Zero and low waste make-up: A work in progress

I have spent way, way too much time trying to figure out zero and/or low waste make-up options for myself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve attempted to Google “zero waste make-up” only to spend an hour or more staring at the screen completely overwhelmed.

I don’t have art for this post so here’s another info graphic about ways to reduce single-use plastics.

And yet, that’s where we are.

Kind of made me wonder if maybe my super powdery DIY powdered make-up wasn’t so bad after all.

Nah, it was pretty bad.

Last week it finally occurred to me that my search was so difficult because it was too broad. “Zero waste make-up” covers all manner of thing — and the truth of the matter is I don’t wear that much.

So I started over by making a list in my journal: What qualities are the most important to me in a make-up item? What do I use?

The qualities list was easy: I don’t want any powdered make-up, I want products that come in reusable or recyclable containers (like glass or tin), they must be ethically produced (no animal testing) and it needs to be all-natural.

What I use was even easier: Eyeshadow that doubles as an eyeliner, foundation, lip tint that doubles as a blush, and mascara.

I’m just about out of my (organic) pressed powder compact and (commercial crappy) mascara, so I decided to start my search there.

And ran into the same kinds of problems.

Listing ALL of my desired qualities into the search engine produced a whole lot of nothing, so I decided to just go with ethical and sort the info from there. It didn’t do me a lot of good. Most of the products listed weren’t make-up but soaps and moisturizers; some were ethical but not zero waste; some were ethical but not natural.

Pulling out my hair a little (it’s okay, I’ve got enough for three people, no joke), I decided to do some research on the organic brand available at our grocery store, called Mineral Fusion. (I debated sharing the name of the stuff because, as we’ve already established, I don’t want to encourage anyone to buy anything. I am happy with this, but I also have purchased it in the past because that was what was available. Please don’t buy it on my account.)

Pros: This stuff is made in Colorado, it’s all-natural, some of the products are vegan, and they’ve partnered with a group to raise awareness about domestic violence.

The maybes: The containers are recyclable — but there are no numbers listed on them, so how they are recycled is up in the air. And when I went to search how ethical the company is, I saw they had a poor rating. When I clicked around to see why they had a poor rating, I got error messages on pages. So I don’t know specifics.

But I needed to start somewhere, so I decided to email the company and ask about the packaging — how do you recycle it? Can I send it back to them? Do I put it out on the curb? What’s the deal?

I have yet to hear back.

Another company that has cropped up in my searches, and apparently has a local retailer, is RMS Beauty. (Again, do not buy this because of this mention. I haven’t even tried the stuff.)

Pros: Certified organic, no animal testing, and recyclable packaging (but only on some products? I can’t tell).

The maybes: Again, how do I recycle the containers?

My plan was to walk down to this supposed retailer and ask questions of a real person as opposed to sending an email inquiry, but apparently we haven’t had enough snow and ice yet this winter because now we’re in a “freezing rain event.” No school again. I digress, but only slightly: The point is that I haven’t been able to even walk downtown for fear of landing on my backside.

So add that to the continuing saga. I’ll update when I know more.

(Maybe I should have started with lip tint. Etsy that stuff and be done. Or I assume.)


I am disappointed to report that my foray into the wonderful world of a Buy Nothing Group hasn’t really gone as I’d hoped. The girls were cleaning their rooms before Christmas and ended up with a bunch of stuff to get rid of, so I took photos and posted it to our town’s site, and lo and behold, people actually wanted this crap treasure.

So I sent PMs, telling them I’d have the stuff at my office and come pick it up.

No one responded. No one showed up.

Now, some of that might have to do with the aforementioned terrible weather we’ve been having, but I’d hope that as adults, we’d have the manners to at least answer a message to say yes, I’m coming, or nope, changed my mind. 

I’m trying to be super generous about why I got stood up, but the fact is that it annoys me and I’m trying to figure out some nice wording for when I repost it all in July or whenever the weather finally turns decent again (it feels like it will NEVER be decent again) to be all, hey, don’t respond unless you’re actually going to come get it.

