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18 beauty brands that are using sustainable or refillable packaging

  • The beauty industry produces 120 billion units of packaging per year.
  • In an effort to combat this, companies have recently been doubling down on sustainable packaging.
  • Below, we round up 18 beauty companies that offer reusable or recyclable packaging.
  • Each year, the beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging — "95% [of which] is thrown out after one use," said Yolanda Cooper, founder of skincare brand We Are Paradoxx, during a recent webinar to mark her Plastic Free Beauty Day initiative. Luckily, many brands are adopting environmentally-friendly initiatives that are already helping consumers engage in more responsible purchasing and disposal decisions. TerraCycle, for example, partners with companies such as Burt's Bees, L'Occitane, eos, and Living Proof (to name but a few) to recycle beauty packaging that isn't typically accepted curbside. Meanwhile, Loop offers a refill service for brands such as RENDermalogica, and Puretto, professionally cleaning the (typically aluminum-based) packaging before topping up your favorite products and shipping them back out to you. However, experts agree that for significant and long-lasting transitions to occur within the industry, companies themselves need to initiate changes — and, fortunately, some are already making strides in doing so. From big to small, here are 17 personal care brands doing their bit in the world of sustainable packaging.
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2021’s Best New Sustainable Beauty Products Have Circularity in Mind

With language like “circular” and “climate-positive” swirling around the best sustainable beauty brands of 2021, this is the year to consider your relationship with “wish-cycling.” If you haven’t heard the term, you might already be doing it. “Tossing stuff in the curbside bin and hoping for the best” is how Mia Davis, Credo’s VP of impact and sustainability, defines it. That said, the problem starts long before your wish-cycling. “Brands and municipal recycling facilities don't usually offer guidance, and a lot of plastic beauty packaging doesn't even have resin identification code on it,” says Davis, pointing out that in 2018, an estimated 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging were produced globally. “Most beauty products are packaged in plastic—think of all of the plastic compacts, lipsticks, squeezable tubes, jars, caps and pumps...but only about nine percent of plastic is recycled.” When the rest is incinerated, landfilled, or dumped, and consumers are scream-requesting that Big Beauty recognizes and reforms its role in this wasteful cycle, industry experts are addressing the issue in a number of ways. Credo's Sustainable Packaging Guidelines require brands to share accurate disposal instructions with customers, plus eliminate single-use packaging by the first of June. That means no more sheet masks, makeup wipes, treatment pads, or tiny sample packets (an industry first, according to Davis). Plus, a new Pact Collective recycling program launches today, bringing beauty stakeholders together “to take responsibility for the impacts of our packaging.” Pact Bins will be available inside Credo (US) and Hudson's Bay (Canada) stores so that specialty recyclers can handle and reuse materials from products dropped inside. For the Loop by Ulta Beauty project via Terracycle (the company making it easier than ever to do the right thing for “hard-to-recycle” pieces), Heather Crawford, Loop’s VP of marketing and platform, explains that the goal is to move beyond recycling and into reusing. “It’s actually about reducing the amount of raw materials that need to be constantly extracted, processed, produced, and transported time and time again to create a new unit of disposable packaging,” she says. Crawford works directly with brands to figure out ways to hygienically clean existing packaging to refill and redistribute it, or to design new models (like Dermalogica’s minimalist stainless steel bottles or Burt’s Bees’ counter-worthy cleanser vessels) that can meet extended lifecycle requirements. “Our minimum threshold for using a package on the platform is 10 cycles, and often in a really durable material like glass, it can go around up to hundreds of times,” Crawford says. They’ve also revolutionized the delivery method, with orders arriving in a durable, padded tote that customers can store until they reload it with empties and have it picked up directly from home. No more bubble wrap, paper sleeves, and throwaway fluff. Of course, packaging isn’t the only thing that makes a product circular or conscious. Factors like production methods, clean energy, harvesting techniques, and ingredient sourcing all play into a mission to improve wasteful or unethical practices. Below, an assortment of products that are stepping (with large and small strides) into the sustainable future:

Izzy Zero Waste Mascara

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Izzy Zero Waste Mascara

$39 IZZY SHOP NOW Touting itself as “the world’s first zero waste mascara,” Izzy’s just-launched mascara is reusable, recyclable, and CarbonNeutral®. Thanks to a medical-grade stainless steel tube designed to be refilled again and again, once the formula runs out, it can be dropped in a multi-use mailer (where even the shipping process is zero-waste).

Circumference Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser

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Circumference Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser

$48 CIRCUMFERENCE SHOP NOW The main bioactive ingredient in this cleanser, olive leaf extract, is a byproduct (meaning otherwise unusable) from a family-run California farm’s olive harvest. Circumference utilizes the olive leaves that would have otherwise been biowaste to carefully (and with a chemical-free method) extract potent actives, then returns the mulch to the farm to be used as compost for a circular production system.

Rose Hermes Silky Blush Powder Refill

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Rose Hermès Silky Blush Powder Refill

$48 HERMES PARIS SHOP NOW A marriage of high fashion and forward-looking logic, Hermes’s blush refill comes with a tiny key that can be inserted to pop out the powder pan and replace it with a new one. Perfect for the consumer who isn’t ready to forgo design for a category as aesthetically focused as beauty.

