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Why Biodegradable Packaging Makes Your Beauty Products Better

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When it comes to sustainable beauty (a.k.a. eco-friendly beauty), it’s easy to focus on the surplus of positives for your skin and body. Products formulated from naturally derived plants, oils, and elixirs can be transformative fixers for your skin and hair without having you question what you’re actually putting on and in your body. Not to mention being ethically sourced and cruelty-free. Sounds like a win-win for you and Mother Earth, right? Up to a certain point, yes. But once you’ve reached the bottom of that face cream jar, have you ever wondered, “Where does this go once I toss it?.” Turns out only 9% of recyclable plastic materials actually ever get recycled into something useful (and that’s true even after you toss them in your recycling bin), according to one study. That’s where biodegradable beauty packaging comes in. More on that soon.

The truth is, one of the major problems in the beauty industry is packaging waste. According to a study commissioned by Zero Waste Week, over 120 billion units of packaging are rolled out by the beauty industry every.single.year., which also contributes to the loss of over 18 million forest acres each year too. So while we’re doing our due diligence of slathering our sustainably sourced, furry-friend-friendly products (which is a beautiful thing), it’s also important now more than ever to make sure the containers that house them aren’t ending up in a landfill. One of the main materials in beauty packaging that’s got to go? Plastic. It’s in everything from lotion and shampoo bottles to jar tops, skin cream spoons, pumps, and more. (PCR plastic, a.k.a. post-consumer resin, or post-consumer recycled plastic, is a better option.) And while it may not be possible to completely eliminate non-biodegradable materials or plastic from your beauty routine, every small step you can take counts. A great place to start? Look for products made with biodegradable packaging. Here’s what you need to know.

So What Is Biodegradable Packaging and How Do I Find It?

Biodegradable packaging is essentially packaging that can be broken down by microorganisms like bacteria and fungi (kind of like composting). It’s mostly made from plant-based materials and comes in endless shapes and forms. The important thing to keep in mind when looking for something biodegradable is to research the brand and its claims, and to look for materials that break down naturally like bamboo, natural rubbers, recycled and compostable paper, cardboard, organic cotton, and more. Avoid products in glass bottles, which increases your carbon footprint (unless you’re saving and refilling them)—pumps too, which often house lots of plastic parts you can’t see.

What Are The Benefits of Biodegradable Beauty Products?

Get this—almost 8 billion units of rigid plastic were created to be used for items in the beauty and personal care categories in 2018, and that’s just counting the U.S, according to Euromonitor International. Swapping out products for ones with biodegradable containers obviously won’t be a quick fix for a major environmental issue, but it does make a difference, not to mention it leaves you feeling good about doing your part to help reduce waste.

Below, we’ve got a list of beauty brands that are doing big things by ensuring that their products are housed in packaging that’s biodegradable.

Products With Biodegradable Packaging to Try

1. Best Biodegradable Eyeshadow Palette: ĀTHR BEAUTY Moonlight Crystal Gemstone Palette

ĀTHR BEAUTY Moonlight Crystal Gemstone Palette
Courtesy of ĀTHR BEAUTY

These shimmery shadows are infused with 12 richly pigmented shimmer, matte, and metallic shades that are all 100% vegan, cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced with cardboard packaging that’s all completely biodegradable (and ridiculously cute!). Each shadow is made with organic coconut oil for smooth application, rose quartz to illuminate your eyes, and sapphire crystals to promote well-being and focus. Plus, the brand donates a portion of sales to 1% for the Planet.

2. Best Biodegradable Shampoo: KLORANE Oil Control 2-In-1 Mask Shampoo Powder With Nettle

KLORANE Oil Control 2-In-1 Mask Shampoo Powder With Nettle
Courtesy of KLORANE

What lives rent-free in your shower and contributes to creating tons of waste? Your non-reusable shampoo bottles. These shampoo sachets, on the other hand, are biodegradable, vegan, and use minimal water during manufacturing. They contain plant-based powders that transform into foam upon contact with water to sop up excess oil, leaving your hair squeaky clean.

3. Best Biodegradable Deodorant: WILD Sandalwood & Patchouli + Black Case Starter Pack

WILD Sandalwood & Patchouli + Black Case Starter Pack
Courtesy of WILD

Up until now, deodorant was just one of those plastic-filled necessities that you had to toss and replace over and over again. But thanks to this innovative brand, now you can feel good about what’s on your pits and where it goes when you’re done with it. Wild’s deodorant cases are made from 100% consumer recycled plastic that are made to be reused over and over again. And get this, each refill is made of bamboo pulp that’s completely compostable, plastic-free, and comes in addictive scents like Cotton & Sea Salt, Coconut Dream, and Mint & Eucalyptus.

4. Best Bath Bomb With Biodegradable Packaging: LUSH Scrubee Body Butter

LUSH Scrubee Body Butter
Courtesy of LUSH

We’re huge fans of LUSH for all things bathtime related. Everything in LUSH’s Naked line of products comes—yup, naked—without wrapping, boxing, or plastic. The brand is obsessed with being sustainable to minimize their carbon footprint with 35% of their products being sold completely packaging-free and formulated with little to no water. What makes this line even better? When you order their Naked products in the mail, each one is shipped in 100% biodegradable cellophane with 100% biodegradable plant-based peanuts that you can toss right into your compost.

5. Best Biodegradable Cleansing Wipes: REFRESHMENTS Cleansing Face Wipes

REFRESHMENTS Cleansing Face Wipes

These gentle-on-skin wipes remove all of your stubborn makeup, dirt, and grime (even the waterproof kind), without drying or irritating your skin. Each wipe is 100% biodegradable and compostable, so you don’t have to feel some type of way when you toss it—and it’s even loaded up with skin-softening ingredients like aloe vera juice, argan oil, and sunflower seed oil. 

What else can you do to reduce your carbon footprint? Here are some tips:

  • Buy refillable containers for your skincare, hair, and makeup.
  • Skip dark-colored bottles. They tend to be missed by sorters.
  • Skip the eight-step skincare routine and look for products that are multitaskers.
  • Stock up on solid products like shampoo bars, soaps, and balms that are packaging-free.

Want the scoop on more earth-friendly beauty? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated January 15, 2022 12:00 AM