Worried about the environment and the animals? Check here the best plastic-free and cruelty-free beauty products for an eco-friendly care routine.

If you’re looking to clean up your beauty act in 2021, we have compiled a guide to the best plastic-free beauty products to add to your bathroom cabinet. Not only do we give tips on how to switch your commonly used beauty products to zero-waste options, but we also share our favourite cruelty-free and Fairtrade accredited make-up brands, ethical beauty heroes and those forging the way in refillable and eco-friendly cosmetic packaging.

Whilst beauty may be ‘skin deep’, when it comes to packaging this just isn’t the case: it really is what’s on the outside that counts. Did you know that 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry according to non-governmental organisation, Zero Waste Europe? Add to this that a huge proportion of these are made up of cellophane, outer retail packaging and un-recyclable components, and you grasp the scale of the issue.

The problem lies in the design of many fragrance, skincare and make-up products, with multiple materials (glass, plastic, metal) used in each unit, making separation for recycling logistically and financially unviable. In addition, for hygiene and formula stability reasons, many products cannot be refilled, or require a vacuum seal, meaning they will always have to be ‘single use’. That said, strides are being made by brands to seek out new materials; replacing virgin plastics with post-consumer recycled plastics, or switching out plastics altogether for glass, aluminium, corn starch or other bio-degradable options.

Changes are largely being driven by consumer appetite, with a Harris Poll survey finding that 59 per cent of women over the age of 35 say purchasing eco-friendly beauty products is important to them. It is precisely this demand for more conscious packaging and beauty manufacture that led to plastic microbeads and cotton buds being banned in the UK in recent years.

So, with the tides turning on single-use plastics within the packaging and beauty industry and more brands now offering plastic free, or refillable options – priced to incentivise customers to shop for the ‘greener’ option – we have created our edit of the ‘usual suspects’ in your bathroom and offer some great options for making the plastic-free beauty switch.

Plastic-Free And Refillable Handwash And Soap


We have never washed our hands more than right now. The University of Washington calculated that liquid soaps require five times more energy for raw material production and nearly twenty times more energy for packaging production than bar soaps do (think pump and plastic bottle vs. paper wrapped, or naked bar soap). Once on the side of our sink things don’t improve either: we use seven times more liquid soap than bar soap, and 30 per cent more water when washing with it. From production to packaging and usage, this is a simple, swift swap worth making. A similar impact can be made by switching your bottle of shower gel for a bar of soap, too. Here are three we love:

Claus Porto




We’ll admit, the Art Deco-inspired paper wrappings on these Claus Porto soaps is reason enough in our book to make the switch from liquid to solid. But unwrap them and the silky-smooth lather, hydrating pistachio and shea butters alongside natural fragrances of verbena, honeysuckle, jasmine and vanilla have an old-school charm about them that you just don’t get with a bottle of anti-bac.

Haeckels


Based on the Kent Coast, Haeckels has always been a front-runner in clever, modern, sustainable beauty. Harnessing the health-giving properties of the sea, it harvests vitamin- and mineral-rich seaweed just steps from its Margate shop and use it to enrich its exfoliating bar soap. A great ‘utility room soap’ for gardeners, the vegetable-based, vegan formula contains raw crushed botanicals of coriander seeds and peppercorns to scrub your mitts clean, whilst seaweed, aloe vera, and tea tree actively hydrate and repair the skin.

Soap Daze




Devon-based Soap Daze has a vast array of solid soaps – from those for hands and feet – and every body part in-between. Packaged in a simple, plastic-free cardboard sleeve, you can bulk buy in packs of six or pick and choose your favourites. Ginger and mandarin gives a great zing, perfect for in the kitchen to rid your hands of odours, or try its unscented Oat Milk bar for hands that are stressed out from hand sanitiser use.


Shampoo Bars And Refills


Swiss beauty firm, REDUIT found that the average UK household throws away 216 plastic haircare bottles a year – all destined for landfill. Shampoo bars have had a bad rep in the past for leaving hair straw-like, or without that ‘bounce factor’, but new brands and formulations mean there are some brilliant ones on the market now, with refillable liquid shampoo options a great eco-alternative, too. We love these three:

Rahua


Rahua’s classic fortifying shampoo refill pouch saves 90 per cent plastic consumption on the original bottle, whilst maintaining all the beautiful hair cleansing, strengthen and protecting benefits of their organic hair cleanser. Packed with omega-9 rich rahua oil and plant-derived nutrients, it smells like a spa in your bathroom – luxurious and conscious. A winning combo.

Love Beauty and the planet




Not only are 100 per cent of Love Beauty And Planet’s bottles made from recycled plastic, they’re also 100 per cent recyclable, too! A Unilever brand, it demonstrates the way forward for all cosmetic and toiletry big names. If you’re not ready to switch to bars, it also has a wide range of vegan shampoos for all hair types – with nourishing coconut oil and ylang ylang to repair; shea butter and sandalwood to hydrate and muru muru butter and rose to protect coloured hair. There’s oral care, body, bath and skincare, too for a full bathroom make-over.

Lush


The trailblazers in ‘solid beauty’, Lush’s shampoo bars can be stored dry in their clever cork pots and then lathered up to release their natural botanicals. The ‘New’ bar contains a stimulating blend of clove and cinnamon oil to invigorate your scalp while the nettle and peppermint infusion soothes and leaves your hair shining. Follow with their solid conditioner for a full haircare routine, all plastic-free.


