DIY Sustainable Makeup on a Budget

DIY Sustainable Makeup on a Budget
7 Minute Read

What’s in your makeup bag?

Aside from an array of powders and creams, I guarantee the most common item found in your makeup is plastic, since the majority of it is packaged in just that. With this in mind, I recently started to think about sustainable makeup alternatives.

I should preface this by saying that: ‘Shannon’ and ‘makeup’ are two words that usually don’t go together. I’ve never been one to wear makeup, but there are times when I feel pressured to do so by my subconscious thoughts. After really digging into why I feel this way, I realized that these ideologies are fueled by a lifetime of hearing that women need to wear makeup in order to ‘wow’ everyone, to show their true beauty, to look professional, or to get a man.

Its funny how, as women, we are socialized from so young to aspire to be beautiful and desired, and to succeed at that, we must dress the part with ‘lipstick and heels’. I’ve rejected this mentality for the majority of my life, but there are still occasions, like job interviews, networking events, or going out for a night on the town, where I can’t seem to shake these thoughts. It’s as if choosing not to wear makeup is a sign that a woman has let herself go, but I fundamentally disagree with that. For me, choosing not to wear makeup is about self acceptance, and it’s a shame that our culture socializes women to feel inadequate without it.

Don’t get me wrong. I think makeup can do amazing things, and the before-and-after images below will prove just that, but women should feel empowered to wear makeup as a means of self expression. They (and by ‘they’, I mean ‘I’), shouldn’t do it because they feel they have to.

Image of Shannon Kenny (Mama Eco), showing what she looks like with and without wearing makeup

without makeup    ~   VS      ~      with makeup

During my late teenage years, I remember getting dressed for a New Year’s party and having no idea how to put makeup on. I called up my sister for some guidance, which proved to be quite difficult considering she couldn’t exactly see what I was doing. After that night, my mother and sister conspired to get me my first makeup kit. Almost a decade later, I still have that kit, and you know why? Because I use it so infrequently that I haven’t even touched half of its contents.

In a recent attempt to ‘get the hang of it’ AGAIN, I met up with my close friend Elizabeth Graham (a.k.a. Lizzy), who is an incredible Makeup Artist. She said we could do a refresher course on the condition that I threw out all that old makeup. She explained that makeup had an expiration date (located on the label . . . duh! ), and pointed out that during the time I had owned my kit, it had expired at least 5 times over.

Our meetup also gave me the opportunity to entice Lizzy into doing an experiment: DIY sustainable makeup. By concocting my own makeup, I figured I could use ingredients that I already had at home, and avoid products that were heavily packaged in plastic. Could it be done? Yes! . . . aaannd also no!

Our first variable was to use coconut flour as a replacement for powder foundation.

Hypothesis? It’ll be seamless!

Survey Says? The flour particles are too grainy to really blend into the skin. Ideally, you want a more powdery consistency. The flour had a dry, cakey look that wasn’t noticeable from afar but was obvious when up close. It did, however, provide even coverage that lasted for several hours.

Image of Coconut Flour on a makeup palette
Coconut Flour

Since the coconut flour wasn’t a good alternative for foundation, I made another attempt with almond flour. Although the coloring was much truer to my skin tone, the flour particles were still too big and had the same effect as the coconut flour.

Our second experiment was to use cocoa powder as an alternative for bronzer and eye shadow.

Survey Says? It worked!! The particle size of cocoa powder is ideal for skin coverage, and it smells delicious! I wore it for several hours and it held up great.

Image of Cocoa Powder on a makeup palette
Cocoa Powder: a low-waste alternative for bronzer and eye shadow

Here is the result of our experiment. We used typical concealer, mascara, brow gel, and lip gloss, and paired them with 2 sustainable makeup alternatives: coconut flour for foundation and cocoa powder for bronzer and eye shadow. As I mentioned above, it looked great from far, but when you got up close, you could see the flour particles on my face.

