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Plastic Free Makeup

What I learnt from my Plastic Free July challenge!


During Plastic Free July, I challenged myself to replace my current makeup, which is quite old now, with sustainable alternatives. This was a bit a treat for me as it was my 30th birthday yesterday too and I wanted to start the new decade with some natural, minimal makeup.

I don't wear makeup very often and so this swap hasn't been high on my priority list. I've made good progress in swapping out kitchen, home cleaning, personal care and food essentials to be plastic free and so now felt like a good point to welcome in a few sustainable treats and a new look. If you're considering this as your next swap, it is definitely worth doing. It is estimated that 120 billion units of plastic are produced by the beauty industry every year, the vast majority being single-use packaging.

I gave myself quite a narrow criteria for what I wanted from my new makeup set. I wanted to find brands that were UK or EU-based to try and minimize the carbon footprint of the products. I also wanted the makeup to be plastic free, refillable, vegan and cruelty free. This did make it quite difficult initially, but I found a good selection of brands to try.

Here I'll summarize the brands and products I've been researching and testing. I'll then look a bit deeper at the makeup set that I've settled on and why these were my chosen products.

What were my findings:

Below I've listed the makeup brands that I found during my research that fit the criteria!

This is a small independent business that was started in Cornwall by co-founders Julie Wieczorek and Guy Hanson. They have thought about everything very carefully, from the natural, vegan and ethically sourced ingredients in their products, to the refillable packaging options and their return scheme with Terracycle for your old makeup and brushes. I'm particularly keen on their pot for life, which I've talked about a bit more below.

This wonderful brand was created in Scotland back in 2002. They have since won multiple awards for their cruelty free, vegan, palm oil free and plastic free beauty range. They offer mineral powders, including concealer, eye shadow, foundation and setting powders. Products are supplied in metal tins, which you can refill with their compostable pouches.

This independent business was started in Cumbria. They make natural, vegan skincare and beauty. Their products are packaged in fully recyclable materials and they run their business using 100% renewable energy. In terms of makeup, they are one of very few UK-based businesses making fully plastic free mascara. You can find mascara cake in a tin, or liquid in a glass tube with aluminum top.

They're a well-known high street brand that offers vegan, cruelty free and packaging free beauty. They have a range of makeup options, including refillable lipsticks, solid foundation and concealer. They are a UK brand that are strongly against animal testing, some of their products come in plastic packaging but these can be returned and you'll get rewards for sending it back.

This brand is based in Germany and they make a range of lipstick pencils. The product is encased in paper which is gradually unwrapped as you use your lipstick, meaning that all the packaging is either recyclable or biodegradable and is plastic free.

They offer a wide range of products, including primers, bronzers and finishing powders. They are a UK based company, which are vegan, cruelty free and use majority organic ingredients. A lot of their range is refillable so you keep the bamboo casing and replace the product, which I do really like as a concept. My only concern is that not all of their products are plastic free and the refill packaging may still be hard to recycle or dispose of as they're made from composite materials.

This small business is run by one lady called Nicola. She creates cruelty free, vegan and waste-free eyeshadow palettes. You can mix and match what your palette holds so there is never a shade that goes to waste, the palette itself is refillable and as each shade runs out you can buy the single shades to replace them rather than throwing away the whole palette for a new one.

Honourable mentions:

There are a few other brands that I wanted to include from around the world. They get an honourable mention to provide more options but I didn't personally try any of their products as I was really hoping to limit the distance they had travelled.

Fat and the Moon: Based in the US, they provide vegan and low-waste makeup, fragrance and skincare with a focus on using the healing properties of plants.

Clean Face Cosmetics: Also based in the US, they provide vegan, homemade cosmetics that are made to order and can be made in custom shades.

River Organics Skin: Based in the US, they're organic, homemade and completely plastic free.

Dirty Hippie Cosmetics: Based in Australia, they offer all organic, vegan and zero waste beauty and makeup. Their range even includes BB creams and a volumizing mascara.

Tropic: Another brand based in Australia, they offer a wide range of skincare, beauty, makeup, mum and baby care. They're all vegan and cruelty free, but like Zao the packaging is not all plastic free.

What did I choose:

Having given myself such a narrow criteria to stick to, I'm pleased to have found enough products for a full set of makeup which is all natural, vegan, cruelty free, plastic free and made within the EU so low on air miles. I've listed the full set of items I tried this month below, and in the next section you'll find my review.

My new makeup spilling out on the table, 2021
  • Mascara - Bain and Savon

  • Cream Concealer - All Earth Mineral Cosmetics

  • Powder Foundation - All Earth Mineral Cosmetics

  • Lipstick Pencil - Le Papier

  • Eyeshadow - Love The Planet

  • Makeup Remover - LovEco

  • Organic Muslin Cloth - Heavenly Organics

Below you can find out how well they're working out. Some of them I really like, some need a bit of getting used to and others just haven't worked out at all sadly. I wanted to make sure I was honestly sharing my experience as I've bought these products, I know they're expensive and I fully appreciate the frustration when it doesn't work out. For the products that I'm not happy with I will try alternatives later on, but at the time of writing this blog I'm sharing where I came to at the end of my Plastic Free July challenge.