MOB Cake Liner

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MOB Cake Liner

$18 MOB BEAUTY SHOP NOW “Check out MOB Beauty, a new DTC brand founded by my Pact Collective co-founder (and part of the original MAC team), Victor Casale,” Davis suggests. “Their packaging is simple and beautiful, sustainable and refillable—and made by our other founding member of Pact, Element Packaging.” The compacts are reusable and created with post consumer recycled PET, which the brand notes is the most easily recyclable resin.

Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Grapefruit Deodorant Cream

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Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Cream

$14 MEOW MEOW TWEET SHOP NOW “If a brand was already packaging a product in a glass jar, something which can actually be reused, in some cases we’re taking this packaging type and reusing it instead of recycling them,” says Crawford. “Meow Meow Tweet, for example, has some of their deodorant creams in little glass jars that are professionally cleaned and then ready for reuse rather than being sent to recycling when you buy them through the LOOP by Ulta platform.”

Mab & Stoke Daily Defense Face Oil

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Mab & Stoke Daily Defense Face Oil

$72 MAB & STOKE SHOP NOW Made with wild harvested ingredients, Mab & Stoke’s team works alongside United Plant Savers on their mission to conserve and restore medicinal plants and habitats. All packaging is compostable, reusable or recyclable, and a tree is planted with every order in partnership with American Forests.

The Handmade Soap Company ANAM Refill

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The Handmade Soap Company Anam Wash Refill

$18 THE HANDMADE SOAP COMPANY SHOP NOW While the full version features a luxury glass, zero-plastic, refillable bottle, this refill wash comes in what the brand describes as “the world’s first compostable refill” designed to biodegrade in six weeks with industrial composting.

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

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Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

$34 MAD HIPPIE SHOP NOW “We were very excited to have Mad Hippie,” says Crawford of partnering with the beauty brand to better utilize their glass packaging. While vitamin C has become an industry-favorite ingredient across the board, their indie formula is a best-seller (and award-winner).

Saalt Cup

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Saalt Menstrual Cup

$29 SAALT SHOP NOW Saalt shares that the average person using disposable products uses approximately 16,900 tampons in their lifetime, when a single menstrual cup can last up to ten years. Since launching in February 2018, the brand has diverted almost three million period waste products from landfills, plus contributed funds for over 11,000 pounds of cleanup. Now teaming up with rePurpose Global, they’re slated to be the first period care brand to certify as Plastic Negative (a step beyond neutral) by pledging to remove twice as much waste from the environment as is generated in their supply chain by funding the cleanup of low-value plastic waste. Plus, those funds support recycling programs for impoverished communities affected by plastic waste and provide higher-paying jobs for waste workers.

Salwa Petersen Chébé du Tchad Hair Cream

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Salwa Peterson Chébé Du Tchad Hair Cream

$66 SALWA SHOP NOW Salwa Peterson shares that 100% of electricity used to produce her products is green, 100% of the water is “cleaned and returned to nature,” 100% of vegetable trash is composted, 100% of packaging is recyclable, and 100% of paper is FSC certified. The women who respectfully harvest the organic Chébé seeds in the line’s hair cream are paid three times the local salary, and 2% of proceeds go to African Parks Network, which manages 20 National Parks across the continent for a partnership that’s helped them, technically, reach carbon-negative status.

Susteau Moondust Duo

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Susteau Moondust Duo

$55 SUSTEAU SHOP NOW Thanks to super concentrated formulas, one bottle of powdered hair wash is the equivalent of four liquid-based formulas. The brand notes that removing the emulsification process during manufacturing alone eliminates over 90% of the energy in the product life cycle of traditional liquid shampoo and conditioner. Formulations are biodegradable, and bottles are made with over 95% ocean-bound, recycled plastic, and can be recycled curbside.

Susanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel Refill Pouch

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Susanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel Refill

$82 SUSANNE KAUFMANN SHOP NOW While Susanne Kaufmann’s glass bottles fall into the industry’s aforementioned “counter-worthy” category, the refill system cuts carbon emissions by 69%. Designed with 75% post-consumer material, refill bags can be recycled after use.

AYOND Metamorph Cleansing Balm

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Ayond Metamorph Cleansing Balm

$80 AYOND SHOP NOW With a 100% post-consumer paper-wrapped box and compostable cellophane, Ayond’s dreamy natural formulas are delivered consciously, though the brand takes it a step further with a recycling program. Save the original box, then gather caps, pumps and droppers, request a shipping label, and they’ll take it from there.

AmaSea SeaTea Bath Bags

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Ama SeaTea Bath Bags

$45 AMA SEA BEAUTY SHOP NOW AmaSea Beauty’s line depends on the ocean, and supports restorative ocean farming and coastal conservation. Founder Antoinette Marquez is an ocean conservationist working to protect a kelp forest off the coast of Santa Barbara, and practices ocean stewardship with PharmaSea to maintain and restore coastal marine habitats.

