Sustainable living starts with your commuting to work, your daily routine in your kitchen, and bathroom.
When it comes to everyday beauty products, it might seem difficult to find brands that are trustworthy of our low waste approach. More specifically, to find cruelty free products that combine thoughtful packaging with beneficial, natural ingredients.
Nevertheless, a growing number of reliable makeup companies have created plastic-free, vegan alternatives that are free of any toxic and questionable ingredients.
Each of the below makeup brands won a place in this list because they tick most of the following boxes:
- They generate less waste than conventional cosmetics by using compostable packaging or containers from recycled aluminum.
- They use earth-friendly, high-quality components for a reasonable price. We will be on the lookout for questionable ingredients such as palm oil (for its origin), parabens, SLS, aluminum powder, and the like (for its toxicity).
- They never test their beauty products on animals. We will pin the vegan makeup options where relevant.
- They are ambassadors of the clean beauty principles in inspiring ways: fair trade sourcing, charitable work, or ambitious carbon-neutral shipping policy.
Following the detailed review of each makeup company, we will also cover sustainability regarding packaging and ingredients in the beauty industry.
- Zero waste makeup champion
- Recycled packaging
- Ambassador of clean botanical-based beauty
- Transparency of ingredients
- Recycling program
100% Pure - USA / Germany
100% Pure avoids animal-sourced ingredients whenever possible, as explained in their mission statement. Rest assured, though, the makeup and skincare brand is cruelty-free guaranteed.
Thus, donating vegan dog food for every order is even part of their usual philanthropic programs.
Regarding its packaging and container practices, 100% Pure guarantees BPA and phthalate-free standards. Being free from harmful chemicals is at the heart of the San Jose-based company. They use biodegradable packing peanuts made from corn starch to protect their products.
In addition to using recycled or recyclable packaging, we commend this zero waste makeup company for incentivizing recycling thanks to its in-store program.
When it comes to its ingredients, we chose 100% Pure for its commitment to source pigments from fruit, vegetables, tea, cocoa, and minerals, and this, to avoid commonly used heavy metal dyes. We vouch for the fruit pigmented Pretty Naked Palette to beautify the complexion.
The team is dedicated to providing transparency to its customers while taking the time to explain the presence of each ingredient. Thus, we encourage you to have a look at their online A to Z glossary.
Lastly, their sustainable business practices in terms of carbon footprint reduction are remarkable. To name just two examples, their headquarters are powered by solar panels, and their drought-tolerant plants contribute to a low impact landscaping.
River Organics - USA
The Wilmington-based makeup line is mostly renowned for its blush stick.
Made with organic plant oils and cocoa and mango butter, it is ideal for all skin types.
It is available in two colors, either in ‘pinch,’ which will give your cheeks a warm glow effect or in ‘bloom,’ giving a light, fresh rosy hue.
River Organics’ vegan products are handmade in the USA and come in compostable cardboard packaging.
Owned by a French-Canadian couple, the brand is as close as what you can call a zero waste makeup ambassador.
Thus, everything comes in compostable or reusable containers (glass). As for their shipping envelopes, they chose 100% recycled padded mailers.
The labels they use are natural and unbleached and made with compostable and biodegradable fibers.
As for their community work, the couple-owned company is a proud sponsor of the Plastic Ocean Project, ‘an organization that works toward preventing and removing marine plastics on and off-shore.’
One last notable reason we wanted to talk to you about River O. is its quantity/quality ratio.
Unfortunately, the price you pay for conventional products often entails paying for unnecessary packaging (up to 60% of the total size!).
Concretely, sizes DO matter! Did you know that on average, one regular size blush weighs about 5 grams or less? River Organics’ paper tube holds close to 14 grams of product for only 16 USD!
Ilia - USA / Canada
When it comes to packaging, Ilia continuously strives for more sustainable practices: recycled aluminum, glass components, and responsibly sourced paper. However, in our review on zero waste mascaras, we explain why we gave the brand a lower rating for this dimension.
Moreover, one of the reasons Ilia is on our list is thanks to its partnership with Terracycle and its zero waste boxes. Terracycle’s innovative recycling program ensures that all items are safely repurposed/recycled and do not end up in landfills.
Thus, they encourage their US customers to send back 5 empty makeup containers each month.
