It’s time for a big guide – this time, on sustainable beauty products! I made my switch from conventional beauty products over to more natural, eco-friendly ones in 2015 (way back in the beauty archives!), and since then I’ve tried out hundreds of products to showcase the best ones out there.
Well, my beauty expertise were called up this week, when I joined Sarah and Ray from Hubbub to talk about all things sustainable beauty with them! We filmed out chat and shared on their YouTube channel (which is well worth a follow for plenty of guides to eco issues and easy ways to be more eco-friendly!)
You can watch our chat here – and get a few tips if you’re looking to find greener products for your makeup bag or bathroom shelf:
How I got into sustainable beauty
So, alongside the video, I wanted to share my journey into sustainable beauty, as I think the switch is a big one to make – and it’s still quite hard to find green beauty on the high street.
One of my first swaps when I got started was to natural deodorants – it was around the time that aluminium salts in antiperspirants were discovered to be potentially harmful to our skin and bloodstream, and it was something I wanted to get away from. At the time, I was concentrating on food, how and where it’s sourced, and its effects on my body – but somehow I’d been totally oblivious to the products that I put on my skin!
Since then, I started to read up about beauty products, and I was shocked to learn that many are still tested on animals, and many contain petrol-based ingredients. I didn’t want to support either of these industries, and so I started my hunt for more sustainable, kinder beauty products.
Beauty ingredients I tend to avoid
When it comes to beauty, I tend to avoid using blanket statements or rules, because what works for one person may not work for another. There’s also plenty of aspects to consider in finding less impactful beauty, e.g.:
- Cruelty-free status
- Local production
- Organic ingredients
- Palm oil exclusion
- Plastic-free packaging
- Vegan ingredients
- Zero waste or refillable packaging
However, I do tend to avoid 25 beauty ingredients in particular. For haircare, I’ll try to stay away from SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate) as it can strip natural oils and cause irritation. But just like diet, I think it’s good to be flexible. It’s more harmful to feel stressed out when trying to be sustainable, then to go with the flow and do your best (and call out brands when they’re not up to scratch!)
If you’d like to follow a specific process when looking for more sustainable beauty products, I’d recommend the following. These are the checks to make when looking for sustainable beauty products:
- Is it cruelty-free? (Look for the cruelty-free marks)
- Does it have any other certifications? (For example, Soil Association or Eco Cert marks to signify organic ingredients)
- What are the ingredients in a specific item? (Check the ingredients list and look up any that you’re unsure of)
- What is the packaging made from? (Check for recycling symbols)
I will not purchase products that aren’t cruelty-free, but other than that, I tend to dabble. Also when it comes to vegan ingredients – I will avoid certain things like carmine (squished bugs) or bee venom, but I don’t mind honey or beeswax. However, you may wish to also look for vegan certification if that’s important to you – FeelUnique has a great vegan beauty edit* to help you get started.
What about palm oil?
Palm oil is often an issue in both food and beauty products, as the cultivation of palms can cause deforestation and destruction of animals’ homes too.
I tend to try and avoid palm oil – I even stopped buying products from one of my favourite natural beauty brands because they use it. However, certain places have started to use palm oil that is certified by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is a step towards regulating the palm oil industry. Members (and businesses that have RSPO certification) aren’t necessarily sustainable, but they’re taking steps to be more sustainable.
On top of that, BBC recently released a documentary that looks into palm oil cultivation and showed that the industry isn’t as harmful as it’s made out to be. Again – it’s really up to you whether you wish to avoid this or not.
Consider plastic-free beauty
When looking for sustainable beauty products, you may also wish to consider reducing the number of items you buy that come in plastic or non-recyclable packaging. A shocking number of people don’t recycle in their bathroom, even if they recycle in their kitchen! Clearly, we need better packaging and tiny recycling bins for our bathrooms too!
If this is something you want to explore, try my 12 zero waste bathroom swaps that I’ve made over the years and stuck with. Or consider this guide to bathroom recycling from Recycle Now, which estimates that if everyone in the UK recycled one bathroom cleaner bottle, enough energy could be saved to vacuum around 82,460 homes!
Clean cosmetics for men
And finally – I’m also really happy to say my boyfriend has joined me on the journey to using more sustainable beauty products. He helped me to put together this ultimate guide to men’s clean skincare products – so if you’re a guy reading this, I hope the list helps!
