Best plastic-free beauty products: makeup, shampoo and the best sustainable alternatives

Ellie Davis

Did you know that every piece of plastic ever made still exists? Let that sink in.

Many of us are already taking lengths to reduce our consumption. Fabric tote bags, paper straws, reusable water bottles and coffee cups are all becoming the norm, but when it comes to our bathroom cabinets, there is still a lot more that can be done. The ban on microbeads and plastic cotton wool buds is just the start.

According to recycling company TerraCycle, the global cosmetics industry produces 120 billion units of packaging every year where over 95 per cent of packaging is just thrown out after it is used. From the housing of the product, to the exterior film packaging, plastic is ubiquitous in the beauty industry, resigned to sit in our landfills for the next 1,000+ years.

While an entirely zero-waste beauty routine may be difficult to achieve, there are simple switch ups that we can all do to ditch the plastic.

Products like shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser are made up of 90 to 95 per cent water, are stored in plastic and require far more energy to transport. So why not switch your traditional hair and skincare up for solid (water-free) alternatives that does not need any plastic packaging? It's easier than you think.

Brands are putting their thinking caps on and creating innovative solutions to help fight against the plastic problem. You can now get just about any skincare, makeup, hair or body essential with more sustainable packaging.

We have gathered our favourite brands with plastic-free products that will allow you to cut down on your footprint without sacrificing your beauty routine.

Beauty Kitchen

Beauty Kitchen is keeping plastic out of its packaging and its products entirely. While microscopic plastics may be used as cheap fillers by a whole host of major brands, this sustainable label has opted for a different approach with clean and natural ingredients. The brand also opts for a zero waste and full circle policy where you can return, refill and reuse the packaging - taking recycling to the next level. The minimal approach to the product housing uses rock paper labels and compostable solutions.

The extensive range includes facial oils, eye serums, moisturisers, cleansers, masks, mists, lip balms and hand and body essentials that are effective, gentle and as kind to your skin as they are to the planet.

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Nuddy

We have seen a huge revival in soap bars not in the least due to their environmental credentials. With minimal packaging required and new non-drying formulations, they are becoming much more sought-after than their gel counterparts housed in plastic packaging.

Nuddy is one of the brands leading this resurgence with its soap and shampoo bars. The soap bars come in five deliciously fragranced variants; lime & lemon, coconut, peppermint, pink grapefruit, and mango. They are enriched with shea butter that nourishes and cleanses your skin at the same time and offers an impressive lather.

The shampoo bar is scented with acai berry and peach and is designed to suit all hair types to give real volume.

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Axiology

Pucker up with an eco-conscious twist with Axiology’s vegan and cruelty-free lipsticks. The Californian-based label creates balms and sticks with natural formulations that are made up mostly of organic ingredients, while remaining free from palm oil. The packaging is recyclable and zero waste, housed in refillable aluminium casing. The boxes are also recyclable as well as compostable.

The lipsticks come in a range of covetable and pigmented shades with soft, buttery formulations.

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Kankan

Kankan is mixing up the packaging game, launching a range of soaps in cans. Resist the urge to crack it open and glug it down as these options contain hand and body washes.

The starter packs contain a refillable dispenser and the accompanying cans that are composed of aluminium, which is infinitely recyclable and uses far less energy.

There are a combination of fragrances; lemongrass & juniper, chamomile & lavender, and mandarin & clary sage, all of which have a lovely scent and an impressive lather. The plant-based formulas are free from nasties like silicone, sulphates, parabens, artificial colours and fragrances. The brand also plants a tree with every can sold.

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UpCircle

UpCircle takes leftover ingredients like coffee grounds or brewed chai tea spices and transforms them into skincare essentials. The entirely natural label takes an ethical approach by repurposing and reusing the ingredients that have surprising skin-boosting benefits, while also remaining cruelty free and vegan.

The brand has a plastic-free range that features cleansing balms, face masks, soap bars, hand wash, face scrubs, body scrubs, moisturisers, razors and even cotton buds where the packaging is also recyclable.

