How to Create a Low-Waste Skincare Routine in 10 Simple Steps

Looking to start or improve your skincare routine? Are you overwhelmed with product options and wondering if it’s possible to take care of your skin in a sustainable way? With years of experience and many mistakes, I was once in your shoes.

However, I quickly realized that perfection is not the key to success when it comes to sustainability. Rather, it’s about adopting behaviors and habits that work for you.

The skincare and cosmetics industry generates a significant amount of waste, from single-use plastic bottles and containers to microplastics and harmful chemicals in our scrubs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), containers and packaging, including containers for cosmetics and personal care items, are made about 82.2 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) generation in 2018.

That’s how I came up with my skincare routine. I took my values ​​of wanting to reduce waste and improve the environment and combined them with my daily routines to find the methods that work for my skin and personal needs.

Needless to say he is possible to implement a routine that is good for your skin, your wallet and the environment. Here are my 10 steps to creating a low-waste skincare routine.

10 steps to long-lasting skin care

1. Keep it simple

Navigating skincare in the era of TikTok influencers and millions products on the market is not easy. It seems like everyone is telling us that we need serums, toners, essences, eye creams, lip masks and more serums to get the perfect routine for clear, dewy skin. Fortunately, this is not the case.

I’ve found that the best skincare routine for me only requires a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. That’s it! I use cleanser and moisturizer morning and night, and sunscreen is applied every morning (that’s the most important part!). And the cool part? You can now opt for a zero-waste sunscreen that preserves your skin and protects the planet.

You can add more products later depending on your specific skin concerns, but remember to only add one product at a time. Not only do small steps prevent waste from ending up in the landfill, it also prevents skin irritation and saves you money.

2. Start small

My first instinct when I started my skincare routine was to buy huge containers of the products I used. After all, buying in bulk is usually cheaper – and I figured it was better for the environment to have one big container instead of a bunch of small ones. I quickly realized my mistake.

Many of the products I purchased in bulk expired before I could use them or I decided to upgrade to a new product, which meant I wasted money and added After waste to landfill. Now I only buy large containers of products that I like and know how to use before the expiration date.

3. Use every last drop

This little tip saved me so a lot of money. You have no idea how much product is left in the containers you think are empty! If you reach the end of your lotion, cleanser, etc. favorite, I strongly recommend that you cut the tubes and use the rest of the product.

In addition to saving you money, it avoids waste! Plus, it can also help you clean the inside of those tubes, so you can properly dispose of them when the time comes. There are even tools available that help you eliminate every last drop.

4. Pay attention to the packaging

This is probably the first step that comes to mind when you think of low-waste skincare. Most products come in non-recyclable plastic containers, which most of us try to avoid. A great alternative is glass bottles, like products from The youth to the people.

If you can’t find glass, look for recyclable plastic or containers you can reuse or refill. Luckily for us, rechargeable beauty and skincare is on the rise. This means our favorite products come in packages that can be refilled and reused over and over again!

Beauty bars are another low-waste trend we’re seeing in the clean skincare space. These bars can be soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc., and they don’t need plastic wrappers. Instead, they come in compostable packaging and reduce water waste.

However, if your favorite product does not come in these types of packaging, you can always try to avoid buying products with plastic pumps. Why? Because these pumps usually cannot be recycled, even though the rest of the container can.

5. Find alternative uses for what doesn’t work

When you learn what works for your skin, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll try a product you don’t like. It’s all about the experience and the learning process. However, you don’t have to throw away the products you don’t like.

Scrubs that are too harsh for your face can be great for exfoliating your body. creams that are too thick can be used on the hands and feet; serums that make you break out can be used on your neck and chest.

What if you still don’t like the products you’ve tried? Give them away or pass them on to a friend! Check local charities, nonprofits, and homeless or women’s shelters — these organizations may be looking for skincare products. And if not, you can perfectly gift again and pass on the lightly used products to someone you know.

6. Read the label and Ingredients

I spent years coating my face with topicals that promised to clear my acne. They just dried me off. I assumed more product meant less acne, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Many acne treatments and products, like retinol, recommend using a pea-sized amount. This is because they are very strong and can irritate your skin if you use too much. Once I started using the recommended amount my skin was less irritated and I saved a lot of money and waste.

Also, when buying new products, it is crucial to check the label. Look for organic, fair trade, vegan and cruelty-free products. Many of us already do this when shopping for food or clothes, but sometimes we also forget that skincare matters.

And to further protect your health and the earth, research which ingredients you’re comfortable using on your skin. I like to use the think dirty application to check if my products contain harmful ingredients before buying them.

7. Replace makeup wipes with an eco-friendly alternative

If you’ve never heard this before, let me be the first to tell you: stop using makeup remover wipes. They are single-use and unnecessary, with 7.6 billion wipes books dumped in the landfill every year. That’s about 1.3 billion wipes thrown away every day.

And while those numbers include other types of wipes like baby wipes or hand wipes, sure enough, safe makeup wipes make up a big chunk of it. Also, makeup remover wipes can damage your skin with drying ingredients like alcohol. It’s time to say goodbye to them.

If you wear makeup, it’s important to remove it before bed, but try double cleansing or using a gentle makeup remover and reusable organic cotton pads (which you can buy or make at home). Check out the reusable bamboo makeup remover pads featured in the Brightly store. They are certified organic and eliminate waste.

8. Choose crafts wisely

If there’s one skincare phase I’d recommend everyone skip, it’s putting lemon juice and toothpaste on your face because Pinterest said it would clear up your pimples.

I love a good DIY as much as the next environmentalist, but I don’t put cooking ingredients on my face anymore. Unless your dermatologist says something may benefit your skin, it’s not worth the irritation and rashes that might require other products to fix.

I still like to make my own body scrubs and hair masks, but I leave skincare to the experts. And I recommend the same to anyone hoping to avoid skin damage. However, if you’re still looking for eco-friendly DIYs to incorporate into your skincare routine, try this gentle lip scrub.

zero waste skincare routine

9. Use what you have, including tools

Personally, I’ve found that the only tools I need for glowing skin are my own hands. If you love your jade roller or gua sha because it relaxes you and is part of your self-care routine, then by all means keep going. But don’t buy new products because you think you need them.

The best thing you can do for the environment is to use what you already have, not buy new products on the market. The constant purchase of new products increases the demand for these products, thereby contributing to production and transportation emissions and other forms of waste.

Plus, most tools don’t provide any long-term benefit to your skin, and some even cause harm (looking at you, cleaning brushes). Do your wallet, your skin and the planet a favor and skip the brand new tools. Instead, use the tools you already have and be sure to clean them to avoid rashes and bacteria buildup.

10. Do what works best for you!

Last but not least, the best skincare routine is the one that works best for you. Give yourself a little grace – no one is perfect, and the planet knows it. I’ve been known to occasionally use single-use masks, scented products, and even sleep with my makeup on. We are human; it happens!

I firmly believe that the point of a low-waste lifestyle, as well as a skincare routine, is to make progress, not achieve perfection. Doing your best is the most important thing you can do for the planet, and every step you take matters.


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Donovan B. Sanford