In 2021, sustainable beauty brands are more prevalent and popular than ever
In the words of Kermit the Frog, it’s not that easy being green. But we have to start somewhere and it might as well be with one of the best sustainable beauty brands.
Thankfully, as with finding sustainable fashion brands, that’s a lot easier to do today than ever before.
Green beauty has finally hit critical mass. And although few, if any, beauty brands can claim to be ‘100% sustainable’ or zero waste, recent years have proven that eco-friendly credentials and quality products needn’t be mutually exclusive. This also appeals to a powerful new kind of consumer, who believes in sustainable living but is still a sucker for luxury products.
‘Buyers are savvier than ever before,’ says Victoria Buchanon, a trend analyst at The Future Laboratory. ‘Millennials, in particular, see nature and tech as living together. They read ingredients or notice if packaging is not recyclable and they will call brands out on it.’
A new era for sustainable beauty brands
Even premium beauty buyers have purred with delight at eco-friendly offerings from brands like REN Clean Skincare. It managed to achieve the impossible by housing the dreamy-smelling Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium Anti-Fatigue Body Wash (£22, Lookfantastic) in a completely recycled bottle, containing 20% reclaimed ocean plastic.
According to a report by the Soil Association*, 79% of people are more likely to buy a product if it says ‘organic’. Meanwhile 64% of consumers said they were looking for products with recyclable packaging. So it’s not too surprising, then, that the natural skincare market is expected to grow by 5% each year between now and 2027**.
But the biggest turnaround comes from big name, high street brands. For instance, you’ll find the Soil Association’s logo on Garnier’s Organic Skincare in recognition of its green credentials. In March 2021, the brand also announced all of its products are now certified by Cruelty Free International’s Leaping Bunny programme – something that took 18 months of investigation to ensure both suppliers and ingredients are ‘iron clad’. The logo will be rolled out across all packaging over the next year.
* Soil Association 2020 Organic Market Report for Beauty & Wellbeing
** Natural Skincare Products Market Share Report, 2020-2027
Why you should care about recycling your beauty packaging
Zero Waste Week have reported that over 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the cosmetics industry. Sadly, much of this is not recyclable.
Of the product packaging we can recycle, four in 10 of us don’t. This means aerosol cans and the cardboard boxes your face cream come in end up in landfill.
So apart from scanning the ingredients list for sustainable ingredients, what other small changes can we make?
‘Invest in a bathroom recycling bin for starters. And choose both glass and aluminium over plastic packaging,’ says Rachelle Strauss, founder of Zero Waste Week. ‘Both can be recycled over and over again without loss of quality.’
They also stand a better chance of actually being recycled. ’75 per cent of aluminium ever made is still in circulation, thanks to it being the most cost effective material to recycle,’ Strauss adds. 60 per cent of our glass bottles and jars are also currently recycled.’
If you’d like to make a change, the Marie Claire team has put together a handy guide on how to recycle beauty products.
Refillable beauty brands – what’s the deal?
Refilling, rather than recycling, saves the energy needed to sort, process and repurpose or transform materials into something new.
Founded by the creator of Terracycle, Loop is a global shopping platform that works with retailers to reduce recycling and single-use plastic by ensuring that when you’ve finished with a product, it is returned to them for refilling and delivered straight to your doorstep again.
Fragrance brands have also entered the refillable beauty space, which makes sense as you can now top up your signature scent for less in the form of sustainable fragrances.
Perfume containers are notoriously difficult to recycle locally – but that won’t be a problem from now on. For added ease, you can top-up your Lancôme Idôle fragrance in the same pink flacon at over 200 Lancôme counters.
According to Armani, the 50ml My Way bottle and 150 ml refill bottle use 32% less cardboard, 55% less glass, 64% less plastic and 75% less metal than their traditional spray bottle counterparts.
Whether you’re new to sustainable beauty brands or unsure where to start looking for zero waste products, below are some of the Marie Claire team’s favourites. And when you’re done here, be sure to check out our guide on how to make your beauty routine more eco friendly.
