It’s no secret that commercial make-up is filled with a bunch of (let’s just be frank here) crap, including chemicals, preservatives, all sorts of things you really don’t want in your body.
For years, most have been led to believe that’s the only option, that even “natural beauty” products are synthetic. Wrong! Not only can they be 100% natural, but they can also have minimal impact on the planet, and with rising consumer demand for such products, more and more options have become available.
Still, finding zero-waste make-up alternatives is no easy feat, because traditional containers are difficult (at best) to recycle, being often comprised of composite materials and components that would need to be separated to avoid recycling contamination. That’s where we come in!
Remember, zero-waste is not just a lifestyle but an ethos to use only that which can be reused or composted, instead of trashed or burned. It involves a lot of small steps and incremental changes (just like your beauty routine!) and sometimes it feels like you’re never quite there. But just like a little highligher can go a long way, little steps in the right direction can make a big impact.
When it comes to make-up, DIY is one of the best zero-waste solutions out there, but we understand that not everyone has the time to devote to making these things themselves (we sure don’t!). That’s why we’ve found some sustainable make-up brands that offer products in reusable or compostable containers, so you can look good and feel even better about your impact on the environment.
If this is your first time visiting, our approach to sustainable beauty is to look for brands and products that are vegan, cruelty-free, organic / natural, palm oil free, have ethical ingredient sourcing policies and use thoughtful, (ideally) zero-waste packaging (meaning it either has no waste at all, or waste that is ideally compostable, though with make-up we have to resort to reusable or re-fillable containers in many instances).
We know it’s tall order and believe us, it takes a fair bit of time to find these brands to meet all or most criteria. While we hope to provide a useful resource for you, we would also love to hear your thoughts and suggestions if we missed anything or if you have any experience with these brands, as we have not gotten to try them all ourselves just yet.
Dirty Hippie offers a large range of makeup including foundation, blemish cream, primer, liquid eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, brow powders, blush, lipstick pots, and cheek tint (as well as a decent range of skin and hair care products). All their products are 100% cruelty-free, palm oil free, and vegan.
About Dirty Hippie:
Based in a zero-waste community in Bywong, Australia, Dirty Hippie Cosmetics are one of the most sustainable brands we’ve had the pleasure of covering. They create handmade organic and clearly top quality products (based on hundreds of super reviews).
When it comes to sourcing they’ve covered all bases, either purchasing through fair trade channels, buying local or growing their own raw ingredients, even making use of naturally collected rainwater!
As for packaging, their lip balms, sunscreens, and deodorants, are made using recycled paper (which can be composted!). Otherwise they use tins and glass bottles which can be recycled or reused of course! Their labels are printed with refillable veg-ink and their operations (which currently have a 50% carbon offset) will be powered with solar when they move into their new HQ.
Finally, they’re involved in a number of charitable initiatives and projects from raising awareness for suicide prevention to animal rescue to support for cancer sufferers. Truly inspirational!
Dab Herb Makeup offer a wide range of makeup options including for eyes (including mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow and eyebrow grower), face (including foundation, tinted moisturize, concealer, luminizer, primer, contour powder, cheek pinch, blush and color corrector), lips (gloss, tint and balm), the cutest makeup sets, makeup tools (including vegan brushes).
Many of these products come in glass or tin containers and accordingly have refill options (the product costs less when you refill, yay!), the instructions for which are very clear once you open the product description. Be sure to check these before you buy as their policy requires that you send back the cleaned containers for refill. Dab then sanitizes the containers before refilling them.
All Dab Herb’s products are vegan, cruelty-free, mostly organic, food grade (on some of their products they have a useful comparison of the organic food grade ingredients in their product compared to your typical popular brands which are full of synthetics and chemicals, and it’s scary!) and entirely palm oil free.
About Dab Herb Makeup:
Dab Herb is a “Nature to Nurture” beauty and skincare company that believes “beauty and self-care are inseparable from sustainability, transparency, and wellness”. What started as small makeup made just for their founder Crissy’s personal use, developed into an advocate for green beauty standards.
