We tried five low waste face masks so you don’t have to

Words by Hannah Cole

As good a place as any to change our consumption habits.

The pursuit of the perfect, heavenly facial glow is one taken on by many. Regardless of age and gender, many of us are seeking liveliness, vibrant colour and no more blemishes. Some choose to outlay costs in the hundreds; others prefer to DIY. 

Whichever bracket you fall into – a newbie, a dabbler or a seasoned expert – I’m asking you to take a minute. Consider this: What are all these products doing to the environment?

Face masks are an easy first step to improving our glow. And with a frightening number of illegible scientific ingredients, excess packaging and single-use sheet masks, it feels like as good a place as any to readdress our consumption habits. I went on a mission to seek out products with primarily natural ingredients (less scary to wash down the sink) produced by trustworthy companies.

It’s not always an easy search, so allow me to share the fruits of my labour. The five ‘eco-friendly’ face masks I trialled all sit below $50 and span a variety of key ingredients and methods.

The Hyaluronic Mask

Brand: Salt by Hendrix
Name: Crystal Waters Hyaluronic Mask
From: saltbyhendrix.com.au
Price: $44.95

The skincare world is inarguably obsessed with hyaluronic acid at the moment. According to Dr Michele Squire, this acid is naturally occurring in our body tissues and aids in forming collagen to repair the skin. When applied topically, hyaluronic acid encourages a plump and hydrated appearance.

Just as hyaluronic acid is produced in our bodies, organic variations can also be derived from plants and natural active extracts, making it vegan. I turned to local label, Salt by Hendrix, to satisfy my plant-based hyaluronic acid cravings via the Crystal Waters mask. It even sounds beautiful.

After a few trials, I have shortlisted this mask as a contender for permanent space in my bathroom cabinet. With a recommended use of every three days, the jelly-like mask creates a slightly tingly sensation on application but leaves the skin feeling fresh and firm once washed off. I follow with a quick moisturising routine and I’m so supple, so dreamy.

The Peel

Brand: Madara
Name: Brightening AHA Peel Mask
From: nourishedlife.com.au
Price: $39.95

Created by the esteemed Latvian natural cosmetics company, Madara, this peel is made from 99 per cent natural ingredients. Although I’m still uncertain whether this product qualifies as a real ‘peel’, props are owed to the vegan label. It is certified to Ecocert standards, meaning no use of synthetic perfumes and parabens, and that it is dedicated to minimising environmental impact across the board. 

The Brightening AHA Peel Mask is said to provide “instant radiance” via active fruit acids, lactic acids and elderflower. My radiance wasn’t instantaneous, but the sparkly fairy dust mousse won me over regardless.

My nose was a little clearer; my face felt a little fresher and the mask was quick and easy to apply.

The Exfoliator

Brand: Lush
Name: Cup O’ Coffee Exfoliating Mask
From: au.lush.com
Price: $17.95

I need not introduce you to the natural powerhouse that is Lush, but it should be noted that Cup O’ Coffee is hands-down one of my favourite masks. For years, my exfoliating needs have been satisfied through 15-minutes of looking like a swamp monster. And I love a good recycling program, too (the closest thing to guilt-free packaging you can get today).

Ingredients like agave, coffee, cocoa extract and vanilla create a heady scent to help wake up the body. The extra coffee granules are the ideal exfoliator to scrub away the day’s grit. 

The Clay Mask

Brand: Life Basics
Name: Pure Green Clay Facial Mask
From: nourishedlife.com.au
Price: $16.95

It wouldn’t be a fair, unbiased survey without a clay option. Clay masks have become a mainstay in the world of skincare, earning their street cred by reportedly leaving faces with a glowing complexion and impeccably cleansed skin.

Life Basics – Nourished Life’s in-house label – brings us affordable, everyday items with minimal environmental impact. The Pure Green Clay Mask comes in powder form and is made from 100 per cent Australian clay. The powder also comes in a glass jar fit for future household use.

Mix the powder with water to form a paste and apply to the facial area to achieve an instant Shrek look. It’s a moment of pain for a *potential* lifetime of pleasure. I felt stripped bare in the best way possible, although a little tight around the edges.

No regrets, just a little mess.

The Sheet Mask

Brand: Skinfood
Name: Kiwifruit & Tangerine Repairing Mask
From: skinfood.com.au
Price: $6.99 per sheet

I know I just told you how terrible sheet masks are, but I had to give compostable bamboo versions a shot. NZ label, Skinfood, seems a viable source of goodness as a recognised natural-based skincare company. 

I have to say, as a former sheet mask addict, bamboo is not the same. I felt more Jude Law’s “Mr Napkin Head” than skincare goddess as the Kiwifruit & Tangerine Repairing Mask struggled to stick on my face. Fifteen minutes of irritation didn’t reap the rewards I was hoping for. My face was fine, but not worth the rage.

The lesson? Avoid sheets, whether they promise to be compostable or not.

As the skincare industry becomes cleaner – and we tend towards ‘no makeup’ makeup and fun over contoured beauty looks – so too do the products that dominate our supermarket shelves and Explore feeds. Opting for an item on the smorgasbord of green alternatives is no longer less effective, limiting or more expensive.

It is now possible to tick all the boxes.

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