When it comes to sustainability, we're pretty hot on eco-friendly fashion and ethical clothing, but what about sustainable beauty?
What does sustainable beauty even mean? Is it a real thing or just another marketing ploy designed to seduce more spending?
To find out how it works IRL, we caught up with beauty companies across the world who are working to make sustainable beauty the industry standard.
It's not only about being cruelty-free and vegan either. Sustainability is a huge word that covers all manner of matters, and there's loads of ways to get involved and make a difference.
For an eco-powerhouse like The Body Shop, sustainability means that everything they do does no harm. Christopher Davis, Director of Corporate Responsibility, goes on to explain that the ultimate aim for the beauty business is to enable both the planet and its society to flourish.
'We all have a role to play to ensure the planet can flourish for years to come. Even though challenges like climate change can seem huge and frightening, we can all make positive choices, starting with how we behave, what we choose to buy and use."
What makes a beauty product sustainable?
Let's start with what goes into the product. Being accountable for the ingredients isn't just making sure they're of a high quality and sourced well. It's also thinking about the long-term impact of the ingredients and their impact on the environment.
Ericka Rodriguez, founder of AXIOLOGY, is proud to use no palm oil or palm oil derivatives in their products. 'Palm oil is causing widespread deforestation and causing the extinction of many animal species. We donate to the Orangutan Foundation International to help the orangutans during this crisis.'
Axiology boxes are sourced from women in Bali that recycle local rubbish into paper.
Innocent ingredients aside, sustainable beauty is also about the end to end process. It's about making sure everything from sourcing, manufacturing, packaging and selling is making the tiniest impact possible.
To The Body Shop, it also means the people involved in their supply chains and stores around the world are paid and treated fairly.
'Many companies buy all their ingredients from large international traders,' says Christopher, 'We take a different approach - 23 of our natural ingredients come through our pioneering Community Trade programme which benefits 25,000 people.'
At Jurlique, most of the ingredients are grown on their farm which is almost entirely energy self-sufficient thanks to the 140 solar panels and power production system. Jurlique also recycles water used at their factory to irrigate their crops and has switched from aluminium to 100% recyclable plastic tubes.
Is your skincare routine sustainable?
It's not all on the beauty businesses to turn things around. As consumers, we have a lot of power to make a change.
'By understanding more about what goes into a product, consumers can make sure their impact on the environment is a more positive one,' says Christopher, 'Anita Roddick always said to demand change when you go shopping and the best way to create change is to shop with ethical and sustainable retailers.'
We can start making sustainable choices just by looking at the label before we add it to our baskets. Look out for the Leaping Bunny logo, which certifies that the product was not tested on animals. The Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance logos are also a sign that the ingredients have been sustainably sourced.
Don't forget about the familiar ones either - when was the last time you checked for recycling labels?
It's not just the Western cosmetics brands that are adopting sustainable approaches either. Keep an eye out for international certifications too.
Joshua Lau, CEO of YesStyle.com notes that the organic & natural cosmetics market in South Korea has been rapidly growing as more consumers look for a healthier lifestyle. The South Korean government has recently introduced a new certification system, so look out for more eco-friendly K-Beauty products headed our way soon.
Once you've purchased a product, make sure you dispose of it correctly (i.e. don't pour something down the drain that is meant to go in the bin). If your packaging isn't recyclable, see if you can upcycle empty containers or find another use for it.
ELLE Edit - Sustainable Skincare
£1.30 from each sale goes to The Body Shop's Building Bio Bridges Programme to support conservation and communities.
Innisfree Green Tea Seed Serum, £14.63
Known for being South Korea's first all-natural brand, Innisfree focuses on 'smart consumption' by providing sustainable products at reasonable prices.
Containing sustainable ingredients doesn't mean this cream is any less powerful. Enriched with Japanese Cedar Bud extract, this potent cream is designed to target the appearance of fine lines and dull skin.
Australia has been leading the way when it comes to natural beauty and this clay mask is 100% vegan, cruelty free, biodegradable AND carbon neutral.