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Vanderohe

This luxurious beauty label proves that you can be premium and kind to the planet at the same time. The quality lotions and potions are sustainable, certified organic, clean and cruelty free. Crafted with pure natural ingredients, all the products are designed to benefit your skin and the Earth.

They are all housed in recyclable and biodegradable packaging with the most minimal use of plastic possible. The best-selling face serum and the rest of the range are stored in a dark violet Miron glass that will take a starring role in your ever-expanding shelfie game.

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Haeckels

Skincare, hair and fragrance specialists Haeckels use entirely natural ingredients and sustainable practises to form its product range. Each and every item is packaged to have the least impact on the environment and as little waste as possible while still remaining chic and beautifully designed.

Innovation in packaging is constantly occurring over at the label. Instead of plastic, they use algae to seal the bottles without sacrificing on hygiene. The glass candle holders can also be reused as a glass for hot or cold beverages or to store essentials like cotton wool buds. You can also get 15 per cent off the product when you refill your current bottle.

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Lush

Lush has long stressed its commitment to reducing waste with one of the most extensive plastic-free offerings on the market.

The brand has everything from shampoo and conditioner bars, to soap paper, shower gel, deodorant, moisturisers, and much, much more.

Made from natural ingredients and essential oils, there are a variety of scents available and products targeted for different needs, such as haircare for all textures and types.

Lush reveals that the bars are the equivalent of three 250g bottles that should last you around 80-100 washes.

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Kjaer Weis

Danish makeup label Kjaer Weis proves you don’t need to sacrifice on quality to go plastic-free. The eco-conscious label offers luxury products in sustainable casings. The now signature silver metal compacts are designed to be refillable so when you have finished your favourite product, you only need to purchase the shade, saving you money while reducing waste.

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Gallinée

Swap your traditional plastic variation for this waste-free cleansing bar from innovative French label Gallinée.

The gentle formula works to cleanse and transform your skin with the brand’s patented complex of prebiotics that protects the good bacteria while eliminating the bad combined with nourishing lactic acid.

You can use on both the face and the body.

£10 | Gallinée | Buy it now

RMS Beauty

When RMS Beauty launched, the idea of clean beauty seemed like an impossibility but founder and makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift was committed to the idea of non-toxic products free from harmful chemicals and created using only organic ingredients that work to heal and rejuvenate skin.

The brand also offers a range of plastic-free makeup housed in metal or glass packaging.

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L’Occitane

L’Occitane has marked its commitment to reducing waste in the beauty industry through a series of initiatives. The natural skincare and beauty label has long offered eco-refills that use 80 per cent less plastic, has partnered up with TerraCycle so you can bring empties from any brand to be recycled in store and has now launched bottles made from 100 per cent recycled plastic.

But on top of this, you can shop the Lavender Foaming Bath and Milk Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap, which are entirely plastic free. The refillable bath oil is made from aluminium with no plastic sealing or label and has an inside casing of vegetable wax. The soap is housed in paper without being swathed in a plastic film.

£26 for bath oil | L’Occitane | Buy it now

£6 for soap | L’Occitane | Buy it now

The Soap Co.

Ethical luxury skincare label The Soap Co. take a sustainable approach to all aspects of its brand. From its locally sourced ingredients, bottles and labels, to its production, in which all products are handcrafted in the UK by people who are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged. The label also reforms recycled milk bottles, uses film made from renewable wood pulp and opts for compostable stickers and soap wrappers. The natural products are created with natural botanicals, nourishing vitamins and pure essentials oils.

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Floral Street

Finding a fragrance that is plastic-free can be more of a challenge than you may think. While fragrances are often housed in glass bottles, the boxes tend to be wrapped in cellophane but Floral Street is opting for a recyclable, biodegradable pulp carton.

The box is designed to be repurposed where the label suggests a whole host of uses like to store jewellery, teas or even as a seed tray for plants or herbs.

For the perfumer’s range of bath and body products, they are stored in a colourful tube made from 100 per cent sustainable sugar cane bioplastic that looks and feels like traditional plastic but is fully recyclable.