Here’s to all of us doing our bit for the planet…
The brand name pretty much says it all. Cruelty-free testing is key to its philosophy; others include CO2 emission reduction and use of sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients such as organic coconut oil. Oh and did we mention the way this leaves a heavenly scent trail of rose petals on your newly nourished hair? Proof that you don't have to break the bank to save the planet.
UpCircle has made a name for itself as the upcycling indie brand, which takes everything from coffee grounds to fruit stones, and repurposes them into sustainable beauty products. Swap disposable cotton pads and wipes for this 7-pack of eco-friendly, washable makeup pads, made from hemp and cotton.
These tube-free 3-in-1 crayons for eyes, lips and cheeks are wrapped in recyclable paper and can be kept in their recyclable box, handmade from recycled trash by a women’s cooperative in Bali. This juicy orange shade makes even the dullest skin sing with a pop of fresh colour, antioxidants and hydrating plum oil. Dreamy.
Caudalie made many of us aware that each year 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen pollute the oceans and end up in coral reefs worldwide. The main culprits are oxybenzone and octinoxate, found in around 3,500 sunscreen formulas, as they cause fatal coral bleaching. Consequently, Caudalie created high factor sunscreens that avoid these ingredients, are biodegradable and non-toxic to the marine eco system. Also nice: organic grapeseed oil ramps up hydration while antioxidant-rich polyphenols from grape seeds add another layer of wrinkle-fighting protection.
As a first step to erasing disposable beauty, Molton Brown partnered up with Loop. You’re now able to order three Molton Brown Fine Liquid Hand Washes from Loop: Orange and Bergamot, Delicious Rhubarb and Rose and Coastal Cypress and Sea Fennel, all housed in 200ml glass bottles designed for refilling and reusing. We love the marine notes, cedar wood and bergamot in this one, transporting us straight to the rugged British coast.
Winner of a Marie Claire Hair Award for Most Sustainable Formula, this shampoo is 100% Carbon Neutral, has a 98.2% biodegradable formula and contains a special surfactant (Quercetano olive oil) chosen to help preserve biodiversity. It also leaves hair irresistibly soft. Excellent stuff.
Whether you’re dealing with stubborn acne scars, hormones or sun damage, this clean, vegan brightening cream helps to reduce dark spots and even out skin tone. Also worth a mention is the completely recyclable packaging, which sets the bar high for other skincare brands: a jar made from recyclable glass, a cap made from post-consumer recycled plastic, even the shive is made up of recyclable plastic. We expect nothing less from this pioneering brand that has pledged to be 100% waste free by 2021.
When a product’s ingredient list begins with pure aloe vera juice and coconut water, you know you’re on to a good thing. Maui Moisture has replaced the chemically-treated water, which makes up approximately 65 per cent of most shampoo ranges, with these kind to hair (and planet) alternatives. Even the bottle resembles a good-for-you smoothie, while inside you’ll find bamboo fibres to beef up spindly strands. Plus, vegan botanicals, which are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to repair. Genius.
A good-for-skin soap that also exfoliates thanks to rosemary and peppermint leaf powders. This bath bar is sold in plastic-free packaging for less waste. What’s not to love? Very little, as it’s also free of chemicals like SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) that make traditional foamy shower gels lather up. Even fussy skin will be appeased by this one.
If you could bottle sipping perfectly chilled Prosecco in an English country garden in summer – this would be it. Created in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society, beautiful white florals and soft powdery sandalwood are combined with the scent of English rhubarb and an unexpected blast of saltiness. Things get better still when you discover that 5% of sales goes back to the RHS and the fragrance packaging is a biodegradable pulp carton - a first for the world of fragrance. We’re re-purposing ours as a seed tray for herbs.
Produced in small batches in the UK, this organic deodorant balm is housed in a plastic-free tin, which can be refilled at 34 different locations nationwide. Made from just seven ingredients, including coconut oil, shea butter and olive oil, the deodorants are free from aluminium salts and chemicals and come in four different natural fragrances including this zest orange oil blend.
