I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now, as it came as a shock to me (I started shopping in zero-waste shops three years ago) that beauty products are much less expensive than I initially anticipated. For years, I only explored the food section of my local zero-waste shops, too fearful to look at the beauty products. However, the amount of packaging from the beauty products I produced a year forced me to look to the other side of the zero waste shops. At this stage of my long-term sustainability journey, I’m very concerned with packaging and intentionally seeking products without packaging. Buying packaging-free beauty products has helped me cut down on packaging and has also saved me money in the process. The downside is having fewer choices than traditional packaged beauty producers offer. Below, I’m comparing prices between high street brands and the zero waste shop. I used two British brands, The Body Shop and Neal’s Yard. Both brands operate in the less toxic cosmetics production sphere. I checked their prices on their websites on the 6th of June 2024; please do remember the prices will fluctuate with time.

  • In a zero-waste shop, I paid £8.18 for 207 g (I used a 200 ml bottle) of hydrating toner. For 150 ml, The Body Shop sells tonic waters, which come in a plastic bottle, for £22.00. Neal’s Yard 200 ml glass bottle of toner charges £19 or £22, depending on your choice.
  • For 14 g of eye cream at a zero-waste shop, I paid £14.70. Neal’s Yard’s cheapest 15 g eye cream costs £26, packaged in a glass container. The Body Shop sells their cheapest eye cream for £14 for 15 ml, which comes in a plastic tube. The Body Shop’s cream is only slightly cheaper than the package-free product.
  • 33 g of night cream set me back £9.57 in the zero-waste shop. The cheapest night cream at Neal’s Yard costs £28 (glass container) for 50 g, and the Body Shop (plastic container) charges £18 for 50 g.
  • The moisturizer cost me £10.92 for 42 g in the zero-waste shop. The cheapest Body Shop’s day cream was £18 (some Body Shop products come in glass containers), and Neal’s Yard (glass container) sold the cheapest day cream for £32 for 50 g.

Most likely, consumers will have easier access to Body Shop and Neal’s Yard products than zero-waste shops. However, if you have the option to try zero-waste products, it’s worth considering. Most zero-waste shops I’ve been to have either containers to buy or use the ones donated by other customers (I always donate a ton of glass containers yearly). Also, in some countries, it’s possible to send empty containers to companies to fill them with their products. In my opinion, every single beauty retailer should offer this option.

Of course, we all have different beauty routines, budgets, and needs. I’m not saying that the products from the zero-waste shop are the highest quality products I ever used because they are not. However, they are not the worst I’ve ever used; they come packaging-free, meaning they will cost less, and their environmental impact will be less destructive. Not all of the products I use are packaging-free. However, I buy as much as possible in zero-waste shops. When I started my journey to eliminate excessive waste from my life, the prices were much higher than supermarket prices. Nevertheless, times have changed since my journey began a short three years ago. Even though the prices in zero waste shops have gone up, the supermarkets and products’ prices have gone through the roof. The difference in pricing between package-free products and products in packaging has shifted, making buying products in zero-waste shops much more affordable.

If you can afford products that come in glass packaging, buying those is better than plastic packaging. Even if it says recycled plastic, I try to avoid it as much as possible, as plastic recycling is emission-intensive and time-consuming. The process uses lots of electricity and natural gases to heat the plastic to spark chemical reactions.

Since I live in London, UK, I’m writing from the perspective of a person who lives in a big city and has access to two stocked zero-waste shops. However, not everyone is in such a location. But if you can buy products in zero-waste shops, please try. Even if you replace one product, that action already makes a difference and signals to producers that customers want package-free choices. I can say that buying packaging free is addictive, and the moment I started, I knew I wanted to do more, and each year, I go further. One day, we will live in a world where packaging will only be minimal and not excessive like it is now. Companies are changing and adapting, forced by incoming new regulations, but in my opinion, the change isn’t as fast as it should be. So, as consumers, we have the power to vote with our money.

Do let me know about your own zero-waste shopping experience where you live.