A Sustainable Rebirth for Beauty

From earth-friendly ingredients to return-to-the earth packaging, the beauty industry is undergoing an exciting transformation.

By Jamie Matusow, Editor-in-Chief 05.03.21
Brands that once—not that long ago—stood out from the crowd, with an eco-friendly aspect from ingredients to packaging, have now rapidly become the norm, especially over the past year. Now, nearly every day, both legacy brands and a surge of startups share the common theme in my daily inbox, online and via social media. So many of them have great stories to tell—from their entrepreneurial spirit, to the inspiration behind their brand, to unique earth-friendly ingredients, to innovative packaging that can be repurposed, refilled or returned to the earth, to full transparency every step of the way. Sustainability has seemingly given new life and purpose—a rebirth of sorts, to the beauty industry. In many cases, it has also highlighted a new, clean and attractive visual appeal.
Here’s a look at some of the brands and standout products that we’ve recently made note of—and been inspired by:
1. sk*p
sk*p (Simply be Kind to the Planet) is a new hair and body care line for the whole family. It was designed ‘to break the beauty industry’s addiction to plastic’ by making compostable paper-based cartons the new standard for hair and body care products. sk*p’s proprietary eco-friendly BeautyCarton packaging is said to be the first paper-based carton packaging for this category that can hold up in the shower—and sk*p wants to make it an industry-wide standard. The brand also cultivates its own clean ingredients, and engages an ‘all-youth board’ to help in key decision-making efforts.
2. Cocokind
cocokind was born as a conscious beauty brand dedicated to providing high-quality skincare products at an accessible price. Rooted in sustainability, affordability and inclusivity, cocokind began its journey in one single Whole Foods store and grew into a fast-growing DTC business. The brand’s vision is to transform the beauty industry by empowering consumers with deeper transparency while delivering the best beauty products for their needs. Fully transparent, sustainable packaging reveals all details of its ethos on its cartons— from ‘ingredients to impact.’
3. Burt’s Bees
Burt's Bees launched its first waste-free product earlier this year, in partnership with Loop. This Truly Glowing Gel Cleanser is housed in a reusable glass bottle with waste-free delivery and return. This product joins Rescue Lip Balm, packaged in a new hybrid tube featuring bioresin from upcycled potatoes and post-consumer recycled content. To improve recycling rates outside of its value chain, Burt's Bees joined forces with The Recycling Partnership to fund infrastructure improvements in U.S. municipal recycling systems. In addition, the brand invested in plastic waste collection and recycling credits that would lead to recovery and recycling of at least as much plastic as their own plastic footprint.
4. Biography
Biography’s four facial oils—Long June, Golden Ray, Petty Grudges and Few Words—are housed in recyclable 30ml glass bottles, and packed in vibrant, reusable and recyclable outer packaging. Linda Thompson, the brand’s founder and CEO, tells Beauty Packaging: “Developing Biography with sustainability in mind was incredibly important to us. Ultimately, our customer was at the heart of this business and as they trust and expect us to produce products that treat the Earth with kindness. We worked very hard to ensure that our packaging is neither in its first life, nor its last because we could not, in good faith, create something that harmed the natural world. We have a responsibility to keep up with the industry and to continuously push to create more sustainable products and packaging.”
5. LOLI Beauty
LOLI (Living Organic Loving Ingredients) says it is the first zero waste beauty brand that is completely waterless—and uses a food grade, recycled, recyclable and refillable glass jar with a recyclable aluminum cap to package their products. The Arnica Elderberry Jelly is a 100% natural no-maskne, no-acne all day control mask, made not with drying alcohol, but 100% natural, organic + food grade ingredients to prevent drying, redness or sensitivity. The packaging is plastic free + paper pulp free. The label is certified home compostable. The brand grows mushrooms around up-cycled hemp sleeves to create the outer package and then wraps this is in up-cycled hemp paper—“basically, 100% worm food.”
6. Codex Beauty Labs
Codex abides by a strong carbon footprint. The brand’s Brightening Moisturizer protects the skin barrier and helps with UV recovery while reducing the appearance of pores, and the Brightening Night Cream repairs the skin barrier while softening skin and improving texture.
All products meet Codex Beauty Labs' strict standards and uncompromising quality while undergoing stringent efficacy testing to ensure all products perform exactly as they say they will. Codex abides by the Nagoya protocol to pay a royalty on sales for the intellectual property contributions of indigenous peoples while also leading the way in sustainability, packaging products in negative carbon footprint, airless, touchless tubes.
They use FSC and PEFC certified cartons and now seem headed to success with a mono-material airless tubes made from green polyethylene (PE)—with green PE bottles on the horizon.
7. Lancôme
Lancôme has launched its global sustainability program, “Caring Together for a Happier Tomorrow,” which outlines the sustainability and social inclusion ambitions of the company. The goal: Reduce the environmental impact of products, implement regenerative agricultural practices, source all major raw materials sustainably. As part of the plan, 50% of Lancôme products will be refillable or rechargeable by 2023—and 100% of its iconic rose ingredients will be organic and 60% will be sourced in France by 2025. As examples, Idôle eau de parfum is made with sustainably sourced roses and is refillable and Absolue skincare products are rechargeable via a dedicated capsule reload system. Furthermore, the brand commits to manufacturing products with sustainable packaging by using less virgin materials and more recyclable materials like glass and post-consumer recycled plastic.
8. Maison Made
Crafted in-house with ingredients grown on an 800-year-old family farm (kept to biodynamic standards) in Burgundy, France, the line is produced as sustainably as possible, from intentional formulations to conscious packaging. Maison Made tubes are crafted from 100% FSC recycled paper and printed with vegetable-based inks. The design and the tubes were chosen to ensure they would be easier to be reused. The glass bottles are easily recyclable and the amber color was chosen in order to protect the integrity of the formulas.
9. Necessaire
Skincare brand Necessaire proclaims they are Climate Neutral Certified. In their first year in business, they have measured, offset and reduced their carbon in full. As far as formulas, they
follow the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and EU Standards for clean and safe beauty.
For secondary packaging, they use FSC-Certified, 85% post consumer waste and 100% recyclable paper for their cartons and shippers—with no virgin paper used. For primary  containers, they use a range of packaging materials spanning resin, bio-resin, post-consumer resin, aluminum and glass. The brand is manufactured in the U.S., with packaging sourced from the U.S., France and China. In addition, Necessaire allocates 1% of all sales to environmental non-profits “that work to defend our air, water, land and wildlife worldwide.”
10. youbody
Youbody is a unisex, waterless body wash system, founded by product development expert Heather Fritzsche. In addition to using less water, youbody packets are eco-friendly and break down into clean energy in 120 days and are also sulfate-free, sulfite-free, paraben-free, and hypo allergenic. youbody’s Starter Kit, comes with a youbody pod, and a choice of five powdered, scented essences to customize your experience. The youbodypod is a patented design which allows the customer to mix their custom blend of body wash right in a dispensing tool that provides great lather and exfoliation. After the Starter Kit runs out, youbody offers a subscription service with free shipping for monthly or bimonthly delivery.
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