We love the brand’s vision regarding clean beauty: even though not all-natural ingredients are suitable for the skin (just like synthetic ingredients are not necessarily harmful), Ilia envisages pure beauty as a balanced compromise between both.
Concretely, this means merging makeup with skincare attributes; as a matter of fact, while botanicals are crucial ingredients, they appear insufficient for cosmetic products, according to Ilia.
They designed potent formulas with active levels of skincare ingredients shielding your skin from environmental stressors.
We recommend this 100% cruelty-free makeup brand as they value authenticity and transparency. Being PETA certified, this firmly guarantees that none of their products are tested on animals.
In the same vein, we commend Elate’s ambition to be fully vegan, with about 75% organic ingredients.
Another important ingredient-related detail is the brand’s (transparent) palm oil practices: for example, they use palm-based Stearic Acid.
However, they make sure to be supplied by RSPO certified suppliers who are regularly audited.
They encourage creating small shifts in daily rituals and mindsets to make a significant change.
Moreover, they commit to helping various charitable causes each year, worth up to 2% of their sales.
They continually develop new technologies and solutions towards a total zero waste system; Elate Cosmetics wants to become the first completely waste-free cosmetics company. More importantly, they report their operations are currently around 75% waste-free.
Their long-term mission is both inspiring and empowering, in their own words: ‘Our aim is to allow our customers to buy well, use less, and love themselves (and the Earth) more.’
On the Zero Waste side, even though they do not necessarily provide plastic-free packaging, Elate Cosmetics is committed to reusing all the plastic used for additional protection.
Moreover, they use glass bottles with a recyclable plastic pump. When it comes to bamboo packaging (for example, lids), composting is a possibility.
A pioneer in clean beauty principles, Elate Cosmetics, is among our favorite (almost) zero waste makeup brands!
Fat And The Moon - USA
Fat and the Moon founder Rachel Budde has created her company with the ambition to carry on with a family legacy of herbalists and natural healers. They even organize regular ‘herbal classes’!
Beyond its peculiar name, healing is at the core of the company’s mission. It is first and foremost reflected in how they conduct business, bearing in mind to keep the right relationship with people and plants.
All it’s zero waste makeup is handcrafted, making the company a small-batches, handmade-to-order type of business.
F&M has earned a spot on this list for its ingredients choices in addition to its zero waste approach. Each is carefully selected for both its sustainability features and its positive effects on skin tone and health.
Each makeup formula contains 4 to 6 high-quality ingredients on average. They even call themselves ‘minimal maximalists.’
The plants they select are abundant, ethically harvested, and cultivated according to organic principles. Fat and the Moon combine these in formulas and textures that are downright non-toxic.
All products are palm oil-free, and some are even entirely vegan-friendly (watch out for beeswax in specific makeup options, like the Cheek Stain).
Moreover, they make sure to use reusable, recyclable containers and to avoid superfluous packaging.
We particularly like them for their vision of beauty beyond one’s color, gender, or body type. They partner with various organizations and strive to amplify ‘justice-seeking, skill reclaiming, and heart-centered work.’
Lastly, F&M offers a wide range of affordable, earth-friendly makeup and beauty items. We are sure you will find the perfect fit for your needs, should it be for its Mama&Babe collections, hair care products, toiletries, and even magical sets.
Bee You Organics - USA
This zero waste beauty company has earned a place on our review for its first-rate ingredients in general, and in particular, for its mascara.
Only eight components– all USDA Certified Organic! Quite the achievement. It is not water-based, but oil and wax-based and are safe for celiacs (gluten-free).
Its first ingredient is organic castor oil. Moreover, the mixture contains activated charcoal and cocoa powder but is free of palm oil, mineral, mica, GMO’s, and Iron Oxide.
All Bee You Organics’ cruelty-free products are made from scratch in the Pacific Northwest. Since they are water and alcohol-free, Bee You Organics’ makeup and skincare are incredibly concentrated.
And, the products are never tested on animals. Cruelty-free is a crucial criterion for us at Puratium.
We are fans of the family-owned makeup brand for its – almost plastic-free – packaging practices. Thus, they make sure to ship all recycled and recyclable packaging products, with the minimum amount of protective materials possible.
Even for their mascara, they use a glass jar with a metal tin (both easily recyclable) and encourage their customers to donate used wands to a local charity. Get the full story here.
