Style Beauty

Wednesday 21 August 2019

Battling the ugly side of beauty - it's time to get serious about sustainable product packaging

It's time to get serious about sustainable product packaging...

LOccitane Liquid Soap Refills
Eco Tools
Charlotte Tilbury
Kevin Murphy hair
Ruth Griffin

Ruth Griffin

Would it shock you to learn that every single one of us in Ireland creates a whopping 61kg of plastic waste each year? The reality is that a lot of this not-very-pretty plastic junk comes from our beauty regimes - according to research by Garnier, personal care and beauty products account for a third of all landfill waste.

I don't know about you, but sometimes when I see the mountains of plastic bottles rattling around my shower and especially my make-up bag, I get an attack of serious guilt. The majority of this plastic from my beauty regime will linger for up to 1,000 years after I've ditched it, sometimes after only using it for mere seconds. I would absolutely love my favourite beauty brands to up their game and offer more options for biodegradable, greener and ultra-streamlined beauty packaging.

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That pretty cardboard packaging that envelops our perfumes, serums and moisturisers? It also, not so prettily, contributes to the loss of 18m acres of forest each year. What about the seemingly endless plastic packaging on our beauty goodies? Research has shown that the global cosmetics industry produces over 120bn units of packaging every year. Happily, the EU has launched plans to make all plastic packaging on the European market recyclable by 2030, and more and more beauty companies are introducing eco alternatives to plastic. These include offering refills for our favourite beauty goodies and using bioplastics and biodegradable packaging such as bamboo.

Perhaps using fewer products is also a good idea, since most women have literally hundreds of products. The sad fact is that we use very little of these items. Shoukei Matsumoto, in his book A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind, gives this brilliant advice: "Love what you have, use what you have and clear out all the rest." Pretty simple.


Six of the best: sustainable beauties

Super soap

LOccitane Liquid Soap Refills

If you're not a fan of using soap bars but fancy reducing your beauty-product packaging (even though soap is making a big comeback as we all look to ditch more plastic), L'Occitane has a range of gorgeous liquid soaps with eco refills for its most popular options - using a whopping 90pc less plastic than its traditional bottles. L'Occitane Liquid Soap Refills, €16, from pharmacies, department stores and L'Occitane stores nationwide.

Lip service

Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury's Hot Lips 2 is her collection of 11 new lipsticks inspired by 11 iconic women and men. There's Glowing Jen (Jennifer Aniston), Dancefloor Princess (Kylie Minogue) and, my favourite, Angel Alessandra (Alessandra Ambrosio). Even better, all the lipsticks are now refillable. Be an eco warrior and look pretty snazzy while doing it. Charlotte Tilbury Hot Lips Refill, €35, from Brown Thomas, BT2, Arnotts and

Woo-hoo for bamboo


Bamboo is an amazing biodegradable alternative to plastic in cosmetics packaging. Make-up maestro Inglot has introduced this non-plastic packaging option - when it's finished, just chuck it in the green bin. Wouldn't it be lovely to have more options like this from more make-up brands? Inglot Bamboo Flexi Palette, €18, from Inglot stores nationwide, department stores and

Go green


Ayurveda-inspired bath and body brand Rituals has launched a tonne of greener practices lately. It now offers eco-friendly refills for its most popular body creams, day and night creams, hand washes and fragrance sticks. Rituals Beauty, Bath & Body, from department stores, Rituals stores nationwide and

Brush up

Eco Tools

EcoTools uses no plastic at all and wants to produce more sustainable beauty tools. When you're finished with these, just pop them in the brown bin. EcoTools brushes, from €3.50, or €19.99 for a six-piece set, from pharmacies and health food stores nationwide.

Ace of base


If you're on the look-out for a great foundation that doubles as a handy hack to ditch the plastic, check out Lancôme's Teint Idole compact for a plastic-free refill. Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Cushion Foundation, €25, from pharmacies and department stores nationwide.


Top brands that take back empties

Lots of packaging contains thick plastic (to protect formulas from degradation), mixed metals, coils and springs all in one go (think lipsticks). Since different materials need to be separated and sorted, the mixed-materials nature of some cosmetics, skincare and haircare packaging makes recycling these a logistical issue. Thankfully, a few forward-thinking beauty companies have introduced empties returns policies to give us (and Mother Nature) a dig-out…


Beauty heavyweight MAC runs a programme, Back to MAC, which encourages you to bring back your empties to any MAC counter or return them online for recycling - by swapping six empties for a free lipstick of your choice. You can return empties, from lipsticks to eye shadows and even eyelash boxes. The programme also features digital tracking, which means you can recycle items as you finish them, instead of having to hoard empties to participate. Genius!


Lush will take back its packaging - returning five "black pots" products gets you a free fresh face mask.


This company created the beauty industry's first recycling programme for cosmetics packaging back in 2009. Packaging can be returned to its stores.



Since 2009, Kiehl's has offered the Recycle and Be Rewarded programme in its retail stores, which encourages customers to return 10 empty bottles, tubes and jars in exchange for a new product. Empties can be dropped off any time - and the store will track your exchanges as you go.


French brand Garnier has teamed up with recycling firm TerraCycle to allow you to drop off hard-to-recycle bathroom rubbish at its depots (or post it for free) in exchange for points that can be turned into a donation to a non-profit group. All brands of personal care products are accepted. See for more information.

Kevin Murphy Hair

Kevin Murphy hair

This Aussie brand is an absolute trailblazer when it comes to minimising its environmental impact. Murphy encourages other hair salons to reduce their carbon footprint with the Green Salon Initiative. He also uses packaging that is fully recyclable or biodegradable, along with ingredient sources that are sustainable and renewable, and safe for our lovely water systems.


Dior has removed all cellophane (which cannot be recycled) and cardboard wedges from its Life range. And those luxury skincare instruction leaflets have been replaced with a scannable QR code.


Beauty-brand powerhouse Unilever has recently committed to making 100pc of its plastic packaging fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.


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