Updated: May 5, 2021
Beauty products have evolved to become a staple in the modern world, with the global beauty industry being worth approximately $532 billion dollars. That being said, it makes sense that sustainability and eco-conscious practices should be applied to this industry as well, considering the amount of revenue it generates and the number of products being sold worldwide. But, more often than not, beauty brands are one of the largest culprits of greenwashing, as they tend to deceive their customers into thinking that their products and practices are sustainable when in reality, their methods are less than eco-conscious. Greenwashing is especially prominent in this industry because 25% of consumers say that they would prefer their beauty products to be eco-friendly and 92% of consumers have stated that they will be more loyal to a particular brand if the brand showed support for environmental or social causes. Since this industry is relatively confusing to navigate and does its best to deceive consumers through their well-thought-out marketing campaigns, this blog post will explain just some of the criteria beauty brands need to fulfill in order to be considered sustainable, as well as five different sustainable brands to help you get started on your sustainable journey.
What makes a beauty brand sustainable?
First of all, what makes a brand sustainable? How do you know that a company is doing everything it can in order to ensure that all of its practices are sustainable? According to Sustainable Jungle, some of the criteria it uses to determine whether beauty brands are sustainable or not include whether the products are made from organic materials, whether they are vegan and cruelty-free, whether they are palm oil-free, whether the ingredients used to make these products are ethically sourced, or whether the product packaging is sustainable. All of these criteria are excellent ways to gauge the sustainability of a brand but let’s break these criteria down a bit further to define exactly what they mean.
Organic matter is defined as materials that are made of carbon-based compounds that can be found in nature. In short, the material should come from natural sources and have no negative impact on the environment, whether it be from injections used to make the matter appear more aesthetically pleasing, larger, and healthier, or artificially synthesized from materials not found within nature.
Vegan refers to someone who abstains from using any and all animal products, such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy, leather, and any other products that are either derived from animals or the substances that they produce. This is somewhat related to the term cruelty-free, which means that the product was developed without the use of experimentation on animals. Many cosmetic brands, and other companies, used to test on animals to study the effects of their products before testing on humans, but in recent years have moved to other testing methods in order to remove animals from the equation.
Palm oil free is exactly what it sounds like, where products labeled with a palm oil-free label mean that they don’t contain palm oil within them. However, the reasoning behind the palm oil-free movement may be less clear to the average consumer. The push behind the use for more palm oil free products is due to the social and environmental impact the production of palm oil has. It is a cheap and high-yielding ingredient but is produced in plantations at the cost of our Earth’s biodiversity and ecosystems. Indonesia, in particular, has sacrificed hectares of their rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations, which not only takes away the ecosystem and environment from the flora and fauna native to the area, causing the endangerment of species such as the orangutans, Sumantran tigers, rhinos, and elephants, but also takes away the rainforests from local communities who relied on the rainforests as a source of income.
Ethical sourcing of ingredients ensures that the ingredients used to make the products are obtained responsibly and sustainably, which includes fair wages for all workers involved, no violations of human rights throughout the process, clean and safe working conditions, and the consideration of the social and environmental impacts the production process may have on the local community.
Sustainable packaging, as the phrase suggests, refers to packaging that reduces its environmental footprint over time, either through the use of recycled materials, minimizing the production process’ environmental impact, introducing reusable packaging, and so on. The aim of sustainable packaging is to take into consideration the environmental, social, and economic impact of the packaging and production process on the local communities.
All of the criteria mentioned above are excellent ways to gauge the sustainability and eco-consciousness of a given brand, and even if you aren’t ready to take them all at once, you can start by just focusing on a few categories and moving forward from there.
5 Sustainable Beauty Brands
Given the criteria mentioned above, here are just five brands we recommend to help you move towards more sustainable beauty habits.
This perfume company takes sustainability and makes it look luxurious for every person. Their perfumes come in glass bottles and are packaged in cardboard boxes, both of which are sourced from recycled materials and are recyclable after its use. Alternatively, customers can also bring their bottles back to be refilled and receive a discount for doing so. Their ingredients are ethically sourced, vegan, and cruelty-free as the co-founders travel frequently to look into the global sources they use for their ingredients, and they produce their fragrances by hand on the spot. Or if you prefer, you can ask them to customize your own personal scent!
This brand is for those of you who like dyeing your hair into all sorts of crazy colors all year round. While Bleach London isn’t perfect and bleaching your hair in itself is a process that involves some harsh chemicals, this company is taking the steps to move towards a more sustainable process and brand. All their hair products are vegan and cruelty free, citing the belief that vegan shampoos are better for your hair and will help maintain moisture and stimulate your follicles. All the cardboard Bleach London uses is made of 100% recycled materials, and their recent initiatives to reduce plastic waste include launching their refillable glass bottles in January 2019, removing all single-use plastic tools from their bleach kits, toners, and dyes in March 2019, instead of providing a reusable coconut bowl as an alternative.
La Bouche Rouge
While their makeup and beauty product range might err on the high side of pricing, in the long run, it definitely seems worth it to invest in this brand. Their products are vegan and cruelty free (except for their leather cases, though they do sell vegan alternatives), they don’t use petrochemical derivatives and swear that their products don’t contain any form of microplastics. Their cases for all their makeup products are all refillable and/or recyclable, with the production lines and stores only using materials such as marble, glass, wood, paper, or metal for any and all packaging and decorating purposes. Their brushes are also made of castor plant fiber instead of microplastics, they refrain from printing their logo onto their makeup products to save molds in the process, and they utilize uniform cases for their poudriere in order to allow consumers to choose their preferred color and use the case for all their powders. With all these sustainability-focused practices in mind, it's hard not to like this brand!
This is another makeup and beauty product brand that takes sustainability and applies it holistically towards their business model. Their ingredients are organic and ethically sourced, along with being certified safe, which means it doesn’t contain the 5000+ toxic chemicals known to harm humans and the environment. Their products are also packaged in either glass or aluminum to reduce plastic waste and minimize the impact of the packaging process on the environment. They even post the results of their clinical trials on their website for people to look at, for a greater sense of transparency between the brand and its consumers.
Normally, glitter is considered one of the most unsustainable beauty products in the world due to the fact that most glitter products are made of petroleum-derived microplastics that don’t biodegrade and end up entering and littering our oceans and water systems. But, Bioglitz changes that as it makes its glitter from eucalyptus tree fibers. These fibers are ethically sourced from Forest Stewardship Council Certified suppliers, and this council also has standards in place for responsible forest management, ensuring that the resources are sustainably used by companies such as Bioglitz. The glitter is also non-toxic to humans or animals, and their products are made cruelty free. So if you’re a big fan of glitter but feel guilty about its impact on the environment, you needn’t worry and should give Bioglitz a shot!
Of course, these are just some of the many brands starting to move towards holistically sustainable practices, and there are so many more out there for you to find. But when you do, always remember to fact check and do some reading for yourself about the brands in question so that you are aware of whether they are actually sustainable, or if they are just greenwashing their products. If you want to learn more about sustainability in the beauty industry and what it should look like, greenwashing, or just environmentalism and sustainability in general, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, stay tuned for more blog posts, and follow us on Instagram @wellmadewrld !