First thing’s first: sustainability is an unregulated term. Since becoming increasingly trendy in recent years, nailing down what it actually means can be a challenge.
When it comes to sustainable beauty, there are also a myriad of labels which can be layered on top. Terms like “clean”, “green”, “natural”, and “cruelty-free” are all for the most part descriptors brands can slap on without having necessarily done the work to truly earn the title.
Nevertheless, now that we have more information than ever about the effects our purchases have on the environment (not to mention the fact that the planet is, like, literally on fire), thinking about how we do sustainable beauty is more important than ever.
We’ve pulled together some sustainability-focused beauty brands that are actually actively attempting to reduce their waste, minimise packaging and take care of our planet as much as they’re trying to take care of your face.
Truly a brand for the new age, Fluff is a beauty company unlike other beauty companies. Started by ex-Frank Body co-founder Erika Geraerts, the line is a minimalist dream in this nightmare maximalist world of $5,000 haul videos. Founder Geraerts told Smart Company, “There’s already enough makeup in the world, and we don’t need more products, we need better products with better brand messages.” I feel u.
The brand has so far kept its product line minimal. The Bronzing Powder and Lip Oil are all refillable (the face oil is refillable from their Fitzroy Studio), compacts and pans are plastic-free, and they’re 100% vegan and cruelty-free. They’re also looking to sign up for 1% for the planet and replace their current poly mailers (you know, those little plastic sleeves they send out products in) with compostable poly mailers by the end of 2020.
Oh did we also mention, the bronzer is very freakin’ good?
Created by a team of beauty bloggers, trained formulators and skincare experts, BYBI caught our attention with their line, which as well as being v pretty has environmental awareness high on its priorities. Founders Elsie Rutterford and Dom Minarovic told Syrup that, “Right now, to us, sustainable beauty = products that have the lowest possible impact on the earth, across all areas of a low-carbon supply chain. From transparent ingredient sourcing and biodegradability to manufacturing, packaging and recyclability.”
Featured trending ingredients including bakuchiol (the founders tell us “it boosts collagen production and reduces fine lines without any of the typical retinol side effects such as dryness, flakiness or increased photosensitivity”) and CBD (the non-get-you-high cannabinoid). BYBI focuses on renewable and ethical ingredients: the products often feature byproducts of the food industry (!!!) like juice pulp in their serums and are packaged in sugarcane bioplastic. The certified vegan and cruelty-free goodies are shipped in grass paper boxes.
If you’re in the UK there’s also a recycling program, and the founders told us if “demand was high enough, we could explore setting up localised ReBYBI systems in our international territories, shipping back to the UK to be sterilised and refilled in bulk.”
Australian skincare brand Sukin is a little bit of an unsung hero, imo. They make solid products are at a very pleasing price point (that is: a low one). The Cleansing Gel is one I fall back on a lot, especially when I’ve run out of cleanser and am only close to a Priceline or supermarket.
While there are essentials oils components in their products (sensitive skin might need to be wary here) the range is solid. For an affordable skincare brand, their creds are pretty good: Sukin is carbon neutral, cruelty-free, vegan, features recyclable packaging and is Australian made.
SKIN by ecostore
Across the pond in New Zealand, our friends at ecostore are also committed to planet preservation. ecostore uses certified sustainable palm oil in their cruelty-free line of skin and hair care—but wait, isn’t palm oil killing the planet? I repeat again, sustainability is a complex beast.
Sustainably grown palm oil is a healthier and safer alternative to petrochemicals and actually requires less land to grow that coconut oil, according to ecostore. Their products are also housed in sugar plastic, which is carbon-reducing and recyclable, sustainably sourced from Brazil. Like Sukin, this is another affordable buy that’s relatively easy to find in supermarkets. Sustainability still needs to be accessible after all.
Bulldog has been on our radar for a while, but in 2017 the British brand introduced ethically-sourced sugarcane plastic into its tubes. They also use a process called “single-vessel-quenching” in the manufacture of some of their products, which limits the amount of water heated and have also added a bamboo-handled razor in recycled packaging to their line.
Another beauty brand with excellent sustainability credentials is the cruelty-free New Zealand brand Ethique. Unlike typical solid cleansing bars, Ethique beauty bars are 100% soap-free and pH balanced—your skin’s delicate acid mantle will thank you for it.
The line is plastic-free, cruelty-free and vegan and has you covered for all types of solid hair, body and face products. Because they’re extremely concentrated as a result of being in solid form they also last a lot longer than your conventional bottles of liquid shampoo and body wash. (A nice win for the planet and your wallet.)
