Sustainable Beauty Glossary

By Claire Martindale


Fashion aside, it is crucial that our beauty products are sustainable too. Here are some terms to look for and learn about before making the trek to your favorite makeup retailer:


Clean: An umbrella term for sustainable beauty, “clean” is used to describe makeup products that have eco-friendly packaging, and formulas without harmful sulphates and parabens.


Cruelty-Free: A “cruelty-free” label implies that a product has been produced humanely without the use of animal-testing.


Vegan: A makeup product claiming to be vegan implies that no animal products whatsoever were used in the creation of the item, and that no animal-derived products are contained in the formula.


Chemical-Free: It is common knowledge that harsh chemicals damage the environment, but few know chemicals like rubbing alcohol and triclosan can damage your skin and increase breakouts. Natural, chemical-free products tend to be more gentle and definitely more sustainable, that's a win-win for sure!


Synthetic: Brushes composed of synthetic hairs and fibres are the more sustainable choice for your beauty tools. Many high-quality brands are switching from animal hair to synthetic brushes, becoming cruelty-free without sacrificing quality.


Reusable: Avoid one-use beauty products such as strip lashes and sheet masks. Though we all indulge in a good sheet mask on occasion, an easy switch we can make is to avoid our one-use makeup wipes in favor of a liquid-based remover like micellar water.


Sustainable Packaging: Formula aside, the packaging of your makeup is an essential factor in determining if the item you are about to purchase is sustainable. Avoid cheap plastic packaging or packing that uses an excess of cardboard. Look for materials like metal and glass that are less wasteful and more recyclable.


Zero-Waste: A central objective for sustainable beauty consumers, “zero-waste” refers to the desire for all of the beauty products we buy to be thoroughly utilized. The “zero-waste” goal utilizes all parts of the product. For example, though the contents of your lipstick are natural, if the packaging is not recyclable, it still contributes to landfill waste, thus, the product is technically not sustainable. If any part of the product you buy may end up in a landfill at one point post-purchase, reconsider before you bring it home.


With the current state of our environment, it is vital we act as conscious consumers, researching before we buy, and selecting ethical companies to endorse. We hope this glossary educates you on keywords to look out for and terms to familiarize yourself with when looking for sustainable items to add to both your closet and makeup drawer. Happy shopping!


Claire Martindale is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things fashion, sustainability, and social media.

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