Lastly, you can request label-free items, ideal for us proud low wasters!
Dab HMS - USA
Based in California, we commend the brand’s holistic approach to skincare and makeup. Thus, beauty and self-care go hand in hand with transparency and wellness. They are often nicknamed ‘medicinal makeup’!
Moreover, Dab is on our list for its efforts to abide by fair trade business practices. Hence, the low waste cosmetic brand only partners with manufacturers that observe ethical sourcing and cruelty-free practices, resulting from factories or mines free of any child labor.
To give one example, this is the case regarding the little mica they use; it is mined and processed in the USA. Unfortunately, mica (a sort of mineral) is traditionally associated with illegal mines in Asia.
If you are a vegan, be on the lookout for Dab’s low / zero waste makeup, which is entirely free of animal products. Additionally, their products are cruelty-free, gluten-free, food-grade, and non-GMO guaranteed.
We particularly like their mascara, which contains a simple list of food-grade and organic ingredients: and, you can use it as mascara, eyebrow filler, and eyeliner. Quite the innovation!
Axiology was created ‘to make the cleanest, most ethical lipstick on the planet.’ They believe that it should be easy to find the right makeup that does not harm humans or the planet.
They promote themselves as the ‘100% evil-free’ brand. Additionally, they are one of the most famous vegan and zero waste makeup brands and guarantee that their boxes are compostable. Moreover, their lipstick tubes are made of aluminum and are easily recyclable.
Furthermore, they extensively explain their presence in Bali, Indonesia, and how their packaging is made from recyclable trash on their website. Additionally, they are proud to highlight that their factory is female-owned, empowered by ‘their role as environmental protectors.’
They also believe in securing meaningful jobs for women who want to make a difference in their local community. And, who wants to be part of saving Bali from environmental destruction.
We are big fans of the ingredients composing the lipsticks:
- organic oils: coconut, castor, avocado, grapeseed.
- elderberry extract
- candelilla wax
- and mainly, palm-oil free!
Generally speaking, Axiology strives for natural, oil-based formulas. They even commit to using maximum 10 components in each of their zero waste makeup items.
The Danish Kirsten Kjaer Weis worked around the world for years for renowned fashion magazines.
She found it a pity to see that people were sacrificing their skin’s health by using (irritating) synthetic makeup.
We love her brand for being a ‘pioneer in organic, luxury beauty.’ Everything is made in Italy of sustainable, high performing, and organic ingredients that have passed several renowned certifications.
For vegans, bear in mind that some of Kjaer Weis’ products are made of beeswax.
Therefore, look at their list of ingredients before buying from their high performing, luxury makeup brand.
Personally, we vouch for the Cream Eye Shadow available in 4 different long-lasting colors. It is a highly pigmented formula that turns out to be a soft, blendable texture.
Bear in mind that Kjaer Weis’ products’ price range is slightly above similar brands on this list.
However, because of its intelligent refill system, the brand continually strives to raise eco-luxury bar.
Waste-wise, we love the fact all makeup products come in a refillable metal case (even the mascara and lipstick tubes). And these refills come in recycled cartons.
Lastly, Kjaer Weis’ e-shop is exceptionally user-friendly. All these reasons make them one of the best zero waste makeup brands.
Avril Cosmetics - France
We love this cruelty-free PETA certified brand because most of their products are fabricated in France, and they use 100% green electricity for production.
Reducing their CO2 emissions is a priority, whether in their offices or stores. They compensate for what is left by ensuring an equivalent amount of trees are planted each year.
When it comes to their role as one of the most famous zero waste makeup brands, they are continually improving their approach.
Namely, bulk shower gels are available in their stores, no packaging is used for accessories, and received boxes are reused to send new orders.
They even strive for a more eco friendly living in their own offices! No plastic bottles, no paper towels, and they efficiently sort their waste to reuse all paper easily.
Additionally, an intriguing fact worth mentioning is that they installed hives on their headquarter’s rooftop.
We particularly appreciate the variety of products (cosmetics, but also skincare for men and babies) and the super affordable prices vis à vis the high quality of ingredients.
Lastly, despite their efforts to reduce their packaging waste as much as possible, some makeup products come in conventional containers (hence the lower rating for this category).
However, we applause the brand for its constant evolution towards more zero waste, as highlighted by its recent launch of makeup accessories and soap bars.