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One Ocean Beauty

Marine-based beauty label One Ocean Beauty launched in 2018 with one goal, to protect the ocean and so it comes as no surprise that the label omits plastic – one of the biggest pollutants destroying sea life.

The packaging is made from a bi-product of sugarcane production which is 100 per cent recyclable and appears indistinguishable from plastic. Even the lid is made from recycled wood.

The products are created using a state-of-the-art Blue Biotechnology that reproduces algae, kelp, and seaweed extracts in a lab – a more sustainable solution than harvesting them at sea. The formulas are also all clean and free from GMOs, parabens, sulfates and all nasties.

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Codex Beauty

Science-led beauty label Codex Beauty takes natural ingredients and plant-based preservatives and combines them with pharmaceutical-grade processes.

The brand has made a real effort to reduce its carbon footprint in all aspects, from the sourcing of raw materials to its waste production. All but one of the products in its current five SKU range are housed in tubes composed of green polyethylene, a plastic resin produced using sugarcane ethanol, which is a plant-based renewable raw material. The outer packaging is made using paper (without plastic film) from sustainably managed forests.

The stand-out plastic-free products include the Eye Gel Cream – a godsend in the morning to reduce puffy eyes and dark circles and for that much-needed hit of hydration. T

he Exfoliating Wash has both cleansing and toning benefits with a gentle formula composed of natural jojoba grains and infused with elderflower water, grapefruit, safflower and milk thistle oils.

£62 for eye gel | Codex Beauty | Buy it now

£43 for wash | Codex Beauty | Buy it now

Bleach London

East London-born salon – best known for its highly Instagrammable rainbow hued hair designs – has taken a sustainable approach to its coveted at-home kits.

Maintain your colour with the tool sets that have been stripped of all single-use plastic. The exterior packaging is composed of 100 per cent recycled cardboard and even the mixing bowl itself is made up of natural reclaimed coconut shell.

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Beauty Kubes

This Cornwall-based, game-changing brand will revolutionise your beauty routine with its range of plastic-free shampoos, conditioners and body wash.

With options for normal, dry and oily hair types, the pack is made up of 27 mini cubes where you need just one per wash. You crumble it in your hand, add a dash of water and run it through your locks for soft, silky and clean hair every time.

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MAKE BEAUTY Nude Palette

Make believes that “beauty is for everyone” and so has designed this palette to universally suit every skin type. Featuring eight neutral eyeshadows with versatile, buildable formulas as well as a blush and highlighter. What’s more, the palette itself is made from recycled materials; cardboard and metal without the use of plastic. It is also recyclable.

£22.40 | Net-A-Porter | Buy it now

BECO. Shampoo Bar

Ethical label BECO was the first beauty label to be awarded the ‘Plastic Free’ mark by Plastic Planet. On top of its range of bar soaps (offered in a biodegradable box), it has recently launched shampoo bars that are plastic-free, hypoallergenic and do not contain parabens or SLS. The shampoos are available in two scents; Honey Blossom and Spring Meadow.

£4 | Bower Collective | Buy it now

Herbivore Botanicals Bar Soaps

All-natural skincare label Herbivore offer three bars of soaps that can be used on both the face and body. The Bamboo Charcoal is made up of activated bamboo charcoal & tea tree essential oil to purify skin with a deep cleanse.

The Blue Clay and its blend of lavender and litsea oils is designed to soothe skin with a comforting scent, while the mineral-rich Cambrian blue clay evens out your skin tone and texture.

The French Pink Clay will revive skin’s elasticity, draw out impurities and nourish skin with its high iron oxide and silica content.

£10 each | Cult Beauty | Buy it now

BYBI

Pushing for greener beauty practises, every single product in the extensive BYBI range is eco-friendly – made from sustainable sourced ingredients and transported through carbon-neutral couriers.

The brand also opt for recyclable packaging and its hero items like the Babe Balm – a multipurpose skin soothing product – is offered in a biodegradable tube. To make it even easier for consumers to do their bit for the planet, the website details how each product can be recycled.

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Best plastic-free and zero-waste toiletries