Not only does this tick an eco box for being packaged in an aluminium tube but it also makes dull skin sing with vitamin-rich pumpkin, apricot seed powder, oat kernel protein and vitamin E.
The Klorane Botanical Foundation develops programs to protect ecosystems around the world while also discovering natural ingredients for hair. Currently, it is using aquatic mint to purify water polluted by heavy metals from an old mining site in France and applying that knowledge to haircare. The success of planting aquatic mint on the banks of the river and using the root inside filtering columns, has made it the star ingredient inside this shampoo for city tresses. Not only is the formula biodegradable but it removes 97% of polluting particles from scalp and strands.
The Body Shop has always been a force for good. Its goal for 2020 is to protect a whopping 10,000 hectacres of forest and regenerate 75 million square metres of habitat. In between all that it has also managed to make cellulose and plastic polymer sheet masks redundant. Plump, juicy skin in just 15 minutes, we hear you ask? Hell yeah, then afterwards you just place the mask in your compost bin where it degrades within a month.
One of eight skincare products featuring sustainably sourced ingredients. This one centres on organic lavandin essential oil, which is extracted from the flower using a ninth century steam distillation process, and helps to purify pores for a clear, dewy canvas.
This brand is founded on ‘green molecular science’ using ingredients grown on the 270-acre estate of the Borgo Santo Pietro Hotel in Tuscany. What this means is applying molecular science to natural ingredients, so every product works on multiple layers of the skin. The entire production process is kept in house, ensuring total traceability when it comes to raw materials, extraction methods and formulation. We rate this face oil as it combines rose extracts with hyaluronic acid and vitamins A to deeply hydrate and improve cell turnover, leading to brighter, fresher skin.
The equivalent of three bottles of liquid shampoo in one solid bar, it pairs coconut oil and cocoa butter with peppermint to cleanse your scalp and smooth hair strands.
It’s the same nourishing rice milk base and soothing scent of cherry blossom. But in a refill that’s healthier for the planet (and your budget) as it saves 70 per cent in CO2 emissions and uses 45 per cent less water. Simply slot inside the original pot.
Gwyneth Paltrow fangirls over Tata Harper’s products, which she makes on a 1,200-acre farm in Vermont, USA. A beauty spin on farm-to-table, this farm-to-face brand is responsible for the entire formulation process. Something that is no small feat when you consider this serum alone has 69 high-performing botanical ingredients to wage war on pigmentation. ‘Traditional skincare often uses synthetic versions of natural ingredients and a lot of preservatives, so they may already be two years old when you open the box,’ says Harper. ‘We grow many of our own herbs, fruits and vegetables, then cold-press and blend them with a carrier oil to capture all the nutrients and freshness.’ Harper also insists on only using soy-based ink on the cardboard presentation boxes as it has a low petrochemical content and is easier to remove during the recycling process.
Too many pesticides and too few diverse crops is causing colonies of bees to die off at an alarming rate. Our entire ecosystem depends on their saving. One beauty brand, which relies on honey for its skincare, is going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that happens. Guerlain has discovered that the Royal Jelly produced exclusively by black bees on an island in Brittany stimulates the Tieg-1 gene, which skin needs to repair collagen and boost elasticity. Sustainable amounts are sourced for this serum. But more importantly, Guerlain has sponsored a full-time beekeeper to look after the 140 hives and raises awareness by lobbying government and visiting schools. All of which has us positively buzzing.
Not only is this bath soak with jojoba seed oil, mineral-rich Epsom salts and soothing essential oils 100% natural. It’s also made in small batches by people who are blind, disabled or disadvantaged. And the goodness doesn’t stop there. This mineral soak has been crafted with Fairtrade dried tea leaves from NEMI Teas, which provides employment for refugees in the UK.
The hero ingredient in this daily moisturiser is sea kelp, which is sustainably harvested by hand only twice a year before undertaking a three-month bio-fermentation process. To give back to its precious resource, the brand launched the Blue Heart Oceans Fund, which supports conservation projects around the world. In the past this has included the restoration of mangrove trees and rebuilding coral reefs.