Sustainable Beauty: Becoming an Eco-Friendly Makeup Artist

Makeup artist applying makeup on a bride for her wedding day.

Sustainable beauty is a topic that has been on my mind for a number of years. From the book retail space to working at a spa and now as a makeup artist, I have witnessed firsthand the tremendous waste in each one of these industries. I know, too, that these are certainly not the worst offenders and, as consumers, we generate a heavy burden to the environment as well. I started to think about how I could become an Eco-Friendly Makeup Artist and what changes I would need to implement to reduce my carbon footprint both personally and professionally.

Makeup artist applying makeup on a bride for her wedding day.
Kait Winston Photography
  • Instead of plastic and acrylic single-use lip and mascara wands, I now purchase re-usable bamboo handles.   
  • Stainless steel palettes and palette spatulas have replaced my plastic disposables.
  • I am making an effort to source products with minimal packaging.
  • Instead of disposable lip brushes, each client’s touch-up kit now has reusable ones, and kits are stored in reusable organza bags.
  • Rather than using travel-sized versions of products, I am taking the extra time to transfer depot or decant product from full-sized containers into smaller, more portable, reusable containers. This is usually more cost effective as well. I source mine from Qosmedix.
re-usable bamboo mascara wands
  • With every new purchase, I am choosing to be more intentional. Part of that is selecting products with sustainable packaging such as cardboard, metal, or glass components versus plastic, as these components tend to be more easily recycled or repurposed.
  • As I dispose of makeup products, packaging, and tools, I ask myself if any elements can be repurposed, passed along, recycled, up-cycled, or donated. For instance, you can take your empty MAC product containers back to the MAC makeup counter and they will recycle it for you. When you turn in 6 containers, you will receive a free full-sized MAC lipstick on the spot through a program called Back to MAC. I have been using this program for years.
  • Sometimes, sustainability comes down to asking whether or not I really need to buy something else. Implementing low- or no-buy periods slows down my contribution to the cycle of consumerism, and I have saved some money in the process!
  • Many brands have made a commitment to sustainable and responsible packaging. Aveda is an excellent example:
re-usable bamboo makeup wands
  • Instead of buying everything online, I try to source my products locally when possible, which allows me to support local businesses with every purchase. Right now, even former retail giants are vulnerable to closure because we as consumers are abandoning brick-and-mortar stores for online shopping. Am I guilty of choosing the ‘quick and easy’ option at times? Absolutely, but I am making a concerted effort to use online retail as a last resort for those items I simply cannot find in my market or at times when the price is not even remotely competitive. Ultimately, buying from the area where I live impacts the jobs and tax base of our localities.
  • In the fashion industry, there is a sector called fast fashion. This is also prevalent in the makeup and beauty communities as brands constantly release new “collections” of products curated with an eye towards seasonal color story, trends, textures, packaging, etc. I fully admit I was a bit addicted to buying each new collection that was released since I love beautiful or unique packaging, but am working on reforming my ways. Eyeshadows are a particularly prolific offender, since the “brand new” color palettes are usually not that unique aside from one or two “pop” shades that you likely have in another palette. A good question to ask yourself is: how many different shades of brown, blue, green, purple, beige, pink, or burgundy can you actually wear? If you blindfolded yourself and sampled several similar shades, would you really be able to say with certainty which shade is from which palette? I know I couldn’t and I have been a professional makeup artist for over 12 years!

While I am not yet an expert in eco-friendly makeup trends, these ideas are a good starting point towards the goal of sustainable beauty in the wedding and commercial makeup industries. I never want to deprive myself or my clients of the joy, benefits, and aesthetic pleasure that personal care product brings to our lives, but I want to incorporate these products in a responsible way. Each day, I am attempting to implement best practices for myself and my business that provide less of an environmental impact.

If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please leave a comment! I would love to know what else you think I could or should do to be a better steward of our environment.