How leading beauty brands are improving their sustainability

To launch Professional Beauty Sustainability Week (April 20–26), we roundeded up the sustainable practices some of the big beauty brands are implementing so you know who has top-notch green credentials, covering refill initiatives to eco-charity partners. 

With consumer interest in sustainable practices continuing to grow, salons and spas are increasingly looking to their suppliers for support, demanding both transparency in ingredient sourcing and reductions in packaging waste.

With as much as 70% of plastic waste generated by the beauty industry ending up in landfill according to the EPA, and with research from Zero Waste Week revealing that around 120 billion units of non-recyclable cosmetics packaging were produced globally in 2018, it’s clear that this push for change is long overdue.

Unlike many other fields, beauty brands usually create their own materials for products and packaging, which often requires the mixing of plastics. As they cannot be properly broken down, the use of these complex, mixed materials drastically narrows the possibility of most beauty packaging being recycled.

On top of this, the industry also favours the creation of virgin plastics, material made from scratch, over post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic, material that is already in circulation, meaning products and packaging are often both non-recycled and non-recyclable.

The problem of sustainability clearly runs far deeper than just throwing empties in the correct bin, but many professional brands are leading the way when it comes to making changes that don’t sacrifice on quality. 

We break down the recent surge of innovation in environmentally-friendly beauty packaging, looking at what the industry’s biggest names are doing and showing that sustainable practice is far from a passing trend. Instead, it is the beginning of a new, necessary status quo for the industry.

Advanced Nutrition Programme

Advanced Nutrition Programme (ANP), a skincare brand distributed by the International Institute of Anti-Ageing (IIAA), is working with recycled cardboard from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-approved mills with non-toxic vegetable ink, instead of the plastic pots and pouches it used three years ago.

Point-of-sale displays are now made from recycled acrylic and eco-friendly filler and padding, and paper tape is used to prevent 195km of plastic tape reaching landfill each year. ANP plans to have its packaging and point of sale material completely carbon neutral in the near future.

“I’ve been working with a parliamentary group to raise awareness of the huge amount of waste the beauty industry produces and the need to implement legislation to reduce it,” says IIAA managing director, David Alpert. “These changes take time – in the interim, we must all do our bit to ensure a greener future for generations to come.”

Medik8

Medik8’s recent sustainability initiatives began with a banning of pure palm oil from its products in 2017, followed by the removal of three tonnes of plastic from its packaging in 2018, opting to print on FSC-certified recycled and recyclable materials using soya ink.

Since 2019, the skincare brand has aspired to make its entire range of professional treatments and their packaging 100% recyclable. All products are vegan friendly and every professional product in a plastic bottle is made from 100% PCR material, sourced primarily from the UK to minimise carbon footprint. 

Medik8 has also revealed its Ocean Plastic Endeavour, under which all future professional packaging will be made from sea and river-sourced plastic waste. Further plans include a reassessment of its “ingredient deck” for better knowledge on where its ingredients originate from and their environmental impact.

Louella Belle

Louella Belle has put a spin on the tried-and-tested recycling scheme by accepting used product bottles from any brand, not just its own.

Launched in January this year, RecyLeBelle is one of the few schemes to accept gel, nail polish and cuticle oil bottles, as well as plastics with mixed ingredients. All materials will be collected by a recycling company and sorted to ensure they are reused in the best way.

Techs who send off the minimum of four bottles in the pre-paid, eco-friendly Louella Belle envelope will get a 15% discount on their next order.

Aqua Natural

Sugaring brand Aqua Natural is launching a “Refill, Reduce, Reuse” service. Free of charge, clients are encouraged to return empty pots of Aqua Natural sugar paste to be washed, sterilised and eventually reused, a process that is safe and simple due to the product being 100% natural and water-soluble.

Aqua Natural’s co-founder Rosie Khandwala commented: “While we have always ensured that we used recyclable plastic for our jars, we felt we could take it a step further. We have continued to use plastic because we wanted a jar that was safe to microwave, for ease and speed for therapists. It is now about how we use plastic in an eco-friendlier way, not just recycling.”

For each six jars returned (the required minimum), salons will receive a 15% discount on their next Aqua Natural order.

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