For every product, they use only food-grade, certified organic, cruelty-free, and vegan ingredients. Many of these of herb and plant oils to heal the skin itself, not just disguise it. Dab Herb’s products are all palm oil free (including free of palm oil derivatives). Ingredients are sourced from fair trade certified farmers and suppliers.
Dab ships their products plastic free and they re-use their own suppliers’ shipping materials for larger orders. Back in the office, any printing they do is on recycled materials.
Dab Herb also support “MADE IN THE FREE WORLD” which focuses on developing and implementing high impact solutions to human trafficking by working with the most effective partners to rescue and care for victims worldwide.
Elate Beauty offers a large range of “Products that don’t compromise the health of any person, animal or the planet.”
This includes eye makeup (pressed and loose powder, mascara, eyeliner and brow balm), face makeup (foundation, powder, concealer, blush, highlighter, bronzer), lipstick, lip gloss, palettes (which you can custom create for your complexion!) and kits. All of which are Cruelty-free International certified, PETA certified vegan, and gluten free.
They do use some palm oil derivatives and their supplier states that this is derived from RSPO certified palm.
About Elate Beauty:
This Canadian company lies at the heart of the “conscious beauty movement” that prioritizes ethical sourcing of their ingredients (including refusing to sell into China).
Their ingredients are ~90% organic (the other 10% is a result of their commitment to “always choose fair trade over organic”) and they are phasing out a couple of non-natural ingredients so they will truly be 100% natural.
In the last few years, they’ve moved dramatically toward zero-waste and now all products (including compacts, tools, and palates) are made of or housed in reusable (and beautiful!) bamboo (bamboo is self-regenerative!).
These can then be easily refilled with new product that comes in a seed paper pouch. Just refill your palate then wet the pouch and plant it in your garden to grow herbs and wildflowers. Such a great concept!
They also offset all their emissions with Bullfrog Power and give back to multiple local and women’s-based charities, like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (they sponsor three elephants named Maisha, Dololo, and Larr – which we love!).
Eco Minerals have a range of makeup options including foundation, blush, bronzer and eye shadows. Currently they offer refills for their mineral foundation, Mineral bronzer and blush and their White Light Illuminate.
They also ship in biodegradable shipping bags, all packing and shipping is re-used or biodegradable, sample sachets are plastic free and they have minimal packing on all products
About Eco Minerals:
Founding in Australia by Lulu in 2007, Eco Minerals are 100% natural, provide natural SPF, are vegan and cruelty free. They contain no bismuth oxychloride, nano-particles or fillers and no dyes and colourings or coated mica.
They also do not source from Africa, India or Asian, given concerns of child labour (more on their approach here). Many of their products are palm oil free – we are confirming their palm oil policy.
Fat and the Moon offer a HUGE selection of beauty and personal care products, but in terms of make-up, or their “adornment” collection, they primarily make lip and eye products, including various colors of “eye coal” (which is pretty much like eyeliner but less waxy and in pot form) and several tinted, lip/cheek stains and highlighter.
About Fat and the Moon:
Drawing inspiration from herbalists and natural healers, Fat and the Moon creates all natural, mostly organic (and they’re very clear about noting which items are organic on each product page, which we appreciate) “potions” that prioritize healing and “empowerment through self-care”.
All products are hand-made fresh to order (because “body products, like food, are not meant to last forever!”) using only “plants that are abundant, ethically harvested and organically cultivated and combine them in formulations that are radically non-toxic”. All Fat and the Moon products are palm oil free
Depending on your stance on the whole Is beeswax vegan? debate, not all their products may be considered vegan friendly; their eye coals and lip stains do contain beeswax, but their highligher does not. Either way, all ingredients are cruelty-free and ethically sourced and every single product comes in reuable tins and are shipped without superfluous packaging. Their packaging is re-usable, and they “encourage customers to find fun and creative ways of reusing our jars. We design packaging to be a joy to reuse and a breeze to recycle.”
Fat and the Moon is a women owned and run business. They also support various charities and causes in their community.
“We should take as much care selecting the things we put on our bodies as we do in shopping for the foods we put in them,” says founder Rachel Budde. “The goal of Fat and the Moon is to make that a pleasure!”
