Do you ever wonder what happens to all those makeup wipes we use? I use wipes almost every day to get rid of makeup or the last remnants of city grime. They are essential to my beauty routine. But looking at my wastebasket full of wipes, I started to worry that they might be bad for the environment.
When I asked Betsy Dorn, director at RSE USA, a recycling and waste consulting company, about how my use of makeup wipes affects the environment, she immediately tells me that she doesn't use them because they are so wasteful. (Well, that's not a good sign.) "People think, 'Oh this isn't that big.' But when you add it all up, it's a lot," she says. Now, I'm having flashes of my wipes, plus my neighbors' wipes, plus my mom's wipes all piled in a pit somewhere. "We all like convenience. Unfortunately, that's how we evolved in our society," says Dorn. "Busy lives cause us to want more convenient options." Makeup wipes are the perfect example of modern convenience. If I don't have time to wash my face with water, I reach for a wipe. But these wipes stick around a lot longer than you think.
Dorn says it takes years for makeup wipes to breakdown in the landfill, which is where they are most likely to end up. According to the FDA, wipes are made from a combination of things such as polyester, polypropylene, cotton, wood pulp, and rayon fibers, many of which are not biodegradable. (There are few biodegradable wipes on the market -RMS Beauty and Yes To have compostable options.)
Dorn says flushing them is even worse than throwing them in the garbage. Water treatment plant workers have to fish them out and dispose of them (along with countless plastic tampon applicators), so they end up in landfills anyway, but take more work to get there. And if you've got a septic system, you're just asking for a clog.
Fortunately, beauty brands are coming out with alternatives to these eco-unfriendly wipes I've come to depend upon—reusable, washable cleansing pads and cloths that make removing makeup easier. Now, I know what you're thinking: Wouldn't that just be a washcloth? Go with me here, you're going to want to try these. Besides, have you ever tried to get a makeup stain out of nice towels? It's damn near impossible. Save the whites for shower time.
Here are the eight products for cleaning your face and clearing your conscience.