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10 Sustainable Materials for Eco-Friendly Makeup Packaging

Rachel Lark - December 6, 2023

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Is your makeup routine contributing to the planet’s plastic problem? The concern over environmental pollution from makeup packaging is growing alarmingly. Sustainable materials are not just a trend but necessary in eco-friendly makeup packaging.

They help reduce waste, lower carbon footprints and contribute to a cleaner, healthier planet. Switching to sustainable materials is vital in tackling the escalating issues of landfills and ocean pollution.

Why Choose Eco-Friendly Makeup Packaging?

Traditional, non-recyclable packaging is a consequential environmental issue. These materials often end up in landfills, taking hundreds of years to break down or, worse, in the oceans, posing risks to marine life. It’s startling to know that the beauty industry produces over 120 billion units of packaging annually, much of which is non-recyclable.

Diverting to sustainable packaging offers significant benefits. For the planet, it means less waste, fewer toxins and a reduced carbon footprint. For consumers, using eco-friendly packaging sends a message to brands about what matters to them, encouraging even more sustainable practices.

Additionally, eco-conscious choices often align with cleaner, non-toxic ingredients, leading to better products for your skin and health. The move toward sustainable packaging creates a win-win scenario for consumers and the Earth.

1. Glass

Glass is made primarily from silica sand, soda ash and limestone. It’s a non-toxic and inert material that is highly recyclable. Due to its recyclability, it has a relatively low environmental impact — recyclers can melt and reform it multiple times without losing its quality.

Makeup products commonly packaged in glass include foundations, serums and moisturizers. Jars are also famous for products like face creams, scrubs and eye creams. Using glass for these items reduces waste and adds a glimmer of elegance to the product.

2. Aluminum

Aluminum is a lightweight, durable metal known for its versatility. One of its core advantages is its highly recyclable, contributing to its low carbon footprint. In addition, recycling aluminum saves about 95% of the energy required to produce the metal from raw materials.

The beauty industry often uses aluminum for lipstick tubes, eyeshadow palettes and deodorant containers. It’s also common in caps and closures for liquid products like foundation or skincare serums. Choosing aluminum packaging aids in waste reduction and helps to conserve energy and natural resources.

3. Recycled Paper or Cardboard

These materials come from previously used paper products processed to create new materials. They are highly biodegradable, often breaking down when composted in just a few weeks. Additionally, paper and cardboard are renewable resources, making them a more sustainable option compared to plastics, which take hundreds of years to degrade.

Makeup companies use recycled paper and cardboard for outer packaging like boxes for lipsticks, eyeshadows and skincare products. They also use it for blister packs and sleeves for smaller items like eyeliner pencils and mascara. Opting for these materials supports a cycle of sustainability and reduces waste.

4. Cornstarch

Cornstarch-based material is a bioplastic derived from the starch of corn, making it a renewable resource. One of its main advantages is its biodegradability. When composted, it can break down in weeks to months, reducing its long-term environmental impact.

Businesses use this packaging for items that don’t require extended shelf life, such as disposable cutlery and plates. In the beauty industry, you’ll find this material in packaging for single-use items like face masks or sheet masks and in refill pouches for shampoos and conditioners. Using cornstarch-based packaging is a step toward reducing petroleum-based plastics and fostering a more sustainable future.

5. Bamboo

Bamboo is a woody grass that’s incredibly fast-growing. Some species even sprout up to three feet in 24 hours. Because it matures quickly and harvesters can acquire it without killing the plant, bamboo is highly renewable, making it an excellent choice for sustainable practices.

Companies can often use bamboo for the outer casing of makeup products like eyeshadow palettes, blush compacts and lipstick tubes. You’ll also find bamboo handles for brushes and applicators. Using this material in eco-friendly makeup packaging adds an aesthetic appeal and contributes to a cycle of sustainability, reducing the overall environmental impact.

6. PLA Plastic

PLA plastic, polylactic acid, is a bioplastic derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane. One of its standout features is its compostability. Unlike traditional plastics, PLA can break down in industrial composting facilities within a few months,

This plastic is well-suited for lighter-weight packaging components like disposable applicators or inner trays within makeup boxes. Brands can use it for packaging items you can refill, like shampoo or lotion bottles. Utilizing PLA plastic is a promising way to reduce waste and shift towards more sustainable packaging solutions.

7. Cork

Cork comes from the cork oak trees’ bark, making it a renewable resource. Harvesters don’t cut down the trees — the bark regrows, allowing for sustainable harvesting. It is also biodegradable and can break down naturally in the environment.

Beauty companies sometimes use cork as an accent material for caps or lids on jars and bottles, adding a unique and natural touch. It’s also in the packaging of certain eco-friendly makeup brands for compacts and eyeshadow palettes. Incorporating cork into makeup packaging elevates its aesthetic and aligns with eco-conscious values.

8. Beeswax

Honeybees produce a natural substance called beeswax. It’s completely biodegradable, breaking down naturally in the environment. Being chemical-free and non-toxic, it aligns well with eco-friendly principles.

Due to its softer nature, businesses don’t commonly use beeswax as a primary material in eco-friendly makeup packaging. However, they can employ it as a sealing or coating agent for other sustainable materials like paper or cardboard. It adds a water-resistant layer, making the packaging more durable while keeping it natural and biodegradable.

9. Hemp

It is a fast-growing plant that needs minimal water and little to no pesticides, making it an eco-friendly material option. It’s highly versatile and can transform into fabrics, papers and plastics.

Beauty brands can use hemp-based material for outer boxes, bags or pouches that hold makeup products. It’s also making its way into the development of hemp plastic containers for items like lip balm or mascara. Opting for hemp-based packaging is a sustainable choice that minimizes resource consumption and environmental impact.

10. Coconut Shell

These shells are a byproduct of the coconut industry and are a renewable material. Because it uses what would otherwise be waste, it’s an eco-conscious choice that aligns with the principles of a circular economy.

Manufacturers often use coconut shells for artisanal or limited-edition packaging. You’ll commonly find it in containers for natural soaps, lotions and solid skincare products. Its unique, organic aesthetic makes it a popular choice for brands that want to highlight their commitment to sustainability.

Aside from packaging, businesses can utilize coconut shells as a raw material. Activated charcoal from the shells can contribute to the benefits of specific skin products, such as skin-lightening soaps.

Sealing the Green Deal

Every choice you make has an impact, and by opting for products with eco-friendly makeup packaging, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.

Research and seek out brands committed to sustainable practices. Making informed choices elevates consumer demand for eco-friendly products, pushing the industry to evolve. So, make choices that benefit the industry and the planet!

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About the author

Rachel Lark

Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.