The cosmetics industry is making strides towards sustainability, with more and more companies embracing responsible production methods and ethical sourcing practices. Sustainable beauty refers to creating products that have minimal impact on the environment, are made from natural ingredients, do not require animal cruelty in production and are safe for people to use. With this directory we aim to provide an overview of the products, companies and standards involved in sustainable beauty. To dig in in more detail, search this category within CommonShare.

2. Benefits of Sustainability in the Cosmetics Industry

A. Environmental Benefits

  • Reduced chemical pollution: A leading benefit of sustainable beauty is the reduction in the amount of chemicals released into the environment by eliminating synthetic fragrances, harmful preservatives and dyes used in conventional cosmetics. Sustainable beauty brands also focus on using ethical sourcing practices and high-quality ingredients that have been certified organic or biodynamically grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides.

  • Reduced packaging waste: Another major benefit of sustainable beauty is a reduction in packaging waste which can be damaging to the environment when it ends up in landfills, oceans and waterways. Sustainable beauty companies focus on creating minimalistic packaging where possible, often using recyclable materials such as glass jars, cardboard boxes and paper labels instead of plastic containers which can take centuries to decompose. These companies often offer refill options for their products so consumers don’t have to buy new packaging every time they need refills, further reducing their overall waste output.

B. Social Benefits

Sustainable beauty has numerous social benefits for both individuals and society.

  • Improved physical health: By using sustainable beauty products, individuals can protect themselves from the potentially dangerous chemicals found in conventional cosmetics, because they are generally created without harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance which have been linked to increased risk for reproductive issues, hormone disruption, allergies, asthma, endocrine disruption, infertility and cancer.

  • Animal welfare: Sustainable beauty practices are also beneficial for animal welfare since many organic makeup brands refuse animal testing when formulating their products thus showing respect for animal life worldwide.

  • Promotion of fair labor standards: Sustainable beauty products are often made with ingredients sourced from fair trade practices and/or organic farming methods. By supporting these types of operations, workers are given a fair wage for their labor and are provided with safe working conditions. In addition to supporting communities and small businesses, by providing them with a valuable source of income that can help reduce poverty levels.

C. Economic Benefits

  • Sustainable beauty products are often more cost-effective in the long run, as they do not require frequent replacement. This economic benefit can sometimes benefit the consumer more than the producer.

  • Sustainable beauty companies can help reduce costs associated with waste management and disposal.

  • Sustainable standards can lead to increased efficiency and productivity, resulting in lower operational costs for businesses.

  • Sustainable practices can also lead to better brand recognition and customer loyalty, which can result in higher sales revenues.

3. Producing Sustainable Cosmetics

A. Materials & Inputs

Sustainable beauty manufacturers must be aware of the supply chain that supports their product – making sure each ingredient is sourced sustainably and fairly throughout all stages of production.

  • Organic and natural ingredients: recycled materials, and Fair Trade-certified supplies. Sustainable beauty products typically contain plant-based oils, butters, waxes, and extracts. Avoid animal testing which means choosing materials that are not derived from animals.

  • Eco-friendly packaging – Sustainable beauty products may also include environmental packaging such as glass bottles or biodegradable containers made from renewable resources like sugar cane or corn starch.

  • Conscious formulations – meaning they exclude harsh chemicals or synthetics that may cause harm to people or the environment. Emphasize the use of fair trade practices with farmers who cultivate natural raw materials responsibly and ethically.

  • Reduce waste in production processes, such as using renewable energy sources for manufacturing equipment and reducing water usage during product development.

B. Innovative Technologies

To create sustainable beauty products, a variety of technologies are being used to reduce the environmental impact while still creating high-quality cosmetics, such as:

  • Bio-plastics: Bio-plastics are made from natural renewable materials instead of petroleum-based plastics, thus allowing them to be biodegradable and compostable. In addition to being eco-friendly, these materials have a much lower carbon footprint than traditional plastics because they do not require any additional energy inputs for production.

  • Lab-grown ingredients: Lab-grown ingredients are gaining traction in the beauty industry due to their potential to drastically cut down on resources used in conventional ingredient sourcing. By replicating the production process of plant extracts with artificial components, cosmetic companies can now produce their own versions of natural extracts without having to harvest plants or animals in large quantities. This not only eliminates animal cruelty but also reduces the use of herbicides and fertilizers which can pollute waterways and soils when overused in agricultural production.

  • Waterless ingredients: Waterless ingredients allow brands to eliminate water from their formulations and reduce waste associated with water disposal while still offering quality performance. Waterless products contain mainly active ingredients that provide hydration or skin conditioning benefits instead of relying on fillers like water or alcohols that can disrupt sensitive skin areas if used too frequently.

  • Post-consumer recycled materials (PCR): Beauty Brands are now utilizing PCR plastics from items such as detergent bottles or food containers to reduce waste while creating something new and beneficial out of something that may have otherwise ended up in landfills or incinerators. Sustainable beauty brands like Kjaer Weis have embraced this trend and are committed to using PCR plastic packaging whenever possible.

4. Leading Sustainable Cosmetics Brands

  • REN

  • Aveda

  • Lush

  • Herbivore

  • Giorgio Armani

  • L’Occitane

  • Clarins

  • Origins

  • Weleda

  • Axiology Natural Organic Lipstick

  • The Body Shop

5. Sustainable Cosmetics Standards

  • Fairtrade international

  • Cosmos

  • Soil Association

  • ACO Certification

  • Fair Trade USA

  • Natrue

  • ICEA

  • The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics