You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about the concept of circular beauty. As far as media spotlights go, it’s falling shy of the mark when it comes to this emerging trend.
This strikes us as strange because, on the whole, people are getting more and more clued up on sustainability. It’s also no great secret that the beauty industry is a serious offender when it comes to toxic formulations, which are bad for both body and planet incidentally, and plastic waste. Circular beauty aims to tackle these issues head-on.
What is circular beauty?
The circular economy is a counter-strategy to what is the linear economy, which is what most of us contribute to. That is, a product is manufactured, we use it for a little bit, then we throw it away. This can extend to almost every industry, any type of product.
We don’t need to tell you that the planet’s resources are not infinite. It simply doesn’t make sense to live this way. If you look at the alternative, which is a circular economy, resources, in this case, are recycled and reused, and also products that can be repaired to extend their lifespan. This harks back to previous centuries, where people would buy something like a coat, or shoes, and repair them and use them over many years.
So, how does this translate to the beauty industry? We recently interviewed Jo Chidley at Beauty Kitchen to get more info. Her “cradle-to-cradle” approach to reusing packaging so it never ends up in landfill and formulating products that are not harmful to the environment gives you a good idea of what’s possible.
Difference between sustainability and the circular economy
Often, the issue we have in the beauty business is breaking down the jargon. Many of us want to invest in brands that are doing good for the planet, but you only have to hear a few things thrown around, like sustainability and clean beauty and the rest to be left scratching your head.
These terms are often ambiguous, so if you’re taking your approach to this as a consumer seriously, you’re right to demand clarity.
Sustainability is a rather loose term. It can relate to a variety of different approaches and efforts. But when we’re talking about the circular economy specifically, it’s referring to a framework that businesses can work to with clear ideas of how to contribute to it. As mentioned above, in theory, it’s very clear. It’s the opposite of a linear economy.
What can we learn from sustainable beauty brands?
Although there are plenty of sustainable beauty brands out there, the onus is still very much on us as consumers to better understand the claims each business makes and to get a feel for whether they match our values.
If you take Beauty Kitchen as an example again, you can quickly get a feel for what they’re offering and its relation to the circular economy in particular. Burt’s Bees are another big name brand that are gearing up their operations to meet the circular economy vision.
There is an issue with any brand picking up this idea and running with it though. As Jo at Beauty Kitchen explains in our podcast, it’s one thing to launch a company based on this idea. It’s another to “retrofit” it.
That’s not to say that any effort is futile! But the reality is that businesses, particularly large, established ones, will have more to consider if that’s what they want to do. But there are ways. Bodies like B-Corp are helping brands to do this, and they are playing a vital role in this shift of focus.
It’s not just the packaging
When we think about sustainability, we often focus on packaging. With the plastic waste problem we have and the growing news coverage on microplastics appearing in everything from bottled drinks to our water supply, it’s easy to see why this is on our minds.
But beauty has another environmental responsibility, and that’s in the formulations. More brands are talking about clean formulations and plant-based ingredients that biodegrade. It’s scary to note that toxic ingredients, and that’s toxic to both our bodies and our planet, are still extremely common in the beauty industry.
Suffice to say, it’s not just about the packaging. If you want to support a genuine, sustainable brand, you need to look at the big picture. The packaging, the formulations, their approach to making, distributing, and recycling.
Over to you
So, what can you do from today to make a difference and support circular beauty? It does come down to a bit of research, and you do need to put some time into finding out what your favourite brands are all about.
You can also start by taking a look at your beauty cabinet. Do you have a raft of half-used products? Do you want to get rid of some and replace them with brands that have truly sustainable beauty credentials? In that case, stop before you reach for the rubbish bin. There are ways of safely recycling your beauty products, so you can start on the right foot. Organa and Terracycle offer one exact programme to suit you.
You may also want to look for their claims around packaging and ingredients, to get a better idea of their stance on these elements. Certifications from specific bodies are also a good way of searching for brands. B-Corps is one example. If a brand is certified by a recognised body like this, you can be sure that they champion the right values which are based on global, science-based principles.
Ultimately, the future can only be driven if both consumer demand and business agendas turn towards this way of operating. There are business benefits of environmental sustainability, there are sustainable skincare brands and beauty brands out there. It’s about making the right choices now, and not relying on beauty corporations to forge a new path in their own time.