There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when environmentally friendly brands were considered niche and alternative, rarely appealing to the masses but instead resonating with a small core of super green customers who lived and breathed this ethos in all areas of their lives. Well today this group of customers is growing – and has been for a good few years. Today the eco conscious customer must not – cannot – be a small group of marginals pejoratively labelled ‘tree huggers’. Today everyone must embrace this way of life to even have a chance of halting the damage we’ve already done, and increasingly brands are giving us the tools to do so. A sustainable beauty trend that has blown up in the last few years is the refill format. Who doesn’t have at least one beauty product that they buy on repeat, a staple in their beauty routine that they always have a spare bottle of, be it a shampoo that leaves hair feeling fresh and bouncy, a cleanser that keeps blemishes at bay or a signature fragrance that has become part of your identity. These types of products make the perfect candidate for a refill format, offering many benefits for you and for the planet:

  • cutting down on packaging which is difficult to recycle or ends up in oceans and landfills
  • reduced carbon footprint thanks to more efficient packaging formats
  • better value for you as brands tend to offer savings on larger sizes

Some brands have been offering refills for some time now: Thierry Mugler has had its bestselling Angel and Alien fragrances available at refill fountains for years (with a saving of up to 37%) and The Body Shop re-launched its refill scheme in 2019, with an ambitious roll out plan for many UK and global stores. Others have gone big more recently: L’Occitane have gone big on their refill pouches which use up to 90% less plastic than a regular bottle, and REN have partnered with Terracycle’s Loop system where your empty glass bottle gets picked up from your home to be cleaned, refilled and redelivered – with the bottle lasting over 100 refills, that’s 100 less plastic bottles thrown away. If you’re looking to improve on your beauty routine’s eco credentials, here are 5 other brands offering refill solutions.

Proverb refillable deodorants

If there’s one product in my beauty routine I’ve struggled to swap for a sustainable solution it’s deodorants. I moved away from aerosols a long time ago in the favour of roll-ons, but currently this type of packaging can’t easily be recycled as it’s mixed materials. I tried Aurelia’s Citrus Botanical Cream Deodorant which is fine if you don’t sweat, and Posy’s natural stick deodorants come cleverly packaged in 100% biodegradable paperboard. Proverb is the first brand I’ve come across that does refillable vegan deodorants. Their starter set will provide everything you need and the site helpfully talks you through your options:

  • Step 1 – very important – choose your refillable case colour. I opted for a bright yellow but you can go more subtle with white or grey
  • Step 2 – choose your strength. From active to sensitive there are 3 levels depending on how intense your day is. I went for active which is recommended for those changing from a regular deodorant or antiperspirant.
  • Step 3 – choose from two natural aluminium-free fragrances or go unscented.  

The stick arrives wrapped in paper, you just need to screw it into the case and you’re off! Once you’ve finished the stick, just order a refill. The starter kit will set you back £15 then a refill is still £15 (£12 if you subscribe), so you essentially get the case for free. Quite a pricey option but it does last a surprisingly long time. 70g RRP £17.00 now £12.00

UpCircle closed loop system

I first discovered this brand in a beauty subscription box and was really impressed by the steps they were taking to reduce packaging, as simply as offering ‘refill’ tubes without caps on their site. As with REN, UpCircle has set up a packaging returns scheme which saved over 5000 pieces of packaging in the first 3 months of launching. Once you’ve finished a product you can return the empty bottle or jar to the brand’s warehouse in London via freepost. The product is then sterilised, refilled and returned to you. All UpCircle packaging is 100% recyclable anyway so it shouldn’t end up in landfill, however reusing packaging means less energy spent on producing brand new packaging.  

Upcircle Coffee Face Scrub with coffee beans

Neal’s Yard Remedies Citrus Shower Gel

Neal’s Yard Remedies have implemented in-store refill stations on a couple of their bestselling lines, saving you £2 per bottle. But for a wider choice and if you prefer to refill at home then the large bottle format provides another great eco friendly solution. You can decant into a glass bottle, or purchase a reusable pump to screw directly onto the large bottle and use as is. You’ll also save of up to 30% on the price compared to the standard size. 950ml RRP £40.00

HoneyPie Minerals foundation refill

I discovered these pouch refills thanks to Counter Culture, an online store specialising in ethical and sustainable beauty products. The idea is that once you’ve come to the end of your jar of mineral powder foundation you can just purchase a refill – which comes in 100% certified compostable kraft paper pouch – and save yourself £1. But chances are you’ve got an empty jar kicking around already, so just go straight for the refill. I’ve finally made use of Happi Body Co’s Sulapac jar (made from FSC-certified sustainable wood) which now takes pride of place on my dresser. OK it doesn’t have a sifter, but I just tap the excess into the lid. 10g RRP £12.99

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant refill

Ah, my favourite physical exfoliator of all time. Super fine rice-based powder, enriched in Salicylic Acid and Rice Enzymes for beautifully smoothed and polished skin, the only equivalent I’ve tried that comes close to it is C Berrica Renewal Foaming Face Powder. So I was delighted to discover that Dermalogica have launched a refill pouch version. As with HoneyPie’s refill you’re supposed to decant into the Daily Microfoliant canister, however I’ve found it works just as well in a repurposed Neal’s Yard Remedies glass jar. The dosage is less easy to control but I still manage to tip out the right amount of powder into my palm before adding water to create a white paste. You’ll also be saving yourself £6 vs the original packaging. 74g RRP £49.00

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