Collectively, consumers are making efforts to select sustainable cosmetic options to help them live a more sustainable life. But there’s such a thing as eco-friendly skincare? Can skincare products be sustainable? We may not be able to answer this question with a straight sentence, but at the end of this post, you should have all it takes to make an informed decision about your cosmetics. However, we can safely say that it’s not all about what you buy, but also how you use your cosmetics!
On this post:
- What is sustainable skincare?
- How to buy and use cosmetics sustainably
- Scrutinize the stands and communication of the brands
- Use fewer products
- Optimize the amount of product used, in every application
- Use multi-purpose formulas
- Choose products that suit the needs of the whole family
- Choose eco-packaging, preferably refillable
- Prefer waterless formulas when possible
- Consider the expiration date or PAO
What is sustainable skincare?
There’s a lot to consider before answering this seemingly simple question. For a product to be sustainable, it has to use resources in a way that doesn’t compromise its availability in the future. Is that possible at the rate that we’re consuming cosmetics? We don’t know the answer to that question yet. What you can do, is to evaluate the impact of the resources used for the cosmetics you buy, considering variables like the sources of the raw ingredients, packaging, and transportation, as we’ve seen in the post about the environmental impact of the beauty industry.
As we’ve seen above, it takes a lot for a product to be rightfully labeled as sustainable. We can sum it up by saying that eco-friendly skincare uses natural resources in a way that won’t compromise the availability of resources for future generations—it’s way harder than it looks! Eco-friendly skincare uses environmentally responsibly sourced raw ingredients, uses water to a minimum, optimizes the distribution of the products, and pays fair wages to all intervenients involved. To know whether a brand does this or not, you may look for certifications (we’ll see about that in a second) or read carefully the sustainability commitments.
Is clean beauty eco-friendly?
Clean beauty is not an objective concept, considering that the term is not legally regulated. Up until this day, brands have been self-proclaimed as clean beauty according to their own understanding of it. Most brands define clean beauty as being made with natural ingredients, excluding “chemicals” and other “harmful” ingredients. The focus of clean beauty is not sustainability. When you see a product advertised as “clean”, they’re not meaning to say that the product is sustainable.
At Care to Beauty, science leads us to believe that all brands legally being sold in Europe are clean! They all exclude harmful ingredients, thanks to the Regulation (EC) N° 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009. This extensive document makes sure that all legal products are safe for human use, so you have nothing to fear! All known harmful chemicals for human use are not allowed in the formulas. There’s no such thing as legal “dirty beauty”—the only trending dirty beauty we know of is the DIY products made from food and household ingredients. Without preservatives, it goes from edible to “dirty beauty” really quickly!
How to buy and use cosmetics sustainably
To have a more sustainable skincare routine, you need to be analytical when buying, but that’s not the end of it. How you use, how much you use, and how you dispose of the packaging also counts! We’ll help you to spot the critical points to consider:
Scrutinize the stands and communication of the brands
Here comes a tough one! Truly eco-friendly brands tend to make real efforts to communicate their path to sustainability. However, the communication line between impactful efforts and green-washing is thinner than it looks—and for the consumers who are not familiar with the subject, it may be very hard to make a distinction between real and fake efforts. Some brand or product certifications can be of great assistance to spot sustainable brands in the wild. Equally important, yet more subjective, you can pay attention to the claims and sustainability commitments of the brand. Let’s see how each of these can help.
In short, certifications are a seal of approval from an independent institution, that makes sure that the brand follows their sustainability guidelines. The gold standard is the B-Corp, a certification that is “defining social, environmental, and governance best practices for businesses”. Another certification to pay attention to when it comes to sustainability in cosmetics is the 1% For the Planet as “members commit to donating at least 1% of annual sales directly to environmental organizations.”
When companies comply with the standards of strict certifications it’s easier for you to find sustainable cosmetics. However, keep in mind that these certifications come with a price, and some companies have responsible environmental practices without being officially certified. Give your favorite brands a chance by looking into their claims, commitments and practices and find for yourself!
