woman using sustainable beauty products in skincare routinw

LUSH co-founder’s 8 tips on how to build a sustainable beauty routine

Making your beauty routine totally sustainable isn’t something you can do overnight. But there are lots of small changes you can start to make immediately that will help you get there. Here, Rowena Bird, the co-founder of LUSH, shares her tips on making these adjustments.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

If you take a look at the packaging of any one of the beauty products you own, there will be probably something there that gestures towards sustainability, whether it’s the cruelty-free leaping bunny, a logo that signifies the product is organic or a promise that the product is vegan

It gives a positive impression about the beauty industry working towards a better environment but unfortunately, this isn’t the entire picture. The beauty industry creates 120 billion units of packaging a year, according to Zero Waste Week, and beauty products are largely made up of chemicals that harm the environment.

Grand View Research estimates that the “clean beauty” movement will be worth more than $22 billion by 2025, which might make it difficult to sort the companies with legit sustainability intentions from the surface-level promises of planet-friendly products. 

There is one company, however, that has always been at the forefront of the sustainable beauty movement, having founded their business in 1995 on the idea that they would only use fresh ingredients. LUSH is a household name on the British high street and it has reached that status without ever giving up on its sustainable values, proving that making your beauty routine sustainable really is possible if you commit to it.

You may also like

Palm oil in beauty products: The sustainable guide to navigating this tricky ingredient

Rowena Bird was one of the six people who founded the cruelty-free cosmetics brand and she has championed animal and environmental rights throughout her entire life. 

Although she does acknowledge that getting it right and understanding the best ways to look after the environment can be difficult – as a brand, LUSH has stopped using the word sustainable because it has been so overused and therefore undermined, opting instead for the term “regenerative” – she has developed some simple ways to ensure your beauty routine doesn’t damage the environment, which don’t require lots of money, time, or effort.

There’s no need to do a clean sweep of your beauty routine 

You might be tempted to go through all of your beauty products and get rid of any that aren’t eco-friendly, but Rowena explains that this is counterintuitive, as you would only end up creating more unnecessary waste. “Only replace once you have used up the product,” she says.

Every time you run out of a product, you can then look for a sustainable alternative. If you find the prospect of that overwhelming, however, you could start with categories. For example, focus on replacing your body products with sustainable alternatives. “Body products and skincare are probably the easiest [places to start],” Rowena says. 

Don’t buy multiple types of the same product 

“If you’re doing household cleaning, you’ve got one washing up liquid, one soap, one washing powder,” Rowena says. “Whereas in your shower, how many shower gels have you got? How many moisturisers? How many cleansers?”

It’s tempting to buy in bulk when it comes to beauty, Rowena explains, especially if beauty is something you’re interested in and enjoy. 

“We are such a disposable society and so easily bored, needing constant stimulus of new [things],” Rowena continues, adding that you really only need one type of product at a time, so one cleanser, one moisturiser, one shower gel etc. You can still change your products up, but just wait till you’ve finished the product you’re currently using.

Read the ingredients lists of beauty products you want to buy    

When it comes to replacing your beauty products, the first thing you should do is read the ingredients list of the product you want to buy, Rowena advises. “Do you recognise the ingredients or do they look like a long list of chemicals?”

“Anything beginning with poly is most likely a microplastic,” Rownea says, explaining that these are ingredients you should avoid. 

“So many ingredients are hidden behind unassuming names,” she adds, which means the best way to ensure the product you’re using has no chemicals that might harm the environment is by researching the individual ingredients. Once you have done this for a few products, you’ll begin to get to know which ingredients are ones to avoid.

Use multi-purpose beauty products 

So many beauty products promise to target certain areas or concerns but, often, don’t deliver on them. Once you have figured out which products and ingredients work for your skin and body, you might realise that you can use them to target more than one area or issue.

“Use products that are multi-purpose,” is Rowena’s advice. “This way you can half your packaging and potentially save money.” You can buy multi-purpose shampoos and conditioners, as well as body washes and cleansers. It might not work in all cases, but effective options are out there and it is also a great space-saving tip. 

Consider the kind of packaging you’re buying 

We all know about the vices of plastic but you might not realise how many of your beauty products are packaged in this material that is notoriously harmful to the environment

As well as considering the ingredients that are in your products, you also need to consider how they are packaged and try and look for packaging that can be recycled or, better yet, naked products that have no packaging at all.

“Use soap instead of shower gel,” Rowena says, adding that they do the same job but the former doesn’t require packaging - the same is true for shampoo and conditioner, which you can replace with bars and solid products.

You may also like

The best body scrub bars that’ll save your shower from runaway grains

Consistently use less product overall

Rowena explains that using less product might sound like an obvious thing to do, but it’s actually a great tip to be more eco-friendly that many people disregard. 

“Do you think about how much shampoo or conditioner you squirt into your hand? How much shower gel do you put onto your shower mitt?”

Reducing the amount of product you use will reduce the amount of packaging that ends up in landfill and these small changes will add up over time.

Reuse your packaging 

“Packaging can be reused as plant pots, vases, pen pots, gift containers,” Rowena says. “Let your imagination run wild and get out of the habit of just chucking.”

Rowena also suggests that you buy from companies who will allow you take packaging back for them to reuse and recycle - something LUSH offer. “Globally, only 9% of all plastic is recycled,” she says. “Reuse your packaging, think about the packaging that you’re buying because the recycle rate is low.”

Demand more from beauty companies 

Ultimately, beauty companies have to be held accountable by the people who buy their products if they are going to make any significant changes, Rowena says, and you can hold them accountable in so many ways.

If you’re unsure about whether a product is sustainable, you should be able to ask the employees of that company and they should be able to tell you. Rowena stresses: “When you go in to buy your products, ask somebody to tell you about the ingredients and if they can’t tell you about it, don’t buy it.”

“If they can’t tell you […], the company who’s selling it hasn’t told them and there’s a reason for that - because they haven’t got anything positive to say about it.”

Rowena also recommends boycotting companies who aren’t creating eco-friendly products and writing to them to tell them to take responsibility, “Put the pressure on them. Make them think about what they’re doing.”

6 ingredients you should avoid in beauty products

If you’re finding it difficult to figure out which ingredients are eco-friendly and which ones aren’t, Rowena suggests looking out for the following ingredients in beauty products and avoiding them:

  • Glitter
  • Palm oil
  • Paraffin
  • Petrolatum
  • Mineral oil
  • Formaldehyde

If you’re looking for more advice on sustainable beauty, you can follow LUSH on Instagram and read more content about sustainability at Stylist.co.uk.

  • Rowena Bird, co-founder and inventor at LUSH

    Rowena Bird lush headshot
    How to build a sustainable beauty routine with Rowena Bird

    Rowena Bird was one of six co-founders of LUSH in 1995 and she has worked for the company ever since as an inventor, creating products that have been at the forefront of the sustainable beauty movement for 26 years.

Lead image: Getty


Share this article

Recommended by Alice Porter


Garnier is officially a certified cruelty-free beauty brand

Every single product and its ingredients has been approved by the Leaping Bunny programme.

Posted by
Hanna Ibraheem

Try these refillable products for a more sustainable beauty routine

We round up our favourite options.

Posted by
Hanna Ibraheem

“I used Lush's packaging-free skincare for a month and this is what happened”

Is it possible to completely remove single-use plastics from your skincare routine?

Posted by
Louise Whitbread

The sustainable beauty brands making a real difference

The beauty industry is gradually getting better.

Posted by
Lucy Partington