Ready to Make the Switch To Zero Waste Foundation? Time To Check Out These 4 Brands

Crushed up foundation powder

From ancient Egypt to present day, foundation has evolved as people have. Today, zero waste foundation can fit any of your makeup needs from sheer to full coverage, matte to dewy while still being good for the planet. 

Estimated Read Time: 6 minutes

Can’t leave the house without it?
Save it for a special occasion?

Either way, it’s likely you’ve worn foundation at some point or another in your life. 

In the 1940’s with color film starting to take off, a foundation was developed that covered skin imperfections, felt lightweight to wear, and could be worn out in public (unlike the dramatic theatre makeup of the time). 

Makeup palettes side by side

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Since then, foundation has played a major role in beauty trends as its formula has been revamped and improved throughout the decades.

Zero waste foundation in particular is designed to not only be easy on the planet in terms of packaging, but also enhance your natural beauty with skin-loving ingredients.

To help find your ideal zero waste foundation, there are a few things you’ll need to know about coverage, finish, and formula. 

If you already know what you’re looking for, skip ahead to our recommendations! 

What To Know About Zero Waste Foundation Coverage

For the sake of simplicity, there are three basic coverage options to be aware of. Depending on what kind of a look you’re going for, or your skin type, you’ll want to know the basics of coverage. 

Woman wearing light, sheer coverage using Ilia Serum Foundation, faint but visible freckles showing.

Example of Light, Sheer coverage from Ilia

Light/sheer Coverage — A light layer of foundation that gently evens out skin tone in a very natural, barely-there way. Skin imperfections are not going to disappear but may be less visible.

Medium Coverage — Usually buildable so it provides more coverage than something light or sheer and multiple layers can be applied to provide a thicker coverage. Medium coverage foundation will even out your skin tone, but it will also do more to conceal skin imperfections.

Full Coverage — The highest coverage, this formula will cover any and all skin imperfections, even the natural color of your skin, so it’s very important you make sure to get the correct color! 

What To Know About Zero Waste Foundation Finish

The finish of a foundation is equally as important as the coverage because this is going to tell you how it will sit on your skin all day (and photograph). 

Natural/Sheer — A natural finish will mimic the look of your skin and falls somewhere between dewy and matte finishes. The goal is to look like you’re not wearing anything — barely there coverage.

Dewy — A dewy finish is going to leave your skin looking radiant, glowy, and shiny (but like a youthful shiny). This finish is great for people who tend to have dryer or mature skin. 

Matte — A matte finish is going to do the opposite of a dewy finish. It will leave your skin shine-free and flat. A matte finish is generally good for those with oily and combination skin. 

Finishes can also be combined with each other. For example you’ll see ‘natural matte’ as one of the options below. That would mean that it’s lightweight and still looks like your skin but it doesn’t leave any shine behind.

What To Know About Zero Waste Foundation Formula

The finish of a foundation is equally as important as the coverage because this is going to tell you how it will sit on your skin all day (and photograph). 

Cream foundation swatches on light, medium, and dark skin

Image by Kjaer Weis

Cream — It is more solid and has a thicker consistency. Cream can be a good option for dry skin. 

Powder — Powder (either pressed or loose) is going to offer a lighter/natural coverage but might be better for those with oily skin. Or, it can be good to layer on top of another foundation. 

Liquid — Most likely the option you’re familiar with, liquid can be applied with fingers, brushes, blenders and works on most skin types.

Nude by nature makeup

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

Now that you have the basics of what to look out for in a foundation, Below are our favorite zero waste foundation recommendations! 

1. Ilia

True Skin Serum Foundation — Lightweight Foundation

Coverage: Light to medium
Finish: Velvet/Natural Matte
Formula: Serum/Liquid
Sustainability: Glass jar with recycled plastic dispenser — return empties to Ilia for proper recycling.

Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation

Super Serum Tint SPF 40 — Lightweight Serum

Coverage: Light
Finish: Dewy
Formula: Liquid
Sustainability: Glass jar with recycled plastic dispenser — return empties to Ilia for proper recycling.

 Ilia True Skin Serum Foundation

Ilia Beauty believes that your skin should look like your skin. Products that you use on your face should contain safe ingredients that nurture and protect what you have. Their formulas are combined with safe active skincare ingredients both natural and synthetic. 

Ilia’s products are packaged using recycled aluminum, glass components, and responsibly sourced paper. At the end of your Ilia product's life (or another brand), you can mail in your empties that will be broken down responsibly through their partnership with Pact Collective.

2. Kjaer Weis Zero Waste Cream Foundation

Cream Foundation

Coverage: Medium to Full
Finish: Semi-Matte Finish
Formula: Cream

Kjaer Weis offers refillable formulas for most of their products which are all either Certified Organic or Certified Natural. The compacts are made from metal or a recyclable sturdy paper and you can purchase refills that pop right into their containers, minimizing what gets tossed into a landfill. Packaging and shipping materials are also 100% recyclable, compostable and refillable, sourced from FSC-certified materials, and printed with water-based ink. 

Red compostable paper compact with cream foundation inside

3. River Organics Zero Waste Foundation/Concealer

Completely Plastic Free Zero Waste Concealer

Coverage: Light
Finish: Dewy
Formula: Cream

While technically a concealer, this formula is perfect for under the eyes or evening out skin tone all while providing hydration and moisture for your skin. This vegan formula comes in 7 hand poured shades that all take undertones into consideration. A consideration which Allure called “a rarity in the beauty space”. Eco-friendly paper packaging and a sugar cane biodegradable label round out this concealer.

All product labels and containers are compostable and biodegradable. Shipping envelopes are also made from 100% recycled and recyclable materials. 

8 containers of River Organics concealers lined up in two rows with their lids on either side

4. Elate Cosmetics Foundation

Elate Cosmetics is well known in the zero waste beauty and sustainable beauty industry. Always on the lookout for ways to do better, 75% of their products are plastic free and 100% are compostable or recyclable. All products are vegan and cruelty free. 

Refresh Foundation

Coverage: Light
Finish: Sheer
Formula: Liquid
Sustainability: Packaged in a glass jar with a recyclable plastic pump. The bamboo around the top of the pump can be broken off and composted. 

Closed jar of Refresh foundation in RN8 for deep skin tones

Uplift Foundation

Coverage: Buildable, Medium-Full
Finish: Semi-Matte
Formula: Cream
Sustainability: Packaged in a glass jar with a bamboo lid which can be upcycled or recycled. The bamboo lid can be composted. 

Uplift Cream foundation in glass jar with bamboo lid. Label reads You are simply stunning.

Pressed Foundation

Coverage: Light
Finish: Natural Matte
Formula: Powder
Sustainability: This powder is pressed into a stainless steel tin and comes in a sustainable bamboo compact which can be reused. You can purchase refills that come in seed paper envelopes which can be planted to grow wildflowers.

Elate Pressed Foundation Refill in tin container inside seed envelope

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