Sustainability is a cross-sector issue that is now affecting cosmetics. The benefits of sustainability efforts in this field are not only for the environment, but also for users of the products, as too many chemical ingredients can damage skin and hair. But what does ‘sustainable cosmetics’ mean? Does it simply refer to organic products? Let’s offer some clarification.
Are cosmetics really a pollutant? An investigation tells us the answer
Sustainability today seems to have the power of King Midas, who turned everything he touched into gold. Being eco-friendly is something that makes products and services look better to consumers, and cosmetics are no exception. According to research presented by Cosmetica Italia and carried out by Quantis, the cosmetic sector’s emissions make up 1.5% of the total of the world total. The research, with the title of ‘Make up the future’, highlights that 40% of these emissions are attributable to the actual ingredients. Hence the interest in sustainable products of this kind.
Sustainable cosmetics and organic cosmetics: meanings and differences
We can define sustainable cosmetics as products that aim to reduce their environmental footprint, or the impact that the product has on the environment in its life cycle. There are many ways to lessen this impact. You can improve the INCI (the list of ingredients) by choosing less polluting substances, changing the packaging and choosing recycled and / or recyclable materials, or aiming for a process that consumes less energy.
Organic cosmetics on the other hand are made with organic ingredients also being able to have the ‘Ecocert’ certification. There are niche brands that are particularly attentive to organic sourcing for their ingredients, as is the case for Hemp Care, which makes use of the soothing and calming properties of hemp.
Do sustainable cosmetics really work?
New frontiers of research aim to find ingredients that manage to be both truly effective and natural at the same time. This is made especially possible when the research team is committed to combining the latest generation of technological assets with ingredients provided by nature, creating formulas with enhanced effectiveness.
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Cruelty free cosmetics, another way of being sustainable
Animals are part of our world and ever more people refuse to accept their beauty and well-being products being tested on animals. In Italy, there are many brands that embrace the cruelty-free philosophy, such as Bottega Verde, Catrice, L’Erbolario and Pupa Milano. Some countries have different inclinations on this matter, however. Until recently, it was mandatory in China to test a cosmetic product on animals before it could be put on the market.
Large cosmetic companies and sustainability
This subject is particularly complex. As explained above there are various ways of doing sustainable cosmetics and each company deals with the issue in a different way. Most large companies have already launched eco-friendly lines alongside classic products. Henkel, for example, has signed off on the N.A.E. Naturale Antica Erboristeria brand, made with 97% naturally sourced ingredients with at least 10% coming from organic farming, in 100% vegan formulas. The multinational cosmetics company of French origin L’Oréal has been awarded an A in all categories of the CDP (voluntary certification for attention to the environment) 4 years in a row, for climate change, water resource security, and forest security.
The other sustainability “moves” of cosmetic companies
Many marketers have noticed that cosmetics that have commitments to the planet are appreciated for it. It is an extra factor that helps to win over the consumer. Admirable initiatives in this regard have thus flourished. Take two commendable examples, both of which are companies that started in 2012. Since that year, the French company Caudalie has donated 1% of its worldwide turnover to associations dedicated to environmental conservation and is currently the first in the global beauty sector to become a contributor to the ‘1% for the Planet’ association. In addition, in 2012 Biotherm launched the Waterlovers program for the protection of the oceans, while at the same time making continuous ecological innovations on its own line of sunscreens that bears the same name Waterlover.
Cosmetic companies that become Benefit societies
Some companies have chosen to emphasize their dedication to sustainability by turning into ‘B Corporations’, or Benefit societies that benefit not only themselves with their revenue, but also the community and the environment that hosts them, all done in the spirit of continuous and mutual improvement. This is also a path explored by Yves Rocher in France (with the slogan “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle”) and in Italy by Herbatint and Davines, which for years have been offering their professional, sustainable products to hairdressers.
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The importance of packaging in sustainable cosmetics
Packaging accounts for 20% of the environmental footprint of cosmetics, as revealed by Il Sole 24 Ore. It’s easy to understand why, given that plastic is among the most used materials in the industry. Among its virtues are versatility, hygiene, and lightness, so it’s hard to do without. It’s for this reason that many companies are further refining their research. For example, L’Oréal is aiming to make 100% of its plastic packaging from recycled or bio-based materials by 2030. Other companies choose recycled or recyclable cardboard where possible, which immediately communicates a natural air. To find new packaging solutions, some innovative companies have modified the product, for example by making the shampoo solid. A solid product, or rather Solid.O (the name of the brand) is also wrapped up with only a little recyclable paper.
The phenomenon of greenwashing in cosmetics
With the prospect of greater success, some have taken advantage of the idea of being able to “clean one’s conscience” with a small gesture of benefitting the planet. We are of course talking about ‘greenwashing’, indeed attempting to clean up the reputation of the company with a ‘green action’ or with very generous storytelling about such things. However, a communication strategy that is not based on fact is short-lived, as consumers are ever more informed and demanding.
Why opt for ecological cosmetics?
To summarise, we can say that ecological cosmetics are gaining increasing popularity among health-conscious and environmentally-conscious shoppers for the following key reasons:
- Natural and quality ingredients: ecological cosmetics are made with elements of natural origin and often derived from sustainable farming practices. This ensures the presence of nutritious compounds that are healthy for the epidermis, avoiding the use of synthetic or potentially harmful components.
- Respect for the environment: by opting for ecological cosmetics, you contribute to the protection of the environment. Indeed, the manufacturing and production process involves the use of renewable resources, resulting in less pollution.
- Cruelty-free: many ecological products also respect the principles of cruelty-free cosmetics, i.e. without testing/testing on animals. The articles we use will not have caused any suffering to animals during the cosmetic product development and manufacturing process.