20 Of The Best Sustainable Beauty Brands In UK
Now, onto the places to buy sustainable beauty. A few people commented on the video asking for places to shop with, so I’ve put together this list of my favourite clean beauty brands. Of course, buying things you don’t need isn’t sustainable, so make sure to shop mindfully – and try finishing the products you already own before making any switches!
Balance Me*: Natural skincare brand – their overnight face mask is my favourite!
Burt’s Bees*: A great entry brand into sustainable beauty, Burt’s Bees focuses on bee-derived ingredients. Read my review on why I like them, but there’s room for improvement.
Bybi Beauty*: The starlet of my video with Hubbub! Bybi have been making Instagram-worthy beauty products for a few years now – I questioned whether they’re worth the hype a while ago. Spoiler: yes, they are!
Dr Hauschka*: A staple in my makeup bag, Dr H. has been looking after my skin through clean beauty ingredients for a few years now. Read my review from when they revamped their range here.
Dr Lipp*: Another doctor in the natural skincare arena! Dr Lipp make multi-use balms with natural (yet not always vegan) formulas.
Earth Conscious: Natural deodorants that come in recyclable or refillable packaging. Super simple, super effective!
Ere Perez*: One of my favourite cosmetics brands! Ere Perez is an Australian brand that uses botanicals to create really beautiful cosmetics. Read my review of their range here.
Ethique*: My favourite shampoo bars are now available in the UK! Alongside shampoo, they do everything from face cleansers through to body butters, all waterless and all in paper packaging.
Floral Street*: For all things perfume, think Floral Street! Sitting comfortably between sustainable beauty and conventional, their range focuses on sustainability while also de-sexualising fragrances. My favourite scent: Wild Vanilla Orchid.
Georganics*: For a really sustainable bathroom cabinet, head to Georganics. Their glass-bottled range includes clay-based toothpaste, waterless mouthwash, and biodegradable floss.
Grace & Green: While we’re in the bathroom cabinet, go to Grace & Green for sustainable period products. Combining paper packaging and organic cotton products, their pastel-boxed range is a firm favourite (plus read my full review here).
Green People*: For your standard, natural beauty products for all the family, go to Green People. Their sunscreen is my favourite.
Herbivore*: Natural, cruelty-free skincare that is so beautifully designed I’m almost scared to use it. Currently trying out a few items from their range – stay tuned for a review!
Kure Bazaar*: My favourite nail polish brand, with formulae of up to 90% natural ingredients, and a 10-free formula. French Nude is my current shade.
La Eva: A little known, organic-certified beauty brand I stumbled across a while ago. Their lotions come with a potent scent, so be sure to try them out before you buy!
MERIT: Vegan and cruelty-free cosmetics brand with high performance products and beautiful packaging!
Neal’s Yard Remedies*: The classic blue bottle company using natural, botanical ingredients. Get 15% off with code: NYRA15
Pai Skincare*: Natural, vegan skincare designed with gentle formulations, and recycled and recyclable packaging.
REN Skincare*: A firm favourite in my beauty routine, REN are both working with clean ingredients and recycled packaging. Get 20% off your first order with code: MY20
RMS Beauty*: There’s a reason why all beauty bloggers love RMS – their products are high quality, long lasting, and pretty green too. Their Un-Cover Up is my must-have concealer.
P.S. If you prefer to look for your own sustainable beauty brands, I recommend shopping on Content Beauty*, Cult Beauty*, or Feelunique*. All three are like beauty department stores that are making a concerted effort to stock sustainable beauty products!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links (denoted with '*') and gifted items (denoted with 'gifted')
How about UpCircle?
They’re new to me – featured in my latest beauty post! https://www.curiouslyconscious.com/2020/01/best-vegan-beauty-brands-uk.html/
hi – I’m menopausal and trying to cut out as many toxins/xeno-oestrogens as possible. Skincare isn’t so hard, but with make up I’m finding it really difficult.
How can I choose a foundation or concealer for example without trying it out ? I love online shopping but it’s not great for buying colour cosmetics Any suggestions ?
Hi Nat, that’s a tricky one. Some beauty brands do sell samples, but then there’s the issue of wasted packaging, and if they don’t fit your skintone, wasted product. Personally, I had to guess my shades for my makeup (and even now, sometimes blend them). You may find the brand you like does pop-up events, where you can go and try colour-matching, but I don’t think there’s a perfect solution (yet).