The Importance of Sustainable Beauty

By Bronagh Loughlin

When we think of the beauty industry we think of glamorous photo shoots with gorgeous models, seductive bottles of perfume, daily rituals designed to make us look more appealing, and makeup to hide our flaws.  We seldom think about the beauty industry in terms of sustainability.

The beauty industry has a very important duty toward sustainability. One of the greatest problems that the industry needs to urgently address is the plastic packaging that is encased around each product. A problem that is severely hurting our planet.

According to Forbes in 2019, data has shown that the packaging industry for consumer goods, including beauty products, generates more than $25 billion in sales worldwide each year.  That’s a lot of profit for mankind and a lot of damage to our planet!

It’s not a surprise then that 70% of the amount of non-recyclable materials are thrown into landfills. With more awareness around climate change and sustainability than ever before, this is no longer acceptable. The good news is that there are some brands and companies who are realising this. 

As a result, brands such as BYBI Babe Balm, UpCircle, Beco and Lush are implementing sustainable beauty through options such as refillable containers or stations and beginning to utilise more recyclable materials to package their products.  Mexico, for example, is a country that has implemented refillable stations for shampoo.

But the pioneer in promoting a green cosmetic world is Western Europe

Despite the pressure that consumers are putting on brands to adopt more sustainable practices, some brands are still ignoring this. Sustainable beauty is not just about improving the planet. It’s also really important for the health of our skin. The skin, as we all know, is the largest organ in the human body and we need to ensure we are treating it the best way we can.

But the unfortunate reality is that the cosmetics industry, in particular, is one of the least regulated markets across the world. Many beauty products from our local drugstores contain toxic substances.  

According to The Guardian in 2019, toxic substances used in beauty products include formaldehyde which is often found in hair treatments and general hair products and coal tar which has been found in shampoos and hair dyes.   

Other things that have been found in beauty products are heavy metals such as lead in lipsticks, endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as parabens and phthalates among many others. Also, PFAS chemicals have been found in some cosmetics which are used in flame retardants.  

You just need to read the ingredients on your makeup products, your skincare products or your haircare products to realise that these toxic substances are present in the products you use on a daily basis.  

Alongside this, the most dangerous of substances used in cosmetic products are parabens and petrochemicals which are used to increase the shelf life of your products. Scientific studies have revealed that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm your reproductive organs, impacting your fertility.  

Parabens can also be the reason for many diseases such as allergies, fragile immune systems and even cancer. You need to be nourishing your skin, not adding harmful and toxic chemicals to it. It’s less about getting clean and more about protecting your health.  

Many people think sustainable beauty is either a marketing buzz word or too expensive and way out of their budgets. While you might have to pay a bit extra for natural, toxic-free beauty products, you are causing less damage to your health and the environment, and in the long-run it’s actually cheaper to use sustainable products than it is to use toxic ones.

Statistics show that the natural cosmetics market is rapidly growing. According to Statista, revenue in the natural cosmetic segments amounts to €16.1m in 2020 alone. The market is expected to grow each year by 11.3%.  

Younger consumers appreciate this move toward sustainable beauty with the increased awareness they have of climate change and sustainability. According to Investopedia, the natural and organic personal care industry is projected to be worth $25.1m by 2025. 

Sustainable beauty is essential for the planet and the health of consumers. There really is no excuse not to make efforts to become more sustainable. We’ve seen from statistics and sources that our health is on the line when products are not sustainable.  

The revenue for the natural cosmetics and organic personal care industries are growing. Young consumers want this too, as they are growing up with increased awareness of the climate emergency and the need to adopt more sustainable ways of living. 

Consumers who want to ensure they are getting natural ingredients in their products can easily make some products at home. For example, using pure coconut oil as a hair mask to nourish your scalp or using the DIY face mask of oats and honey for dry skin. The best place to discover sustainable product DIYs is Pinterest.

More beauty brands need to get on board with sustainability. They can do this by adopting sustainable packaging, encouraging people to bring back their packaging to be refilled, using natural ingredients in their products to name a few. After-all, the faith of our planet is quite literally in all of our hands!  


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