I Tried a Plastic-Free Beauty Routine for a Week in Honor of Earth Day
It's fantastic, not plastic.
As an avid beauty enthusiast, here’s something that I like to ignore: Beauty has a big plastic problem. There are a bunch of scary numbers I could insert here about the levels of pollution in our oceans and the damage it’s doing to our ecosystems, but I’ll save you the statistics lesson and simply refer to the beauty products on your vanity. Chances are that most of them are housed in containers that are made up of non-degradable plastic, and despite our best efforts to recycle them, many of those materials usually wind up in landfills.
While I like to consider myself fairly eco-conscious, my beauty routine is definitely the area that I overlook most—largely due to the fact that change seems almost impossible. However, with all the incredible steps that sustainable beauty brands have been taking to make a difference lately, it seemed selfish on my part to go without at least an attempt to improve.
I challenged myself to swap my entire beauty routine—haircare, skincare, and all—for entirely plastic-free products. Mind you, as a picky-skinned, extremely eczema-prone beauty editor, this was a huge (I repeat, huge) transition. Yes, my job involves testing out new products all the time, but a complete top-to-bottom overhaul? My skin was bracing for the worst.
The first thing I noticed when I started filtering my beauty routine was just how much plastic was in it (a lot). It was pretty eye-opening: Most of my everyday, holy-grail staples all had some level of plastic packaging to them, and the only product I could really keep was the Dove Beauty Bar. Sadly, the other 15-plus products had to go.
First up: haircare. As you can probably deduce, most shampoo and conditioner bottles are made from plastic, even if they’re the recycled kind. For the purpose of this experiment, I wanted to stay true to the no-plastic rule, so I opted for Love Beauty and Planet’s Muru Muru Shampoo Bar ($5; target.com), which is packed with plant-based cleansers and organic coconut oil to keep color-treated hair looking bright. Surprisingly, the shampoo lathered up quickly (and smelled great), which made for an easy transition. I followed up with Meow Meow Tweet's adorably- and sustainably-packaged conditioner bar ($16; meowmeowtweet.com), which is chock-full of omega-rich hemp seed oil and lavender to restore hydration to your hair.
Body care came easy, thanks to the myriad of solid soaps available. For body wash, I picked the Ethique Sweet Orange & Vanilla Body Bar ($13; ethique.com). I was impressed that I didn’t need the loofah to get the sudsy bubbles; plus, the punch of citrus and vanilla was a good aromatherapy experience without being too overbearing. Thanks to the lush texture, I was also able to double this as a shaving cream. My razor of choice was the eco-friendly Oui The People Single-Blade Razor ($68; ouithepeople.com).
Skincare was tricky because I had to pare everything down to the basics, but I have to give a shout-out to Lush, which is the real MVP when it comes to naked packaging. I usually like to double cleanse at nighttime, so I used Lush Sleep Face Cleansing Balm ($6; lush.com) to remove the day's dirt and grime from my face. Luckily, my regular face cleanser, the Dove Beauty Bar ($6; target.com), was safe (no plastic!), so I continued to use it. I like to use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t aggravate my eczema, and the simple, cream-infused bar soap definitely fits the bill without leaving my pores feeling tight.
To moisturize, I applied Lush Light Touch Naked Facial Oil ($13; lush.com), a solid witch hazel- and blue spirulina-laced bar that quenched my skin and helped soothe eczema-related redness. Since my skin is on the dry side, I slathered on a second layer of Tata Harper Reparative Moisturizer ($116; sephora.com) on my face (disclaimer: it’s not entirely plastic-free, but it comes in recyclable glass and the only plastic comes from the sugar cane resin on the tubes), followed by Lush Little Pot of Energy ($13; lush.com) on my body and Smith’s Rosebud Lip Salve ($7; sephora.com) on my lips. Natural deodorants are great if you're looking for an alternative to aluminum formulas, so I chose Meow Meow Tweet's baking soda-free option ($14; meowmeowtweet.com), which comes in a biodegradable paper tube.
I didn’t forget about my teeth care routine; in place of traditional toothpaste, which usually isn’t plastic-free, I opted for Hello Toothpaste Tablets ($9; ulta.com)—which you chew to activate—paired with a bamboo toothbrush from Bite ($12; bitetoothpastebits.com).
I didn’t wear much makeup during this experiment, but when I did, I just went with a swipe of RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up ($36; sephora.com)—which comes encased in recyclable glass and metal packaging—and RMS Beauty Living Luminizer ($38; sephora.com) to impart a subtle-but-juicy glow on skin.
My biggest takeaway from the experiment: Many beauty products have a more eco-compatible dupe that is equally as good. After using only these products for a week, my skin actually looked a bit better than it did before. This could be a testament to the benefits of skincare fasting, but it also makes sense considering that these products are made without sulfates, dyes, phthalates, and parabens, all ingredients that are not only harmful for the environment, but also for your complexion. It was also surprising to see how much product was left behind; even after daily use, the bars looked like they'd barely been touched. The only real downside was that I missed the sensorial and indulgent experience that comes with my normal beauty routine—while bars are great, I do love to play around with things like creamy textures, exfoliating elements, and pretty fragrances.
It’s worth pointing out that while my routine was on the more extreme side by going 100 percent plastic-free, there are lots of innovative brands with recyclable and biodegradable packaging that are perfectly good for molding your sustainable beauty routine (and don't require you to use strictly bars). I don’t plan on giving up plastic completely just yet, but I definitely will be incorporating some of these newfound products into my daily routine.
If you want to recreate some (or all) of my plastic-free beauty routine, shop the products that I used below.
- Love Beauty and Planet’s Muru Muru Shampoo Bar ($5; target.com)
- Meow Meow Tweet Lavender Hemp Conditioner Bar ($16; meowmeowtweet.com)
- Ethique Sweet Orange & Vanilla Body Bar ($13; ethique.com)
- Oui The People Single-Blade Razor ($68; ouithepeople.com)
- Lush Sleep Face Cleansing Balm ($6; lush.com)
- Dove Beauty Bar ($6; target.com)
- Lush Light Touch Naked Facial Oil ($13; lush.com)
- Tata Harper Reparative Moisturizer ($116; sephora.com)
- Lush Little Pot of Energy ($13; lush.com)
- Smith’s Rosebud Lip Salve ($7; sephora.com)
- Meow Meow Tweet Deodorant Stick ($14; meowmeowtweet.com)
- Hello Toothpaste Tablets ($9; ulta.com)
- Bite Bamboo Toothbrush ($12; bitetoothpastebits.com)
- RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up ($36; sephora.com)
- RMS Beauty Living Luminizer ($38; sephora.com)