I’ve written before about my makeup addiction in my pre-Zero Waste life. I’ve thrown out countless bottles of foundations and tubes of lipstick, so I knew going into my zero waste life that I was going to need to find a substitute. Some members of the zero waste community make their own makeup out of things like beetroot and cocoa powder, but that has never sounded particularly appealing to me. I’ve had enough makeup that I haven’t needed to worry about buying zero waste makeup, until about a month ago. My foundation started to run low and my mascara started to dry out, so I figured it was finally time to check out some zero waste makeup retailers. I’ve placed two orders now and have been testing them out over my weekend in California.
I found Dirty Hippie Cosmetics on Etsy after looking for cake mascara (a solid mascara sold in a tin). The formula from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics is actually sold in a glass bottle and has a consistency similar to mascaras I have typically used. The bottle is small (8.5 grams), small enough that the spoolie that came with the product doesn’t actually stay in the mascara like a conventional mascara. At $15.63, the price is a little above drug store prices but far cheaper than brands I’ve purchased from Sephora, though the shipping from Australia is a bit costly.
The product itself is great! I’ve always been a water-proof mascara girl, but I’ve adjusted to this less industrial strength formula pretty quickly. I’m careful not to touch my eyes during the day, and do the occasional mirror check to make sure product hasn’t rubbed off too much. I haven’t tested the formula at the gym, but I feel pretty confident saying this formula is not for people who like to wear makeup when they work out. The mascara will give you natural looking lashes. I purchased the lengthening formula and I’m curious to see what the volumizing formula would be like. Don’t expect dramatic lashes, but this stuff is great for day-to-day.
I also ordered two sample sizes of BB Cream from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics. I love that the samples came in reusable tin packaging that I can very easily repurpose, but that product itself was a bit of a miss for me. Both shades I ordered (Sunkissed and Moonlit) look pretty grey in the pan so I’ll admit I haven’t given the product a test on my face yet. The swatches I applied to my hand did sheer out, so it’s possible the color will be more true to my own skin shade when applied. The consistency is very mousey but also felt lightweight when swatched. I’m assuming I got duds or an old batch because the reviews on Etsy are amazing (five stars with nearly 1,000 reviews). My samples were $3.13 each for 6 grams of product, and since they didn’t work for me I’m glad I only spent that much on the product. The full sized tins are also $15.63 for 30 grams (my last foundation purchase at Sephora was $26 for the same amount of product). This BB Cream also only come in three, super fair shades so it isn’t inclusive at all.
One of my favorite parts about buying makeup from Etsy is that you can search specifically for zero waste makeup (c’mon Sephora this would be great) and you get to support small businesses, often owned by women. Both of my purchases also came packaged in paper, with no plastic in sight!
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really need brow products since my eyebrows are naturally full, but there are a few spots I like to add some product to in order to even out some patchier areas. I’ve had my eye on Elate Cosmetics because most of their products are sold in either bamboo packaging or as a refill (shipped in seed paper) that you can put into a Z-pallet you already own. I’m more familiar with pencil brow products, but I have been enjoying the waxy formula. I haven’t had a problem with overdoing my brows and the product seems to stay put all day. I’m not sure how this will work for people with sparser or lighter brows, but it has been perfect for me.
I paid $20 for 4 grams of product (saving $5 by foregoing packaging), which is a bit more expensive than pomade formulas sold at Sephora.
Foundation has been my biggest sticking point in trying to figure out a zero waste makeup swap. I’m fortunate enough to have mostly clear skin these days (though that was not the case during puberty), but I still like a base product to even things out a bit. I ordered a sample of the Full Tint Foundation (sold in a glass jar) and the Pressed Powder (with packaging like the brow balm) since I was a bit nervous about color match. Unfortunately, my samples did come in plastic jars (which I will find a way to reuse), but have been happy with the product.
The Full Tint Foundation has a pretty thick formula, so I imagine you could build up a decent coverage with it. I’ve been using my fingers for application, which have worked pretty well. I think a makeup sponge would work better, but zero waste beauty tools are tricky to track down. The color match on the Full Tint Foundation (I ordered Ecru) is pretty great and I haven’t noticed a problem with the product breaking up over the day. I do have normal to dry skin, so I’d love to hear input from someone with more oily skin to see how this holds up. I got enough of the Full Tint Foundation in my sample to feel comfortable ordering a full-sized product.
The Full Tint Foundation sample as $4 and the full size is $27 for 1 oz. This is a little more expensive than my most recent foundation but is also far more affordable than the NARS foundation I used to purchase.
I ordered the Pressed Powder in Flaxen (for fair skin with warm undertones), which, unfortunately, is a bit too yellow for my complexion. With the sample jar being small, it is hard to test all-over coverage since none of my foundation brushes would be able to pick up enough product for a full application. I did apply a bit as a setting powder and it seemed to work pretty well. I do generally prefer a lighter cover and formula (I love Bare Minerals foundation, but it is sold in plastic), so I might go ahead and order a full-size product in a neutral tone. I love that with their pressed powder I could get a mostly package-free product and fit it into a Z-Pallet (I purchased a bamboo pallet from Elate and really enjoy it). Not only will I save on paying for packaging, I will create less waste and have a more travel-friendly makeup kit. The full-size product is $28 for 16 grams, which is far less money for more product than a similar formula from Bare Minerals.
The biggest downside of Elate’s base products (and many “natural” makeup lines is the pretty absurd color selection. The pressed powder comes in 7 shades (three fair, three medium, and three deep). The liquid foundation come in two formulas, the Full Tint has 6 shades (4 described as being for fair or medium skin tones) and the Fresh Tint which comes in 4 shades (one shade is described as deep but is still super light).
My order from Elate was packaged in paper and cardboard and was a little bulkier than my order from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics. I was happy to see that they did make note of my instructions to use minimal packaging and did not include styrofoam or bubble wrap in my order
Overall, I am thrilled with my first steps into the world of zero waste makeup. After considering prices, my zero waste makeup fits within my budget and has the added benefit of supporting people and companies that have a mission centered on caring for the environment. I still have plenty of blush and eyeshadow from my pre-zero waste days, but I feel confident that I will be able to find a great happy medium of buying makeup that isn’t super wasteful but saves me the trouble of making my own. My biggest critique is that the world of natural makeup needs to expand their shade ranges. I am pretty fair skinned, so it was easy enough to find products that would work for me, but I imagine people of color would struggle to find products that will work for them (at least from the vendors I have explored).