Refillable Make Up


Netherlands-based packaging research group, LCA Centre found that if refillable containers were used for cosmetics, as much as 70 per cent of carbon emissions associated with the beauty industry could be eliminated. That’s a huge saving but currently few brands offer the option to refill. For many products, it is down to hygiene (i.e. mascara), but the good news is that innovative brands such as Trish McEvoy, Kjaer Weis, Charlotte Tilbury and Hourglass are all getting on board. Here are three that are pioneering the way.

Trish McEvoy




Trish McEvoy’s ‘make-up wardrobe’ planner (£35) cleverly allows you to pop pans of cheek, eye and lip colour in and out to build your own bespoke palette for minimum waste. Simple and clever.

Charlotte Tilbury


Make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury’s ‘Hot Lips 2’ range of lipsticks, in their Hollywood glamour style gold packaging, are now available as refills – with all the pillowy-soft colour and ‘3D light-scattering pigments’ that she has become synonymous with, and a saving of £9, too. What’s not to love?

Suratt


Surratt’s refillable Auto-Graphique eyeliner ticks all the boxes: inky black dense pigment; stick-ability; and the nib, inspired by Japanese calligraphy, delivers an effortlessly precise winged look. The refillable cartridge is one of the first refillable eye make-up products we’ve seen and it shows what is possible for the future of zero-waste make-up. Why not get in on the act now?

Zero-Waste Face Cleansers And Scrubs


Plastic microbeads found in facial scrubs were banned in the UK in 2018 in a great step towards removing ‘microplastics’ from the beauty industry. And, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and as a result there are now plenty of planet-friendly options if you’re still looking to slough away your tired, winter skin. These are the plastic-free or recyclable ones we love.

Upcircle




Natural, ethical skincare range, Upcircle is vegan and cruelty-free. Beyond the buzzwords it offers ‘leftover ingredients a new lease of life’, using coffee grounds discarded by hundreds of London coffee shops in its fantastic formulas. The floral coffee face scrub is great for sensitive skin, with calming chamomile to soothe and shea butter to nourish. Housed in an aluminium tube, the packaging in 100 per cent recyclable, too.

Orveda


At the luxury end of the ‘ethical beauty’ market, vegan skincare brand Orveda creates ‘mineral oil and plastic-bead free’ products; with a commitment to using less than five per cent plastic in all of its packaging, it has switched to striking green recyclable glass bottles instead. Passionate about cutting through the ‘science jargon’ and delivering cutting-edge research in its formulas, this is the skincare of the future.

Herbivore




The perfect first step to detoxing your skincare routine from plastic packaging is with a bar cleanser. Herbivore’s pink clay gentle soap bar is brilliant for drawing out impurities; minimising pores; and helping brighten and smooth tired skin – all imbued with a delicious floral scent and a possessed of rather Instagrammable pink hue.

Zero-Waste Body Washes And Scrubs


Much like the switch from liquid to bar soap, ditching your plastic bottle of shower gel for a refillable, or solid alternative is a great way of cutting down on the plastics in your bathroom. Here we round up a trio of ones we love.

Kan Kan


Kan Kan – which features seductive branding and a brilliant concept – puts its whole range of washes (hand, body, baby) into sugar-sweet looking aluminium cans because, as a material, it is infinitely recyclable. Simply buy its starter kit with reusable bottle and pump and top-up as required. The SLS-free formulas are palm oil free, vegan and cruelty-free, too and come in gorgeous scents including lemongrass and juniper and chamomile and lavender.

Aesop


The rather satisfyingly named ‘body cleansing slab’ from Aesop does just that – the pH balancing formula is laced with bergamot, Taitian lime and ylang ylang for an uplifting, unisex fragrance to wake you up and transport you to sunnier climes in one rinse. Heaven.

Wildtree Skincare




You’d be forgiven for thinking Wildtree Skincare’s handmade organic body scrub melts were dessert, rather than a bathroom product – and, indeed, they almost are, with cacao powder and organic cane sugar in their nourishing formula. The cacao powder is rich in Omega-6 fatty acids to support cell regeneration, while the sugar exfoliates and shea butter softens. Simply wrapped in paper, this is zero-waste beauty at its most delicious.


Cruelty-Free Body Butters


When sourcing ‘butters and oils’ for intensely nourishing body moisturisers, more beauty brands are understanding the importance of transparency in their supply chain – often sourcing their raw ingredients from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Brazil. Cruelty-free formulas that use Fairtrade and ethical sourcing methods not only ensure fair pay for farmers, but also reduce child exploitation; intensive use of chemicals in agriculture; while providing viable and long-term employment within rural economies.

Soaper Duper




Soaper Duper’s 100 per cent recyclable tubs of ginger root and eucalyptus body scrub will certainly put a zing in your step. Plus, you can be safe in the knowledge the 85 per cent of the naturally derived ingredients are cruelty-free, vegan – and each sale goes to support Water Aid’s work to make safe drinking water accessible to all.

Lila Beauty


A centuries-old formula, the Nigerian shea butter in Lila Beauty’s Gold Shea Butter glass jar is a great all-round moisturiser. Use on dry areas, stretch marks and scars, safe in the knowledge that the Vitamin A and E rich multi-purpose butter is ethically sourced, fragrance-free and vegan. Showing that simple really is best.

The Body Shop




The Body Shop’s range of nourishing body butters are rich in nut and fruit butters, including Community Fair Trade Shea butter from the Tungteiya Women’s Shea Butter Association in Ghana. A relationship set up by founder Anita Roddick twenty-five years ago, it ensures the co-operative of 600 women are paid fairly to support a social fund which benefits healthcare, sanitation and education projects. Great on so many levels.

By Lydia Mansi
February 2020

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Lydia Mansi

Lifestyle Editor

Lydia is an all-round lifestyle guru, tireless champion of women in business and our resident expert on beauty.

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