8 best refillable lipsticks that can help reduce your beauty waste

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8 best refillable lipsticks that can help reduce your beauty waste
An estimated one billion empties are thrown away each year. These are the brands to swap to

Amy Sedghi Thursday 11 March 2021 11:19

A tube of lipstick is arguably the most popular item of make-up. Throughout history, it’s garnered attention, been used in protest and is synonymous with old Hollywood glamour. But it’s not always just the colour of the lipstick that catches our eye – often the cases are works of art themselves. And while many of us have spent years finding the perfect shade to suit our colouring and then staying loyal to a particular brand, our old tubes could be harming the environment.

According to luxury French cosmetics brand, La Bouche Rouge, an estimated one billion lipsticks are thrown away across the globe, every year. So, we think it’s time to say hello to a new generation of refillable lipsticks.

Read more: 10 best refillable beauty products so you can ditch the waste with these make-up and skincare buys

While the options for refillable make-up products are increasing, there are still some limitations when it comes to choice. We’re also not claiming that switching to reusable products will be the catch all for the beauty industry’s problem with packaging and waste but lipsticks are certainly an area where the premise could work well.

Lipstick refills could not only save on waste but they could transform our make-up bag each time we refill, thank to bullets that can be swapped for different shades without fuss. It could open up a world of possibilities.

We decided to try and find the best refillable lipsticks so that you don’t have to. Our aim was to find a refillable lipstick worthy of an addition to your make-up bag, to do that we focused on; how good the application and consistency was, how it fared during wear, and of course we wanted value for money.

Most importantly we wanted to have more than enough shades and finishes to keep you going for every possible occasion and to see how easy it was to refill.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Hourglass confession ultra slim high intensity refillable lipstick

Buy case, £31

Buy refill, £22

There’s a lot to love about Hourglass’ refillable lipstick: the gold casing is sleek and slimline, while the colours, which come in a multitude of hues, are rich and flattering. As well packing a punch of pigment, the lipstick glides on smoothly and with precision, thanks to a slim and slanted bullet. We loved how with just one swipe of colour, lips were left with great coverage, a subtle shine and looking moisturised.

As well as being vegan-friendly, Hourglass has been dedicated to being cruelty free since the brand's launch in 2004. Refills for the confession lipstick come in a small case, meaning that swapping out the lipstick shades from the applicator is really simple and you’re not stuck with one shade as the refills can be used with the applicator interchangeably. It’s an award winner for a reason and a worthy addition to any handbag, especially once socialising and going out are back on the cards.

Buy now £31, Fenwick.co.uk

Guerlain rouge G lipstick

Buy case, £17
Buy refill, £22.10

If you’re looking for an investment piece, then Guerlain’s rouge G lipstick cases are a fantastic option. Oozing glamour and luxury, the cases are designed to help you customise your lipstick and range from the extravagant (think diamante encrusted or croc-effect) to the simply chic (lush gold and silver options embossed with the Guerlain logo). They’d certainly make for a great gift, especially for a special milestone birthday.

There’s a double mirror that flips up when you pull the lipstick out and a vast range of shades to choose from, all with a subtle shine and smooth finish. Although we like the richly pigmented options, such as “flaming red” and more unusual choices, like “blue jean”, we were very impressed with the versatility of the top coat, which can be worn alone for a subtle shimmer, or on top of another lipstick to add extra shine.

Buy now £17,Escentual.com

Price comparison                                            
eBay                                  £14.39    Buy now
Escentual                           £17         Buy now
Amazon                             £17.07    Buy now
John Lewis & Partners      £20         Buy now

Zao classic matt lipstick

Buy case, £18.75

Buy refill, £13.50

Housed in a pretty varnished bamboo case, Zao’s classic matt lipstick is a pleasant, creamy formula that glides on easily and leaves lips feeling moisturised, thanks to a mix of organic castor oil, shea butter and pomegranate extract. Known for their vegan-friendly and natural formulas they also contain certified organic ingredients, are cruelty free and palm-oil free. They also come with a neat drawstring bamboo pouch, to keep your lipstick case protected.

We tried the deep “pinky plum” shade but there are 14 colours to choose from, covering everything from a soft rose (“old pink”) to luscious darker hues such as “chocolate” and “plum”. Satisfyingly, the lipstick is long lasting, and when you do need to slot in a refill, it’s super easy.

Buy now £18.75, Zaoessenceofnature.co.uk

La Bouche Rouge refillable lipstick

Buy case, £50

Buy refill, £30

French brand, La Bouche Rouge, know a thing or two about chic refillable lipsticks. Launched in 2017, they count model Rosie Huntington-Whitely among their fans. In fact, she recently announced a collaboration with them in which she has created the ultimate red and nude matte lipsticks. They seemed to stay put and not slide about but thought it didn’t feel quite as moisturising as some of the others we tried. We didn’t notice any cracking or creasing however and thought it was a very easy to use matte lipstick, which can’t be said for all.