Image of Shannon Kenny with traditional and non-traditional makeup on

Here’s the video of our Makeup Session. Lizzy gave me some really helpful tips about makeup application, and I gave her a Low Waste Crash Course as we talked about the heavy use of non-recyclable packaging in the makeup industry:

Sustainable Makeup Products:

If you wear makeup because it empowers you, it fuels your creativity, or makes you feel like a badass, then do it! Its your right, and it should always be your choice. And if you want to do it in the most environmentally friendly way, here are some products and companies who’s values are right inline with yours (and mine), and my sustainable makeup guru, Mary Timmons (a badass fashionista and designer), has personally tested them out for you:


Image of Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation in its metal case

Kjaer Weis Cream Foundation

**Packaged in a metal canister, refills are available. Because it’s a very dense cream consistency, it’s best to apply with your finger (instead of a brush) over well-moisturized skin.

Image of a light shade of RMS's "Un" Cover-Up Foundation and Concealer

RMS “Un” Cover-Up Foundation & Concealer

**Packaged in a glass canister with a metal lid. Best suited for dry or combination skin that needs a little extra moisture. Not recommended for oily skin.

All of the above products need to be set with a powder. They are formulated with lots of yummy (petroleum free) oils and powdering prevents makeup from settling into creases & fine lines. Powdering will dramatically increase the longevity of wear, so there’s no need for reapplication throughout the day – yay! You can set them with a pressed powder, like the one shown here, or you can make your own (see the DIY section below).

Image of a metal case of Kjaer Weis pressed powder

Kjaer Weis Pressed Powder

**Packaged in a metal canister, refills are available


Image of a metal container with Kjaer Weis pink lip tint

Kjaer Weis Lip Tint

**Packaged in a metal canister, refills are available

Image of red lip gloss by Vapour in a glass and metal container

Vapour Velvet Lip Gloss

**Packaged in a glass canister with a metal lid


Image of a glass container of RMS eye Polish

RMS Eye Polish

**Packaged in a glass canister with a metal lid

Image of Kjaer Weis Blue Eye Shadow

Kjaer Weis Eye Shadow

**Packaged in a metal canister, refills are available

These 3 companies are huge advocates of clean, organic ingredients, and really focus on sustainable manufacturing and packaging. Here is a little more info about each of them:

Kjaer Weis: Luxury cosmetics, organic ingredients, and sustainable packaging. Their products come in durable refillable containers, which means that you eliminate the cost and waste of unneeded packaging when buying refills.

RMS Beauty: Made with raw, organic ingredients; free of harmful chemicals, synthetic preservatives, synthetic vitamins, and genetically altered ingredients (GMO); most packaging is minimal, biodegradable, or recyclable.

Vapour: All ingredients are organic and are chosen based on the sustainability of their harvest; they are free of toxic chemicals, parabens, phthalates and nanoparticles; products are gluten-free and many are also vegan; all production and processing is done in-house, powered by solar and wind energy; all packaging is either recycled or recyclable.

If you gravitate more towards DIY Sustainable Makeup, here are some alternatives to traditional products:

  • Eye Makeup Remover – Coconut Oil
  • Facial Scrub – Dehydrated Coffee Grinds mixed with Coconut Oil
  • Lip Scrub (for dry, chapped lips) – Olive/Coconut Oil & Course Sugar
  • Bronzer/Eye Shadow – Cocoa Powder (mentioned above)
  • Mascara – Activated Charcoal, coconut oil, and beeswax (2 pt coconut oil, 1 pt beeswax, add activated charcoal until you like the darkness). This recipe came from Kristin Albers (@climate_surfer on instagram)
  • Makeup Setter: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (this is a super cheap alternative to finishing powder or setting spray. It consists of 90% silica, which is the main ingredient in setting products). Get it on Amazon

If you have any questions or comments about sustainable makeup, you can drop me a line below.

I’d love to hear from you 🙂



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5 thoughts on “DIY Sustainable Makeup on a Budget”

  • So great to see these items and hear your experience, Shannon!

    I love the KW cream blush, too. Didn’t even think of cocoa powder for bronzer / eyeshadow – thanks for this idea! Will try it;)

    • I love that the Kjaer Weis products can be refilled! That’s the best part 🙂
      Also, the cocoa powder smells so good, so its an added bonus

  • ooh, i love this post. i haven’t yet tried any kjaer weis products but my interest is definitely piqued. i’d love to learn how to make my own cosmetics though, especially blush and some sort of concealer/foundation/tinted moisturizer.

    • I’ve also been experimenting with DIY moisturizers for the face, but I haven’t found my solution as yet. A lot of people recommended straight up jojoba oil, but I have found that it needs something else…perhaps shea butter. I’ll keep trying till I do!

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