These reusable makeup and ear swabs will replace all your cotton buds

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Sustainable Swaps highlights the reusable products that real people use to lower their impact on the planet. From sturdy metal razors to cotton swabs that last a lifetime, these swaps have impressed us — and have made the switch to sustainable living easier.

If you are constantly using cotton swabs, that means you are constantly throwing away cotton swabs. This ear-cleaning, makeup-wiping habit isn’t exactly eco-friendly — but there’s a way it can be.

Marketed as the world’s first reusable cotton swab, LastSwab is a sustainable alternative to disposable cotton swabs. Created by the brand LastObject, a single LastSwab is lab-tested to withstand up to 1,000 uses — though it likely will last you way more with proper care. After use, LastSwab can be cleaned using just warm water and soap, and then it’s ready to use again. 

There are two different types of LastSwabs: Basic and Beauty. LastSwab Basic is a dual-ended, textured swab made for cleaning your ears, and LastSwab Beauty is tapered at one end and rounded at the other for cleaning makeup smudges and sharpening lines. 

Shop: LastSwab Basic, $12

Credit: LastObject

The LastSwab Basic comes in seven colors, while the LastSwab Beauty comes in six colors. A single reusable swab is $12, making the sustainable swap fairly inexpensive.

The swab ends are made of TPE, which is a silicone-like material, and the rod is made of plastic. Each LastSwab comes in a case made of corn, which is fully biodegradable. 

Though the item uses plastic in its rod component, the brand explains the decision to use a seemingly non-sustainable material.

“When creating a product to last for thousands of uses, durability is key,” the brand’s website reads. “LastSwab replaces thousands of single-use cotton swabs. Even if LastSwab does end up in the ocean, it’s damage will be less than 0.1 percent of its single-use counterparts.”

The global cotton bud market produced more than 540 billion cotton swabs in 2017 alone, according to an industry report. Though that number has increased year over year, the report says the rate of increase has slowed in recent years due to concern over marine pollution and health recommendations against ear cleaning.

Many cotton swab manufacturers have switched to paper rods to help mitigate plastic pollution, but LastSwab suggests that the swap still isn’t the answer to the overall problem. The brand says that even when made with more sustainable materials, the single-use nature of cotton swabs still has an adverse impact on the environment.

“The average person goes through hundreds of cotton swabs each year. These cotton swabs get produced, warehoused, shipped, purchased, used and discarded,” the site’s website reads. “During this process, the use of raw materials and the CO2 created are harmful to the environment. These processes become unnecessary when you commit to using reusable products like LastSwab, which you can use thousands of times.”

Shop: LastSwab Beauty, $12

Credit: LastObject

As a new user of LastSwab, the sustainable swap has been fairly easy to get used to. The LastSwab Basic is incredibly effective as an ear-cleaning device due to its textured ends. Cleaning ear gunk off the ends (gross, I know) is also shockingly easy. It’s also great to know no excess cotton sloughs off into my ears while doing ill-advised cleanings.

The LastSwab Beauty option is also really effective, allowing you to clean up smudges and sharpen lines with significant control. I find lightly dipping the ends in an oil-based makeup remover is the best way to clean lines and edges. The sturdiness and shape of the swab make cleaning up your makeup even easier than with a traditional cotton swab. 

LastSwab, however, hasn’t been able to entirely replace cotton swabs in my own life, especially in instances where absorbency is key. Since the swab ends are non-absorbent, using the swab for things like pimple drying lotion or cleaning wounds isn’t possible. For that, I’ve been turning to bamboo cotton swabs.

LastSwab, however, has significantly cut down on my Q-tip waste. Call it a successful swab swap.

If you liked this story, check out these sustainable toothbrushes for another easy, impactful swap.

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