Sustainable beauty, where do we start?
There’s a big mess mounting up around the world by the day. Not a revelation, just a sad fact.
And the beauty industry contributes to that mess. Despite the efforts of some brands in kerbing their packaging waste, the problem is a long way from being solved.
And, with so many cosmetic and beauty brands on offer, I ask myself how genuinely sustainable is the skincare and beauty industry.
Short answer? It’s not.
I find the answer uncomfortable, and I feel the day of reckoning is not too far away. I hope on that day, clever and more sustainable packaging is on the agenda, but of course change is often glacial in its pace.
But here’s the thing, sustainable packaging is only one part of the puzzle.
Every day another brand launches, all shiny and new.
So we wait for change, but what can we all do to foster a sustainable beauty routine? Well, let’s take a step back and look at the beauty industry more broadly.
When I started this website, my primary goal was to demystify the sometimes confusing and often overwhelming skincare industry.
That was back in 2013, and since then, the skincare market has kept growing and growing, with more brands emerging daily. So many beauty brands, some would say, me included, far too many.
Of course, in the last ten years, amongst all these new beauty products, there are unique and exciting skincare brands that have earned consumer respect and secured their position in a very crowded space.
On the other hand, vintage brands fall headlong into the abyss or, if they’re smart, they’ll rush to their cosmetic lab, put on a white coat, move with the times, and innovate.
And, if they’re not going to innovate? Well, then, a compelling story can engage your interest and keep your attention.
No brand with a legacy to preserve wants to go the way of Blackberry, failing to innovate at their peril.
When told well, a unique point of difference allows a brand to get noticed in a crowded market.
And all this storytelling is part of the problem. Marketing departments are constantly scrambling to bring you a unique angle on your favourite brand to keep you interested.
Perhaps it’s the unique story of a pioneer or industry trailblazer or brand born out of the founder’s own skincare struggles.
Or they’ve decided to tap into the pure, natural, organically derived narrative or its cutting-edge technology with world-class formulations.
Harnessing the power of a handful of scientifically proven skincare ingredients should be enough. You’d think.
And while some beauty brands will quietly rise with cult-like status, with impressive results sparking a flurry of word-of-mouth, which of course, is a dream come true.
The struggle for your attention is real, and very few are brave enough to raise their heads above the parapet and tell you the truth. But what is the truth?
Does the skincare brand story ring true?
Some skincare brands will pay a high price for the endorsement by an insta-famous-influencer. Or worse, hitch their beauty bag to the latest celebrity or movie star, or it’s the seduction of luxury.
Sure, who doesn’t dream of a bit of luxury?
Although it must be said, what’s inside, or how the product is preserved within the packaging, is far more important than the soft pillow of dream-like luxury it’s cushioned upon.
And while the storytelling may be as smooth as an Instagram filter, what’s behind the gloss? Another doomed beauty brand with an authentic or compelling story without the scientific credentials to back up its mystical tale?
Here today, gone tomorrow. Kerplunk!
Epic fails are highlighted in red on corporate spreadsheets, strewn across beauty boardrooms the world over. What a waste! Nothing sustainable to see here.
I shudder to think how much unused, unsold skin care sits in warehouses worldwide. Beauty has a waste problem, and with a shelf life of 20 months or so, the clock is ticking to its used-by date, and its destiny can only be one place. Landfill!!
Is genuine sustainability possible?
Okay, some companies will donate surplus stock to charity, and others, especially the mega billion-dollar companies like Loreal, claim to redistribute worldwide. At the same time, others are dumping their unsold beauty and skincare with big online outlets at a reduced price.
Sure, I know, it feels great to get a bargain, but at what cost to the planet?
I can’t change this unsettling truth; what’s more, how do I reconcile wanting to do my bit for the planet while still extolling the virtue of a finely crafted serum or cream?
The answer is twofold for me; this is where you come in.
Are you changing your beauty routine? Again?
