From biodegradable deodorant tubes to refillable jars, Caro’s Creams and Wheesht Masks are examples of how small beauty brands are prioritizing sustainability. But is getting rid of plastic always the best option?
If there were a troop of comic book-style villains representing the threats facing life on Earth, a plastic lord would likely be among them. It is incredibly useful, sure, but how we have surpassed ourselves. According to the campaign organization, Surfers Against Sewage, there are 500 times more microscopic pieces of plastic in the oceans than stars in the galaxy.
With the public increasingly motivated to do something about plastic, Plastic Free JulioFor example, it is in full swing: companies are responding by rethinking their packaging and general environmental policies.
Not to be left behind, the cosmetic industry is there among them. Almost 50 percent of cosmetic packaging is made of plastic and the industry is actively looking for alternatives, particularly those brands with a more natural or ethical spirit. Fortunately, small businesses don’t have to look far for inspiration – with many of its products sold solidly, the Lush chain of stores was an early pioneer. And each time more, zero waste stores across the UK they offer opportunities for green brands to sell their products.
Pioneering brands are helping remove plastic from beauty regimens. Image: Kevin Laminto
Gareth Després is the UK Director School of Natural Skin Care, whose graduates often launch their own brands. He says he is impressed by the amount of plastic they have dropped from their operations.
“Recently, we bought lots of products from our students, we got about 10 boxes,” says Després. “Products were coming in from all over the world, and none of them contained plastic. They all came in recycled cardboard boxes; the [packaging inside was] recycled paper; the products had no packaging, had paper or hemp packaging, or came in glass bottles. And inside [every single box] it was a little brochure about [the companies’] ecological policy “.
Caroline Lee-Smith, graduate of her Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation course and owner of the Bristol-based skincare brand, Expensive Creams, says that when he started his business six years ago, not using plastic was not the norm.
“Everything tended to be plastic. And at first, I didn’t know why. I was wondering if plastic is more hygienic because maybe the alternatives cannot be sanitized or sealed to the same extent. But actually, that’s not true, ”he says. “As long as the packaging is food grade, it is acceptable to the cosmetic industry.”
Bristol-based Caro’s Creams has a strict eco policy that covers everything from water use to packaging.
Lee-Smith prides itself on being environmentally conscious in its operations – it has written an extensive green policy that covers everything from renewable energy to sustainable water use and packaging. Virtually all the packaging of your products (jars, labels, lids, tubes) are made of non-plastic, recyclable or biodegradable materials. Customers can also return their empty glass jars, which she disinfects and reuses.
But in the quest to be as sustainable as possible, interestingly Lee-Smith still uses some plastic. Products are sometimes shipped in bubble wrap, but more importantly, everything is pre-used. “All my street, [everyone on my] school run, my Facebook neighborhood group, they all supply me with their used packaging. And I stack it all up and reuse it, ”he says.
So while claims like ‘no plastic’ and ‘zero waste’ sound pretty impressive from a marketing and green credential standpoint, the most sustainable or practical option may not be to give up plastic entirely. For Lee-Smith, who previously worked as a bulky waste reuse advisor for the government, using what’s already circulating felt more shocking than getting new, more recyclable packaging. In fact, anyone familiar with the waste hierarchy I would agree.
Like Caro’s Creams, Scottish brand Wheesht Masks, based in Stirling, puts sustainability first. Owner Kelly Ford makes cruelty-free and vegan clay-based face masks and other skincare products, like beard oil and cleansing balms. Their products come in glass jars with aluminum lids and the trial sizes are sold in biodegradable bags. Also, the masks come in powder form and contain no preservatives. This means that the customer gets better value and a less wasteful product: “They can [make up] exactly how much they want; They are not buying a jar that is already full of water, ”says Ford.
Taking into account plastic and waste are priorities for these brands, but for companies that want to minimize their environmental impact, Lee-Smith and Ford say that holistic decision-making is key. The only plastic container in the Lee-Smith line is the cap on their capillary and facial serum pipettes. But they serve a very specific purpose, delivering a small amount of product to a desired area without a problem. And they are reusable.
No plastic and no waste are great buzzwords – they make people realize there is a problem with waste.
“The idea is that you buy them the first time and then on subsequent purchases you just buy the glass bottle with the aluminum cap,” he says.
‘Zero waste’, with its connotation that every opportunity to reduce or eliminate packaging has been seized, and that the companies behind these products align themselves with a higher moral code, is fast becoming a buzzword. But Lee-Smith doesn’t see this as a negative.
“No plastic and no waste are great buzzwords because they make people aware on a daily basis that there is a problem to do with our waste. And that’s a really easy way for people to think about sustainability in a broader sense. “
Lead Image: Autumn Goodman