The certified organic and cruelty-free brand has been our favorite zero waste makeup option for years. Their blush powder is merely fantastic and easy to apply to your cheeks.
Couleur Caramel’s products are quite popular in Europe. The brand makes it a priority to be present at famous events such as the Cannes Festival.
Named after their famous golden/brown kraft packaging, they focus on promoting organic and eco-friendly makeup with renowned artists’ help.
They participate in these events as ambassadors to go for less waste in the beauty industry and encourage a more natural lifestyle in general.
The ingredients they use are rich in nutrients; shea butter, organic olive wax, organic soy oil, or organic apricot powder.
All of these are well-known for their protective, revitalizing, and nourishing properties. Be aware that the brand is not entirely vegan as some products contain beeswax or carmine as a dye.
Innovation is at the heart of the French company; their lab combines the latest manufacturing methods with the best of botanical intelligence.
Packaging-wise, they mainly use recyclable materials such as cardboard and prioritize eco-designed products and packaging.
Why switch to zero waste makeup
Dear reader, if you made it to this section, it means you care. That makes us feel great and useful. You now have a better understanding of what makes a beauty brand more reputable, transparent, and eco friendly.
However, you might wonder, why should you care so much about zero waste beauty in your bathroom? Let’s take a moment to grasp the impacts of non-recyclable (or very hard to recycle) packaging.
And how you can make more beneficial choices for the earth and your skin when looking for zero waste makeup.
What is wrong with conventional plastic packaging?
Firstly, we have to go back and understand why this type of packaging became so popular more than a century ago across the world.
In addition to its affordable price, here are several reasons that shed light on its extensive use:
- It protects the packaged product from moisture, gases, humidity, etc.
- It preserves food longer and has contributed to decreasing waste due to long transportation distances. Take cucumbers’ example; they are edible up to 14 days with plastic packaging, versus 2 or 3 without any protection.
- It is light and hygienic, which has been particularly helpful when it comes to medical packaging.
However, as stated in National Geographic, although this miracle material has made modern life possible, more than forty percent of it is used just once.
The numbers are astonishing: plastic production started to explode in the 1950s, and since then, a mere 9.2 billion tons were produced.
Out of that amount, more than 6 billion tons never reached a recycling bin. Hence, these tons most likely ended in nature and the oceans.
The main issue is that experts predict that it will take at least 450 years for plastic to disintegrate.
And, maybe never in some cases. In the meanwhile, it is ingested by marine life and kills millions of the same each year. This also means that fishes that consumed plastic will end up on our plates.
In a nutshell, plastic, as such, is not the enemy when it can be recycled (part of the 5R’s). However, bear in mind that recycling plastic is still a real challenge today; only about 18% of plastic is recycled globally. These are some of the reasons why plastic trash ending in nature is harmful.
We need to look for a more sustainable circular economy for plastics. Would you like to know more about the topic? We recommend you have a look at this detailed article here.
What Type Of Sustainable Makeup Packaging Should You Look For?
Conventional (often plastic-made) makeup packaging is nowadays barely recycled. The good news, though, it has become increasingly easier to be a part of the solution.
First, get creative and try to upcycle the makeup containers you no longer use. Get crafty, or donate these to schools.
Then, whenever you would like to purchase new beauty products, be an alert and eco-conscious customer. As detailed in the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, there are a few criteria that make a package sustainable:
- It is safe and healthy for all people during its life cycle.
- Competitive price (it meets market criteria for performance and cost).
- Priority to renewable resources, such as wind or solar energy
- And mainly, it is either reusable/refillable, compostable, biodegradable, or fully recyclable packaging.
Ideally, this means that you can close the loop: you buy packaging made from recyclable materials that can easily be recycled afterward, such as cartons or paper.
Therefore, whenever you are buying makeup products, prioritize brands that follow as much as possible the above principles.
Protecting the environment from further harm starts with us, and our choices to trigger long-lasting, impactful changes in the industry.
Products that are sustainably packaged should be the norm, not the exception. Brands have a role to play, politics have a role to play, but we do too, as activists in our everyday moves and choices.
What About Natural, Sustainably Sourced Ingredients?
Conventional cosmetics from petrochemical origins (derived from petrol, i.e., a non-renewable resource) can provoke irritations; this is one of the main reasons, beyond going zero waste, why we wanted to use cosmetics made of natural ingredients.
