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Zero Waste Beauty Tips

Going Zero Waste With Your Beauty Routine Is a Challenge, But Not Impossible – Here’s How I’m Cutting Down on Plastic

Hillary Nelson, a product manager at one of our favorite websites, Man Repeller, has been taking major strides to go zero waste in her everyday life. Below, she fills us in on how she’s taking a more sustainable approach to her beauty and skin care routines. Read on and prepare to get inspired!

I’ve always been conscious about things like recycling and buying local as much as possible and I’ve always been aware and mindful of waste, but a couple months ago I read a statistic that really changed the way I was thinking and my priorities. It’s believed that in the next ten years, we will globally produce more single use plastic than has been produced since 1950. In 2015, single use plastic packaging accounted for 54% of the world’s plastic waste. And only around 9% of worldwide plastic actually gets recycled. When I heard this I realized that to me the question wasn’t how can I help make sure more plastic is recycled, but how can I ensure that I use less plastic?

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about zero waste is that you don’t have to be perfect, in fact it’s almost impossible to be perfect. But for me it’s important to make small long-term sustainable changes. So my biggest recommendation for people is to start small because it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Pick one room or one area of your life and go from there. And don’t beat yourself up when you do create waste. Acknowledge it and understand it and just continually try to get better.

My decision was to make sustainable lifelong changes, so I want to move towards solutions I feel comfortable committing to for the long haul.

RELATED: Five Ways to Make Your Skin Care Routine More Sustainable

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What Her Skin Care Routine Was Like Before Embarking on Her Zero Waste Journey

Looking back, my skin care routine before wasn’t that bad. I was pretty lazy in terms of shopping so I always opted for the largest container of things like moisturizer and face wash. The biggest change since I started this is that I rely much more on clay masks and oil-based moisturizers over sheet masks. I love a good sheet mask, but they are almost impossible to recycle so I opted to give those up. I also treat myself to a regular facial to keep my skin looking good.

What Eco-Conscious Tweaks She’s Made to Her Routine So Far

My favorite tweak so far has been our move to bar shampoo and conditioner. My husband and I were going through about 24 bottles a year just to wash our hair! It might sound small, but for us it felt like a clear actionable change we could make. My favorites are Lush’s #BeCrueltyFree shampoo and Jungle conditioner for summer and Ethique’s Heali Kiwi shampoo and Wonderbar conditioner during the fall and winter.

I’ve also added more oils into my routine. Twice I week I use The Ordinary Retinoid 2% which is vegan, cruelty-free and won’t burn your skin! And then I alternate between Prima’s Night Magic Oil and Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil – they’re both hemp oils that have a nice natural fragrance and help keep my skin moist.

Once a week I use True Botanicals Resurfacing Mask which has been one of my favorites for years. I love all of their products; they’re cruelty-free and GMO-free and come in these beautiful brown glass containers. And of course everything works miracles!

Makeup is a lot harder. There aren’t a ton of zero waste makeup brands, but I don’t wear too much makeup so I switched the few items I wear to be from Ilia, a brand thats cruelty-free and they also use either recycled or recyclable materials. I really like their mascara which is in a recycled aluminum tube and has a nice wand that has it’s own built-in comb.

I send a donation of cleaned mascara wands to Appalachian Wildlife Refuge twice a year which uses them to clean things like bugs, thorns, and other harmful items from the fur of little animals.

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What Moves She’s Making Next

My next big step is razors. Razors are absolutely not recyclable but those fancy ones that your grandpa used that are all metal and have blades you can swap out? They’re making a comeback because you can recycle the blades! So a new razor and a zero waste, eco-friendly daily moisturizer with SPF are my top two things.

What Other Aspects in Her Life She’s Made Major Changes To

Changing habits in our kitchen were so much easier! We now buy so much in bulk, we’ve reduced our meat and dairy intake (because they’re incredible hard to get plastic-free) and we’ve made changes to the laundry soap (we use this recipe, but also any dry soap in a cardboard box is also great), hand soap, general cleaning products (both from Blueland), and toilet paper (from Who Gives a Crap) in our house. All were super easy changes!

Hillary’s Current Beauty Routine


  1. Wash face with reusable cotton rounds and Aesop In Two Minds Facial Toner
  2. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer With SPF
  3. Ilia concealor and mascara
  4. Milk Makeup highlighter (I’ve had this for years but it’s just a huge plastic chunk so when it’s done I won’t be repurchasing sadly!)
  5. Smith’s Rosebud Salve on lips


  1. Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash
  2. Dr. Bronner’s Body Wash and a shampoo bar (see above for details)
  3. Bite Toothpaste Tabs and By Humankind Mouthwash Tabs
  4. Prima Night Magic oil 
  5. The Ordinary Retinoid 2% twice a week
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