9 Small Beauty Tweaks That Will Help Save The Planet

We really do wish we could be the type of citizen who lives a zero-waste lifestyle. You know those people who hold the contents of their lives in a Mason jar? We want to be them, we really do. Until we think of our dry shampoo habit, how alive we feel with a little blush, all the SPF and nail polish options we need... and, well, so long, tiny living. But just because we won’t down on our fragrance collection doesn't mean that there aren’t other things we can do to help cut down on waste and lighten our environmental footprint. Because affecting social change isn’t always about radical moves. A lot of times, tiny shifts in action can stack up — and making those changes to our beauty regimen is a great place to start.
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For example, if you religiously buy the same damned shampoo over and over again, then consider purchasing a jumbo-size bottle to cut down on plastic waste. Even better, if your shampoo is sold in bulk at your local purveyor of healthy-chic things, you can often bring your bottle back for in-store refills. Another idea: Since research shows that oxybenzone, a popular active in physical sunscreens, wreaks havoc on coral reefs and the organisms that live within them, try using one with zinc oxide and or titanium dioxide instead. And that’s just the tip of the ever-melting iceberg.
Ahead, check out seven little changes you can make to your beauty routine in efforts to help spare the air, water, soil, animals, and yes, humankind. You’ll be shocked by how easy they are to make — no major downsizing required.
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Take A Waterless Shower

Thanks to the miracle that is dry shampoo, many of us don’t have to lather up (our heads, at least) more than twice a week — something that saves 10 gallons of water per shower, presuming it takes about five minutes to wash and condition hair per session. If you want to up the ante and cut out an entire shower’s worth of water waste — about 17 gallons for an eight-minute rubdown — without smelling like a barnyard, ditch the water altogether by using a rinseless cleansing foam on your body. This one, and its wipe form, doesn’t leave skin feeling sticky or dry.

Need your shower for shaving? Consider going the laser route, or try these simplified wax strips that — finally — don't require you to chafe your hands warming them up.
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Swap Out Aerosol Sprays

After researchers found that chlorofluorocarbons were hacking away at the ozone layer, legislators required that product manufacturers remove the dangerous chemicals from hairsprays, deodorants, room fresheners, and more. That was more than 30 years ago. But taking CFCs out of aerosols didn’t exactly make them environmentally friendly, because our dry shampoos and canned volumizers still need compressed gases or hydrocarbons to do their thing. And once these elements are released in the air, our collective carbon footprint gets bigger.

There’s even more not to love about aerosols: They emit volatile organic compounds (or VOCs), chemicals that contain carbon and vaporize in the air, and then we breathe them in. These chemicals, along with nitrogen oxides, are responsible for ground-level smog on hot, sunny days, smog which research shows may be linked to asthma. The effects of aerosols also affects our water supply: Studies also show that aerosols make for more pollution-rich clouds, which shrinks the size of rain droplets that form. To spare the air, waterworks and possibly, your lungs, consider dry shampoo in a powder form. Or try swapping out aerosol-based texture sprays for those housed in pump-fueled containers. This one creates volume sans can and uses niacinamide and pea proteins to boost hair health.
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Switch Your Sunscreen To Save Coral

Ask any derm, cosmetic chemist, or skin-care brand: Sunscreen is one of the trickiest items to make and get right. First, there’s the FDA to contend with. And unlike many other skin-care products, we can almost instantly tell whether it works or not — and it has to work. It must also apply smoothly, not leave a chalky residue, emit no funny scent, and, for some, have good-for-you ingredients.

Now, there’s another vital characteristic a sunscreen must have to pass muster for anyone that gives a shit about the oceans: It must be oxybenzone-free. Because according to a 2015 study, the chemical active in some sunscreens (which washes off of our bodies and into the water) is also responsible for killing coral and accelerating DNA damage in the organisms that live inside it. This formula, which was developed for sensitive, post-procedure skin, uses mineral actives only, quickly absorbs without a trace, and doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy. And look how fun and happy the bottle is!
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Edit Your Eyeshadow Collection

Packaging and containers, including those holding beauty products, make up for 30% of junk in our landfills, according to the EPA. We can do better, right? For one, think about swapping big-ass (and plastic or glossy-coated cardboard) palettes for precise, singular products. By paring down to only the colors you'll ever actually use, you’ll not only cut waste, but save money and precious space in your makeup bag.

This eyeshadow can be purchased with or without a compact, which means you can pop pans in and out to suit your needs (and buy refills for a heck of a lot less). And Alima Pure isn’t the only brand kicking down customizable makeup options — check here for a whole lot more.
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Support A Low-Waste Salon

The last thing we think about after stepping foot into a salon is if and how the joint recycles. (What can we say, we’re blinded by the new-hair feels.) But between foils, color by-product, plastics, paper, and metal, salons go through quite a bit of materials in the process of making our hair look dope. It’s one of those no-duh realizations that kind of hits you on the head — and immediately begs the question: “But does my salon recycle?”