The push for sustainable beauty and ‘green products’ comes from a better understanding of the ingredients and the process.
Be wary of the term ‘green’ you can find on particular labels. What matters is that these cosmetic products use natural ingredients produced from renewable raw materials.
As explained by Acme-Hardesty, to label cosmetics as green, ‘they need to use bio-based oleochemicals; in other words, they need to be derived from renewable plant and bacteria sources.’
While it is not always possible to choose 100% organic (and utterly perfect) cosmetics products, we recommend considering the below criteria. Hence, sustainable cosmetics should be made of:
- Natural Oils (argan, avocado, coconut, etc.)
- Agricultural Plants (soybeans, corn, etc.)
- In general, plant-based raw materials with sustainable production methods.
On the other hand, known earth-friendly cosmetics should not be made of the following ingredients. Always seek medical advice in case of doubts.
Bear in mind that most of these can be harmful or even toxic for your health, as recent research shows.
- BHA and BHT (can disrupt the endocrine system)
- Aluminum, Coal tar dyes, and Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (a carcinogen)
- Dibutyl phthalate or DBP (can be harmful to human reproduction)
Lastly, conventional cosmetic companies are, unfortunately, still testing on animals because of certain legislative loopholes.
As a matter of fact, be aware that the European Union has issued a testing ban since 2009 on cosmetic products, but it is not yet the case everywhere else in the world. Thus, it is still possible to – legally – do so in some states in the US.
By opting for low waste, ethically sourced products, you raise your voice against such practices. Thus, we strongly encourage you to favor cruelty-free makeup brands that are PETA or Leaping Bunny certified over shady, unclear options.
An App That Helps
There is one last tip we would like to share. We are not exactly experienced scientists, so whenever in doubt when reading a label, you recommend downloading the app called Yuka. It works pretty well with both food and cosmetic products available in North America and Europe.
It is available in English, Spanish and French. Scan the bar-code, and it scores the given item and rates it at four risk levels, depending on the presence of certain ingredients with potential/adverse health effects.
They promote transparency and cite all their scientific sources(as well as the latest research). Bear in mind that packaging is not yet considered in their rating, even though they plan on doing so soon. Additionally, Yuka’s database is currently broader for food than cosmetics.
However, we love how it helps us decipher difficult lists of ingredients and translate them instantly into intelligible qualities and risks of various daily-used products.
In addition to thoughtful eco-packaging, it is crucial to buy high-quality products made of natural oils that are plant-based and ideally organic.
Makeup Remover: Zero Waste Options
We cannot talk about zero waste makeup brands without exploring the options that allow us to safely and sustainably remove makeup.
Traditionally, this means single-use cotton pads with makeup remover formula. Both of these usually come in non-sustainable packaging.
To avoid waste to its maximum, we simply recommend:
- Remover pads: our preference goes to organic cotton or bamboo pads. These products are reusable and washable with the rest of your laundry at an average temperature.
- Add a few drops of oil on the pad, such as almond or grapeseed (more comfortable to use than coconut oil and more affordable when it comes to grapeseed).
Did you forget your oil during a getaway with friends? Have a look at the olive oil they store in their kitchen(if available). It will also do the job, and it is very efficient for removing waterproof mascara.
Lastly, as explained in our Zero Waste Cleaning article, we are big fans of H2O Home. In addition to their zero waste cleaning products, they created a microfiber makeup remover glove.
Very easy to use, with lukewarm water only. Furthermore, you can wash it in the laundry machine with the rest of your belongings (avoid any softener, though).
A growing number of zero waste makeup brands are trying to be, if not entirely zero waste, at least plastic-free and packaged in recyclable and compostable materials. And this while optimizing the best of natural and plant-based ingredients.
At Puratium, we wanted to share our experience and opinion thanks to this list of brands worldwide. Understanding that A) they are not all totally zero waste but low / less waste, and B) that they can become 100% zero waste soon.
While considering the different budgets and expectations, we hope this review encouraged you to be a more eco-conscious customer.
Whether it is for cosmetic products or personal care items in general, WE CAN make a significant difference by choosing the right zero waste makeup.
If you are looking for a similar list of zero waste, cruelty-free guaranteed bathroom essentials, we published a detailed article here.