It's going to be more of a slow progress swap than I originally thought. This is how it goes sometimes and you have to roll with the disappointments when they come up.

Foundation and Concealer:

Powder foundation and concealer, 2021.

Let's start with the base layer of concealer and foundation. I chose to source these from All Earth Mineral Cosmetics mainly for the pot for life which I love! They're specially made in Cornwall from used fishing nets, so not only does the pot for life prevent waste in your makeup bag, it also takes waste out of the oceans!

They have a really well thought out refill system as well, the powder comes in a fully recyclable cardboard tube and you can choose from three sizes - 8g, 4g and 2g for mixing shades. Our access to composting is really limited as we're in a flat, so other foundation refill options with compostable pouches didn't appeal to me as much.

The concealer comes in a small glass pot with an aluminium lid so it is fully plastic free and recyclable. I preferred this concept to a stick or powder as I thought it would be easier to apply. I plan to use it under the foundation to take out the pink from my skin tone and lighten those business-owner bags under my eyes!

Overall, I'm pleased with these two products. I'm still getting used to how to use them as it's been quite a few years since I owned and used a foundation. I've been experimenting with mixing the powder with my moisturizer, which is one of the recommendations on their website. This is ok, but does leave it a bit streaky if you don't blend well. I also think I may have chosen a shade too pale for me, so I'll consider getting a 2g sized refill of the next shade up to mix in as I need more warm tones for my skin.

The concealer is nice but I'm finding it hard to use. I've tried applying with a brush or with my finger but as it's quite a hard cream I'm finding I either get too much or too little. It also seems to come off easily when I apply other products. I think it's worth persevering though. I'm sure a lot of it comes down to me being inexperienced with makeup application.

Eyeshadow and mascara:

Powder eyeshadow, 2021.

I went for the liquid mascara by Bain and Savon as the idea of using a solid cake was a bit confusing for me personally. I thought that a liquid might be easier to apply and I loved that this one comes in a glass tube and aluminium lid so again, all plastic free and recyclable.

It is a real challenge to use though. I'd say it's the most difficult product of everything I bought and I found it frustrating. I made quite a mess sadly when I put it on the first time as it isn't a very thick liquid and didn't seem to latch onto my eyelashes very well. I was also disappointed that it left specks on my face as it flicks bits away when you apply it. I'll see if this improves with practice but at the moment, I wouldn't recommend this one.

The eyeshadow is a gorgeous emerald green. I couldn't resist matching our brand! It is a loose powder so can be applied as a thin smokey layer but I also liked that you could use a wet brush to apply a thicker layer or use it as eyeliner! Love the Planet offer refills for your tin in compostable pouches.

I enjoyed the eyeshadow when I tried it out and I did find that a wet brush was a little easier to use. The green is lovely and has a nice subtle sparkle. It's quite dark so not necessarily for everyday use but I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to wear this again and I would recommend this one.


Lipstick pencil, 2021.

To go with the bold green I chose a dark dusty rose lipstick. There are a number of lipstick refill options out there but I was unsure about the amount of plastic still so I went for Le Papier, which uses plastic free and fully recyclable paper!

I think that this lipstick is my favourite item in the set. It's really easy to use and although I did find I had some transfer, it lasts a long time and survived eating and drinking. It describes itself as moisturising, which I would agree with. After a time it dries and you get less transfer but at no point did my lips feel dry or uncomfortable. This is one I would definitley recommend and I'm pleased about the colour choice too, it is a very natural looking shade of pinky brown.

Makeup remover:

Makeup remover, 2-in-1, 2021.

The makeup remover by LovEco is available at the shop and is made locally here in Hampshire. It is a 2-in-1 cleanser and moisturiser. As a makeup remover, it can be used on waterproof mascara as well as general makeup. As it contains nourishing oils, it will break down the mascara and your makeup quite easily. You can use it as a balm and it is helpful on dry patches to soften and hydrate the skin. I can also vouch for it leaving a protective layer over eczema as I get this on my hands quite often.

To use it for makeup removal, take a small amount of balm and massage it into your face and around your eyes, it is very gentle and won't sting even when used for mascara removal. Then, with a warm damp cloth, wipe it away and your makeup will go too! The organic cotton muslin cloths are also available at the shop and work perfectly with the balm.

As a novice and someone who doesn't wear makeup often, this set seemed to be a good starting point for me. I am going to keep looking for a better mascara alternative, and may even brave using a cake next. I'm also considering getting more shades of the lovely lipstick as it was my favourite product out of everything. For now though, this feels like a simple and sustainable starting point for my makeup bag.

I hope that your Plastic Free July challenges were successful and that you found this tour of zero waste makeup useful on your own journey. If you have any questions or if you just want to chat through zero waste living and all it's wonderful ups and downs, drop me a line or pop by the shop.

Take care everyone!


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