Here’s How to Recycle Your Beauty Products

October 5, 2019

We’re all trying to do our bit when it comes to cutting down on our packaging and making sure we recycle what we do use— but when it comes to the bits in the bathroom, it’s often a bit trickier. If you struggle to understand which beauty products you can and can’t recycle, we’ve broken it down for you…

What you can recycle: 

Electrical tools

Things like your hairdryer, curling wand or straighteners might not necessarily be thought of ‘easily recyclable’ goods, but take them to the right place and they’re actually widely recycled. These kinds of bigger, electrical items can’t be recycled at home, but most local recycling centres will be able to accept them. Does your hairdryer still work? Why not upcycle it by donating it to a charity shop or make some money by selling it on depop instead.

Shampoo and conditioner bottles

Shampoo, conditioner and shower gel tubs vary from brand-to-brand but generally speaking— as long as you ensure you remove any plastic caps, wash and dry the bottles thoroughly first— most plastic bottles are usually recyclable. If you’re not 100% sure check the label for the Mobius loop (the triangle made of arrows) and if it’s there, you’re good to go.

Deodorant cans and other aerosols

If your deodorant, hairspray or dry shampoo is housed in steel or aluminium, it should be recyclable. Make sure that the can is completely empty and detach any removable parts. Don’t try to pierce, crush or flatten any items though as this can be dangerous.

What’s partly recyclable:

Foundation bottles

Even though many foundation bottles are made of glass or recyclable plastic, there are currently no foundation pumps on the market that are recyclable. If your foundation bottle is glass (or made from recyclable plastic) then there’s nothing stopping you from recycling that, but make sure you’ve taken out the pump first so that the rest of your recycling isn’t contaminated.

Make-up palettes

The problem with a lot of make-up palettes is that they often contain mirrors and magnets, which aren’t recyclable. Check the label on your make-up palette to see if the material used if recyclable, and if so, make sure you remove any mirrors or magnetic parts and dispose of these separately.


Typically, mascara tubes are often made from recyclable materials so they can be disposed of in your normal recycling bin. Again, it’s important to make sure you thoroughly wash and dry the tube first— hot, soapy water should do the trick. Mascara wands aren’t typically recyclable materials but the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge accepts used (clean) mascara wands and turns them into brushes to maintain the fur of small wild animals. Cute! Otherwise, you could always wash and re-use yours an an eyebrow spoolie brush.

What you can’t recycle

Make-up wipes

Unless labelled as biodegradable/compostable (like Nivea’s Biodegradable Cleansing Wipes, £3.29, that biodegrade in 28 days), make-up wipes are not recyclable or very eco-friendly. Ditch the wipes altogether, or consider buying reusable make-up pads or biodegradable sheets like Jinmee Hydrapuff Skincare Sheets, £6.50.

NB: Remember, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ items do not belong in your recycling bin – pop them in your food waste bin instead.

Nail varnish bottles

Due to the hazardous toxins found in nail varnish, the glass bottles are not recyclable even when thoroughly rinsed. Don’t try to recycle your nail varnish bottles as they could contaminate the rest of your recycling.

Make-up brushes

Make-up brushes are made of tiny, superfine, non-recyclable nylon, plastic or animal-derived hairs meaning they’re not currently recyclable. Dispose of them in your normal bin, and make sure you’re looking after yours well to prolong their life span.

Get to know your labels:     

Always check your bottles and packaging for the relevant recycling symbols. If it’s got the famous three arrows in a triangle sign (aka the Mobius Loop) it can go right into your recycling bin.

But… if the label shows two arrows in a circle, the packaging is not necessarily recyclable. This usually signifies that the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe.

Still unsure? Recycle Now has information on widely used European labelling.

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