Ocean of Lipstick Tubes & Disposable Razors: It's Time to Get Serious About Beauty's Packaging Problem

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

As I'm sure you've heard, the planet Earth has a real situation on its hands. The ice is melting; the waters are rising. Vast spirals of plastic waste are whirling through the seas: dervishes of water bottles, milk cartons, grocery bags, takeout containers. Oh, and shampoo bottles, lipstick tubes, shadow palettes, powder compacts, lotion pumps, and my God, so many razors, and jars that once held cushiony creams infused with high-potency vitamin C and low- molecular-weight hyaluronic acid.

The detritus that we leave in our glowy-skinned, bouncy-haired wake is immense. It contributes in no small part to the fact that by the middle of this century — that's not as far away as you think — the ocean may contain more plastic by weight than fish. (Maybe you even ate some recently: A quarter of fish sold at markets in California and Indonesia, for example, has been found to contain human-made debris — either plastic or fibrous materials.) The amount of end- of-life plastic packaging, which includes bottles, jars, bags, and "other," surrounding U.S. products has increased by over 120 times since 1960. In 2018, in the U.S. alone, almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created just for beauty and personal care products, according to Euromonitor International. "But we recycle," you say? Sadly, not so much.

ishonest No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

In 2018, in the U.S. alone, almost 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created just for beauty and personal care products.

Rumblings of change have begun. The L'Oréal Group says it will source up to 50 percent of its packaging from recycled material by 2025. Procter & Gamble has a program that puts Pantene in refillable containers, and Unilever's Dove has created its first-ever refillable deodorant. Brands like Burt's Bees are creating their own mail-back recycling programs.

I can no longer look at a plastic tub without imagining it bobbing on the high seas. Enough already with all the packaging.

But significant, magnificent change will also require us to turn away from the earth-shattering conveniences to which we've become accustomed, like handy plastic pumps and single-use everything. It will require us to buy with a new consciousness and to embrace a different idea of what makes a beauty product feel revelatory.

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On this Earth Day, and in our ongoing reporting, ishonest will dive into the landfill that we — humans inhabiting the Earth — have created and help look for solutions. We're not at the bottom yet, but we're on our way. Or: We could turn around.

  • Waterless Beauty Products That Can Make Your Routine a Little More Sustainable
  • Kinship, a New, Sustainable, Skin-Care Brand, Wants to Save Your Skin Barrier — and the Planet
  • 9 Reusable Water Bottles to Cut Down on Plastic

Now watch Lauren Jauregui share the first and last five steps of her day:

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