Sustainable Tips for Removing Your Makeup
For many of us, makeup is a part of our daily or weekly routine. Effectively removing makeup is an essential part of our skincare routine. Leftover makeup can cause breakouts or other skin reactions as well as prematurely age skin. What we put on our skin matters, however, so it’s important to choose a makeup remover that is both effective and sustainable. In this article, we’ll cover the nine best ways to remove makeup sustainably including our favorite eco-friendly makeup remover brands.
Why is it Important to Sustainably Remove Makeup?
Choosing a sustainable makeup remover can help save you money, protect your skin, and benefit the planet. Commonly used makeup removers involve single-use items like wipes, cotton swabs, or rounds. When we remove our makeup every day, the waste from these items adds up and has a negative environmental impact.
Choosing a makeup remover made from sustainable ingredients is better for your skin. Not only are sustainable makeup removers free from harmful chemicals, but they also contain nourishing natural ingredients that have added benefits for our skin.
If that’s not enough of a reason to switch to sustainable makeup remover, reusable and natural options also save you money in the long run. Natural options, like organic oils, are often more affordable than conventional makeup removers and are multipurpose. Using reusable options instead of single-use pads saves money since they don’t need to be replaced as often, if at all.
What to Look for When Choosing Eco-friendly Makeup Removers
There are numerous options for sustainable makeup removers but the best option is what’s best for you and your skin type. There are a few general things to look for when choosing a makeup remover, however, to ensure it’s a sustainable option:
Eco-friendly Ingredients: Sustainable makeup removers should only include natural, plant-based ingredients. There shouldn’t be any added harmful chemicals or unnatural ingredients.
Plastic Free: Look for options that don’t contain any plastics or use plastic packaging.
Biodegradable and/or Compostable: Ideally, sustainable makeup removers will be fully biodegradable and or compostable.
Reusable: Sustainable makeup removers should not be single-use. They should be made to last and any leftover waste should naturally break down.
Sustainably Made: Look for brands that publicize how they source their ingredients or materials and how they treat their workers.
Our 9 Favorite Ways to Remove Makeup Sustainably
Oil cleansing removes makeup and impurities without the chemicals and irritation of conventional makeup removers. Oil cleansers and balms can be used as daily cleansers and effective makeup removers and are perfect for sensitive skin types.
There are numerous sustainable options on the market today but one of our favorite oil cleansers is from Activist Skincare.
Activist Skincare makes three oil-based cleansers that remove mascara, makeup, and sunscreen while moisturizing and respecting the skin’s natural oils.
Our favorite is Sea to Skin Cleansing Gel, which smells like a fresh ocean breeze and has a gorgeous blue hue thanks to natural spirulina extract. It removes makeup and then rinses away, leaving skin soft and dewy instead of that uncomfortable squeaky-clean feeling.
All Activist Skincare products are offered in sustainable glass packaging and refill pouches. Refills reduce CO2 emissions by 99% and plastic waste by 75% compared to recycling glass containers and tossing their lids.
2. Eco-Friendly Micellar Water
Micellar water is a popular and sustainable makeup remover since it easily absorbs oil and makeup while cleansing the pores. Micellar water is perfect for sensitive skin and can double as a toner. It’s alcohol-free and doesn’t contain harsh chemicals when you choose an eco-friendly option.
To remove makeup, simply dab some micellar water on a reusable cotton round before applying it to your skin. If you’re a fan of heavy eye makeup or waterproof mascara, however, micellar water might not be the most effective makeup remover for you.
Evolve Organic Beauty’s Deep Clean Micellar Water is a wonderful sustainable makeup remover. Made from organic micellar water, it’s vegan and contains no harmful chemicals. Thanks to the aloe vera and rose water, it doubles as a toner and gently cleanses the skin, perfect for all skin types. This product contains hyaluronic acid, which helps hydrate your skin and adds a nice glow after use. Evolve handmakes its products in small batches and only uses organic, vegan, natural ingredients.
To use as a makeup remover, pump cleansing water onto your favorite reusable pad, cloth or sponge and wipe off any makeup.
3. Organic, Unrefined Oils
One of the easiest, budget-friendly, and zero-waste makeup remover options is natural oil. Oil is incredibly effective for removing stubborn eye makeup and you probably already have some in the house. When using oil as a makeup remover there are a few things you want to keep in mind.
First, only use organic, unrefined natural oils. Some common and readily available options are olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil. Many of these can double as cooking or body oils.
Secondly, If you’re prone to breakouts, it's important to choose a low or non-comedogenic oil. If oil is comedogenic, it means it's likely to clog your pores. Some great options for acne-prone or sensitive skin are rosehip oil, hempseed oil, grapeseed oil, and jojoba oil.
To use as a makeup remover, simply apply a few drops of your favorite oil to a makeup pad or round and wipe before cleansing. Play around with oils to find the best one for your skin type.
If you find that your skin is particularly sensitive, try using oil to remove eye makeup only and use an oil cleanser or one of the other makeup removers on this list for the rest of your face.
4. Facial Cleansing Bars
Another great zero-waste makeup remover is cleansing bars. Most facial cleansing bars are made from natural, chemical-free ingredients and will be gentle enough to use as a full makeup remover (including eye makeup). Facial cleansing bars can be used on a variety of skin types and target specific skin concerns, depending on the ingredients. For example, charcoal cleansing bars can help blemish-prone skin.
Look for fragrance-free options made from eco-friendly brands that explicitly state that they can be used as a makeup remover. Try to choose cleansing bars with no packaging or reusable or compostable packaging.
This gentle cleansing bar from Ethique is perfect as an everyday face wash and makeup remover. It’s vegan and made from nourishing plant-based materials like coconut butter and kaolin clay.
Simply wet the bar, rub with your hands to create a lather, and then massage all over your face, including the eye area, to remove makeup. Each Ethique bar can be used 120 times and it comes in fully compostable packaging.
Ethique is a woman-owned company that specializes in vegan zero-waste skin and hair care products.
5. DIY Makeup Remover
Great news! Making your own sustainable makeup remover is simple and affordable. There are numerous DIY makeup remover recipes from oil-based to water-based.
One easy recipe just requires witch hazel and water. Mix equal parts water and witch hazel for a great anti-inflammatory makeup remover.
For oil-based makeup removers, combine your favorite organic, unrefined oils for added benefits. While using oil alone is an easy way to remove makeup, you can also add rose water or witch hazel depending on your skin type.
For an oil-based cleanser for acne-prone skin, mix equal parts witch hazel and avocado oil. For a soothing oil-based cleanser for dry skin, combine equal parts jojoba oil and rose water.
Don’t want to make your own? Numerous oil-based makeup removers mimic these at-home recipes. Check out this hempseed-based makeup remover from Dirty Hippie Cosmetics or Cocokind’s organic facial cleansing oil with an avocado oil base.
6. Konjac Facial Sponge
Konjac sponges are becoming increasingly popular in the west and for good reason. These sustainable sponges are wonderful for your skin and are multi-purpose. Konjac sponges are made from the konjac root, a vegetable native to parts of Asia. Konjac sponges can be used as a gentle exfoliating cleanser for your entire body, including your face.
Turns out, they're also perfect to remove makeup sustainably. Gentle enough for daily use, konjac sponges only need water to remove your makeup - even eye makeup. You can also pair it with your favorite cleanser or makeup remover.
Everist has a wonderful affordable compostable konjac sponge that can be used on both your face and body. Made entirely from konjac, this plastic-free sponge is fully biodegradable. You can compost it at home after 2-3 months of regular use.
We love this sponge because it gently exfoliates our face, is easy to clean, and turns into a cushy, fluffy sponge once wet that feels great on our skin. If you pair it with a cleanser, you only need a little bit to create a nice lather. Once you’re done, rinse the sponge, gently squeeze out excess water, and hang dry until your next use.
