Sustainable products for the beauty industry which, for the uninitiated, is one of the sectors that make greater use of single-use plastics, and its impact on the environment is huge (and frightening), especially as regards themarine ecosystem. “Each year, eight million tons of plastic end up in our oceans, in addition to the 150 million tons that are estimated to already circulate in the seas,” he says. Sarah Jay, who made the documentary Toxic Beauty (2019) and founded All Earthlings, an organization that strives for greater transparency in the cosmetic product supply chain.
Documentaries like Jay’s help build on awareness on the harmful effects of beauty industry on the environment, and in fact today the demand from consumers for brands of clean beauty and environmentally friendly. It is the new sustainable beauty trend.
Dalla green beauty alla blue beauty
You have probably already heard of the green beauty, but blue beauty is the latest trend to take hold in the sector. If the green beauty deals with the protection ofambient, the blue one in particular tries to understand how beauty products can damage our seas and oceans, from plastic packaging to ingredients harmful to the marine ecosystem, passing through all those components that derive from the oceans, such as squalene and algae.
“The green beauty it is the consequence of a more lifestyle eco-conscious, and includes actions like eating healthy, composting, recycling and avoiding excessive use of chemicals, ”he says Melissa I do, vice president of the beauty sector for the trend forecasting company Fashion Snoops. “These changes in our lifestyle have inevitably led us to choose sustainable products, therefore more natural and ‘clean’, which safeguard both us and the environment. We started talking about blue beauty from Fashion Snoops two years ago, when concern about the future of our oceans grew and consumers began to understand that plastic was damaging the marine ecosystem ”.
The new wave of “blue” brands
There are many ways in which a brand can choose to switch to blue for a cleaner future, from creating plant-based alternatives to marine ingredients the ban on the use of harmful chemicals and products such as microspheres or dangerous for coral reefs up to recyclable packaging.
Biossance is a sustainable beauty brand that uses biotechnology to remedy the very serious damage caused by the use of squalene, an ingredient found in the liver of sharks and used as a moisturizing agent in cosmetics. Instead of using squalene, the brand has devised a plant-based alternative biologically synthesized from renewable sugar cane: the result is a highly performative ingredient that does not cause damage to the aquatic ecosystem. According to Hago, Biossance helped give visibility to plant squalene, putting pressure on brands that still use shark-derived squalene. “They also highlighted the fact that consumers they have no way of knowing where squalene originates, demonstrating that we need greater transparency on ingredients, so that consumers can make more informed and ethical choices “.
As for the ban on the use of harmful substances such as microspheres, those very small plastic particles found in exfoliant, or chemicals harmful to the coral reef such asossibenzone, found in the sun filters, some brands have acted quickly. “Microbead pollution and sun products that cause coral reef damage are two topics that brands have worked positively on with communication and new product formulation,” says Hago. According to Hago, solar a mineral base and which do not harm the reef are extremely popular right now. The skincare brand Versed, for example, has just launched its new mineral sunscreen, as well as Everyday Humans and EleVen by Venus Williams. Hago believes the industry will continue to produce solar products that do not harm the reef.
For what concern sustainable packaging, Hago notes that many brands are changing their approach to choosing alternative materials and / or recycled plastics from the oceans. For example, the skincare brand Honua Hawaiian Skincare usa un packaging compostable created with vegetable ink and wind energy, while their recyclable bottles are made of glass with silk-screened paper labels. Then, there is Pure skincare, which uses packaging from recycled plastic from the oceans: the bottles are made with the plastic of seas and oceans and the caps, pump dispensers and bottles are all recyclable. Its goal is to use only recycled, recyclable or reusable packaging by 2021.
I pericoli del “ blue washing”
While these are all steps in the right direction, Jay warns of the dangers of “blue washing“. Some brands partner with ocean and ocean conservation organizations in an effort to offset their impact, but for Jay that’s not enough. The best thing a brand can do to defend the oceans is “Formulate products once and for all non-toxic and multipurpose and choose a refillable, plastic-free and zero impact packaging “.
“The whole industry has to change the way it produces,” continues Hago. “We see that there is more and more innovation regarding formulations, such as for example the elimination of microspheres from the products because they cause less damage to the coral reef, and mineral-based sunscreens. But these are choices that must be made by small and large companies, and not just by a few niche brands “.
Brands need to commit to changing the way products are made since most cosmetics follow a linear production model. This means that they are created without the slightest consideration for what happens to the products after use oceans become landfills for toxic waste and plastics. More products need to be created based on circular economy principles (as William McDonough and Michael Braungart explain in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things) so that they are sustainable even after their final use, a great benefit for the climate.
It is not enough, however, to rely only on recycling: the products should not contain any toxic ingredients and do not produce any type of waste. “Many brands have adopted a ‘returnable’ system and offer packaging made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, but it is still insufficient solutions given the seriousness of the plastic problem in beauty industry“, Explains Jay, who believes that brands must first switch to glass and paper packaging and then become fully refillable and”zero waste“. Its motto is: “Rethink, reformulate, reload”.
To stimulate debate on the subject, governments and companies must be held accountable for laws and reforms, without burdening consumers, who have to juggle unclear labels and understand the impact of different ingredients. While our seas and oceans suffer the harmful effects of waste, plastics and chemicals, that of blue beauty is an important initiative for protect and preserve water and biodiversity. “The oceans are resilient and have a huge capacity for regenerate if we put their safeguarding first, ”says Jay. “The oceans are the lungs of our planet and their role for our ecosystem is fundamental, without it we could not live”.