if not 9- or 10-free, meaning their formulas do not contain substances like formaldehyde, resin, parabens, lead, and a host of other toxic ingredients.
KOOSHOO Plastic-Free Hair Ties
Hair ties may be the exact opposite of what you think of when it comes to sustainable products; imagine how many broken rubber bands end up in our trashcans, sidewalks, and playgrounds, just to name a few places. These plastic-free KOOSHOO hair ties are made from organic cotton and fair-trade natural tree rubber and are 100% compostable. They’re also packaged in recyclable materials for a zero-waste purchase you can make again and again.
Elate Cosmetics Revive Makeup Remover
When the day is done and it’s time to wash your face, Elate’s waterless eye makeup remover balm will wipe away mascara, eyeshadow, and more to gently clean while moisturizing the delicate skin around your eyes. Elate packaged this remover in a recyclable aluminum container that can be tossed into your recycling bin or repurposed to hold other small items. (Parents of kiddos who love to collect: this is for you!)
This Earth Day, take stock of the products you purchase and consider making sustainable swaps to keep you and the planet beautiful.