Item name: Make-up

Made by: Zao

Bought from: Zao – Essence of Nature UK


Inspired by a gift received from a Taiwanese friend (A pen and pencil made from bamboo), the Zao brand was born.

Zao is an environmentally alternative to mainstream make-up brands, offering a distinctive and wide range of largely refillable products.

According to Zero Waste Week, more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally every year by the cosmetics industry. That’s a lot of plastic (and waste more generally) and a significant problem.

Zao’s products are as much about what’s on the inside (i.e. the ingredients) as they are about reducing plastic consumption and packaging.

Their products are certified organic, 100% natural, vegan, gluten free and cruelty free. Few cosmetics companies and make-up brands can claim that!

Some products may contain palm oil derivatives but Zao is open about this and it is true of all cosmetics.

Heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, aluminum, zinc, chromium and iron are typically found in a wide variety of big brand cosmetics and personal care products. Zao explains that the only ingredients in its’ formulas that may contain trace amounts of heavy metals are mineral pigments. It is working towards replacing these with vegetable pigments in the future.

The company used predominantly recycled and recyclable packaging but not all of its products (or at least parts of them) may be widely recyclable. Zao is investigating a closed loop scheme though (whereby customers can return products to be recycled) and remember , they are generally refillable so potentially long-lasting. The packaging for certain refills is made from recyclable PET plastics but since the end of 2018, Zao says that these have been gradually been replaced by cardboard envelopes. As for the refills themselves, they are made of various materials, all of them are recyclable.

All of Zao’s products are manufactured in Europe, specifically France, Germany and Italy. A high proportion of big brand cosmetics are made in the likes of China and the USA so for us, here in the UK, this is also good news.

“Mrs Plastic Free Home” received a few items from Zao’s range as a birthday present, namely eyeliner (£18.95), Aloe Vera mascara (£20.75) and nail polish (£11.50).

Her use of make-up has always been minimal, preferring the natural look and seeking to avoid products that are tested on animals or less kind to our planet. So she was delighted to received and particularly interested in testing out Zao’s range of products.

We really like what Zao has achieved since its launch in 2012 – it’s an incredibly tough industry to make a dent in after all – and it’s great to see the company expanding in the UK. There is always room for improvement and we look forward to keeping an eye on Zao’s future progress. We’d be happy to recommend Zao over and above mainstream cosmetics brands – let us know how you get on!


+ Less plastic than mainstream brands, with glass and sustainable bamboo used wherever possible.
+ Refillable products help to further reduce waste.
+ Largely recycled and recyclable packaging.
+ Certified organic and 100% natural.
+ Vegan and cruelty free (PETA certified).
+ High quality and attractive products.
+ Easy to apply, effective and long lasting.


  • Being picky, it would be a plus if at least some of the products were made in the UK, perhaps something that will come in time with the brand expanding here. 
  • Like many cosmetics, certain items may not be widely recyclable, which Zao says is less of a problem due to their products’ refillable nature.
  • Some products may contain palm oil derivatives.
  • Not a price point that will suit everyone but still far enough from the more expensive end of the market to make Zao an affordable choice for most. Given the quality of the products and the brand’s eco-credentials, it’s well worth the investment.

Rating: 8.5/10

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