Refillable Beauty – The Next Step in Eco Cosmetics?

Refill pouches from Conscious Beauty Co.

Hands up, who loves a good refill? Me too. Top up my coffee cup, give me a splash of tap water, I’m all in when it comes to carrying reusable cups and bottles. But now, it looks like I can do the same across my makeup counter! Enter, refillable beauty: one glug of shampoo and a smudge of lip balm, to go please!

All jokes aside, I’ve been wondering if refillable beauty products are the next step in eco-friendly cosmetics. It makes sense to refill consumable products, but bathroom essentials feels like there’s a little bit more preparation involved.

So, over the last few months I’ve taken it upon myself to give a few different refillable makeup, haircare, and beauty products a go. Here are the results…

What Refillable Beauty Ranges Are Out There?

Let’s be honest – when we buy beauty products, what we really want is the delightful goop that’s inside the bottle. Sure, a pretty bottle looks nice on the bathroom counter, but it’s not the main selling point (or at least, it shouldn’t be!)

My own beauty choices are always focused on two things:

  1. Cruelty-free beauty
  2. Products that use more sustainable and natural ingredients

Basically, I try to avoid these 25 ingredients when shopping for beauty, and I never buy products that aren’t cruelty-free. This guide only focuses on the brands that fit into these categories (there are other brands doing refills, but they fall short before these first few hurdles).

Refillable Shampoo, Conditioner & Haircare

Conscious Beauty Co. – So, my first and possibly favourite refill brand is Conscious Beauty Co., who gifted me their New Year, No Waste box to get me started. I think this is a really smart way to convert to refillable beauty – you get the bottles and the refills all in one go, and then its a case of either reordering, or subscribing and receiving refills at a frequency that suits you!

Beauty Kitchen* – If you prefer to have a new bottle every time you shop, Beauty Kitchen is the place for you. Once you’ve finished up their shampoo*, conditioner*, or any other product in their extensive range, you can send the bottle back to Beauty Kitchen HQ. Even easier, you can return bottles to Holland & Barrett, who will return them for you, and give you in-store credit as a thank you.

Bleach London – While I haven’t used Bleach London’s neon bright hair dyes, I do love how they’ve introduced refillable glass bottles for hair dye, which you can purchase and return to their stores. If you’re not London-based, you can still shop their box kits in beauty stores, which no longer come with single-use plastic tools.

Tabitha James Kraan* – If you’re looking for refillable dry shampoo, TJK is the place to go. They provide refills in cardboard pouches, so you can keep your spray topped up. If you don’t want to shell out £20 on dry shampoo, go for my quick trick: talc and cocoa powder in a sugar shaker!

Refillable Hand Wash & Hand Cream

Faith in Nature* – Faith in Nature has gone down a more traditional route when it comes to refills – setting up refill stations in local stores across the country! Personally, I’m not really a fan of their formulations, but it’s great to see this type of refill network being set up by brands.

The Soap Co.* – If you’re looking for a business that prioritises people and planet, as well as refills and sustainable beauty, The Soap Co. are for you! I love their gorgeously-scented rhubarb and geranium hand wash* and hand cream*, and how simple they’ve made refills: Start with a pump bottle, recycle the glass bottle part, and then buy a refill which you can pop your pump into. Simple and sustainable.

Refillable Shower Gel & Body Lotion

Beauty Kitchen* – As before, Beauty Kitchen is a refill-hybrid, inviting customers to return their waste to them (which you can do via post or by returning bottles to Holland & Barrett). They get an extra mention here as my favourite item from the range is their Botanic Bliss Body Cream*!

KAKKAN London – Kankan focuses on liquid soap, in forms suitable for hands, bodies, and babies! I love their innovative use of ring-pull cans (which are easily recyclable) and the beautiful brown glass bottles they also offer if you want to commit to future refills.

REN Skincare* – One of my favourite beauty brands is REN, and I’m delighted to see how they’re really working hard to reduce the impact of their packaging. First, recycled plastic made an appearance. Then, their refillable glass bottles* and LOOP system. And, I’ve also had a sneaky preview out their infinity plastic bottles – made with plastic than can be recycled infinite times, compared to the standard 10 times. Keep up the amazing work, REN!

Refillable Deodorant

Wild – A new refillable brand popped up on my radar when writing this post, so I’m pleased to say there’s now an option for refillable deodorant! Wild are launching a refillable deodorant, coming in three scents and three colour cases too. As someone who’s had ups and downs with natural deodorant, I really hope these are good!

Refillable Beauty & Makeup

Alima Pure* – If you like the traditional pressed power palette and refills, Alima Pure has you covered! I love their minimalist style and natural ingredients too.

Benecos* – If you’re looking for affordable, natural makeup that has also expanded into refills, Benecos is the brand for you. They have a huge range, and provide refillable eyeshadows and powders.

Hiro* – For more elevated makeup palettes that are refillable, go for Hiro. The range was created with make-up artists in mind, and I think they’re good quality, although I’ve only tried their liquid foundation.

Kjaer Weis* – If you’re looking for more than refillable eyeshadows and powders, go for Kjaer Weis. The super luxe brand specialises in metal-cased makeup that is easily refillable. I loved working my way through their lip balm and one day aspire to have a beauty counter full of KW products.

La Bouche Rouge – Refillable lipstick is now sexy, thanks to La Bouche Rouge. These vegan, cruelty-free lipsticks come in a deadstock leather refillable case, and you can design your own colour too. Super pricey, but also super sustainable.

Zao* – If zero-waste beauty is already your thing, you probably know about Zao. The bamboo-wood packaging is iconic, and their range has refills for everything from eyeliner through to concealer sticks.

Is Refillable Beauty Actually A Good Idea?

After all this research and trying out different brands and products, I have to say that I’m torn between the pro’s and con’s of refillable beauty:

My main worry is that we all like choice and convenience too much. I’m not very loyal about the brands I shop with, and a refillable beauty product ties me to buying them over and over again. Plus if I make a change, I will create more substantial waste by disposing of sturdy bottles and packaging.

Refills are a hassle. Refills that involve online ordering and the back-and-forth of posting and receiving can be off-putting, and easily forgotten about. I’m all for making time to be more sustainable, but there’s definitely a luxury time element to refillable beauty that not everyone has.

On the plus side, if bottle sizes grew, refills would be more appealing. Bulk-size bottles are better, although only a few of the above brands are upping their refill sizes. It makes sense to provide more in one refill – you reduce the packaging waste, and the carbon impact of deliveries.

However, refills aren’t revolutionary. In all honesty, refills aren’t anything new. It’s something that’s fallen out of practice, and that may be down to the manufacturers’ preference of cheap plastic, as well as the unsustainable convenience of a throwaway bottle. Either way, both of these have to change, but refills may not be the best option out there.

Finally: recycling may be more eco-friendly than refills. A friend of mine pointed out that refills involve cleaning bottles, travelling or requesting delivery, and potential product waste. Also, when you’re done in your cycle of refills, what do you do with the more substantial packaging (that may not even be recyclable?) Refills may work for some people, but they’re not the perfect option for everyone, and recyclable, low-impact packaging may be a better alternative.

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