Let's face it, does that old shimmery brown lipstick really bring you joy?
You have by now watched the entire Marie Kondo series on Netflix. If not, let me tell you what happens. Marie Kondo, a small and neat Japanese woman, along with her translator, enter the homes of various Americans and attempts to negotiate the re-entry of happiness and love into their junk-strewn homes. With great aplomb, the families throw out their greasy old Hooters T-shirts and joyfully refold their cargo pants into tiny squares. They are encouraged to hold each item in their hand and question if it brings them joy. The thing is, it works. Once they have removed the meaningless dross that has taken over their lives like moss, they are able to appreciate the beauty of each other, their homes, their lives.
Now open your make-up storage station. Do you keep everything in a box? A bag? A cupboard? What system do you use? How many shimmery brown lipsticks do you have that roll out and land on the floor every time you’re trying to find a pair of tweezers? How many eyeshadows have you slicked your finger into only once, and never again after you realised your ‘turquoise moment’ was just that: A moment.
Sustainability is a huge problem in fashion. It is often cited, although unquantifiably, that fashion is the second biggest pollutant after oil. But there are things we can do to address that, such as ditching fast fashion, investing in environmentally friendly brands, repairing and recycling. It’s a bit different with dried up old mascaras and half full bottles of J-Lo’s Glow, isn’t it.
So what can be done?
The first thing to do is to assess what you actually do and don’t use. Imagine Marie Kondo has broken into your house and is watching you wade through your make-up bag. Ask yourself, what brings you joy? What do you actually use? Why are you saving that last dribble of coconut oil? Ditch that creme blush that you will never use again, bin that eyeliner that doesn’t stay put, and definitely get rid of that Bed-Head stick that has been festering at the back of your drawers since 2002.
Make-up has a use by date; water-based products should be used within a year and oil-based ones 18 months. Powders go hard on the surface, and products like mascara get covered with bacteria from our eyes and dry out from exposure to air. Using old make-up brings the risk of transferring gross germs from your old face to your nice clean new face. Ew! If, like me, you have a hoard of stuff that’s never seen the light of day, it’s hard to know what to do. Some charity shops do take sealed products, but you could also donate to a local women’s shelter or hospice (just ring and ask first). But sadly make-up is actually pretty hard to recycle.
"There’s reportedly more than 120 billion units of packaging being produced by the beauty industry every year"
There are of course brands whose packaging is recyclable (think Deciem) or who offer a refill (like BLEACH), but largely the problem is that packaging is not recycled once the product is used up, a recent study by Unilever showed that only 34% of Americans recycled beauty packaging. It’s seemingly quite hard to walk from the bathroom to the recycling bin. But, there are other options. Garnier have started a recycling program where you can send off your old packaging to be recycled while donating to a school or charity and brands like MAC, Khiels and Lush will let you recycle in store. And while it’s hard to recycle a multi-material item like a dropper or a lipstick or a pouch, the less stuff we buy, the less stuff we will need to recycle.
There’s reportedly more than 120 billion units of packaging being produced by the beauty industry every year. The cardboard packaging that you toss away as soon as you’ve ripped your new blender out of its packet contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest every year. Part of the problem is that it’s easy to ascribe to a quick fix, a new lippy will make us feel better, or this new face mask will make us look younger, but without ever looking at what we actually use, and using that up until it’s empty, and then recycling that packaging we will never be able to address the bigger problem.
You don’t have to start making your own toothpaste to make a difference, but being a bit wiser when it comes to knowing how often you will actually wear a peach eyeshadow before you commit to it living on your shelf is a small step we can all take.