EK Bare Beauty makes just about everything you could possibly need to get glam, including lip tints, eye shadow, contour sticks, blushes, skin perfecting tints (the dropper lids are technically plastic but they are also designed to be refilled and reused), and more!
Everything comes in non-plastic containers, either cardboard sticks or metal tins. We personally love the idea of her Bare-Faced Collection, a set of 5 cardboard stick creams for that include all your basic face make-ups plus a blemish stick and dry spot stick! Each product page comes with a clear list of ingredients (and purpose of those ingredients) as well as instructions how to properly apply!
About EK Bare Beauty:
Everything is handmade to order out of organic materials. Looking at the ingredients on her products, she creates her tints and stains using only herbs, spices, and other vegetable powders, never any chemicals or dyes.
They are also fragrance-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and beeswax-free, making them entirely vegan and cruelty-free. Everything she makes gentle and designed for ALL skin types, including those with sensitive skin and allergies.
She does not operate entirely zero-waste yet (but any non-compostable packaging she uses is stuff she collects from her community that was otherwise going to become trash); however, she asks customers to notify her upon order if you live zero-waste and she will consciously choose not to use any of these sorts of packaging.
EK Bare Beauty uses Vegetable Glycerin in some of their products which typically comes from palm oil. We are confirming their palm oil policy directly with them.
BeeYou Organics specialized in personal care products for the face and body, including some pretty luxurious spa kits! For make-up, the lovely owner, Larissa makes 100% organic sun-protective bb creams, face powders, mineral eye-shadows, eyeliner, and mascara. Everything you need!
Please note that some products, like her mineral eye and face powders, come in tins with plastic sifters, which she will happily omit entirely upon request.
About BeeYou Organics:
This Pacific Northwest-based mother and make-up maker was raised all-natural and holsitic from a young age. After rebelling against this lifestyle in her teenage years and getting in a horrible car accident, which left her with scarring and lots of sensitivity to her face, she returned to those roots.
Now, all her products are designed to sooth and heal, which leads to her “focus is on ingredients”. Everything she uses is ethically sourced from reputable supplies, non-GMO, cruelty-free, alcohol-free, and preservative-free (no SLS!). Most ingredients are organic. All products are 100% cruelty-free and palm oil free (including free of palm oil derivatives)
On the website, you can even read a full list of ingredients, their properties, and why she uses them. We love the transparency! As with Fat and the Moon, however, her bb cremes are not all are strictly vegan as they contain beeswax. Some of their face serums and moisturizers also include emu oil which is not vegan. However, there are plenty of vegan options available. Bee You Organics sources their beeswax from local bee farmers and no bees are harmed in the process. They are also starting their own apiary this year and support local bee research projects through WSU.
For packaging, they offer tin, glass or paperboard options for all their products (just ask!) and plan to eliminate all plastic packaging. They also accept returns of our containers for recycling/reuse. Their packages all ship in recycled and recyclable packaging (some compostable e.g. EcoEnclose)! Everything from their paper (handmade seeded or recycled), to bags (100% organic cotton muslin), ink and even their shipping labels are recyclable, recycled and/or reusable. They are made from renewable sources and utilize post-consumer waste.
Bee You Organics supports local and small business when possible and also supports various charities in their community. When they start hiring, they plan to hire economically disadvantaged woman and provide a daycare for their children while they work.
Clean-Faced Cosmetics makes tinted lip balm, eyeshadow, and a mascara that doubles as eyeliner (woohoo for simplifying the number of products needed!).
They also makes some speciality products we didn’t find with other companies, such as lash lengthening primer powders and custom foundation powders (matched to your skin tone for free) in either shimmery or matte finishes.
All products come in reusable metal tins, or you can just use containers you already have and order a refill packaged in biodegradable cello bags (which look like plastic but are assuredly not!). Less waste on postage sending back the containers like other take-back programs!
About Clean-Faced Cosmetics:
CFC, based in Michigan, makes custom made-to-order beauty products that are palm-oil free, vegan, cruelty-free (tested on friends, never animals), and as organic as possible.
