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Sustainable Beauty And The Circular Economy: What Can You Do?

Sustainable Beauty And The Circular Economy: What Can You Do?

Behind the shiny marketing campaigns of the cosmetics industry lurks the problem of beauty and sustainability.

Stats reveal that 120 billion units of packaging are produced globally by the cosmetics industry every year. As consumers, we have both the power and a responsibility to help boost the beauty industry’s green credentials.

Sustainability in the beauty industry

Recently Organa spoke with Tom Szaky, the CEO of TerraCycle, a global business that recycles hard-to-recycle materials. And this is something we can all tap into.  

terracycle recycle reuse waste beauty waste sustainable

His companies aim to make the circular economy of recycling and reusable packaging a commercial no-brainer as well as an environmental one. The clock is ticking. Major companies have pledged to “eradicate plastic waste by 2025.” But while global corporations take action, we can all do our bit too.

What can we do to live sustainably?

Choosing sustainable beauty brands is a great way to make a positive change ourselves. The good news is that sustainable practices are becoming more commonplace, with innovative, ethical beauty brands being launched all the time.

From a consumer point of view, looking at eco-friendly beauty brands that minimise plastic waste is one big step in the right direction. Then there are the formulations in the products themselves. Truly sustainable beauty companies use the biotech we have at our fingertips to create green beauty products that are good for both planet and skin.

Green your beauty routine!

Reducing plastic waste and removing toxic chemicals from your beauty routine are two very achievable goals. And worthwhile too. It doesn’t take a Brainiac to realise that nasties in our beauty products can harm us, but it also impacts the planet as it absorbs into the ecosystem.  

In truth, overhauling your entire makeup bag with organic beauty products can feel more than a little overwhelming though. Often, we place a lot of trust in these products. We choose them through trial and error. So, if you’re keen to make a positive change for both you and the environment, where do you start?

Here are three practical, sustainable beauty tips to start with:

  • Change one or two products at a time – Sarah Galusha, Director of Marketing at Hain Celestial Personal Care told Forbes that they advise, “trying to replace one or two products at a time.” That gives you the chance to find the products that work for you gradually, without freefalling into a whole new beauty routine.
  • Reduce your beauty steps – listen to our podcast with Tom Szaky, and you’ll hear us reference the 3-step skincare routine. The question is, do you need these steps and all the products that go with it? Finding out if there’s a better way could free up your time, nourish your skin, and reduce plastic waste.   
  • Think about packaging – plastic waste is something we can all help to reduce. Selecting brands that support the circular economy with recycled and recyclable packaging is one consideration. Or finding beauty companies that don’t use single-use plastic at all. Here, eco-lifestyle expert Ashlee Piper talks about how she recycles empties. She cleans and refills, “[small containers] with my face cream when I'm travelling instead of going out and buying a travel-size container.”

Tapping into sustainable beauty trends

In some ways, packaging and recycling is the easy bit. When it gets to selecting and reducing the products in our bathroom cabinet it can feel a lot more emotive.

So, what can you look for to make this shift feel more comfortable?

  • Biodegradable beauty ingredients – first, look for natural beauty products. And make sure they don’t contain any microplastics or microbeads, which can be harmful to our skin. Watch out for ingredients that come from petroleum too, such as paraffin oil and ethylene. Great, natural alternatives include ingredients like beeswax and cocoa butter.   
  • Opt for reusable products – instead of buying cotton wool pads and single-use makeup wipes, buy reusable, washable wipes. Ditching plastic razors for a stainless-steel safety razor is another useful eco-friendly beauty hack.
  • Find multipurpose products – have fun experimenting with things like multiuse soap, shampoo and shave bars or beauty products that do more than one job.

soap bar shampoo bar reuse recycle sustainability

  • Get rid of the three-step skincare routine – we say three steps, but add in things like scrubs, facial oils, and double-cleansing and it can be a lot more. Every complexion is different, and this will come down to a bit of experimentation based on your skin type. But it’s good to question it! For starters, there is debate over whether toners are still necessary. You may find that a cleanser, an antioxidant serum, and SPF is all you need. Then there are the products that combine lots of different benefits to help you stick to a 2-step routine of a simple cleanse and moisturise.

The future of the cosmetic industry and environment

Ultimately, it requires both a cultural and societal shift to change the way we behave as consumers. Just look at our podcast with Tom Szaky to hear our thoughts on the future of sustainability in the cosmetics industry.

But what can we do to help sustainable beauty brands? Making a conscious choice with our beauty products is key. We can seek out multitasking beauty products with biodegradable ingredients. And as for the global issue of plastic waste, the future is in our hands. We can support the circular economy by finding products in sustainable packaging now and support the circular economy.

As Tom sums up in our podcast: “Recycling is the first lesson we learn as children, and it’s the simplest. And it’s physical. We physically touch the waste. Because of that, that is the place to start. No brand can avoid a physical package causing waste. It’s part of the journey as a consumer. That to me, makes it a magical topic.”

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