Low Waste, no waste, or zero waste Beauty is one of the biggest no-brainers when it comes to ethical shopping. Skincare, cosmetics, and makeup don’t need all of that plastic packaging! All of those plastic cases and all of those tiny little brushes and applicators are just waiting to become microplastics. That’s bad.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the difficult decision that often results in plastic packaging. It’s cheaper, it’s lightweight, and it’s widely available for pennies per item. For indie brands, especially, with their out-of-pocket overheads and limited product runs, plastic is an option that extremely hard to ignore. So when an indie brand goes the extra mile to source recyclable and biodegradable packaging, they mean serious low-waste business.
These five indie brands may be unfamiliar to you, but they’re dominating the world of Etsy beauty with their conscious packaging choices and oftentimes equally impressive ingredients. After all, an increased awareness of the effects of packaging go hand-in-hand with the awareness of ingredient sources and environmental impacts.
Important Info for Low Waste Beauty Beginners!
When it comes to these conventionally unconventional products, there is a definite learning curve. All of those plastic applicators and convenience products are nowhere to be found. You’ll be sticking mascara wands into tiny vials of high potency product, using brushes on loose and hand-pressed shadows, and potentially applying lipstick out of a tin with a tiny brush like your great-great-grandma did.
As far as competitive sustainable beauty companies go, these small businesses could easily go head-to-head with any major beauty brand and probably end up stealing more than a few customers. Their branding is beautiful and consistent, their packaging is high quality while still remaining recyclable, and their products garner more 5-star reviews than a lot of popular conventional brands. All they needs is a little visibility, but it’s hard to compete with corporate beauty dollars, so let’s take a look at their offerings, and maybe convince you to give them a try.
5 Indie Beauty Brands: Low Waste or No Waste
Vyana Beauty, formerly Vyana Plant Beauty, is a seven year old company based out of Sweden, and their wide range of products include everything from skincare to high-pigment makeup. Vyana’s product line is nearly 60 items deep, and after scrutinizing their reviews, I would say that at least 10 of their product lines are fan favorites.
By far, the most popular series of products from Vyana is their powders. They have four different foundation powders: mineral, mineral free, vitamin C, and brightening (titanium dioxide free). One of their most interesting products would be their various primers (seen above). In addition to having a spectacular texture and vibrant look, the ingredients are well-known to treat specific skin ailments and conditions while also prepping your face.
Their price points are possibly the lowest on this list, and that’s not even considering the samples you can get for just a few dollars. Additionally, with Vyana you always know that your makeup and skincare is going to be up-front about their plant-based ingredients. After all, they are a vegan beauty company, and they know their customers give many fucks about what’s in their products.
Vyana’s top products include their powder foundations ($6.99-$11.99), neutral eyeshadow trio ($6.99), powder blush ($6.99), and their primer ($16.99). Any of these would be a great option, but I am really tempted to pick up their Get the Right Base Bundle ($44.99) which includes a foundation powder, mousse foundation, and brightening concealer.
Visit Vyana Beauty on Etsy or their website.
Zerra & Co.
After Hailey Graef started her own zero-waste journey, she found herself unimpressed with her sustainable cosmetics options: “Mineral makeup? You mean $30 cornstarch with some pigment (no joke, read your labels!).” Graef also noticed the corners that were cut in the natural makeup industry that resulted in nasty ingredients and not-so-ethical practices. So, naturally, she set off on her own to create Zerra & Co. out of her Baltimore HQ to bring her high standards to the masses.
Fresh off the release of their very first eyeshadow pallete bearing the appropriately minimalist name “The Neutrals Palette,” Zerra & Co. is one of the tidiest low-waste brands I’ve come across. Ironic, too, because searching for their shop on Etsy proves to be a bit of a challenge. Etsy continuously tries to give you results for “zebra co” and has you jump through a couple of hoops to find the storefront, but I assure you it’s well worth the work.
Zerra & Co’s top products include their mascara ($16.99), liquid eyeliner ($14.99), tinted lip balms ($5.99), and their makeup remover ($25.99). They also have a ton of skincare for face and body, and a 30 day return policy.
