8 Sustainable Skincare Habits to Start Today for a Greener Tomorrow

5 min read

8 Sustainable Skincare Habits to Start Today for a Greener Tomorrow

Your mama called – she said you should rethink your skincare routine. (Mama Earth, that is.)

Jokes aside, let’s get real for a moment – it’s NOT just down to consumers to pave the way for a greener future. But the individual decisions you make, where you choose to spend your skincare budget and on what, the ingredients you say yes and no to, they all can make a difference. 

The green beauty and cosmetics market has experienced a 15% annual growth rate, 3x the annual growth rate of global personal care products in general. 62% of beauty consumers find sustainability more crucial today than they did two years ago. And the more we demand greater transparency, more sustainable packaging, and cleaner ingredients from the products we use on our bodies, the more the industry will catch up.


Read on for some important info on how traditional skincare can impact the environment and for a few easy habits to implement into your skincare routine to make it more sustainable.

What makes skincare “sustainable”?

First off, this is a really important question. There’s a lot of greenwashing out there, with many brands claiming sustainability without really backing it up.

But sustainability isn’t just a feeling or a buzzword. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission has published (albeit general) ‘Green Guides’ to clarify what “green” means in marketing terms. In the skincare and cosmetic industry, “green” refers to cosmetic products using natural ingredients produced from renewable raw materials. It may also be used to describe products using environmentally friendly formulations, production practices, or packaging methods.

Sustainability isn’t an all-or-nothing thing – it exists on a scale. A variety of factors may make skincare sustainable, or at least more sustainable, including:

  • Recyclable/reusable packaging
  • Responsible, transparent product manufacturing
  • Avoiding certain ingredients that have a negative environmental impact
  • Longevity – products that do more with less waste/product
  • Simplicity – products that eliminate the need for accompanying/competitor products that notoriously create a lot of waste

The Impact of Traditional Skincare on the Environment

Whether you currently realize it or not, some of the products you currently use could be broadly contributing to environmental issues. While many brands have made a conscious effort to clean up their business practices and their skincare products, old ways of doing things can have a major negative impact on the environment, including:

  • Water overuse in product manufacturing
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation of goods
  • Deforestation in pursuit of ingredient sourcing
  • Pollution from chemical runoff
  • Energy-intensive production processes
  • Excessive use of non-renewable resources
  • Packaging waste 
  • Microbead pollutants in aquatic ecosystems
  • Harmful chemicals in wastewater

Making a conscious effort to clean up and simplify your beauty routine CAN make a difference.

8 Small Changes You Can Make to Make Your Current Skincare Routine More Environmentally Friendly

From swaps to easy habits, here are 8 easy ways to make your skincare routine a little more green. Choose one (or two, or all eight!) to try today!

  • Switch to reusables. Opt for reusable cotton rounds or cloths for makeup removal and toning. While you’re at it, choose biodegradable, bamboo, or reusable cotton swabs.
  • Refill when you can. Choose skincare products with refillable containers – whether you find a local shop that offers zero-waste refills or you choose to buy your favorite beauty products in their largest size to reduce waste.
  • Save water. Reduce water usage by turning off the tap while washing your face, or simply washing your face in the shower.
  • Exfoliate differently. Use a physical exfoliant to avoid microplastics.
  • Simplify your beauty routine. It might be weird to hear this from a skincare brand, but… fewer products → less waste!
  • Shop local. Purchasing locally made and produced skincare products can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport and strengthen your local economy.
  • Check the label. Look for third-party certifications that show a product is nontoxic, cruelty-free, organic, and/or sustainable. See a list here.
  • Read the ingredients. Avoid parabens, microbeads, sulfates, and other ingredients that are bad for the environment (and not to mention your skin health). See a longer list here.
  • Harness beauty tech. Use multi-use beauty devices to replace single-use products – learn more here. 

How can I tell if a skincare product is genuinely sustainable and not just greenwashed?

Yeah, that’s a tricky one. 

Keep a close eye out for vague terms like “natural” or “green” without ingredient details, certifications, and the like. 

Seek out third-party certifications, including:

  • Leaping Bunny Certification (cruelty-free)
  • Beauty Without Bunnies (cruelty-free)
  • ECOCERT/COSMOS (natural or organic)
  • USDA Organic (contains at least 70% organic ingredients)
  • NSF (contains at least 70% organic ingredients)
  • EWG verified (nontoxic)
  • MADE SAFE (nontoxic, cruelty-free, eco-conscious)
  • FSC (certifies that wood used for paper packaging was sustainably sourced)

Also, consider scrolling through product photos and customer photos to try and spot the product’s packaging. If it looks excessive, that’s an easy way to spot something that’s not as eco-friendly as it claims to be. 

Switching to Greener Alternatives

When it comes to switching to greener alternatives, our best advice is to check the ingredients.

Here’s a list of a few notoriously non-eco-friendly ingredients:

  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Formaldehyde
  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Triclosan
  • Microbeads
  • Mineral oil
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Sulfates (SLS and SLES)
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Synthetic dyes
  • Palm oil (when not sustainably sourced)
  • Chemical sunscreens

Just as important as avoiding bad stuff is choosing good stuff! Here’s a list of some of our favorite natural, nontoxic ingredients that are kinder to skin and the planet: 

  • Aloe vera
  • Coconut oil
  • Shea butter
  • Jojoba oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Rosehip seed oil
  • Argan oil
  • Witch hazel
  • Chamomile
  • Cucumber extract
  • Green tea extract
  • Honey
  • Beeswax
  • Almond oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Cacao butter
  • Avocado oil
  • Calendula
  • Oatmeal.

As a quick word of advice for transitioning to sustainable skincare products from brands you’ve always used: even when you’re switching to natural, nontoxic ingredients, it can always take your skin some time to adjust and react to a skincare swap. Consider introducing new products one at a time. Rather than going out and buying a whole new fleet of skincare products and throwing out the stuff you’re currently using (which would be a waste, even if they’re not the most eco-friendly options!) use up what you have and make the switch gradually as you run out.

How Technology is Making Beauty Routines More Sustainable

Advances in beauty and skincare technology have reduced the need for many single-use products. Here are a few examples:

  • IPL devices like Lumi provide permanent hair removal, eliminating the need for disposable razors, waxing strips, shaving cream, etc.
  • Facial cleansing brushes like Petal 2 help skincare products go further and work harder by providing a deeper clean.
  • Physical exfoliants like the Glow Glove are an easy swap for exfoliating scrubs that often contain plastic microbeads.


  1. https://www.acme-hardesty.com/green-cosmetics-sustainable-beauty/
  2. https://nielseniq.com/global/en/insights/analysis/2023/trends-in-sustainable-beauty-2023/
  3. https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/topics/truth-advertising/green-guides