For a sector focused on making everything aesthetically pleasing, the beauty industry is rife with some very unbecoming sustainability issues.
The degradation of forests and agricultural land for raw materials like palm oil, the use of toxic chemicals that are wiping out marine life as they make their way into our water systems, animal testing (yes, it’s still common practice), and endless packaging waste are just the tip of the proverbial (melting) iceberg.
The criteria for choosing more sustainable beauty products is really the same as making any conscious consumption choice, which boils down to: How were the raw materials sourced? How was the product manufactured? How was it packaged? And – the real clincher for all of us – do I really need this?
If you’re thinking that it sounds like a lot of work to shop more consciously for beauty products, you’re right.
Thankfully, more companies these days are dedicated to making it easy for you. We sought advice on where consumers should start when it comes to shopping eco-consciously for beauty products, from some of the brands setting incredible sustainability benchmarks for the industry.
Melissa Chelminiak, Global Director of Mission Partnerships and Engagement, Aveda.
Founded in Minneapolis in 1978, Aveda is one of the few companies that can legitimately claim to have pioneered sustainability in the beauty industry. It was the first beauty company to receive a Cradle to Cradle charter for its commitment to sustainable products, packaging and production and In 2013, Aveda was honored with the first Cradle to Cradle Legacy Leaders Award for its pioneering role in environmental leadership. The main Aveda campus is situated on a 58-acre National Wildlife Federation Certified habitat, where there are honeybee colonies, an employee-curated vegetable garden, electric vehicle charging stations and an abundance of wildlife. We could go on, but we simply don’t have the editorial space.
“One of the most simple yet impactful choices consumers can make is to purchase beauty products that are 100% vegan and cruelty free,” Melissa said. “Not only are they better for human health, but they also help save animals, help preserve natural resources and help reduce carbon emissions. That one small step of choosing vegan and cruelty free results in a triple win for helping to protect people, animals and planet! At Aveda, we are so proud to offer consumers 100% vegan and cruelty free products that do not sacrifice the performance that they’re seeking.”
Anna Mitsios, Founder, Edible Beauty
Edible Beauty is an Australian brand that pledges onshore production, recyclable packaging, and use of the highest level of ‘edible’ purity with the use of sustainable and wildcrafted ingredients.
“Consumers need to look beyond recycling programs to companies that are conscious of their global impacts,” Anna said.
“We need to be thinking about the use of natural, biodegradable ingredients that are not harmful to our marine life. This means avoiding products that contain synthetic fragrances, silicones, plasticisers, microbeads, chemical sunscreens and nano-particles.
“We pledge that our ingredients list is not harmful to ourselves or our marine life, with a “food-grade” purity level. We offer a physical sunscreen made with zinc oxide which is reef friendly. Customers can also select to have one dollar from their order donated to preserving our Great Barrier Reef. In terms of packaging, we primarily use glass which we encourage our customers to upcycle. Watch this space as we move towards more zero-waste packaging.”
Brianne West, Founder, Ethique
Ethique is one of the few beauty companies to have achieved B Corp accreditation and is well known for its range of gorgeous smelling concentrates and beauty bars.
Ethique founder Brianne West said consumers needed to first define what was important to them and then look at all areas of a brand including their ingredients, packaging and any accreditations: “Look for certifications but find out what those stamps actually mean. What you would call animal cruelty may not be what the SPCA (or other animal rights organisation) does so the standards some certify may not match your requirements.
“Also, read labels! Yes, it’s a legal requirement that labels use the scientific (INCI) names for ingredients (most people of course don’t know what they are or are scared of them because they are reluctant to use products that they can’t easily identify and pronounce) but once you figure out what you’re looking for or what you’re trying to avoid, you’ll become a great detective shopper.
“Figure out what you care about, consider what you’re realistically able to do and make small changes. You will get there, but the chances of it becoming impossible to keep-up are lessened if you realise it can’t be done all at once. Don’t feel guilty that you are not perfect, and ignore the people who laugh at you for trying to make a difference if you are not doing everything at once. Change is gradual.”
Rina Timpano, Founder, Rinascentia
Boutique Australian brand Rinascentia picked up a swag of Clean + Conscious Awards last year and is looking set to do the same this year, with six products nominated as finalists across the beauty categories. The brand is known for multitasking and high performing formulations, with some ingredients sourced directly from founder Rina Timpano’s toxin-free garden.
“The thing to be more conscious about, and one of my company’s main focus, is packaging,” Rina says. “There is an incredible amount of recyclable plastic in landfill. With glass jars, you can use every bit of the product so no wastage. They are refillable and I even use our Hydrating Sea Mineral or Mood Enhancing mist bottles as vases.
“Also look at the back of the ingredients list. Less fillers and thickeners like xanthan gum means more active ingredients in every bottle.”
Bex Gold, Founder, Department of Brands (Bar None, Kyn, BRITE, Spot Medic)
Multi-brand beauty group Department of Brands prides itself on nurturing affordable, trend-driven, ethical products, with founder Bex Gold making waves as an innovator and disruptor.
“The first step is to use up what you already have so nothing goes to waste,” Bex said. “If you don’t want to use it then you can try donating items to friends or family!
“Next – start simple. People can become overwhelmed by the idea of sustainability as we often associate it with making big adjustments to our lifestyle. But this doesn’t have to be the case. We can start by making small changes in our everyday lives, like switching the plastic water bottle for a reusable one, introducing a compost bin into your kitchen, or replacing bottled products with easy shampoo and conditioner bars.
“When making ethical beauty purchases, look for trusted labels like vegan and cruelty-free. This is a great place to start. You can also look into zero waste packaging or refill options – beauty products that end up in landfill aren’t very beautiful for our environment.
“Take it a step further and think about how long your product will last. For example, a single Bar None shampoo bar can last up to 12 months. This is around 3 times longer than a shampoo bottle.
It’s all about looking for brands that share similar values to you, whether that’s zero-waste packaging or using natural ingredients in their products. Stay away from synthetics or ingredients you know cause harm to the environment, like palm oil, and choose brands that are transparent about where they source their ingredients.
“When in doubt, you can always ask the company any questions you have to ensure you have all the information you need to make an educated and trusted purchase.”