Visit Zerro & Co on Etsy or their website.
Clean Faced Cosmetics
If you think that low waste cosmetics are only going to offer you “natural beauty” themed shades and colors, think again. Clean Faced Cosmetics has a staggering range of makeup products, including a line of cake mascaras in colors that rival your favorite box of crayons. If you’re worried that your love of glitter and shine won’t mesh with zero waste beauty, think again.
Clean Faced Beauty, or CFC, is a one-woman show run by Michigan-based Laura. In addition to creating a line of vegan beauty and skin products, Laura spends her time fighting the misinformation and fear-mongering tactics of Big Beauty. “Non-toxic,” for example, is a phrase that means almost nothing considering the amount of “toxic” ingredients in the beauty industry is next to none. Instead, CFC encourages people to ask about sustainability, ingredient documentation, and ethical sourcing.
When it comes to zero waste, Clean Faced Cosmetics is well on their way to achieving 100% victory. They’ll even refill your empty container with a fat 25% discount on top! Want a special formulation of something? Shoot Laura an email and she’ll be happy to work with you on something that’s just perfect for you and your skin.
With over 15,000 sales on Etsy, Clean Faced Cosmetics has a solid following. Favorite products according to reviewers: Vegan Lengthening Mascara ($16.99), Bronze Vegan Eyeshadow ($9.74), Vegan Powder Foundation ($14.99), and Zero Waste Cake Mascara ($9.74).
Visit Clean Faced Cosmetics on Etsy.
While a lot of these brands on this list feel like big brands in sustainable beauty packages (which is great), River Organics feels like true natural beauty. Their paper and cardboard packaging looks comfortable to hold and the shades of makeup they offer are super-wearable and travel-friendly. You get that small-batch feel from these products, as if they really were made by a husband and wife team from North Carolina! She is an art historian and he is a cosmetic chemist who used to work with Chanel. (Um, okay?!)
The biggest takeaway from River Organics’ approach to makeup and skincare is: oil. This is a direct result of the couples’ experiences traveling through France and the Middle East where skincare was often oil-based instead of loaded with emulsifier and creams. In fact, they identify as an oil-based beauty brand, and after scoping out the thousands of 5-star reviews, I’d say that’s resonating with people. All of this on top of their dedication to understandable vegan ingredients makes them a very skin-friendly brand.
River Organics have a fairly limited product offering, but within those standard favorites like tinted lip balm, cream blush sticks, and concealers, there are a bounty of shades and colors to choose from. The fan favorite at River Organics is their concealer, which comes in eight different shades. The consistency looks creamy and I would guess it had medium coverage. Buyers rave about how lightweight and long-lasting the concealer is, along with compliments about customer service and shade selection.
River Organics’ top products include their zero waste concealer ($18.50), blush sticks ($18.50), tinted lip balms ($12.99), and their brow wax ($16.99).
Visit River Organics on Etsy or their website.
Fans of Instagram beauty brands and pop culture – this the high-style, zero-waste beauty brand that you’ve been waiting for. Not Makeup has proven to be one of the cutest and hardest to find brands in the zero-waste beauty game, thanks to their admittedly awesome name.
Not Makeup has an extremely abbreviated product line which is basically made up of two things: glosses and tints. Due to their easy-peasy product composition, however, you can use these tints and glosses literally everywhere. They really mean the “and whatever” that follows each product name – “Gloss for Lips and Whatever,” “Tint for Cheeks and Whatever.” They give me a big-time Glossier vibe with their hyper-casual approach to the Serious Business beauty industry. You can get your tints in either a stick or a pot, and despite the limited shades, people are loving them.
You might scoff upon seeing that Not Makeup has only 166 sales on Etsy, but this little brand only lifted off in March 2020 – so 166 sales is actually pretty impressive!
Not Makeup’s top products include their tint stick in Root ($14), tiny pot in Seed ($10), cloud balm ($16), and their gloss + mini tint combo ($26).
Visit Not Makeup on Etsy or their website.