La Bouche Rouge, who manufacture their lipsticks alongside the side of the river Loire in France, house their refillable lippies in either a leather or a vegan leather case, which needs to be purchased separately. Any of their multiple matte, satin or balm refills slot in easily and come packaged in a cardboard tube, which we are fans of.

Buy now £50, Net-a-porter.com

Charlotte Tilbury hot lips 2

Buy case, £28

Buy bullet, £19

Make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury’s lipstick collections are always a popular choice, and her “Hot Lips 2” range, which launched last summer, features 11 shades inspired by 11 women and men that Tilbury loves – it’s also the first time the Hot Lips range has been offered as a refillable option.

Of the shades, we tested, “in love with Olivia”, inspired by fashion’s favourite crush Olivia Palermo, was our favourite. It’s a subtle shade with a slight shimmer sitting somewhere between a nude and a rose pink – perfect for everyday wear. For a more dressed-up vibe, check out “amazing Amal” – a deep berry pink inspired by human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

There are five attention-grabbing refillable lipstick cases (everything from leopard print to shooting stars) to choose from which you buy complete with lipstick the first-time round. You can then purchase refills that can be swapped out easily to suit your mood.

Buy now £28, Charlottetilbury.com

Kjaer Weis lipstick

Buy case, £44

Buy refill, £28

Danish brand Kjaer Weis, created by make-up artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis, is a big name in the world of refillable beauty. From blushers and foundations to mascaras and lip glosses, the brand excels in providing refillable options for some key beauty items. We’re also a big fan of the formulas and product design. It’s no surprise then that Kjaer Weis has got refillable lipsticks down.

The reusable lipstick holder is a sleek but weighty metal design in silver, and refills happily click into place. We loved the nourishing formula of the “nude, naturally” range, which features eight different versions of nude to suit different skin tones and liked the healthy sheen it delivered to lips. Aside from the nude shades, Kjaer Weiss also have a variety of other colours available too, from a red inspired by the colour of their packaging, called “KW red” to a decadent crushed berry shade named “glorious”.

Buy now £44, Contentbeautywellbeing.com

Dior rouge dior refillable lipstick

Buy case, £32

Buy refill, £25.50

When it comes to lipstick, Dior are known for their famous red shade “rouge Dior” – a sexy and polished red that screams luxury. So we were delighted to see that the brand is now embracing refillable options too. Although it’s limited to a selection of its products right now, when it comes to lipstick, you can choose from a wide variety of shades (around 70) when buying the one-off option.

However, when you start to think about purchasing a refill you’re limited to only seven shades. It’s not the widest range of choices, but the colours have all been chosen due to their most-loved status and there are four finishes on offer: matte, satin, metallic and velvet. We tried “red smile”, an energetic red that applied easily, had great coverage and imparted a moisturised, healthy sheen that kept it looking freshly applied. Refills were easy to replace and we still loved the luxury of it all.

Buy now £32, Dior.com

Lush refillable vegan lipsticks

Buy case, £8

Buy refill, £10

Lush have long embraced experimenting with packaging – or lack of – to see how they can deliver their cult products to the masses without adding to the pile of unnecessary packaging in the beauty industry. Their “naked” range has been a big hit and spans across a variety of cosmetics and bathroom products. It’s no surprise then, that when it comes to refillable lipstick, Lush have thought outside the box.

Their vegan formula lipsticks come wrapped in a protective candelilla wax outer layer, which you simply peel off (like a Babybel) when you want to use the lipstick. They’re suitable to be slotted into any used lipstick case but Lush do also sell a retro style holder also. There are also more than 20 shades of refills to choose from.

We have to admit that we did find it a tad messy handling the unwrapped lipstick and transferring it to the holder, but once that was out of the way, we were impressed by the moisturising and smooth texture of the product. It’s certainly a well-thought-out concept and a great way to try out more sustainable make-up choices.

Buy now £8, Lush.com

The verdict: Refillable lipsticks

With its sleek and slim design, plus a lusciously pigmented colour that’s easy to apply, Hourglass is our top pick of refillable lipsticks. If you have a bit more cash to spend, then we’d recommend checking out La Bouche Rouge who have some lust-worthy shades in their range. Kjaer Weis is also a chic pick – we loved the moisturising feel of their lippies and the stylish design of their metal cases.

It’s not just lipsticks that are getting more eco-friendly, these are the best plastic-free beauty products that aren’t adding to landfill

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