A sustainable beauty classic: RMS Beauty. The products were some of the best when they first entered the market and they still are, a testament to their formulations. And founder Rose Marie-Swift was an absolute trailblazer in the green beauty space.
Predominantly coconut oil based (this is the Rolls Royce of coconut oil btw, raw, cold-pressed organic, from young coconuts) RMS has you covered for gorgeous colour cosmetics and a minimal selection of skincare. The pots are recyclable glass, a design that’s been copied to hell but often in cheaper plastic versions, and their outer paper packaging is minimal and recyclable. Get fingerpainting.
Another pioneer in the sustainability space is the Italian hair care brand Davines. From as early as 2006 they were using renewable electric energy to supply it’s plants and offices and just last year they achieved B Corporation status. Not only are their hair conditioners cult faves (regulars on ITG) but every product formulated, designed and produced by Davines is obtained with 100% clean energy and the company has also now achieved carbon neutrality for packaging production.
If you haven’t seen these aesthetically pleasing bottles about yet (unlikely), let us introduce you to Herbivore. As well as looking gorgeous in your skincare cabinet—which I assume everyone has, right?—Herbivore is a line dedicated to sustainability at every level of their supply chain. They focus on well-formulated and effective products, using predominantly natural ingredients, many certified organic and their packaging is largely recyclable and reusable.
Okay, let’s start with the most important thing: body hair is normal. You don’t have to remove it if you don’t want to. I regularly go through phases of not bothering and it’s chill. That said if you do feel like feeling being a slippery smooth well-moisturised dolphin, definitely check out the Marzena Natural Wax Strips. They use natural pine resin to remove hair and work just as well (actually maybe better? I think?!) than conventional ones and are… wait for it… compostable. We have no choice but to stan.
Sometimes a multifunctional product means compromising somewhere (I’m still yet to be convinced by 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner) but this is not the case with Sans Ceuticals. Products like the Activator 7 Body + Hair + Face Oil can be used as a *deep breath* body oil, makeup remover, hair serum, facial serum, shave oil, dermatitis and eczema treatment. Unlike a lot of other multifuncs, it actually delivers in all of these uses.
Committed to not just clean ingredients and sustainability (being able to use one product for multiple things means cutting excess consumption) the Sans products are also extremely high performing. The Kiwi-brand dials up the active ingredients (from sustainable sources) and strips out a long list of things that are generally good to avoid, including silicones, artificial fragrances, petrochemicals and more.
Truly the creme de la creme of sustainable luxury beauty, Kjær Weis makes products that are not only an aesthetes dream (that weighty metal packaging hnghhhh) but also high-performance and natural.
The compacts are hefty yes, but they’re designed to be used over and over again—the brand believes makeup should be good for your skin, but also good for the planet. The refills are minimally packaged and nearly all the products are certified natural or certified organic by Italy’s certification body, which is where they’re made.
Earth Tu Face
Trust Californians to create a skincare line that’s making apothecary style skincare that we actually want to use. Inside these minimal but pleasing bottles and jars are plant extracts chosen by herbalists and quality organic and wildcrafted ingredients, many of which come from their organic garden.
You won’t find any alcohols, GMO ingredients, synthetic ingredients or dyes in the cruelty free line. And the packaging itself? Largely reusable, compostable and recyclable. Making being a hippie chic again.
With a blended design and fashion/beauty background, it makes sense that Ilia founder Sasha Plavsic would make one of the sleekest looking beauty brands on this list. Plavsic did her research about various conventional beauty brands and created her own versions of best selling shades in botanically based formulas. Their best selling lip conditioner shade ‘Arabian Knights’ is the perfect sheer berry tint, based off the iconic Clinique shade ‘Black Honey.’
The packaging is not only beautiful but also sustainably-minded, recycled aluminium never looked so good.
The Jojoba Company
Since launching in 2008, this homegrown Aussie skincare brand has built sustainability into their packaging, ingredients and sourcing. Did you know jojoba is actually a ~carbon neutral~ plant and one of the few things that actually grows well on this large desert island? The formulations are based on natural ingredients and the packaging is environmentally friendly. Plus the Jojoba Water Toning Mist is *chef kiss* perfect, no random squirts to the face here.
The Source Bulk Foods
The best packaging is no packaging. While you’re picking up your pantry supplies from a bulk food store, have a look at their personal and body care section. We’re flagging The Source here but google for what’s around you.
The Source and other bulk food and packaging-free stores are a great place to find things like reusable cotton rounds, soaps, and hair and body products without packaging. Also great for buying mammoth amounts of soy crisps to shovel into your mouth while you do that DIY activated charcoal mask. Bring along an old empty bottle and refill, reuse, and refuse more waste.