Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the beauty industry’s impact on the environment and the role single-use products play in clogging up our landfills. I’d noticed that in the last two or three years, a lot more brands have attempted to make the life cycle of their products less wasteful by making their packaging refillable. Generally speaking, refillable beauty comes in packaging that’s created with the intention of it never being thrown out — when the product runs out, you can re-up on just the formula, without needing to buy a whole new jar or tube. Every brand has its own policies and refilling system — some you take to the store to be refilled, others you buy your own — but it typically means paying a little extra up front and paying less when you replenish.
But you have to manage your expectations. Refillable beauty products are, most of the time, not completely zero waste. The packaging that contains the refill will likely end up in the recycling bin. However, refillable products are less wasteful than repurchasing and disposing of whole packaging again and again (if you’re interested in one-time-buy beauty products, click here).
More and more beauty companies are prioritizing refillable packaging, from small, independent brands such as Meow Meow Tweet to celebrity cosmetic giants like Fenty. Below, a list of my favorite refillable beauty products to lessen your beauty waste.
Fenty Skin, Rihanna’s skin-care line, aims to reduce waste by creating packaging that uses post-consumer recycled material as much as possible (which means they’ve been made from something that’s been recycled), and it also offers a refill program. The Fenty Skin Hydrovizor SPF 30 — my favorite product from the line — is $35 up front, and $30 for the refill. It’s a lightweight, chemical sunscreen that leaves no white cast behind and is perfect for springtime. When your product is done, pop out the empty pump cartridge, and slide in your new one.
Meow Meow Tweet is a small Brooklyn-based company that sells skin care, body care, and soaps. There are a few ways Meow Meow Tweet ensures that its products aren’t creating a ton of waste. First, you can buy one of its products, keep the container, and then just buy the bulk refill (which ships for free and comes in an aluminum container, which happens to be the material most likely to be recycled by city recycling programs). Alternatively, Meow Meow Tweet takes back all empty bulk packaging here to sterilize and reuse. It also offers zero-waste shampoo bars and deodorants that come in biodegradable tubes. I adore Meow Meow Tweet’s wonderful smelling, nourishing hand washes (which come in three different scents) that have this adorable dancing, moody cat on them.
Aussie brand Fluff is expensive — the whole thing will set you back $72 and the refill is around $29. But their beautiful, sculptural, stonelike packaging is pretty gorgeous — it looks like a nice, fancy paperweight. Fluff sells an array of refillable products, but my personal favorite is its bronzers, which are creamy, buildable, and never leave my skin looking patchy or muddy. Its bronzers are great for the no-makeup-makeup enthusiast who’s a little scared of bronzer — they can create a really subtle bronze that you can add to slowly if necessary.
Le Labo fragrances are, in my opinion, some of the best scents on the market. But aside from its intoxicating formulas — like the cult-classic Santal 33; even if you don’t think you know it, you’ll recognize it when you smell it — Le Labo also offers a refill program at its boutiques. If you bring in your empty container, Le Labo will refill it with a 20 percent discount, which comes in handy since its products are extremely expensive.
Bathing Culture is another brand that offers in-person refills on its best-selling Mind and Body Wash, with a system that’s similar to Le Labo. When you buy one of its products, you can take the empty bottle back to a select store and they’ll refill it for you (Bathing Culture has a list of stockists on its site, but here in New York, you can do this at CAP Beauty in Manhattan). Its body wash contains coconut, olive, and sunflower oils, as well as shea butter and aloe vera to soothe, hydrate, and quench the skin as you wash it.
Kjaer Weis’s weighty metal packaging feels ultraluxurious and special — it was designed by Marc Atlan, who’s known for the beautiful Commes des Garçons slanted bottles. But its formulas are also wonderful on their own. Their cream blushes, bronzers, and eye shadows are very easy to use (they’re buildable and finger-friendly), and there are a wide array of different shades and colors to choose from. Its mauve-y cream blush “Lovely” is one of my very favorites for a perfect, sun-kissed flush. It costs around $52 up front and $30 for a refill. The refill comes in a small tin pan that’s wrapped in simple paper packaging, both of which are 100 percent recyclable.
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