It’s more than worth an ask. You might find out that, like Ion Studio NYC, it does. The conscientious salon also only uses green and renewable energy and is stocked with Davines hair-care products (which are amazing, BTW). The products themselves are made of environmentally-friendly packaging, including conditioner tubs that use a minimal amount of plastic, are 100% carbon-neutral, sourced from the food industry, and designed to be repurposed into little planters or a catch-all for hair ties and bobby pins.

Or you may find out that your salon isn’t quite there yet. But either way, the inquiry may lead to greener practices by your favorite chop shop. “If a patron tells a salon that she chose it because the salon recycles, that will encourage the salon to continue,” says Lauren Taylor, a spokesperson for TerraCycle, a company that provides recycling services to salons. “Consequently, if a patron tells a salon that she chose another salon because it recycles, that may inspire others to start recycling. When consumers use their wallets to make statements, it affects change.”
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Opt For A Waterless Mani & 10-Free Polish

Because the earth has a limited amount of natural resources, we tend to be motivated by scary depletion statistics — as we should. But another motivator can be found in how much we’ve achieved. Take water conservation: According to the most recent information available from the US Geological Survey, Americans withdrew 13% less water for use in 2010 than in 2005. Every little bit is making a difference. Which is why electing for a waterless manicure, like the kind that LA’s Nails by Colvon and NYC's Van Court Studio provide, makes more and more sense. (Not only do soak-free manis conserve water, they are thought to contribute to longer polish wear and more hydrated nails and skin.)

Want to up the ante even further? Opt for a nail polish with fewer chemicals. The trend may have started with three-free formulas, but brands like Côte now offer 10-free formulas (in more than 100 chic shades, no less). On the out list? Formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene, camphor, formaldehyde resin, TPHP, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, parabens, and gluten — some of which are known carcinogens and may negatively affect the hormone systems in animals.
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Bulk Up

For many of us, living in tiny apartments means buying in bulk is out. But Aveda offers a compelling reason to rethink that strategy, in the bathroom at least. The company notes that buying one of its liter-sized hair-care products — instead of five standard-size bottles — means consuming 40% less plastic (and a 25 cents/oz savings). As for the other 60% of that plastic consumed, the brand makes other moves to recoup waste. It uses post-consumer recycled material as much as it can and tries to package products in containers that can be recycled from home. If any brand product can’t be picked up curbside (like makeup brushes), bring it into an Aveda store and pop it in its recycling bin.
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Don’t Just Insta Your #Empties, Recycle Them

Recycling beauty products isn’t as easy as you’d think. Lots of packaging contains thick plastic (to protect formulas from degradation), mixed metals, and springs all in one shot. Since different materials need to be separated and sorted, the mixed-media nature of cosmetics, skin-care, and hair-care packaging makes recycling these suckers a logistical nightmare. Thankfully, a few forward-thinking companies have programs in place to assist.

Since 2009, Kiehl's has offered its Recycle and Be Rewarded program in its retail stores, which encourages customers to return ten empty bottles, tubes, and jars in exchange for a new product. Empties can be dropped off anytime — the store will track your exchanges as you go.

Beauty giant MAC offers a similar program via its Back to MAC program. After returning six of the brand’s containers, either online or to a MAC counter, the brand hands over a free lipstick of your choice. The program also features digital tracking, which means you can recycle items as you finish them, instead of having to hoard empties to participate.

Finally, Garnier also takes back empties of its Fructis products for recycling via TerraCycle. Any Garnier product with the TerraCycle logo can be sent into the company for recycling. Once received, the hair-care brand recycles the container and donates two cents to the charity of your choice. The extra step may sound like a pain in the ass, until you account for this fact: According to Garnier, personal care and beauty products account for 1/3 of all landfill waste. Yikes! To help raise its recycling numbers, the brand is partnering with DoSomething.org on its Rinse, Recycle, Repeat campaign, aimed at educating consumers about recycling beauty product empties, with a goal of diverting a total of 1 million bottles from landfills in 2018.
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Switch To Single-Blade Razors

Most of us still use plastic disposable razors. They're cheap and accessible — it doesn't matter if you leave yours behind in a hotel room. At least, that's what we think. But having to toss your razor at least once a month (depending on how often you actually shave) can add up in both expenses and physical waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in just one year, the U.S. manages to toss almost 2 billion disposable razors and blades into landfills. Gross, right? To break the chain, consider investing in a single-blade razor. Not only does it save you money in the long run — and offer the softest, burn-free shave of your life — but it doesn't contribute to the mass amounts of plastic waste in the world.
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