Multiple media outlets recently reported that the iconic British department store, Selfridges and Co, has announced that they will phase out single-use beauty wipes from their beauty halls – a great move to reduce waste from beauty routines.

The move was flagged in the June 2019 New Plastics Economy Global Commitment
report, which includes information from all signatories to the commitment. Other signatories include Unilever, L’Oreal, Walmart and Target. Selfridges also outlined commitments to review their plastic packaging use, seek out refill options for their beauty products and remove plastic based glitter.

Reports indicate that Selfridges conducted a survey to inform the phase out. They found that 35% of consumers consider beauty wipes to be essential to their beauty routine, and 20% of consumers use at least one beauty wipe per day. These statistics speak to the leadership of Selfridges in taking this action, and forecast an expected shift in the beauty routines of many health and beauty consumers.

It is also reported that Selfridges will stock a number of alternatives to the single-use wipes. These include Sarah Chapman Professional Cleansing Mitts, Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Cloths and Face Halo Make Up Removers. While these are certainly better than single-use wipes in terms of waste, it is important to appreciate that these products still have environmental impacts.

The first two are cotton-based products that come in flexible plastic pouches. Cotton is resource intensive to farm and needs to be used a number of times before it becomes an environmentally preferable option. As these products are sold in multiple (the Sarah Chapman mitts come in a pack of four and the Clinique cloths come in a pack of two), it would be good to see some advice on when they should sustainably be replaced. These products are also sold in a flexible plastic pouch, which is difficult to recycle.

Face Halo Make Up Removers are microfibre based cloths that come in a plastic coated foil pouch, which is similarly difficult to recycle. The Face Halo website does provide useful information on how many times a cloth can be reused (200 washes), and the company accepts old cloths for recycling – which is great. However, these cloths will shed plastic microfibres when washed. Information on how to capture microfibres before waste water is released to sewer would help to mitigate this impact.

If used responsibly, these alternatives are a good way to reduce the environmental impact of make up removal – but manufacturers and retailers should keep working to further reduce their environmental impact. In the first instance, this should include consumer education on how many times these cloths should be re-used, and reconsideration of packaging options.

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