Brands that claim to be clean beauty are not necessarily making efforts in a sustainable direction, as we’ve seen above. Claims like clean, organic, eco-conscious, beauty that loves the planet, etc, are not regulated and they mean… nothing really. As these claims are empty and mean nothing, you’ll need to read further to analyze ingredients, transportation, materials used for the packaging, and so on.
A brand’s commitments say a lot! If brands truly care about their environmental footprint, you’ll see it in their commitments—usually thoroughly detailed on their website, possibly with downloadable reports. They’ll tell you all they do to make sure that no resources are wasted—from water to electricity and facility waste—and they’ll make sure to guide you on disposing of your product correctly. They’ll also be involved in some “give back” kind of program, with initiatives that support local communities or local wildlife.
Use fewer products
Eco-friendly skincare is not about disposing of all of your “evil” skincare products and buying green alternatives. It’s about using what you have, buying only what you and your skin need, and working each product to the last drop.
We think the best way to get to the perfect number of products for you is to understand what YOUR basics are. For some, their basics may be three products, while, for this writer for example, their list of basics may be more extensive. You don’t need to use a huge amount of products to have an effective skincare routine; you’re not failing your skin by not using lots of products. Your skin will survive (and thrive!) on a minimalist routine, as long as the products are a good fit for you.
Optimize the amount of product used, in every application
How much product you apply is also a picture of what eco-friendly skincare looks like! Most users apply more than needed, which is both a waste of money and resources. If you optimize the amount of product you use, your skincare will last longer and you’ll end up saving in the long run. This may be one of the most overlooked tips, yet it’s critical to any truly eco-friendly skincare routine.
Use multi-purpose formulas
What better way of saving than using each product for multiple uses? You know the 3-in-1 kind of product? Those may be a way of approaching a more sustainable skincare use. If you have three bottles of different products to do the same that you’d do with one, then this tip may help you save money, space, and emissions!
Choose products that suit the needs of the whole family
Do you really need a body wash for the baby, another one for the mother, and a third one for the father? What if all of you could be using the same product? Instead of buying three different products, just find one that suits everyone’s needs and preferences, and buy a jumbo size. More than being a smart way of reducing cosmetic consumption, this tip is also going to simplify your daily routine. You may even find this tip to be helpful when you have to pack for a vacation.
Choose eco-packaging, preferably refillable
We’d say that most consumers are already aware that packaging is something to consider when looking for eco-friendly skincare. First of all, you should look for products with minimalist packaging, without unnecessary outer packaging. You should also prefer recycled packaging when possible. Keep in mind that recycled and recyclable are not the same thing; nowadays we expect most packaging to be recyclable so that’s not a very impressive claim. For people who take their recycling seriously, this may actually be the bare minimum, not something worthy of bragging about.
Nevertheless, there’s still packaging that’s not recyclable. When possible, avoid packaging with unrecyclable or multi-material parts that are hard to recycle (like pumps, for example). If you can, opt for refillable packaging! With this option, you’ll be able to refill your bottle in-store or with a refill pack that uses significantly fewer materials. They’re usually cheaper, so it’s a win-win for you and the planet!
Prefer waterless formulas when possible
Waterless beauty is what eco-friendly skincare is all about! It requires less water, and less emissions associated with transportation (they’re compact) and they usually avoid the big plastic or glass packaging. It’s just as dreamy as it sounds! You’ll find all kinds of beauty products in this presentation: body soaps, shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, and so on. As waterless beauty tends to be compact, it’s also great for traveling!
Consider the expiration date or PAO
If a product has a short expiration date, the chances of it expiring or going bad before you finish are higher. Some products have an expiration date, while others have a symbol that indicates the PAO (period after opening). Try to choose products with a large window of use to make sure that you have time to use them to the last drop. Keep in mind that stocking your favorite sustainability products may not always be the best idea!
If you’re invested in creating an eco-friendly routine, we can help with some product advice!
Professional Makeup Artist & Beauty Writer