Are Makeup Brushes Bad for the Environment?

5 Mins read

Have you ever wondered if your makeup brushes are bad for the environment?

I did a little research and want to share some thoughts on the topic.

This research is based on the environmental destruction of plastic-based makeup brushes.

Are Makeup Brushes Bad for the Environment?

Makeup brushes are not only bad for the environment but also for your health.

Conventional makeup brushes contain animal hair and plastic bristles, so when you are using these brushes, you are causing harm to animals and the planet.

Makeup brushes are made with animal hair. The bristles in conventional makeup brushes are often made from mink, squirrel, horse, or goat hair.

These animals are often mistreated in China or India where many of these products are manufactured.

In addition to being cruel to animals, these processes create harmful toxins that contaminate water sources and release greenhouse gases into the air.

Many makeup brushes are also made with non-biodegradable plastics.

The synthetic bristles in many of these products do not biodegrade so they remain in landfills forever.

Synthetic fibers are also shed into our waterways and oceans where they can be found by marine life and cause harm.

What Are Makeup Brushes Made Of?

Makeup brushes are traditionally made from animal hair, more specifically from squirrels and goats.

Alternatives include synthetic fibers like nylon and Taklon and plastic fibers like PBT.

Makeup brush handles are usually wood, but may also be plastic or even bamboo.

How Sustainable Are Makeup Brushes?

Synthetic brushes don’t have the same environmental impact as animal hair brushes do, because they aren’t made with animal byproducts.

That might sound obvious enough, but it’s worth noting that not all animal hair makeup brushes are necessarily bad for animals.

For example, some companies obtain their makeup brush bristles by using a technique called “live-plucking.”

How to Reduce the Environmental Impact of My Makeup Brush Routine

Here are some tips to help you reduce the environmental impact of your makeup brush routine:

1. Start your own makeup brush recycling program

Start by collecting old brushes and donating them to local art groups.

They use the brushes as long as they can and then pass them along to another group or individual who needs them.

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This is a great way to get new life out of an old product. You can also use recycled bristles for your own crafting projects!

2. Consider alternatives for animal-based brushes

There’s no need to throw away your favorite makeup brush just because it’s made from animal hair!

You can replace bristles with synthetic ones (such as nylon) and make sure that any new purchases are cruelty-free.

This will keep your brushes in good shape while helping animals at the same time!

3. Choose vegan brushes

Because most makeup brushes are made from animal hair, they aren’t environmentally friendly.

Even if you don’t subscribe to a vegan diet or lifestyle, you can still purchase eco-friendly brushes with synthetic bristles for use at home.

Even better, look for brushes that are made from recycled plastics like soda bottles so that less plastic goes into landfills.

4. Switch to bamboo handles

Many makeup brush handles are made from heavy woods like rosewood that are harvested from rainforests.

5. Use a plastic-free brush

Plastic is a major problem for the environment, so finding a plastic-free brush is a must.

Luckily, there are many brands that make sustainable brushes or offer reusable vegan versions of popular plastic brushes.

6. Choose eco-friendly makeup brands

If you want to go one step further, you can look for eco-friendly makeup brands that use only biodegradable materials in their packaging and products.

7. Clean your brushes frequently with biodegradable cleaners

Buildup on your makeup brushes can cause them to smell and irritate your skin, so cleaning them frequently is essential.

However, many store-bought cleaners are toxic and full of chemicals like phthalates, formaldehyde, and sodium lauryl sulfate that can be harmful to our health as well as the environment.

Where Can You Recycle Makeup Brushes?

Whether you use eco-friendly makeup or not, caring for your makeup brushes is important to avoid bacterial contamination.

However, a little-known fact is that most of us are unaware of how to properly dispose of our makeup brushes and sponges when the time comes.

1. Your local curbside recycling program

Brushes are made from a variety of materials, many of which can be recycled. Plastic handles can be recycled through your local curbside recycling program.

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2. MAC and Origins

You can also drop them off at retailers like MAC and Origins, which have recycling programs for brushes with plastic handles.

3. TerraCycle

You can also mail in brushes with plastic handles for TerraCycle to recycle, even if the bristles are made from natural materials that cannot be recycled. If you have metal makeup brushes or ones with wooden handles, you can bring those to TerraCycle too.

4. GoodWill

And if you’re looking to declutter your bathroom overall (we’ve all been there), the GoodWill accepts all sorts of bathroom supplies and personal hygiene items, including makeup brushes.

Which Is the Most Eco-friendly Material for a Makeup Brush?

The most eco-friendly makeup brush is made from synthetic nylon bristles, a recycled aluminum ferrule, and a recycled plastic handle.

Unfortunately, the makeup brush industry has no official certifications to help us identify which products are truly sustainable.

We can only rely on what we know about the materials used to make eco-friendly brushes.

So, we’re going to take a look at the three main components of a makeup brush: the bristles (or hairs), the ferrule, and the handle.

Most Sustainable Option: No animal testing or animal cruelty involved in production.

Most Durable Option: Polyamide fiber is more durable than animal hair because it’s not porous and doesn’t absorb as much water during cleaning. It’s less likely to fall out of your brushes when you wash them.

Hypoallergenic Option: Some people are allergic to animal hair fibers and have reactions like hives or redness when using animal hair brushes on their skin.

How to Make Sure My Makeup Brushes Last a Long Time

A good makeup brush can be an investment. So, if you’re going to spend good money on one, you want to know it will last as long as possible.

Here are some things you can do to make sure your makeup brushes last as long as possible.

1. Never soak your brushes in water.

2. Never use cold water to clean your brushes.

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3. Never use dish soap to clean your brushes.

4. Never dry your brushes with a hairdryer.

5. Never leave your brushes out to dry overnight (it can cause mold).

6. Never store your makeup brushes in a drawer or bag where they can’t breathe and dry properly between uses.

7. Never use the same brush for multiple products (unless you’re using a fan brush).

8. Never forget to wash your face after using brushes for other products besides foundation and concealer (lips, contour, etc.).

9. Never use dirty tools on yourself or others! Dirty brushes can cause acne, inflammation, and eye infections, among other issues.

10. Never pass up a good sale on makeup brushes!

Are Vegan Makeup Brushes Environmentally Friendly?

While vegan makeup brushes are eco-friendly, not all vegan makeup brushes are made using environmentally friendly practices.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that the materials used to make the synthetic bristles in vegan brushes do not contain harmful chemical compounds.

So, how do you tell if your vegan makeup brushes are sustainable?

1. Choosing the right materials is the first step. The best and most eco-friendly options include bamboo, reclaimed wood, or recycled aluminum. These are all great when manufacturing products because they’re plentiful, sustainable, and easy to harvest.

2. The second step is choosing responsibly manufactured products that use both vegan bristles and sustainable materials. Some brands manufacture their products in countries with no environmental regulations or animal protection laws, so it’s important to buy from companies that care about the environment and animals.

3. Look for companies that are transparent about how they make their products. Doing a little bit of research and finding out where a product is manufactured is a great way to ensure that the company cares about people and the planet.

Final Thoughts

Most makeup brushes are bad for the environment. Almost all brushes use either animal hair or plastic fibers, both of which are detrimental to the environment in some capacity.

While high-end brands like MAC and Makeup Forever have made efforts to be eco-friendly by using recycled materials, there still exists a problem of further reducing wildlife populations for fashion and vanity’s sake.