One plus, though: When I first joined, there were 11 of us. Now it’s in the 80s. I have a feeling that number will go up even more when people start posting to the page again — right now, I think everyone is just like, we’re not leaving the house so why bother? No real activity this entire month so far.

The end, I guess.

Next up: Nothing like being in the middle of an emergency to make you think about your emergency kit. Is it really possible to zero waste such an ordeal? Spoiler alert: I don’t know.

8 Responses to Zero and low waste make-up: A work in progress

  1. I’ve been thinking about the sharing economy and your experience with the Buy Nothing group kind of illustrates my thoughts. I’m totally in favour of sharing our stuff with others, but I often find that the informality of our methods (Facebook, Craigslist, Freecycle, leaving things at the curb) makes it hard for them to be really useful. I’m always needing things I can’t find secondhand – and always wanting to get rid of lovely stuff that I can’t find a home for.

    We have tons of thrift stores that are great, but I do often wish for a thrift ‘department store’ or specialty secondhand stores like craft supplies, home & garden, etc. If I need child locks for our cabinets, it would be so nice just to go to one big location that gathered similar items together and kept them till they were needed, so I would have the biggest chance of finding what I actually needed.

    I guess I keep thinking that informal sharing methods, although they’re the stuff of nostalgic fantasies about 19th century community solidarity, perhaps aren’t the most efficient method of re-housing stuff we don’t need, and finding what we actually do need. They often require our homes to be the storehouses, both for what we want to get rid of but haven’t yet re-homed, or for what we might need someday and snatched up now because it might not appear on the secondhand market again.

    Does this make sense?

    • Have you spoken to your librarian? Often, libraries are seeking to reach out to the community with innovative programs. See if you can set up an area, possibly with a volunteer staff, for people to come by with craft supplies. It would require regular organization, but it’s worth a shot. As both a librarian and a owner of too many craft supplies, this sounds great!

    • Jennifer and Roberta!

      I do know what you mean — it’s hard to connect what you need with what is available. I don’t like my house being the storage barn for items I “might” use; I’m pretty brutal when I get rid of stuff, but I know that secondhand stores are basically overflowing with so much stuff that it just ends up getting tossed because they can’t deal with it all. That’s why I had such high hopes for the Buy Nothing group. And maybe it will eventually pan out that way. A “mini mall” of various “departments” would be so awesome and help so much!

      I’d never have thought of trying to get something going at the library, re the craft items. I’ll bet that would get a great response! That’s a really interesting idea …

  2. Have you researched Origins brand cosmetics? They have a pretty aggressive recycling program for the containers and claim to ship in all recyclable packaging as well. Also, I think an organic line.

  3. Have you tried Lush? I don’t wear a lot of makeup, so while their stuff is more expensive, it lasts for me. As a scientist, I often get annoyed with the contents of makeup where companies make claims that are just ridiculous and Lush makes sense with what they promote. I’ve gotten henna from them, and it only came in small wrap of paper.

    • I haven’t tried Lush either — I thought it was just a soap company. Interesting! I also like that it’s scientist approved. 🙂 Thanks — adding this to the list as well.

  4. I’ve used Lush and Origins. Both are pretty simple to recycle… you just take the container to the store and they have a drop bucket. For actual make-up, I like Origins product better. I have some lip tint from Lush and it gets a little gritty feeling. Lush, however, seems to be a little better with the low-waste packaging up front. Lip tint came in a metal tin, you can buy soaps and shampoos in just paper, whereas Origins has a more traditional package (always a box, some bottles are plastic pump bottles and/or those squeeze tubes which seem more difficult to recycle even though they say they can/do).
    Oh… and Origins says they’ll take any cosmetic container for recycling, even if its not theirs. I try not to do that (feels like its taking advantage, but in a pinch it comes in handy).
    And one more Oh… Lush also has tooth brushing tabs, which come in a cardboard box. They take some getting used to, but I like them (my kids don’t, so they still use the traditional stuff).

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