Create Less Waste With These 9 Reusable and Refillable Beauty Products
It’s getting easier and easier to swap out common products with reusables – coffee cups, straws, and produce bags among them – but what about the things we can’t so easily replace? Like the bottles, jars, and jugs that hold our lotion and soap?
Many cosmetics brands tout the recyclability or biodegradability of their packaging – sometimes with a fair amount of greenwashing involved – but recycling alone isn’t a viable solution to our global waste problem; since 1950, less than 10% of plastic produced has actually been recycled, and, according to waste-management company TerrraCycle, the cosmetics industry itself produces an estimated 120 billion units of disposable packaging annually.
In the midst of this plastic-pollution crisis, companies are stepping in and making reusable and refillable cosmetics available to customers, so we can continue to care for (and sometimes pamper) ourselves without the same environmental cost.
Those plastic, twist-up deodorant tubes are becoming a thing of the past. Instead, household-name and small brands alike are offering refillable options.
Proverb’s aluminum-free deodorant refills are available in different colors, scents, and strengths, and are wrapped in paper. With their aluminum refillable pods, Grove Collaborative bypasses plastic and aims to be completely plastic-free by 2025. Haeckels also sells reusable aluminum cases, and their products are made with just eight sustainable ingredients, all sourced from suppliers within 2km of the company. For a discrete case to keep in your bag all day, try Fussy, whose compostable refill packaging is also made from sugarcane pulp. Humankind refills are made from cardboard and plastic, which can be recycled, and customers can also pay a small monthly fee to help offset their impact through the company’s ocean-plastic-removal offset program.
Conventional brands are hopping on the trend too; Dove, Secret, and Old Spice now sell reusable cases and deodorant refills.
Washable Cotton Rounds
Instead of buying those mega-packs of cotton pads from the beauty aisle, try washable cotton rounds instead. Use them to apply liquid products like micellar water, face wash, or toner, or swap out products that come as saturated wipes – like makeup remover – with the liquid form of the product to apply with these reusable pads.
LastRound – available at the Package Free Shop – come in a cute dispenser for your bathroom cabinet and are machine washable. The Versed Skincare cotton rounds come with a mesh bag for washing too; place used pads in the bag before putting in the washing and drying machine with your other laundry. Beauty brands Paula’s Choice, Garnier, Sephora, and Cocokind all have their own reusable rounds as well.
Refillable Skin Care Products
Brands large and small are coming up with solutions for the small, single-use plastic bottles, jars, and tinctures that store our favorite skin care products.
Based in Nashville, The Good Fill has its own in-person fillery, but you don’t need to be a Tennessean to use their products. Their orderable refill pouches for skincare products are made with 93% less plastic than the bottle, and are then mailed back to the company to be reused. Youth to the People products can also be refilled, and subscribers can save $10 on each refill.
Tata Harper takes a different approach with their silicone-free Water-Lock Moisturizer; refill pods come in recyclable packaging and lock into the original container. To refill the foaming facial cleansers from Zyderma, order their glass vials of the concentrated product to dilute with water and use as normal. Yves Saint Laurent also offers refills for their Pure Shots Perfect Plumper Face Cream, as does Rihanna’s Fenty Skin for a number of products from facial sunscreen to body scrub.
Silicone Sheet Masks
Popping on a sheet mask makes any night in feel like a luxury, but these single-use products inevitably end up in the trash. Pamper yourself without the waste with a reusable sheet mask to hold your favorite skincare products closer to the face for better absorption. The Honest Beauty silicone sheet mask is a go-to for skin care gurus; apply skincare products – or make your own mask concoctions, like these oatmeal-based masks – before setting the mask on your face. Rinse after each use and store for your next night of pampering.
Reusable Eye Masks
Eye masks work much the same as face masks by trapping in product for better absorption. The silicone Diex Forever Eye Mask targets the area under your eyes to hold your favorite eye creams and serums close the skin (it also comes in a super cute case). These masks sell out quickly, but Pacifica also has an affordable and effective reusable eye mask, available at Target.
Who knew makeup could be refillable? These brands are tackling the task of waste-free beauty. Plus, refills are often much cheaper than the original product, so choosing a sustainable option will save you money in the long run.
Guerlain, Fenty Beauty, and Dior all offer refill tubes for their lipstick, as well as Hourglass, which sells refills for their highly-rated eyeshadow palettes too. Glossier Monochromes eyeshadow trio compacts also have refills in 10 different shades than can easily pop in and out of the original container. Kjaer Weis is among the most refill-friendly brands, with 100% recyclable and compostable packaging for their refillable concealer, mascara, blush, brow gel, eye shadow, eye pencils, bronzer, highlighter, and lipstick, with complete instructions for refilling.
For all of your swabbing needs, ditch the multi-hundred packs from the drugstore and opt for these silicone alternatives. Try the popular LastSwab from LastObject, or snag an affordable multi-pack from Walmart. Wash the swap with soap and warm water after each use and store in the included case.
Refillable Hair Products
Along with plastic-free shampoo and conditioner bars, some companies are offering another low-waste alternative to traditional hair-care. Love Beauty and Planet products are vegan, cruelty free, and contain no dyes or parabens, and they offer 32oz refills, as does Ouai for their shampoo and conditioner for fine, medium, and thick hair types. Natura 300ml refills give you great bang for your buck on their many shampoo and conditioner products too.
With all that COVID-conscious hand washing, you might go through a bottle of hand soap faster than you can replace it. Check out ESPA and buy a reusable pump bottle to fill from their refill bags of hand and body soap, as well as shampoo, conditioner, hand cleanser, and lotion. The Follain Everything Soap is great for dogs, clothes, counters, and hands alike; snag their small glass bottles to fill from a larger refill jug. Bathing Culture’s cute glass jars can also be refilled from their one-gallon body wash bottles, or visit one of their refill locations in California.
Linnea graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Environmental Studies, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently, Linnea worked at Hunger Free America, and has interned with WHYY in Philadelphia, Saratoga Living Magazine, and the Sierra Club in Washington, DC.
Linnea enjoys hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, practicing her German, and volunteering on farms and gardens and for environmental justice efforts in her community. Along with journalism, she is also an essayist and writer of creative nonfiction.