There are a few sustainable beauty and wellness tips we hear all the time: Stop using so much plastic, shop Sephora's Clean Beauty section, reuse and recycle packaging when you can. But rarely do we come across eco-friendly beauty practices as unique and inspiring as those we recently learned from actress Ashleigh Cummings. We were recently acquainted with the 26-year-old Australian up-and-comer, who is starring in AMC's new supernatural horror series NOS4A2 (out June 2), as well as The WB’s The Goldfinch alongside fellow Aussie Nicole Kidman (out October 11). The most stirring thing we learned about Cummings is her steadfast commitment to shopping for beauty and wellness products in such an eco-conscious fashion that it puts casually recycling the plastic casing around our drugstore mascaras to shame. As you'll see in our interview with Cummings below, she is truly a rarity in Hollywood.
"Every time we don't do our research, don't use our voice, or simply take the easier or more gratifying option, we are complicit in the degradation of our planet and its inhabitants," she wrote to us in an email from Morocco. ("Currently, it's 2 a.m., and I'm writing this inside a cold barn with a sick lamb and my excrement-covered Patagonia jacket, … my all-time favorite brand for their products, sustainable practices, and their immense efforts to give back," the free-spirited actress penned.) Cummings says that even if her words sound melodramatic, it's for good reason. "Our world is in a more catastrophic state, environmentally and ethically, than it has ever been, and if you're reading this, chances are you (like me) belong to a part of the society that doesn't witness firsthand the effects that our actions are having," she continued. "But with this privilege comes a power."
One of the ways Cummings exercises her power is by striving to have as little a negative impact on the planet as possible—and when it comes to her beauty routine, she really commits. More than any other beauty-obsessed celeb we've spoken to. "It's such a challenge," she admits, "and I'm the first person to admit I make mistakes due to ignorance or even out of laziness (working on it!). But we must always continue to try."
Keep scrolling for Cummings's inspiring eco-friendly beauty routine and important advice on how to be a more sustainable beauty patron.
What are the eco-beauty products you can't live without?
I don't wear makeup outside of work, but when I have auditions or formal functions, I love Zao Organic Makeup. They assist and employ workers with disabilities, and the items are solely packaged in bamboo—one of the world's most sustainable materials (though not in fabric form). They also offer refills and eco-friendly shipping! Plus, the products are 100% natural and infused with vitamins and antioxidants.
Kjaer Weis practices the same philosophies but through utilizing stainless steel packaging, and Aether Beauty makes me feel a little bit magic with their zero-waste eye shadow palettes made of crystals, among other enriching ingredients. I would also recommend EcoTools for application.
Are there any great eco-beauty products from your native Australia we should know about?
Plenty! For skincare and makeup, Dirty Hippie Cosmetics! This is actually an NZ/Aussie creation that ticks all the boxes (vegan, cruelty-free, organic, ethical, fair-trade, eco-friendly packaging, and refill options if you live in Australia!).
What are some keywords to look for when shopping eco-beauty?
There are so many! Local is a great one, sustainable, fair-trade, made from recycled materials, vegan, cruelty-free, organic, the possibility to refill, and waste-free packaging and shipping (a big one we overlook!).
Can you walk us through your morning and evening skincare routines?
Morning: I clean my teeth before breakfast because your enamel is weakened for about 30 mins after eating. I use a Big Little Brush toothbrush, which is biodegradable and employs sustainable packaging. My boyfriend and I have been experimenting with DIY toothpaste options including coconut oil, small amounts of baking soda, and peppermint oil.
As for sunscreen, mineral-based with non-nano particles is vital for both you and the environment! I use Manda (contains thanaka, which is what the Burmese have been using for over 2000 years, and reduces environmental impact by not having to mine for minerals) or Dirty Hippie sunscreen from day to day. For days when I'm sweating or at the beach, I use All Good Sunscreen Butter (the tin only!).
Last, Dirty Hippie probiotic deodorant (no aluminum, which gets absorbed by the lymph nodes)!
To cleanse, I use Sante by Enjo. This Aussie-owned company creates reusable pads which contain ultrafine fibers to clear away your makeup more effectively than makeup wipes (which are terrible for the environment!).
Occasionally, I exfoliate with ground oats, sugar, or a clay mask. All DIY!
Then I moisturize with fresh aloe vera from my aloe plant. If I’m traveling, I have a little vial of pure argan oil from a woman’s cooperative in Morocco.
How do you maintain a low carbon footprint when you are traveling or on set for work?
My omnipresent backpack always contains a small linen bag, steel cutlery and straws, eco-friendly takeaway containers, and my eco-friendly bottle from Yuhme. For travel, I B.Y.O. LifeStraw Steel so I never have to buy water! I have taken the same straw with me through the Moroccan Sahara, the Zambian jungle, and the Kenyan Maasai plains where I have sipped directly from countless numbers of brown, viscous natural water sources and never once been sick as a result!
Here are some other tips:
1. Pack light: Every extra kilo produces more carbon emissions.
2. Fly economy. The higher classes increase your carbon footprint significantly.
3. Take public transport. It’s a far more enriching and immersive experience anyway.
4. When it comes to hotels, don’t use the convenient little bottles of toiletries; make sure you switch off all plugs and devices when you leave; don’t get your room cleaned each day or towels refreshed. There are also plenty of eco-accommodations these days.
Work can be a little trickier. The crew on my projects is very aware of my bright blue reusable water bottle which is the only vessel I will drink from, and the poor ADs are constantly asking over the radio if anyone has spotted it—sometimes it's in the frame. I don't use paper scripts anymore but opt for an app called Scriptation on my iPad, and I always use the reusable plates and silverware at lunch. From the outset, I also try to establish a sustainable and ethical kit with my hair and makeup team.
What are some easy changes people can make this weekend to make their beauty and wellness routines more sustainable?
There are the obvious ones like shorter showers, buying organic, switching off plugs and devices, and carrying around reusable cutlery, containers, mugs, and bottles, but here are a few more:
1. Have a DIY beauty products day with your pals.
2. Buy from bulk food stores and BYO containers.
3. Try substituting one meat dish per week with an alternative ingredient or meal.
4. Try organic soapberries instead of washing detergent.
5. Buy local. Go to a farmers market and support people in your community. This also eliminates enormous amounts of waste generated by packaging and shipping.
6. Buy only recycled toilet paper, and use a menstrual cup.
7. Before you buy anything, really ask yourself if you need it. If so, consider sustainable alternatives. Let’s slow down consumption!
Next up: Check out five ways to make your clothes last longer.