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How to Create a Low-Waste Beauty Routine

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How to Create a Low-Waste Beauty Routine

Dust your hairbrush, clean your brushes and break out that special lipstick Viva Beauty Week. Overwhelmed by piles of plastic, Madeleine Crutchley is testing out a low-waste beauty routine for a week.

A few years ago I made the switch to refillable shampoo and conditioner bottles.

This happened

Unexpectedly, this transition shined a light on the junk that was ruining the rest of my beauty routine. Inspired by the discussions we had around Viva Beauty Week, I decided to launch a full-on experiment – ​​how much can I reduce waste in my daily routine?

Day 1

To start: buy a share. I’m researching the products I already use in my routine.

My shampoo, conditioner and body wash, as mentioned, are regularly refilled at local refill stores (GoodFor and Bin Inn POA). My daily cleanser (which I hyperbolically consider a staple among my desert island picks) Elegant Solid Ethics bar, $25, packed in a carton. Likewise, I use it Body butter, $20, in special cases. If that tube isn’t available, I use olive oil taped from a glass bottle in my kitchen.

I also chose a solid rod Gentle Solid Shampoo, $22, to clean my ancient makeup brushes. Every time I need to change my toothbrush, I’ll choose bamboo – the handle is compostable, but unfortunately the nylon bristles still need to be thrown away (it’s generally recommended that people throw out used toothbrush heads).

It feels like a good place to start for my toiletries, but there are some essentials I haven’t replaced yet. This week I’ll be cleaning my eyes for toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizer and sunscreen, which I can refill or reuse.

Aotea's Kawakawa Balm has a long list of potential uses and the small jar is easily reused for other purposes.  Photo / Madeleine Crutchley
Aotea’s Kawakawa Balm has a long list of potential uses and the small jar is easily reused for other purposes. Photo / Madeleine Crutchley

2 nd day

Today, a no-makeup Saturday, I turn to review my cosmetic collection. It’s more of a confrontation.

I wouldn’t classify myself as an avid beauty shopper – I stick to the basics and generally only have one product per category. I also manage to use products endlessly; Turns out, I dip the handles of my makeup brushes into the bottles to get the last drops out (you call gross, I say skillful).

However, my makeup collection is surprisingly large. I have tons of eyeshadow palettes, handfuls of lipsticks, and random boxes of untouched goo (some my purchases, others gifted by friends).

I rarely reach for these products in my daily routine, making the collection a bit absurd.

Instead, foundation, bronzer, blush, mascara, and lipstick from my purse are accidentally smeared on my face—I’m optimistic about ditching such a breezy routine.

With a short list of essential replacements, I apply my moisturizer, sunscreen, and cream Aotea Acidic Balm, $40, through my lips, eyebrows and eyelashes. I’m ready for the day (and ready to find my new replacements).

3rd day

Expert beauty editor Ashleigh Cometti gave me a few makeup products to try out during the week. She favors pieces from beauty brands that use refillable or recyclable packaging. Among the finds is a shaped foundation Rose Inc. Brightening Color Serum, $95highlighter (RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, $78), gel eyeliner (Aleph Gel Liner, $58), two cheeks and lipstick (Maryse Lip Shine, $59and Aleph Cheek/Lip Tint in Gloria, $58) and with lipstick Henné Organics Luxury Lip Color, $45.

All market an element of reuse – glass, post-consumer recycled plastic or stored in recyclable packaging.

I also find a new moisturizer to try – the rose and chamomile range from Anihana. It’s buttery and not overly scented (and I feel well hydrated the next day). Sunscreen and toothpaste have been harder to track down (although a refillable toothpaste container from Solid seems like a potential trade-off).

Soap dishes and washable jars offer an opportunity for a lighter recycling bin.  Photo / Madeleine Crutchley
Soap dishes and washable jars offer an opportunity for a lighter recycling bin. Photo / Madeleine Crutchley

4th day

I experiment with makeup products before work.

A little goes a long way with a foundation that has good coverage and a semi-matte color (I skip concealer to keep my routine smaller). The Maryse Lip Shine, $59, the shade Lychee is very close to my usual blush and lip color – it’s semi sheer and deliciously glossy. The RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, $78, has a similar texture and covers my cheekbones beautifully. I’m being adventurous and find it doubles as an eyeshadow. In a similar way, I brush a little of the black Aleph Gel Liner, $58over my lashes to replace my mascara.

I’m redoing my lipstick at work, but give it a try Henné Organics Luxury Lip Color, $45, shade Azalea instead. Even though it’s an intimidating fuchsia, it looks beautiful. It’s a good choice for a handbag when dipping your toe into the bowl isn’t an ideal move.

I check for slippage at home – not much more than expected (and that’s without dust or spray).

Day 5

Time to stock up on my shower products. I’m annoyed that I didn’t notice at the weekend as I only have a short time to do it after work (my local refill shop closes at 6.30pm).

I stop and fill the bottles. It was easy enough after a bit of practice, although I’ve managed to blow up the EcoStore conditioner on myself a few times before. I check a few minutes before closing. Now my stash is growing for the next few weeks (I’ve also noticed that I’m more aware of how much product I’m using to wash my hair thanks to the clear bottles).

6th day

It’s not unusual for me to go to bed with my alarm and run half way through the house to get ready for work. I am very grateful for its versatility RMS Beauty Living Luminizer, $78and Maryse Lip Shine, $59cheek and lipstick because I can put it on for 30 seconds before I catch the bus.

Could this low-waste routine be an unwitting solution to my sleepy punctuality?

Local beauty brand Aleph will take back and reuse packaging from its products.  Photo / Madeleine Crutchley
Local beauty brand Aleph will take back and reuse packaging from its products. Photo / Madeleine Crutchley

7th day

Throughout the work week, I stick to the same routine – foundation, blush, highlight and lipstick or balm.

Usually, I break from this routine for special occasions or nights on the town, looking for a sense of drama. Winged liner has been a staple and I’m happy to find it an easy replacement Aleph Gel Liner, $58. Although stored in a bottle, the formula is closer to a liquid. I have to be quick with my application, but once applied it doesn’t budge.

After thinking about makeup for a week, I feel braver. I’m applying a bright red lip courtesy of Kate Sylvester’s recent collaboration with Aleph. Aleph Cheek/Lip Tint in Gloria, $58 (her latest collection was inspired by Gloria). It’s glossy and firm and easily reapplied.

After this

I’ve written before about my preference for simple and achievable routines that make me feel more comfortable. Of course, some efforts to avoid plastic are not simple or easily accessible to everyone.

Fortunately, I live near various gas stations and have time to visit them (on top of the usual supermarket trip). I generally pay a little extra for these products, which require more expensive and quality manufacturing to reduce environmental impact. The products also suit my various preferences – my hair and skin don’t react to any formula, and my makeup routine easily matches the options available.

Dealing with the volume of waste can feel insurmountable (I’ve only considered excess packaging for this piece, but the term “waste” and the broader implications of overproduction go even further). It is not for us to change things on our own; community action and legislation are other key pillars for progress.

But for my daily routine, it feels good to let go of new products and switch to less extreme staples. I’m happy to be a little lighter.

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