Want to up your sustainability game but don’t know where to start? Whether it’s plastic-free beauty, shampoo refills or being more recycling-savvy, former Harvey Nichols beauty buyer Zahra Broadfield has been there and done the research. She set up her sustainable beauty platform Sustbeauty.com in 2019 as a passion project after seeing the boom in sustainable fashion but being unable to easily find a way to access the same ethical buying choices in luxury beauty.
Remember that liquid soap essentially a bar of soap plus water - you're paying a lot for water
The tipping point came in 2018 when she and her husband took their six-month-old son to the ‘idyllic’ Thai beach in where they had honeymooned four years before, only to find it covered in a snow of polystyrene and mounds of ocean plastic. “That was one of many incidents where I felt I could no longer look away. I wanted to do something positive in my own industry to make finding high-efficacy sustainably beauty easy and fun,” she says
Now she spends her time taking a deep dive into high-quality responsible beauty brands to stock on her website as well as living as sustainably as she can as an urban dweller.
So who better to ask for some realistic eco-hacks for luxe lovers that are actually doable right now? As we celebrate World Earth Day 2020, make a pledge to try one of these sustainable beauty tips from Zahra.
1. Use up what you've got!
"It’s understandable that you might get a bit carried away with wanting to try everything when you enter the arena of eco-beauty and see all the innovative and exciting products on offer. But try to only buy where you already have a need and use up your existing products to keep your waste lower. Some brands make a virtue of having a highly-curated limited range of products that you really need – Montamonta, Lixirskin and Flow Soaps are good examples – so they help you to buy less.
"It can actually be counterproductive to have more natural products hanging around than you can use up relatively quickly. Most are made without a preservative and shouldn’t be kept for more than six months once opened (unopened they’ll last well). There's no harm in popping them on your Pinterest wishlist in the meantime...."
2. Go supersize
"If you really love a product, buy it in the biggest size you can. This saves on packaging in the long run and will probably also save you money. One favourite of mine is the Amly Botanicals Deep Reveal Nourishing Cleansing Balm , 100ml £64. It’s a big tub and doubles up as a cleanser and a nourishing leave on-mask. It lasts me a good two months."
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3. Wash your biodegradable sheet mask before you compost it
"I don’t use sheet masks as generally they are horrible for the environment (often not biodegradable and involve single-use packaging) and I feel that you will get more value and impact on your skin from consistently using a clay mask or balm mask.
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"If it’s a gel/serum-type mask you love, make a mix of moisturiser and serum, soak it on to a washable muslin cloth and leave it on for 10 minutes. If you do choose a biodegradable bio-cellulose sheet mask , wash it before you put it in your compost bin so any actives don’t inhibit the process (although if you choose well there are mask brands that use biodegradable friendly actives too).
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4. Keep pliers and some sturdy scissors in your bathroom
"Why pliers? If you use a lot of pump-based beauty (a pump dispenser is useful in the case of creams and serums as it stops the air getting to the product which can reduce potency – vitamin C is a good example) then you’ll find most pumps have a metal spring in them which needs to be separated to be recycled. Unscrew the pump from the bottle, remove the tube if there is one and get your pliers inside the neck of the pump or to crack open the inside to get the spring out and put everything in recycling separately.
"Likewise, if you have a dropper, the glass pipette needs to be parted from the lid, which is more difficult to do without hurting yourself. Luxe Botanics has designed their pipettes to pull away easily for at-home recycling, but otherwise, I’d recommend finding your local Terracycle (which will recycle things your council won’t take) drop-off point."
And the scissors? This is to cut the tops off your plastic tubes, firstly so that you can get every last drop out and secondly so that you can wash out the tube, as councils advise with all recycling. If you don't, it risks being added to regular rubbish or worse contaminating other recycling. If you can't get the lid off your tube you can use the scissors to cut it away so that at least some of the packaging is recycled."
