My Skin isn’t perfect and neither is the beauty industry – is Sustainable Beauty the answer?
Written by Lily Smith
Design by Aimee Lee
Picture the scene; a glass of pink gin, a bit of Dua Lipa blasting out the speaker and your makeup covering every surface.
My friends and I have often joked that getting ready is the best part of a night out. Making your face glow golden with champagne highlighter, blending glittering eyeshadow over your lids and making your lips luscious with a beautiful lipstick.
For some of us, makeup is our armour, preparing us for whatever the day has to throw at us. We have our favourite brands and those we’d avoid – turns out turquoise eyeliner isn’t the look I thought it was when I was 13. And the same goes for our skincare, we go for what works for us.
It’s no surprise then that the Beauty industry is now worth $532 billion; growing increasingly every year as products are developed for different skin types and different needs.
But what does our love of makeup and skincare mean for the environment?
Conscience vs. Convenience
The beauty industry is a major contributor to landfill and the plastics found in our oceans. 120 billion units of packaging are produced in one year alone by the beauty industry.
Think about the last beauty item you bought and this fact becomes more understandable. Was it in a box? Did you have to struggle to rip off that layer of cellophane over the product? I hate those. Did the product come in a plastic tube or bottle? Did it have a plastic lid? And when you were done, did you just lob it straight in the bin?
Because me too. I’m the first to admit when it comes to makeup and skincare, I’m one of those people who sticks with what they know. And as a recent graduate, value for money is also a huge factor for me.
I don’t always consider the ethics of what I’m buying, where the product will end up when I’m done and what it’s taken to make the thing I’m putting on my face.
And I’m not alone.
In a survey, 41% of people stated value for money was the thing they considered the most when purchasing beauty products and only 10% stated the sustainability of the product was their most important factor.
I think my lack of concern surrounding sustainable beauty comes from a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge of what sustainable beauty entails and how switching to more sustainable or vegan products can make a huge difference.
We choose convenience over our conscience.
In our fast-paced society we like to be able to pick up makeup and skincare that we know and love in our high street stores on the way home from work, rather than taking time to consider the products and their impact.
So what can we do to change these figures? What can we do to make our love of beauty more sustainable and better for the environment?
Vegan Beauty – Kind to skin and kind to the planet
Vegan beauty refers to products that do not contain any animal-by products or ingredients such as beeswax or carmine (which is actually crushed up beetles, grim right?).
There is a perception that vegan beauty is not high-street friendly. But this simply isn’t true. Makeup brands such as ELF and B. by Superdrug sell exclusively vegan products which are kind to skin and the planet.
So why are vegan products better you might think?
Well for starters, if you have sensitive skin like me (hello spots and red blotches whenever Aunt Flo pops by on her monthly visit) vegan products contain vitamins and minerals which can help hydrate the skin.
Another benefit of vegan beauty is the guarantee that at no point has the product been tested on animals making them cruelty free as well.
But for me, the best thing I’ve noticed about exploring vegan skincare is the huge range of products.
Most of our favourite brands offer vegan alternatives. Friends and family have pointed out that makeup brands such as MUA, Lush and Bare Minerals as well as skincare brands such as Simple’s Kind to Skin range and The Ordinary are all vegan and easily accessible on the high street – after all 59% of those surveyed said they are more likely to shop instore.
In fact, my go to brand, Revolution, offer a range of vegan products including my new favourite eyeshadow pallet, the Friends Rachel Pallet, featuring iconic shades such as ‘We were on a break’ and ‘Barneys’ – as Monica would say I know!
Sustainable Beauty – Hello reusable and refillable, goodbye plastic
Although vegan beauty is much more environmentally-friendly in terms of its ingredients, buying something vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sustainable.
It is often the packaging of beauty products that let them down. In preparation for this feature, I had a good nose at my own makeup and oh my goodness, I didn’t realise how many products are packaged in plastics that either can’t be recycled or are not widely recyclable.
For example, I am a lover of a face wipe. I know, I know — they’re probably terrible for my skin and it’s no secret they aren’t that great for the environment. But when I came across Simple’s Kind to Skin Biodegradable Wipes, I was thrilled to see that the wipes which would usually end up in landfill would degrade over time. Perfect right?
But take a closer look and the back of the package highlights that although the wipes will *eventually* degrade, the outer packaging shows a cute little triangle with a 4 in the centre, this symbol basically means the plastic used to house our eco-friendly wipes are the same as shopping bags and are rarely recycled.
Some beauty products could be said to be guilty of something called Greenwashing in which a company attempts to convince the consumer that they are eco-friendly by appealing to nature. I can’t help but think this is what’s happened with these wipes here.
Luckily there are people like Sew Lovely by Lauren who make sustainable beauty products which are not only reusable but super cute too. I’ve recently purchased some gorgeous bee print face wipes which you simply use to remove your makeup with your favourite skincare product and then just chuck in the wash when you’re done.
And for makeup there are other sustainable options. Brands such as Upcircle offer alternative packaging to ensure we can shop for beauty products we love in an ethical and sustainable way.
Upcircle is a company that collects used coffee grounds from coffee shops all around London which are reused as ingredients in their products. And amazingly their packaging is 99% plastic free using cardboard boxes, glass bottles and aluminium tubes and lids instead. And that cheeky 1% can be made up for by the plastic free refill options they offer as an alternative.
And Makeup brands such as Milk Makeup, which has been available in the UK since January 2019, are both vegan and sustainable in their packaging. Who else wants to join me in trying out their Lip + Cheek Multipurpose lipstick and blush? The shade Werk is calling out to me.
Refillable products are also becoming more common in an attempt to combat the large waste production of the beauty industry.
For example Charlotte Tilbury’s Hot Lips 2 Collection is available in 5 gorgeous reusable sticks from a saucy little leopard print number to a sophisticated black moon and stars case which can be refilled with any of the 11 shades in the collection.
It has to be said that these options aren’t the cheapest but if you can afford the investment then there’s no harm in giving it a go.
Small changes, Big difference
Our individual skin types, tastes and budgets will always play a factor in what we choose to buy when it comes to beauty.
Swapping to reusable wipes, going for a refillable product or going all out to completely switch up the contents of our makeup bags to vegan and sustainable products will hopefully make both our skin and the environment cleaner and brighter.
So let’s challenge ourselves to make small changes which will add up to a big difference.