Zero waste DIY: Powdered makeup

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t wear a ton of makeup — I mean, I’m 44 and it’s no longer 1986 (electric blue mascara. That’s all I have to say about THAT) — but I do have some favorites: Concealer, foundation powder, eyeshadow, mascara, lip balm. The lip balm I’ve sort of tackled (uh … we’ll have to revisit that eventually), but that still leaves an awful lot of plastic in my makeup bag.

I started getting organic facial powder and eyeshadow a couple of years ago and haven’t looked back … until now. It’s just that there’s the teeny problem of the non-recyclable containers (I can repurpose them, but truthfully there’s only so many you need). P.S., the eyeshadow is also my eyeliner and blush.

I’ve been collecting various cosmetic recipes, some on my Zero Waste Pinterest page, some in my journal, and none of them seem particularly difficult. Well, except this blush that requires you to dry some beets and them make them into a power. This is when my laziness minimalism kicks in.

But! I did recently learn that the bulk aisle in my favorite grocery carries cranberry powder, and I was like, hey, that might be a great alternative!, but check out the price:

Call me crazy, but $3.83 an ounce seems kinda steep.


I was able to get a good scoop of green clay for 63¢, I have bulk cinnamon and cocoa powder, and a lot of leftover arrowroot powder and bentonite clay from other projects. (Man, do I have bentonite clay.) Eh, what could happen?

First up: Foundation powder. Bea Johnson in her book, Zero Waste Home, recommends just mixing green clay and cornstarch until you get the color you’re going for (green clay = redness reducer. Science!). I used arrowroot and green clay and was pretty pleased with myself right off the bat. It was perfect and I didn’t even try that hard. Measurements are boring, but I did use more arrowroot than clay. I like how it feels on my face.

How cute is that container? $1.29 in the bulk aisle.

How cute is that container? $1.29 in the bulk aisle. Technically it’s too small for my brush, but details have never stopped me before.

Feeling emboldened, I decided to attempt a blush. It didn’t occur to me until after I started that what I really needed to do was concentrate on a decent eyeshadow, since that’s what I use for blush anyway. Whoops.

Bea recommends mixing cocoa powder, cinnamon and beet root until you get the shade you’re after. I decided to mix cocoa and cinnamon … and then added some bentonite clay, mostly because I really just want to get rid of that stuff. I went into the bathroom to try it and it was just way too light. Plus the bentonite gave it a weird texture that I didn’t like.

Digging deep in my memory, I thought I recalled reading something somewhere about adding almond oil to a powdered mix to make it a solid. (Solid-ish.) I don’t have almond oil, but I do have sunflower oil. So I decided to add some of that to see what would happen.

I got this:

It was at this moment I started re-evaluating my life choices.


I mixed and I stirred and I swore a bit, and added some more oil, then more clay, and finally was like, maybe it’s not actually as bad as I think it is, let’s go try some on and see what happens.

You guys, I am always optimistic about all the wrong things.

Seriously re-evaulating my life choices.

Seriously re-evaluating my life choices.

I decided this whole mess was best suited for the compost heap, so I ditched it, washed the jar, and gave up on the idea of blush in favor of eyeshadow.

For that, Bea had a little chart: You can use French clay for a pastel green, sage powder for “Army green,” turmeric for gold, and cocoa powder for brown. I like brown eyeshadow, even though I’ve been told I should be wearing blue because my eyes are blue (well, I was told once by someone trying to sell me makeup. I still just bought the brown). So I decided to mix arrowroot, cocoa powder and cinnamon together.

The result … is not what I want. It’s really pale (maybe I should have skipped the arrowroot) and I don’t like how it felt on my eyelids. Plus I felt like I was brushing powder out of my eyes for the rest of the day.

Fast-forward to the next morning (sometimes you just gotta give yourself time to calm down and reassess your life), when I dumped some cocoa and cinnamon in a jar and called it a day. I tried it first as a blush. I was rewarded with a nice hint of color that doesn’t look like poo (see photo above.) Next I tried it as an eyeshadow, but it still wasn’t dark enough. And it was way too powdery to make a decent eyeliner.

The upside to all of this is that I really did get a decent powdered foundation and blush for my trouble that are not only cheap to make, but totally zero waste.

But I’m not exactly sure what to do about the eyeshadow. I still have a tiny bit left of my purchased eyeshadow, so I don’t have to make any decisions right now … but I will soon.

The downside is that these powdered items are super messy:

Why yes, I did use powdered makeup this morning! Why do you ask?

Why yes, I did use powdered makeup this morning! Why do you ask?

And not just on clothing — the sink area in the bathroom is just gross by the time I’m done.

So I’m not sure where this leaves us, Simple Year friends. P.P.S. I know that the best solution would be to just give up makeup, but the problem with that is I don’t want to. P.P.P.S. I also have homemade mascara on my list, but I’ve been too afraid to try.

Anyone else use homemade makeup? Please share!

Next up: Alternatives to canning. Most likely on Friday. This week has already gotten away from me.

12 Responses to Zero waste DIY: Powdered makeup

  1. I gave up using make up along time ago to many chemicals in the products then you have to use a heavy duty chemical to wash it all back off, I am not fond of chemicals. so when I have a really special occasion I get my make up professionally done and I do not have to throw out products that have gone off before I could use them

  2. Josephine fairley has a book called natural beauty I think (uk) and it has a recipe for a cheek and lip tint. I seem to remember it’s a mix of beetroot, almond oil and beeswax. The beeswax is what sets it solid. It worked well when I tried.

  3. I haven’t had a lot of luck with DIY makeup. Most of what I could achieve was either unwearable (greasy, powdery smears on my face) or so subtle and temporarily-lasting that it wasn’t really worth it. I think it’s really hard to get a DIY powdered product finely ground enough not to be grainy.

    I think the best was actually dehydrating bits of beet into dry chips, then wetting them again as needed to make a cheek stain, smearing the damp beet on my skin and then blending with my fingers before it dried. That, I recall, looked nice and fresh and gave a noticeable, but natural, effect. It worked as a lip stain too.

    My personal solution is just to seek out BETTER options and try to find recyclable packaging when I can. Something you might investigate is the mascara from the Etsy shop Keeping It Natural: they have a brown one which is in a cake form in an aluminium tin. You can use it as eyeliner or mascara by wetting it. The tin would be reusable or recyclable, and they will ship zero-waste friendly. Very inexpensive and lasts longer than a tube of mascara, as well as being multipurpose and kinda vintage.

    • Better options — I like that. I checked out the site, looks like that could be a good option for mascara. Thanks for the tip!

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