Now more than ever, the world is waking up to the importance of handling waste effectively. We are now rescuing more and more plastic from landfill, making changes such as opting for reusable alternatives and replacing single-use carrier bags with. Many of us aim to recycle as much as we can but, until fairly recently, beauty has lagged behind when it comes to sustainably packaged products.
It’s in a company’s best interest to make significant steps towards a more conscious approach as sustainability has become a key driver of consumer purchasing. Despite this, 71% of consumers believe beauty brands are not doing enough to curb their waste.
However, the eco tables are turning and mounting pressure to minimise environmental impact has led more and more of our favourite brands to now look for ways to house products responsibly – opting for biodegradable boxes, choosing glass or recyclable bottles and offering refills to limit the quantity destined for landfill.
According to a recent study, 40% of people in the UK are worried about climate change and with this are becoming more conscious of their choices when buying.
In the past, consumers have been fooled by companies who have used greenwashing – the act of companies manipulating statistics or disguising bad eco-practices through clever marketing campaigns, to convince us that their actions are sustainable even though at times they have not been.
Korean cosmetic brand Innisfree was recently accused of greenwashing when a product claiming to be a paper bottle was found to be mostly plastic. Customers were outraged by the misleading marketing even after the brand issued a statement explaining the apparent misunderstanding.
Consumers are becoming far more eco-savvy and as more companies are held to account and make real changes to become more eco-friendly, those who continue to greenwash and mislead the public will lose their customers to authentic eco-conscious brands.
Consumers are also beginning to change their approach to making shopping choices. 92% of consumers now say minimalist, eco-friendly, or biodegradable packaging is important to them over opulent and lavish design, driving a minimalist packaging trend.
A great number of brands are opting for a “debranded” design, stripping back packaging to simplistic and bare components. The likes of Glossier and Typology are strong examples of brands leading the way. It seems the loudest voice is now the quietest. We’re seeing brands ditching plastic film windows, using air as the packing medium for fragile products and reducing the use of tapes, adhesives and fillers with cosmetics giants like Garnier introducing shampoo bars that ditch plastic packaging entirely. The pressure applied to these brands by their sustainably conscious consumers is leading to an authentic change within the industry.
Plastic has long been a favourite for cosmetic packaging. It’s durability, endless options and low cost has made it the ideal choice. However, as the world turns its back on single-use plastics, a suitable alternative has needed to step up to the plate.
Legislation to ban the use of non-recyclable plastics in sachets is a hot topic and looks to be set in place soon – with 79% of people in support of the move. This has led to a number of brands bursting on the scene with greener alternatives.
Cosmetic giant L’Oréal has cut its reliance on non-renewable resources by 39% and is moving towards lightweight, sustainably sourced paper, cardboard, and wood-fibre packaging. Meanwhile, trendy skincare favourite REN, have gone one step further, by launching the first – and hopefully not the last range of products that’s not only entirely recyclable, but also made from recycled materials. With an innovative metal-free pump, their Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash is packaged in a bottle that’s made with at least 20% recovered ocean plastic, salvaged from seas, beaches and waterways.
Even colour can have an impact. Most responsible brands are now phasing out the use of black plastic packaging as the machinery used at the sorting stage in recycling plants struggles to detect the carbon black pigment.
More and more brands are exploring the potential of sustainable plastic alternatives, using everything from corn to seaweed, bamboo, and coffee. A move to more sustainable options will significantly limit the excessive use of plastic by the cosmetics industry.
Another way brands are reducing waste is by offering to refill products when empty eliminating excess waste and meaning you won’t have a pile up of your favourite perfume bottles accumulating on your vanity table.
This means brands need to invest more in packaging and design, ensuring containers will last for years using materials with longevity. Introducing stylish packaging made out of durable materials like glass or metal can help to encourage a ‘refill first mentality’. Refills are then sold in simple recyclable glass bottles or packets that can be transferred into the original container, some brands will even fill up in store.
L’Occitane is a cosmetic brand that was one of the first to introduce refillable products whilst a number of others followed, launching its first refill concept in 2008, letting consumers top up their existing products with replacements that come in biodegradable sachets. They’ve estimated that they use 90% less plastic per bottle and have saved more than 170 tonnes of plastic a year.
For a generation of Instagram users, aesthetically pleasing packaging is everything. As stylish as they are sustainable, OUAI Haircare has released refills of their chic shampoo and conditioners. The supersized 946ml refill pouch is the equivalent of just over three full-sized bottles for the price of only two, meaning consumers can benefit from lower price points because they’ve already made an upfront investment in the refillable packaging, repeat purchases are simply for the product, not the packaging.
With terms like greenwashing making their way into our everyday vocab, it can be difficult to know whether the brands you are investing in are really as squeaky-clean as they claim. We have taken the guesswork out of becoming your best eco-savvy self, here are some of the brands who are taking serious sustainable strides.
Glow Recipe have made reducing their environmental footprint a huge part of their mission. Working on a no-waste partnership with Terracycle which allows customers to easily recycle empty packaging through their program, many of their products are housed in 100% recyclable packaging and are made from 20% recycled glass. Try the Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner for a poreless complexion and zero eco-guilt.
Larry King Hair is another brand committed to caring for your locks and the planet. With new ranges of shampoos and conditioner housed in refillable glass bottles, the beautiful range doesn’t compromise aesthetics on their quest for a sustainable approach. Using glass, aluminium and FSC certified card throughout their ‘Wash Cycle’, this trio of styling essentials is boxed using biodegradable card with wildflower seeds so that if they end up escaping into the wild, they should sprout some forget-me-nots.
Plenaire meaning ‘in the open air’, is committed to making beauty transparent and placing as much importance on self-care as they do on skincare. This female-owned brand with its playful style ensures that every formula is Carbon Neutral – they work with Climate Partner to calculate their Climate Footprint, reducing emissions where possible and have accomplished 100% recyclable packaging. Try the Rose Jelly Gentle Makeup Remover for super fresh and dewy skin that is naturally radiant.
The luxury brand’s first venture into cosmetics was met with great anticipation and it’s sustainable approach has made it even more desirable. Designed by renowned shoe designer Pierre Hardy, the elegant lipstick bullets are lacquered, brushed and polished metal in black, white or permabrass gold—assembled by hand, these items are made to last and to be reused countless times with their lustrous silky lipstick formulas.
Glossier’s minimalist packaging and millennial pink everything has quickly become an aesthetic merchants go-to. They are also committed to making their brand as sustainably conscious as they can. Their iconic pink, bubble wrap pouches once came with every order, however in 2019 they launched their limited packaging initiative which allowed customers to opt out of any packaging extras when ordering on the website. Since launching, customers have selected Limited Packaging more than 250,000 times.
The Body Hero Exfoliating Bar is made using bamboo powder that gives the ultimate smoothing effect and is fully biodegradable, plus it comes with no plastic packaging at all!