They sometimes using tiny amounts of Yellow No. 5 FD&C Lake and Red No. 40 FD&C Lake to properly create skin tone matched foundation powders, but only when necessary! If getting a custom palette, however, just request they not use these and they’ll oblige.
Creator Laura is currently striving to operate the company entirely waste free, though she, just like the rest of us, knows this is very much a process. Currently, all product packaging is either biodegradable or reusable (like their metal palates, bamboo applicator, and organic cotton storage bags). All labels are printed on recycled paper with eco-friendly ink.
Axiology’s Makeup Range:
Axiology is a luxury lipstick specialist. The quality of their products are some of the best we’ve reviewed. So, it’s no surprise that around 70% of the ingredients (e.g. avocado oil and butter, orange essential oil, elderberry extract, coconut oil, and grape seed oil) are organic. While not strictly zero waste (in that their products are not refillable), their lipstick tubes are made of aluminium which is one of the most widely recyclable materials. Their lipstick boxes are compostable. Note that their lip crayons are not recyclable or compostable.
As a brand, they have some exceptional sustainability credentials. They’re certified by PETA as being cruelty-free and completely vegan. They avoid the use of palm oil in their products. They source all of their outer packaging from a woman-owned recycled-paper boutique in Indonesia.
Axiology also provide financial support to the Orangutan Foundation International and their shea butter and moringa oil are purchased through fair trade channels.
Keeping It Natural focuses primarily on producing vegan, moisturizing lipsticks and mineral lip color in the HUGE assortment of colors and glosses (seriously, there’s something for every outfit and complexion). However they also create a few cake and mineral mascaras (that double as eye-liner), as well.
About Keeping It Natural:
Having spent years in the commercial cosmetic industry, Linda Hoffman decided to use her expertise to create her own all-natural small batch cosmetic company, which now has tons of great reviews.
All products are vegan and cruelty-free are made-to-order to ensure freshness. Her base ingredients for all her lip products are four simple ingredients, plus whatever she needs to add the pigment: coconut oil, candellila wax, sweet almond milk, and avocado oil. That’s it! Her lipsticks are palm oil free and entirely natural. Their creamy mascara cake does contain palm oil derivatives and a few ingredients that are not entirely natural.
Although she began in 2011, in the last two years, she has shifted toward zero waste, packing everything in reusable tins. She is even willing to “pack each order exactly as you wish”, including plastic free and without the disposable brush (for the mascara), plain envelopes without plastic bubbles and without the interior plastic bag.
Urb Apothecary have a beautiful range of products including a handful of makeup options including a blush/tint stick that comes in a compostable push up tube. Their products are all cruelty-free, sls-free, synthetic fragrance-free, and free of chemical additives and preservatives.
They are also free of palm oil free. Note that some Urb Apothecary products include beeswax but you can select a vegan option (including the for blush/tint stick). Urb Apothecary caters for those living zero waste lifestyles so be sure to select “No Label” at checkout: “these tints are available without the label and ship in recyclable/compostable padded envelopes. Choose the NO LABEL option to receive a tint without a label.”
About Urb Apothecary
Founded in 2013 by Leyna Allred and made in Sacramento, “URB APOTHECARY sprang out of a passion project and has blossomed into Leyna’s vision for bringing the healing power of plants into daily beauty and grooming rituals, reconnecting individuals to their own natural beauty and while being mindful of their environmental impact.”.
Leyna “places the highest importance on sourcing materials from only the purest quality fair-trade, organic, and local suppliers, ensuring that each product is not only improving the life of the customer but also being socioeconomically conscious.”
Available: Urb Apothecary
Neek offers a range of lipsticks in a variety of colours. Certified vegan and cruelty free (Choose Cruelty-Free) and natural, these lipsticks exclude: synthetic dyes, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, mineral oils, palm oil, perfume, lead, gluten, carmine, sheep grease, beeswax and other animal ingredients or animal by-products.
Again, while not strictly zero waste, their lipstick tubes are made from bamboo, which reduces plastic and is a better option to conventional plastic packaging.
About Neek Skin Organics
Founded in Australia by Angelique, Neek seeks to empower consumers with ethical makeup and skincare options. They “use sustainable, recycled and recyclable packaging, and keep outer packaging to a minimum to reduce waste.” They also send their orders out in plastic-free compostable satchels.
