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The Sustainability message in Beauty industry

This article is co-created with ARLY, a beauty specialist and an expert in the beauty industry.

It is a trendy move to go sustainable, same in the beauty industry. But it’s not easy for the #skincare, #makeup and hair/body products to go #sustainable due to the chemical used during the manufacture process. Even more challenging for this industry to have sustainable packaging because of the competition to maintain a luxury brand image.

We are discussing the concept of sustainability in the beauty industry, covering the product and packaging. We will also walk you through the highest goal: carbon neutral.

Sustainable Beauty Products

Sustainable beauty product = Natural Ingredients:

There is no official definition of natural ingredients.

When product say it contains 100% #naturalingredient, it doesn't really meant to tell you that there is no chemical used at all, because it needs chemical for raw materials to undergo the extraction process or chemical reaction, it also needs chemical to stabilize the active natural ingredients. These processes are necessary to prevent allergic reactions and prolong the product shelf life. So, the 100% natural ingredients is not like when you put cucumber slices on your face.

There are some commonly used safe product label you might have encountered before:

#VEGAN: no animal or animal derived ingredients.

#CRUELTYFREE: final products are not tested on animal (some may test on the ingredient level).

#PARABENFREE: paraben is preservatives, it's the chemical used to prevent the growth of bacteria and increase product shelf life. And this chemical is usually found in chemical families like Methylparaben,Ethylparaben, Propylparaben,Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben,Isopropylparaben, Phenylparaben,Benzylparaben or Pentylparaben. Some research shows the potential relationship between paraben and cancer, and paraben is harmful to the environment by affecting the animal health. There are alternative natural options like Citric Acid, Rosemary Extract, and Grapefruit Seed Extract.

#FRAGRANCEFREE: adding fragrance makes the product smell nice, and think that is all the benefits. Fragrance cause long term skin sensation and negative effects for all skin types.

Sustainable Packaging for beauty products

#Overpackaging is widely seen, especially for luxury brands which reflects the brand image and "quality".  It won't be surprised to see the cost of packaging cost even three times than the product. It's also true in the eyes of the customer that beautiful, luxury and creative packaging is part of the price they are paying for.

It makes more sense in circular economy point of view if the product packaging can be reused or repurposed, and we are seeing more beauty brands embracing sustainable packaging by using recycled materials, reusable materials, and refill packagings. The sustainability movement in the beauty industry ranges from natural ingredients, sustainable packaging, from beauty miles to being Carbon neutral.

High Goal: Carbon Neutral

There is also no official definition of Carbon neutral in beauty products, and certainly aiming for #carbonneutral is the most challenging targets for companies, especially small and medium enterprise.

The measurement of carbon neutral includes the counting of carbon footprint for the product and the packaging:

1. Raw material extraction and shipment to the manufacturing plant.

2. Manufacturing process (usually has the highest carbon emission).

3. Product packaging.

4. Product shipment.

5. Customer usage (if it requires utilities like electricity and water).

6. Product and packaging disposal.

To achieve carbon neutrality, companies should reduce the carbon emission and/or purchase carbon credits to offset the carbon footprint. It's always easy to purchase credits as a start, however, there would be a min impact to the sustainable environment if companies are not looking at reducing the carbon emission. The carbon footprint should also be reviewed in the holistic point of view. For example, it's commonly believed that glass bottle is more sustainable than plastic, it's true because glass is recyclable in unlimited times, however, glass bottles are generally heavier to increase the shipping carbon footprint, and there are additional wrappings and packagings required to protect the glass bottle. In addition, if the glass bottle was not sent for recycling, it will end up in landfill. Another alternative is the sugar cane plastic bottle which is biodegradable, or refill packaging to prolong the lifetime of the product packaging.

Another example is the usage of paper. First of all, the process of paper production is not environmental friendly due to the amount of trees were cut, transportation of trees, the chemical and large amount of water used in paper manufacture process. In addition, the ink printed on paper is harmful to the environment as well. From the sustainability perspective to reduce this impact, companies will use FSC certified paper or recycled paper, and using soy ink to reduce the environmental impact.

Those who had done well

There are some inspiring examples demonstrated the efforts in reducing the environmental impact:

Bkind - product offer bulk options, recyclable packaging, Eco friendly accessories. #bkind

Biossance - it's carbon neutral certified, it uses sugar cane and FSC certified boxes. #bioessance

Benton - Use of sugar cane packaging. #benton

Kjaer Weis - refill system fits perfectly in the luxury and quality product. #kjaerweis

Tata harper - growing up loving nature, the founder is a true sustainability advocate. #tataharper

Ren skincare - the world first infinity recycling. #renskincare

Lush - naked and sustainable, lush is going way beyond what the consumer sees. #lush

The definition of beauty

When the concept of Sustainability is close to the costumer's heart, it defines us, and bring our life to a new level. The joy of Sustainability reflects in our daily life style which is under the concept of circular economy.

From natural ingredient to carbon neutral, there is a long journey to be sustainable in the beauty industry, and company are finding their position to balance the brand image and product quality. At the same time, the beauty industry is also promoting natural beauty and techniques like no makeup makeup. People are using make up to hide "imperfections" to measure against the market standard of beauty. Besides over packaging, the beauty industry is also over promoting the products. Do we really need so many bottles to make the skin looks younger? Stay tuned with JOS and ARLY for more sharings!

We should also look at the nature's gift for us: sleeping is a natural anti aging process, exercise and sweat are a natural cure for clogged pores, reduce stress is the best product for acne and skin sensitivity, sleep regularly and early is more powerful than under eye concealers for dark eye circle. Girls, there are many ways to make yourself look more confident and beautiful, especially for your inner self!


Special thanks to Airin and Laura for contributing ideas and discussion points.

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