5. Make liquid soap and hair conditioner from bars
"Switching to a bar of soap instead of liquid body wash conditioner is probably the simplest sustainable bathroom swaps you can make to reduce packaging waste. Soap manufacturers have stepped up to address some of the problems that put us off bars – that they were messy, crumbly and dried out your skin. There are some really good quality soaps available now for hands, face and hair. I like Codex Beauty’s divine-smelling Earth Day Soap , £17, made from upcycled offcuts of their other botanical soaps
"Remember that liquid soap essentially a bar pf soap plus water (ie you're paying a lot for water) so if you’re totally wedded to your liquid versions make your own."
How to make liquid soap from a bar:
"To make liquid soap, grate a bar into a blender, add a small amount of hot water, glycerine and blend. Top up with water. You can even go fancy with essential oils. For quantities and method try this Wikihow how to make liquid soap method.
How to make liquid hair conditioner from a solid conditioner
This is really worth it as solid conditioners are tricky – they take ages to go creamy enough for you get a decent amount to condition your hair and you end up spending ages in the shower. My husband has perfected the recipe for making liquid conditioner our of a solid conditioner bar .
"We put the whole bar (I like Flow Soaps Intensive Conditioner Bar, EURO28) chopped into about four pieces into the blender with 200ml of water and keep adding water as we blend to get a consistency we like. We just use a high-speed blender (our Nutribullet) so you don’t need anything fancy. We then put it in a pump dispenser which we reuse. You’ll get about 300ml from half a bar depending on the consistency you want.
6) Use lockdown to switch your antiperspirant for a cream deodorant in a pot
"Leave behind your spray deodorant with their propellant gases and plastic roll-ons and opt for a cream. They are more gentle on your skin, better for the environment and allow your body to function more naturally because they don’t block the sweat ducts via aluminium.
"Lockdown is a great time to test whether you can do without the antiperspirant element; I discovered that I could. Many natural deodorants still mostly come in plastic but cream deodorants are usually found in glass pots, which you can use for a host of lockdown activities (tiny planters, tea light holders, even for your liquid conditioner – see above). They contain bamboo or arrowroot to mop up some of the sweat and have essential oils so you’re really well covered for any eventuality.
" Try Native, £6.99 I've actually converted my entire extended family to these or Aurelia Probiotic Botanical Cream Deodorant, £18."
7. Get silicone savvy
" Silicones are everywhere – in hair care, especially hair conditioners body lotions and face creams (most commonly dimethicone, check the label for anything ending in -one or -cone). They give that luxe texture, a smooth, slideable feel and also help to fill in pores and fine lines. However, silicones are liquid plastic – think of the silicone you put around the edge of your bath! On our skin and hair, they can cause congestion and actually be a moisture barrier. When you wash them down the plughole they go into the water system and it’s not known for certain what damage this is doing.
"Some silicones in the environment don’t break down and can bioaccumulate in nature, there are even concerns that some silicone could also be hormone disruptors. If you make one switch, make the thing you use in the greatest volume - shampoo and conditioner. I love Mauli Rituals ."
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8. Switch to refillable beauty where you can
The market for this is really growing and many local shops will do them not just for household items but shampoo and conditioner. Find out about some of the best body product refills here .
9. Find your local beauty recycling scheme
"There are public Terracycle drop-off points around the country where you can drop off your hard-to-recycle beauty items
"If you have space you can even set yourself up as the Terracycle person for your local community hosting a recycle box. If you are near a Deciem or L’Occitaine store you can drop off your beauty products there form any brand and Colgate will recycle old toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes through the post via Terracycle from any brand."
10. Read the ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Story’ section on brands' websites
"What is most important to you, is it plastic-free packaging, the vegan or cruelty-free stamp , whether the ingredients are sourced in a responsible and low impact way or how far they have travelled to get to you. Once you're sure about what does and doesn't sit well with you, you have a framework for making your purchasing decisions – this is a good place to start.
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At Sust, we have strict guidelines that we won't compromise on, including ingredient sourcing, fair trade payment for growers and minimal plastics. But, we do allow clean synthetics – such as preservatives that that brands (such as Codex) have developed themselves and which won't cause irritation and have no short or long term post-use impact on the environment. This is especially important for brands who do larger size products such as Malako .
"That's as close to perfection as we think is realistic right now. Work out where your point of compromise is so you can shop within those parameters."
Find out more about Sust beauty at sustbeauty.com