Neek’s lipsticks are 100% natural. They only work with ingredients that are certified as sustainably sourced and organic grade. They also support Liptember each year and are about to launch an exciting recycling initiative that will benefits customers and the environment. Watch this space!
All their products are made in Australia, which reduces their carbon footprint. They operate as much as possible as a paper-free organisation and are very conscious about choosing recycled, recyclable and ‘green’ options in everything that they do.
Kjaer Weis offers a wide range of makeup including foundations, cheek colors, eye shadows, lip color and tools. Their products are packaged in metal containers that are not recyclable but they are designed (beautifully) to last and Kjaer Weis provide the refills in paper packaging. Refills are available for the compacts, the mascara and the lipsticks.
About Kjaer Weis
Founded by Kirsten Kjaer Weis from Denmark, Kjaer Weis is a luxury, organic skin brand, very much focused on style and quality. Many of their products are made up almost entirely of organic ingredients and they are entirely cruelty free.
They do use beeswax in their products so they are not suitable for vegans and their ingredients do contain common palm oil derivatives so we are confirming their palm oil policy with them. We are also confirming their ethical sourcing policies with them (for ingredients like Mica)
Alima Pure offers a wide range of makeup including foundations, concealer, cheek colors, lipsticks and accessories. While their products are largely packaged in plastic containers, they do offer refills for their foundation, concealer and eye shadow.
Their products are never tested on animals and free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, dimethicone, petroleum, talc, bismuth oxychloride, and nanoparticles. While many of their ingredients are natural, there are some synthetic, not entirely natural ingredients.
Their ingredients do contain palm oil derivatives and we are confirming their palm oil policy directly with them. Some of their products also contain beeswax and carmine so they are not suitable for vegans. We are also confirming their ethical sourcing policies with them (for ingredients like Mica)
About Alima Pure
Based in Portland OR, Alima Pure is 100% Carbon Neutral, a member of 1% for the Planet (meaning they donate 1% of their annual gross revenue (sales, not profit) to grassroots environmental organizations dedicated to protecting our planet) and a certified B-Corp
As we mentioned earlier, the best way to take your look zero-waste is to craft it yourself if you have the time. That way, you can custom create exactly what you need using only the ingredients you want. Plus no shipping or packaging required!
While it can be time-consuming and messy, it’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. For instance, you can make blush with hardly any more than just dehydrated beets ground into a fine powder. You can make eyeliner using a combination of just burnt almond paste and aloe vera gel. Notice that all these ingredients are easily found in either the bulk or produce section of pretty much any grocery store.
We won’t get super in depth about how to create your own make-up (yet anyway!); we just wanted to give you a brief overview of what DIY beauty looks like along with the tools to dig a little deeper on your own. See Going Zero Waste and The Simple Year for some (honest) narratives and recipes for homemade make-up. Also check out the wealth of information and tutorial videos on YouTube (this one and this one are great starting places).
The beauty industry wants us to believe we need all this synthetic junk to make ourselves pretty and presentable, and we understand how hard it is to wade through the pervasive commercial super plastic packaged crap. Beauty is and should be all natural and it’s packaging should be circular, as much as possible.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t glam up as little or much as you want, but we encourage you to be selective about the products you choose and help the above companies redefine the beauty industry.
We think Elate Cosmetics sums it up nicely: “Intentional, purposeful, ritual. For many of us, putting on makeup is an automatic act, a routine. […w]e believe everyday routine becomes ritual when the action is more meaningful than the outcome.”
Zero-waste living, at its core, is also ritual, a habit of being more mindful about our consumption in small, everyday sort of ways that lead to a big difference in the big picture. Make your beauty routine meaningful, too, for both yourself and the planet but choosing to go with products that won’t pollute the earth or your skin. Remember, you should only put on your body what you would put in it.
We hope this article has given some insight on how surprisingly easy this is to do, thanks to so many eco-minded companies. Who says you can’t spend Saturday night out on the town and still be sustainable? Go green, get glam, and get down on the town! As always, please reach out for questions, suggestions, or comments.