Dieux Forever Eye Mask

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Dieux Forever Eye Mask

$25 DIEUX SHOP NOW Disposable masks are no longer an acceptable form of self-care to many in the industry (including Credo, who will ban them as of this June). Dieux, instead, offers a 100% medical-grade silicone alternative that can be used daily without adding to the waste cycle.

Youthforia BYO Blush

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Youthforia Byo Blush

$36 YOUTHFORIA SHOP NOW A plant-based, color-changing blush oil that reacts to your skin’s natural pH, Youthforia’s formulas are USDA BioPreferred (meaning they’re made with fewer fossil fuels than traditional formulas for a smaller carbon footprint) and recyclable through Terracycle.

Superzero Men’s Allover Shampoo & Body Bar

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Superzero Men's Allover Shampoo and Body Bar

$18 SUPERZERO SHOP NOW Certified free of all microplastics and technically zero-waste, Superzero’s waterless formulas also use compostable bio-wrappers made from beer industry leftovers and make an effort to upcycle food waste like blueberry seed oil (from the juicing industry) in their hand balm bars.

Thrive Natural Care BodyShield Mineral SPF 50

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Thrive Natural Care BodyShield Mineral SPF 50

$19 THRIVE NATURAL CARE SHOP NOW Using proprietary native plants to support biodiversity and improve soil on their regenerative farms in Costa Rica is step one for Thrive Natural Care, which also packages its products in plants like this tube, made from sustainably sourced sugarcane from Brazil. BodyShield 50 features medicinal plant oil with anti-inflammatory skin benefits, and the brand was awarded an Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant for its mineral SPF formula and their regenerative business model.

Elate Beauty Unify Loose Powder

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Elate Beauty Unify Glow Powder

$36 ELATE BEAUTY SHOP NOW Housed in a refillable, compostable bamboo jar, Elate Beauty’s sheer illuminating powder is made with ethically-sourced mica, argan microzest and kaolin clay.

Hey Humans Body Wash Rosewater Ginger

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Hey Humans Body Wash Rosewater Ginger

$6 HEY HUMANS SHOP NOW A project of Jada Pinkett Smith (who acts as the face of the brand, its creative director, and its co-founder), Hey Humans products are packaged in “infinitely recyclable” aluminum and paper. The clean formulas are also naturally-derived and designed to be gender-neutral.

Hello Products Antiplaque + Whitening Toothpaste Tablets

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Hello Antiplaque + Whitening Toothpaste Tablets

$9 HELLO SHOP NOW With free-range mint sourced sustainably from 4th-generation farmers in Oregon, Hello offers another addition to the waterless category of the future. Their toothpaste tablets shake around in a recyclable, reusable tin jar that requires less energy and carbon emissions for shipping and storage.

Vapour Beauty Lip Nectar

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Vapour Beauty Lip Nectar

$28 VAPOUR BEAUTY SHOP NOW The Taos-based brand runs on 100% renewable solar energy, and recognizes water as a precious resource, making 97% of their clean line waterless, or “anhydrous” as they say. Products are housed in FSC Certified paper and recyclable through Terracycle.

Noice Dental Gel Refill

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NOICE Dental Gel Refill

$9 NOICE SHOP NOW “We are working with a brand called Noice Care for oral care, which historically has been a very very challenging product to recycle,” says Crawford. “We’re also really excited to see some category disruption with them.” The fluoride-free formula is officially listed as “the world’s first refillable toothpaste gel.”

Everist Waterless Haircare Concentrates Kit

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Everist Waterless Haircare Concentrates Starter Kit

$46 EVERIST SHOP NOW Made out of 99.7% pure aluminum, the tubes used for Everist products are single-use plastic free and recyclable. The super-concentrated formulas rely on biodegradable ingredients, and the line’s small carbon footprint is offset to be neutral.

Cleo + Coco Zero-Waste Deodorant Bar in Brave Heart (Basil Mint)

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Cleo + Coco Zero-Waste Deodorant Bar in Brave Heart

$14 CLEO + COCO SHOP NOW Cleo + Coco’s zero-waste deodorant bar (which includes charcoal without triggering a detox process) arrives in biodegradable FSC certified packaging, wrapped in compostable paper. It comes with a reusable storage bag, and the bottom consists of a wax mold (for gripping) that can be recycled, reused, or absorbed safely back into the earth.

Pacifica Vegan Collagen Recovery Eye Cream

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Pacifica Vegan Collagen Recovery Eye Cream

$16 PACIFICA SHOP NOW Thanks to lab-grown, plant-sourced collagen, no animal byproducts are included in Pacifica's Vegan Collagen Recovery Eye Cream. The brand notes that lab-grown ingredients use less water, less land, and fewer resources to create, and the glass packaging can be recycled curbside.

EcoTools BioBlender

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EcoTools Bioblender

$6 ECO TOOLS SHOP NOW EcoTools makes their blender with biodegradable foam, and uses packaging that achieves an 88% plastic reduction (the equivalent of nearly 14 million plastic bags, or close to 6 million plastic water bottles). Any paper is FSC Certified and printed with soy ink.

Ace of Air Halo Moisturizer