7. Reusable Makeup Remover Pads
If you’re a fan of single-use cotton pads, then this is the perfect sustainable makeup remover for you. Single-use pads are wasteful and that waste adds up when you consider how often you remove your makeup and how many pads you use to do so.
Reusable rounds are easy to clean and better for our skin. They last a long time and can be thrown in the washing machine between uses. When choosing a reusable pad, look for options that are made from eco-friendly, natural materials like cotton or bamboo, and that are made by sustainable companies.
Our top pick is these highly absorbent, reusable facial rounds from Cocokind. They are a similar size to your favorite single-use pads, but they’re made from sustainably sourced bamboo and cotton. Each round has a little hook for your fingers and feels super soft on your skin.
Apply your favorite makeup remover and use the round to wipe your face. Once you’re done, throw the pads in your next load of laundry for an effective clean or handwash.
This pack includes 14 rounds and comes in an eco-friendly mesh bag that makes it easy to travel with your reusable rounds.
8. Sustainable Cleansing Cloths
One of the most common ways to remove makeup is by using a facial towel or washcloth. If you’ve used this method, however, you know that it’s very easy to stain your washcloths (we’re looking at you, mascara!). Plus, depending on what the washcloth is made of, it may not be the best for your skin. A sustainable makeup remover alternative is an eco-friendly facial washcloth.
Look for antibacterial cleansing cloths made from ethically sourced natural materials that are specifically designed for use on the face.
Our favorite sustainable cleansing cloth is this one from Earth Harbor Naturals. Made from sustainably harvested wild agave leaves, this gentle antibacterial cloth helps increase circulation and can be used on all skin types. You won’t find any harmful chemicals, dyes, fragrances, or plastics in this cleansing cloth.
Before using the cloth for the first time, let it soak in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.
Then, apply your favorite eco-friendly makeup remover and gently rub your face to remove makeup.
The cleansing cloth should last up to 5 months of daily use.
Each cloth is handspun at a fair trade, woman-run co-op in Mexico that also harvests the agave used. Earth Harbor Naturals ships its products in recycled, FSC Certified boxes.
9. Reusable Swabs
If you love to use cotton swabs to remove your eye makeup, then reusable beauty swabs would be a great sustainable option for you. Traditional single-use cotton swabs add unnecessary waste that doesn’t break down easily. However, swabs are very effective at removing eye makeup, so we understand not wanting to forgo them entirely.
Thankfully, there’s a sustainable alternative. Choose a reusable swab made from natural materials. They are easy to wash and convenient to store, thanks to their small size. Plus, reusable swabs often feel nicer on the skin than single-use ones.
LastObject makes these awesome reusable swabs from BPA-free recycled ocean plastic. Each swab can be used over 1,000 times and is easy to wash after each use.
Simply dip the pointed end in your favorite makeup remover and wipe off your eye makeup.
Each beauty swab kit can be recycled once it’s reached the maximum use.
They come in a colorful compact case also made from recycled plastic.
Makeup Removers to Avoid: Single-Use Wipes
The least sustainable option for removing makeup is makeup-removing wipes. These single-use wipes are typically made from unsustainable materials like plastic and polyester. Since each wipe can only be used once, they are pretty wasteful. With so many reusable options readily and affordably available, it’s best to avoid single-use makeup wipes when possible.
However, we can’t ignore the convenience of single-use wipes, especially if you’re on the go. If you have to use them, choose compostable and biodegradable wipes made from sustainable materials, and never flush them down the toilet.
One sustainable option is Burt’s Bees Micellar Makeup Removing Wipes which are home-compostable and made from upcycled cotton.
About the Author
Alicia Briggs is a writer & editor specializing in slow travel & sustainable living. She has been a full-time traveler since 2018 and runs her own blog, Learning the Local Way, where she covers responsible travel tips and guides.
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