It’s tempting to change up your skincare routine if you feel dissatisfied. Or seek out the latest celebrity brand. But a bathroom cabinet full of unused, unloved skincare will never bring the results you’re hoping for, and it’s simply not sustainable.
Unfortunately, this is where it all comes unstuck. And you’ll go off on your mission to find the holy grail of skincare. Does it exist? Nah, probably not.
Most of the time, great skin comes from genetics, but it also comes from how you care for your skin, not just occasionally but every day.
If you’re not happy with your skin or your skincare, professional advice is what you need, not another product.
Seek professional advice from someone in the know, and I’m not talking about your favourite Instagram influencer unless they have the credentials to back up what they’re saying.
You don’t need as many products as you think.
Do you need a long list of skincare or just the right ones for your skin type and condition? The correct advice and a good skincare routine can prevent the most common skin conditions. So, if you’re looking for better skin ten years from now, stick with a good brand, adopt a healthy lifestyle, and you probably will.
Can sustainable beauty be found in the supermarket or chemist aisle?
Of course, there are good brands to be found, but have you wandered into a mass-market variety chain lately? Woah! There’s too much. And with too much to choose from comes trial and error, which invariably leads to more waste. I’m not going there, and neither should you.
But it’s affordable and cheap! Yep, I hear you.
However, it’s not so cheap if it doesn’t help your skin and ends up pushed to the back of your bathroom cabinet next to the countless serums and creams you’ve been trialling. Before long, you are back in that damn cosmetic aisle, looking for something else because of the last one you tried? Well, y’know, it wasn’t so great.
Sustainable beauty starts in your bathroom cabinet.
Add up all the money you’ve spent on skincare that was inexpensive but sounded good. Your BFF loved it, or an Instagram celebrity said so. Well, you could’ve purchased the slightly more expensive but effective skincare brand a professionally trained skin therapist recommended, and with the money left over for a trip to somewhere fabulous, accessorised with nothing more than beautiful, healthy glowing skin.
So which brands can we give the label of sustainable beauty? Well, for starters, it’s the one you use.
Ask yourself this; when was the last time you finished a jar or tube of skincare, all the way to the end, and went back to replace it? If that’s you, stick with it, as you’re onto a winner. You’re happy, and your skin is responding as promised. Now that’s sustainable!!
I’ve been asking my clients for quite some time, isn’t it time to jump off the beauty carousel and start getting results?
For me, jumping off that carousel means less trial and error, more professional advice, results and less wasted product sent to a landfill somewhere. That, for me, is sustainable beauty.
On my website, I have one skincare brand. Just one. Environ. I’ve chosen this brand because of its efficacy. Environ’s approach to caring for the skin is practical while scientifically sound, and I’ve found it to be one of the best I’ve used.
After working in the industry for many years, I’ve settled on Environ Skincare. I love the brand, and I know Environ can help you keep your skin healthy and prevent skin conditions like sun damage, pigmentation, sensitivity, dehydration, acne, and premature ageing.
But what if Environ can’t help you? I’ll be the first to tell you so and provide the advice you may need.
Would you like to know more about Environ?
Oh, and by the way? Those celebrities? Toiling away in the lab with their cosmetic chemist making the perfect serum? Well, maybe in some alternative universe, but just not here on planet Earth. Sorry to disappoint.
Finally, if you’re using a brand you love, and you’d like my take on it, or you want professional guidance, no problem, you can book a quick 15-minute online chat with me.
The UN Environment Assembly.
As I was writing this article, news came in from the UN Environment Assembly, and it’s worth noting.
On March 2 2022, Heads of State, Ministers of environment and other representatives from 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the entire lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.
If we are to come close to sustainable beauty, there will be much work to do. Your interest and demands of beauty brands will compel them to change their packaging practices to something more sustainable. Each of us individually can influence the skin and beauty industry.
The road will be long, and we’re only at the beginning, but it’s a start and a win for all of us and, most importantly, the planet.
See you next time.