Switching to sustainable beauty products? This is 411

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The beauty industry is booming. According to the NPD, the first half of 2022 sees people with household incomes of $100,000 or more increase their cosmetics consumption by 14% year-over-year, spending nearly $9 billion on jewelry. points, skin care and the like. And while many of the most popular beauty brands are indeed making strides in the sustainability arena, the industry’s growth rates coupled with general confusion over what qualifies a product as “durable”. sustainability” creates a complicated conversation around consumerism.

As with most marketing terms that aren’t tied to a verified certification system, descriptive words like “clean” or “sustainable” are often associated with beauty products to get you in the direction of your dollar. yourself while diverting your attention away from what’s actually in them. “The cosmetics industry is one of the most unsustainable in the world,” said Lorraine Dallmeier, biologist, environmentalist and CEO of Formula Botanica. “Most of these cosmetics are not created with eco-design principles in mind, which means that our use of beauty products has the potential to pollute ecosystems around the world with harmful chemicals. non-biodegradable formula.”

While many of our topical medications will eventually drift quietly down the drain, out of sight certainly doesn’t mean out of the environment. “The chemicals we use on and in our bodies maintain their properties in seawater,” says Lea d’Auriol, founder of the NGO Oceanic Global. They are ingested by marine life and can then re-enter the human body, where they can increase the risk of endocrine disorders and disease.” The World Oceans Assessment found chemicals from consumer products such as pharmaceuticals and personal care everywhere in the ocean. “The wastewater management systems we have globally are not designed to filter these chemicals,” she said. “People are always talking about plastic, and yes, it’s a big deal, but the problem is equally complex—we just can’t see it.”

Opting for more natural ingredients is actually a better choice for the environment when it comes to product flow — but their inclusion doesn’t necessarily make a certain beauty product sustainable.

What is a sustainable beauty product?

This is a complex question, but Dallmeier advocates a simple definition: “Sustainable beauty products are products that can be manufactured to meet lasting consumer needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs,” she said.

Packaging issues aside (and those abound), Dallmeier notes that there are very few ingredients that are definitely sustainable, as natural and synthetic additives go through a whole life cycle before Find your way into your precious products. “Sustainability is entirely dependent on how an ingredient is grown, harvested, sourcing, processed, synthesized, transported and used in manufacturing,” she says. “The sustainability of growing, aggregating and sourcing ingredients will vary from site to site, from grower to grower, from lab to lab, and even from lab to lab. likely from one wave to another.”

Dallmeier says that sourcing sustainable ingredients is important, but it is “a side effect of the rampant consumption encouraged by the mainstream cosmetics industry,” she continued. “We cannot foster infinite economic growth using finite natural resources at every level of the supply chain.”

From a production point of view, a truly sustainable future will translate into reduced mass and wider adoption of circularity. But for those of us looking to make a difference today, there are a few things to look for when switching to sustainable products.

1. Organic Ingredients

For starters, keep an eye on organic ingredients whenever possible. “Organic agriculture promotes wildlife and environmental stewardship of the land, and is based on a range of internationally recognized principles of health, ecology, equity and care,” said Dallmeier. care, have a holistic vision of sustainability”.

The USDA Organic seal means the ingredients in your beauty products have been regulated through the National Organic Program. NSF International indicates a formula that is 70% organic, and Ecocert’s COSMOS certification also takes into account the production and packaging of organic products.

2. Sustainability Certification

While USDA Organic certification is great, it’s just the beginning on the sustainability certification front. Many beauty products—including skin care, makeup, and hair care—can be Fair Trade Certified, which means products are manufactured to “strict standards that promote sustainable livelihoods.” and safe working conditions, environmental protection and supply strong, transparent shackles.”

There are also FSC-certified products, which say wooden and/or bamboo items such as makeup brush handles or skincare bottle caps “come from responsibly managed forests that benefit environmental, social and economic benefits”. Not every product will represent every sustainability label, but it’s a good sign a brand takes the time to get one.

3. Versatile Formula

Once you’ve made a list of the beauty brands you want to support, try choosing products that serve multiple purposes. While we all love luxury cosmetics, choosing long-lasting and multi-functional products is definitely the more sustainable choice.

We’re not talking about two-in-one conditioners here. Instead, think pigments that can be used on eyelids, cheeks and eyelids, all-purpose balms, any product in bar form (thick formula meant to reduce water footprint) and less plastic), etc

4. Claim “Free”

While it’s important to consider what ingredients in a beauty product are, it’s also helpful to find out what Not consists of. Looking for a “free-off” list on the packaging of a product you’re interested in can tell you a lot about the sustainability of that product. For example, a product that is free of parabens, synthetic dyes, and petrochemicals is more environmentally friendly than a product that contains them.

5. End of life plan

Most beauty brands say their plastic packaging is recyclable. In fact, despite the recycling symbol, only 32% of recyclable materials are actually recycled in the United States. That’s especially true of beauty products, as they often require special care to avoid landfilling.

That’s why finding brands that share end-of-life plans for their products can make all the difference. Do they have a recharge program in place? Do they accept empty bins for recycling to ensure those materials don’t end up in the trash? Companies that focus on circularity are thinking about all of stages in the life cycle of a product.

Just remember: You don’t have to be perfect to reduce your environmental impact. Like everything else, sustainability is about the long game. By making sure that the majority of the changes you make to your beauty regimen are sustainable for you and the planet, you’re sure to make a difference.


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