Beauty that’s as kind to the environment as the skin

An evolution in eco skincare and cosmetics is seeing new formulations that are kind to both the environment and the body, says Bethan Cole. Illustration by John Kuczala

Image: Illustration by John Kuczala

When one of the beauty world’s most influential power players, Marcia Kilgore – the woman behind the brands Bliss, FitFlop and Soap & Glory – decides to be creative adviser on a new venture, it’s probably one with a serious future. Soaper Duper, which launched exclusively at Liberty at the end of October, is a range of bodycare products formulated from natural ingredients and without the usual chemical suspects – whether phthalates, triclosan, mineral oil, sodium laureth sulphate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), artificial colours, parabens or plastic microbeads. Kind to the human body, they are also kind to the environment: performing well and smelling heavenly – the Fruity Green Tuberose body wash (£7.50 for 500ml) is sensual and buttery – the range also comes in groovy packaging (by industrial design whizzkid Ross Lovegrove) made from recycled plastic.

Oilixia Skincare Brilliance facial oil, £37 for 30ml
Oilixia Skincare Brilliance facial oil, £37 for 30ml

The launch comes hot on the heels of the British government’s announcement that plastic microbeads in beauty and cleaning products would be banned by the end of 2017: too small to be removed by standard water-filtration plants, the beads have been entering the food chain, contaminating fish and the environment. The ban signals a renewed awareness of environmental issues around cosmetic products, further proof that the boom in green beauty products that took place a decade or so ago was not just a short-lived fad.

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Influenced, too, by concepts such as the “clean eating” movement, consumers are increasingly knowledgeable – and demanding – about what’s going into their beauty products. In response, a growing number of companies are formulating their products to be kinder to the environment. According to market researcher Mintel, 40 per cent of beauty and personal care products launched in the UK from January to October 2016 featured a “natural” claim on their packaging, up from 36 per cent in 2013, while market research group NPD reports that natural and organic brands now account for 20 per cent of the prestige skincare market, with sales increasing by nine per cent in the 12 months to August 2016. In addition, the UK Soil Association’s Organic Market Report this year stated that organic beauty sales grew by 22 per cent in 2015.

Humble Sweet Pea & Verbena body lotion, £8 for 200ml
Humble Sweet Pea & Verbena body lotion, £8 for 200ml

Heightened consumer awareness also extends to packaging. “We’ve come full circle as consumers,” says Kilgore. “There was a time when we packaged everything to within an inch of its life. We are dealing with the ramifications of all that now: landfill issues, tainted water supplies and plastic in our oceans, as well as questions about the safety of certain ingredients in our bodies and our environment.”

Kure Bazaar nail varnish, £15
Kure Bazaar nail varnish, £15

Creating an effective eco-friendly beauty line hasn’t been easy, continues Kilgore. “It wasn’t always possible to formulate affordable products that were naturally derived and good enough in both texture and efficacy. For good natural products, you had to pay through the nose. Recent technologies – and a couple of brilliant chemists – have made it possible for us to offer fantastic, naturally derived products at scale, without harming the environment.”

Inika Organic eyeliner pencil, £14.50
Inika Organic eyeliner pencil, £14.50

The wildlife television presenter Kate Humble, a former president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, is another influential figure who has chosen to create an environmentally friendly beauty range. She’s spent the past three years developing Humble, a capsule line of body and bath products (from £8 for 200ml of Sweet Pea & Verbena body lotion to £12 for 275ml of Rose & Frankincense bath honey) that doesn’t pollute the planet. “First and foremost, the products had to be biodegradable and as environmentally low-impact – both to make and use – as possible,” she says of her creations, which are SLS- and paraben-free. “But crucially, they also had to work.” The environmental impact of certain chemicals in body- and bathcare is cause for concern as they can take decades to degrade; by contrast, biodegradable products take a period of months rather than years to do so. “We have got used to using biodegradable washing-up liquid and washing powder,” says Humble “but I felt it was vital that the products we use to wash ourselves and apply to our bodies were also biodegradable, widely available and not too expensive. It was particularly important to me that all the ingredients fitted that remit.”

Prismologie Pink O’Clock Rose and Rose Quartz hand and cuticle cream, £30 for 75ml
Prismologie Pink O’Clock Rose and Rose Quartz hand and cuticle cream, £30 for 75ml

Eco-smart brands with a focus on environmental friendliness are popping up all over the industry now. For example, Prismologie, a luxe bath and body brand launched in May, keeps its range free from genetically modified ingredients, SLS, petrolatum, propylene glycol, parabens, microbeads, animal derivatives and products tested on animals. Its Pink O’Clock Rose and Rose Quartz hand and cuticle cream (£30 for 75ml) smells delicious, is non-greasy and is absorbed quickly. Another eco-friendly option is Oilixia Skincare: its Brilliance facial oil (£37 for 30ml) is extracted from Amazonian cacay nuts, sustainably harvested from trees that are being used to help reforest the Amazon and provide a means of income for indigenous communities.

Soaper Duper Fruity Green Tuberose body wash, £7.50 for 500ml
Soaper Duper Fruity Green Tuberose body wash, £7.50 for 500ml

There’s also a growing market for eco-beauty products that were once difficult to create naturally, such as make-up and nail polish. Australian make-up brand Inika Organic has overcome formulation difficulties to offer an environmentally friendly selection of products (from £14.50 for an eyeliner pencil) that perform really well. “We source only natural ingredients,” says CEO Tony Rechtman. “More than two-thirds of the range is certified organic, and the entire range is certified vegan and cruelty-free. In addition, we use packaging that is recyclable. One‑third of the products cannot be certified organic simply because they are derived from rock, namely the mineral powders and foundations.”

Neal’s Yard Remedies Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber facial wash, £16 for 100ml
Neal’s Yard Remedies Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber facial wash, £16 for 100ml

Less environmentally toxic nail varnish has been a goal for a while now. Conventional nail varnish mainly contains components from petrochemicals and substances not found in nature that are considered common industrial pollutants. But the technology has evolved and new range Kure Bazaar uses solvents made from raw materials such as cotton, potato, wood pulp, wheat and corn, which are environmentally friendly alternatives that perform well. Natural pigments have been used to create 80 vibrant colours (from £15).

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Concern for the wellbeing of the human body and that of the planet frequently go hand in hand: it is the point at which changes in our eating habits and environmentally friendly beauty products connect. One of the rising food trends alongside clean eating is veganism, a dietary lifestyle that has risen 350 per cent in the past decade and is mostly down to millennials. The organic brand Neal’s Yard Remedies – launched in 1981 and the first beauty brand in Britain to be certified environmentally sound by the Soil Association – has collaborated with clean-eating guru Ella Mills on a capsule range of products (from £16 for 100ml of the Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber facial wash) using many of the ingredients Mills cooks with such as turmeric, avocado, coconut, blueberries, lime and cucumber. “The clean-eating revolution has really made people question why, if they are only putting the best ingredients into their body, they aren’t doing the same for their skin?” says Helen Cooper, managing director of Neal’s Yard Remedies.

And Aveda (the first company, back in 1989, to sign up to the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, an international code of corporate environmental conduct) endeavours to make its products vegan wherever possible, although a small section of the range contains beeswax or honey. “The overwhelming majority of our products are made with non-animal-derived ingredients,” says Dave Rapaport, Aveda’s vice president of earth and community care.

As the spending power of millennials grows, so too will the demand for beauty products with eco credentials that keep pace with our understanding of the environment. As Marcia Kilgore warns, “For every environmental issue we know about, there are probably five more that we’ve yet to unearth.”

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