Zero Waste Makeup

Even though fiscal responsibilities, job stability and basic emotional intelligence continue to elude me, I now have a refillable, plastic free makeup routine I really love, which is more important. My skin improved greatly after ending a 15 year addiction to foundation- it was such an Ike and Tina Turner situation- and these new essentials are not only somewhat affordable, they feature compostable packaging and eco-friendly ingredients that don't break me out.

As you know, I wear less makeup in the summertime, and less makeup in Cleveland. I've also dabbled in making my own cosmetics, which won't happen anymore, since I’m never home. I tried high end refillable or green beauty products in the past- RMS Beauty, Kjaer Weis, and Ellis Faas, to be specific- with disappointing results. Cream formulas disappear into my skin, and I end up with blemishes later. The mascaras were too dry and crumbly for my taste, although others raved about them. 

I wanted to streamline my routine to use the least number of products possible. I was also looking for long lasting, waterproof, or powder formulas, biodegradable / minimal / easily recyclable packaging, and things I could use with the cruelty free EcoTools brushes I already own. I know this is sounding like I'm trying to shop my way to zero waste. I am. I'm too unreliable to consistently make my own satisfactory cosmetics. I'm so tired after work or travel now, I'd rather spend time making vegan food or hanging out with friends and family than mixing 25% calcium chloride solutions for activated charcoal. I enjoy makeup too much to give it up entirely. Also, I memorized the eye charts, so I don't actually know how I look, and it's likely a makeup-free face just isn't an option for me. Therefore, buying is my preference now.

This routine literally takes five minutes, and has the added benefit of allowing me to eat jackfruit and guacamole in an almond flour tortilla with one hand while applying makeup with the other:

  1. W3LL People mascara, $21- Life changing. The recycled packaging features a silicon brush that defines and lengthens without clumps. The mascara itself stays on even through tears or swimming, yet somehow removes easily with a washcloth at the end of the day. It also doesn't sting when I accidentally stick the wand in my eye, which happens more often than it should (UPDATE: The formula changed to include beeswax, and I don't know what the new packaging is- the box says powered by sustainable energy still, but the brand has yet to clarify what that means)
  2. Elate Cosmetics bronzer and blush, $32 each- I love these clean, refillable bamboo compacts. They feature a mirrored and a magnetic side to snap in pressed powders or cheek color. The makeup stays in place in the compact, and will not shatter, even when dropped from various heights at various speeds (trust me on this). These are really strongly pigmented products- I got the Sunkiss Bronzer and Ingenue cheek color- but even though I'll probably buy lighter shades in the future, they still look natural on skin. They have great staying power, and don't break me out like most mica-containing cosmetics (I’m not sure how the mica is sourced however). I use the bronzer for contouring, which I don't really know how to do. The makeup itself comes in seed paper, although it's shipped in a bit of bubble wrap, with a handwritten note and (presumably biodegradable) packing peanuts in every box.
  3. Brow powder- My mom gave this to me because she wasn't going to use it. Applied with an Ecotools brush just at the base of my lashes, it gives a precise line. My brows are the opposite of sparse and don't need additional definition, but to extend the brow, I might use it with the same flat tipped brush.
  4. Burt's Bees Red Dahlia lip balm, $5- I have yet to find a vegan, plastic free lip balm that gives a flattering color like this (Update: since a child ate my lip balm, I ordered Urb Apothecary's lip and cheek tint. The founder accommodates plastic free orders). I'm vain and it feels like it brightens my whole face. One tube seems to last forever, and Burt's Bees has a takeback program for empty containers. I'm considering Fig + Yarrow lip balm, but I don't know if the shade will show up on me. Also I split my lip open as a child and that's why I have a scar and the Burt's Bees kind of hides it
If you're looking for more refillable cosmetics, here's a great list of six brands at varying price points.

Paris to Go


  1. Love it. I quit wearing blush because I'm too lazy for anything that requires a brush and I can just smudge lipstick across my cheeks for the same effect (or so I tell myself), but if I ever decide to go back to powder with my one remaining makeup brush, I'm jumping right on those refillable bamboo compacts.

    1. No I used to love swiping lipstick on my cheeks. Then your lips and cheeks match and it looks more natural. Unfortunately ever since I got an IUD I break out like crazy so I can't use anything other than powder :)

  2. I knew it would happen some day... you're starting to mention products that don't exist in France, and that we can't order because it will come with a bad carbon balance and a lot of packaging, and with questionnable social conditions if amazoned. You really have to come back!

  3. Thank yo so much for featuring Elate! I am so happy you like our cheek colours. <3
    In case you were wondering, the bubble wrap we receive we always reuse, we never purchase plactiscs to wrap our items in, but when we receive some we reuse as much as possible. If you want a totally plastic free order we can accommodate that as well. Also, the peanuts are made of starch, and are completely water soluble/biodegradable. :) I appreciate you support!

  4. Hi Melodie, that is so awesome that you accommodate plastic free and are so conscious of using and reusing materials. I definitely can't wait to purchase again !

  5. Just discovered your blog - really inspiring! Tip from a Dane - just a few months back the Danish make up brand Miild hit the stores, and is the first brand in the world to acquire the three certificates of approval on all of their products from; ECOCERT, Ecolabel and AllergyCertified. It is so important to use clean products! I am not completely sure if their packaging is refilibale though. Have a great day :)

  6. Thank you for this post! I have been trying out a lot of different products and have ended up with quite I few that I either don't like or don't use nearly as much as I anticipated. Do you recommend any cites for selling or exchanging used or new makeup products?

  7. Hi Ariana! I just got Red Dahlia tinted lip balm. It's such a pretty color! I will probably use it instead of all my other lipsticks. Thank you for sharing your routine and the products you use!


  8. Which blush color from Elate did you get? I love the sound of being able to drop it.. haha.. I tried Fit glow beauty's blush after everyone raving about that brand (but mainly their foundation it seems) and I was not impressed. It was ok to blend nd the color was decent too, and then I dropped it almost straight away and it's been like that since because I refuse to get new blush until it's finished. Looking forward to try something new and I am thinking of investing in Elate's eyeshadows anyway.

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