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Image / Style / Beauty

The sustainable beauty brands making waves in packaging and processes


By Leonard Daly
30th Mar 2022
The sustainable beauty brands making waves in packaging and processes

We as consumers are far more aware of the environmental impact that the products that we consume have.

Over the past number of years, the phrase ‘clean beauty’ has been one of the main buzzwords in the beauty sphere, and a lot of brands jumped on the bandwagon while they were not actually ‘clean’. Clean beauty, like all areas in the beauty world, is a spectrum and while a lot of brands will fit into what we now call ‘clean beauty’ by having sustainable packaging, their products may not be, and vice versa. Basically, we think we are buying a ‘clean’ product but it’s not 100% there. And to be honest I am not totally convinced that they need to be.

Of course, there are ingredients that we should be avoiding. The EU’s governing body for the beauty industry has banned the use of over 1000 ingredients that were traditionally used in the production of cosmetics while their American counterpart the FDA has banned just under 100, so anything that we buy here in Europe is always going to be safer than some that are available in the US. Two examples of ingredients now banned here are ultra-dark tanning lotions containing more then 10% DHA, an ingredient that helped with streaking and developing ultra-dark tans. Another is the Brazilian Blow Out that changed the hair of many an unruly Irish head in the late 00s but had formaldehyde in it – if you were in a salon when one was being done it was obvious that yes, that stuff is noxious.

Brands like Gen See, Codex Beauty Labs and Seabody are doing incredible work in the clean beauty world, literally taking it to the next level when it comes to the environmental impact of their brands, from sustainably sourcing their ingredients for production to ensuring that all ingredients are fair-trade. Codex even operates at a carbon-negative footprint. Seabody is a native brand that hand harvests all of its main ingredient, seaweed, from the Irish Atlantic. Seaweed is one of the most sustainable of all nature’s crops, and it grows in abundance off our coast. They want to make a positive impact on the planet with their range of products ranging from skincare to supplements. They use renewable energy to produce their products and the packaging is mostly glass – an infinitely recyclable material. Any paper that is used is from Irish suppliers who are as passionate about the planet as Seabody and is FSC Certified. The brand is plastic-free and the inks that they use for their printing are biodegradable. The skincare ranges in price from €40 to €70. Although not cheap, it is far more affordable than comparable products on the market and the ingredients being used are traceable and safe.

And then there are established brands that have always been ‘clean’ from their conception, like Nuxe whose packaging is sustainably sourced. The brand is 100% vegetarian using beeswax, and in certain products, they have a 90% vegan certification. They have won awards for the sustainable design of their packaging and they have not changed how they do things since they first started operating in 1990. If you haven’t tried their products you need to get on it, the fragrance of every single product is incredible. Their sunscreen is my go-to body sunscreen and I adore the iconic Hulile Prodigieuse Multipurpose Oil – it literally smells like you’re on holiday in a fancy 5-star spa resort. L’Occitane en Provence has always been deeply committed to the safety of its products while also limiting environmental impact from farming to packaging. They self-impose a formulation charter that goes beyond global regulatory compliance, using ingredients of natural origin but they also prioritise those with high biodegradability. They recently reopened their Wicklow Street store after an upgrade and to my delight they have a refill station of their five best selling products, my all-time favourite hand soap, Verbena, being one of them. You can buy a forever refillable bottle in two sizes 250ml and 500ml, €3.50 and €5.50, with refills ranging in cost from €13.50 to €31.

Gen See is a new range of colour cosmetics that are clean as well as high performing. Gen ‘See’ means the generation that sees how we impact our environment by what we consume. The packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. The packaging is cheery and bright and will put a smile on your face before you even check out the gorgeousness inside. They have 11 products; with four shades of the Pick Me Up Matte Lipstick, a beautifully textured lipstick that’s matte but not drying, three shades of my favourite product the Clean Sheen Cheek and Lip Colour, a wonderfully light-textured wash of colour to give you perfect blush – the Apricot shade is the perfect blush colour. There is also a Clean Sheen Lip Gloss, a clear glossy but not too sticky gloss, and three shades of the Arch Support Brow Powder Gel, a hybrid of the two brow products that we should all be using. Along with being green, Gen See ensures that anyone who works making the products or growing the ingredients makes a fair living wage while also ensuring that the products remain affordable for us, with all products priced below €20. Gen See also has a European hub where all Irish orders are processed so there’s no nasty surprises when they are delivered.

Victoria Beckham Beauty is a luxe high-end clean beauty range that ensures the ingredient list is safe, ethical and environmentally responsible. They do not add any unnecessary filler ingredients into their formulations. Their packaging uses minimal plastic and if you order online the boxes that are used are 100% Forest Stewardship Council certified, from recycled and recyclable paper. Plus, they use corn packaging foam to ensure your shopping doesn’t get damaged, which dissolves underwater and does not damage the environment.

But it is not just indie and luxe brands that are flying the flag for sustainable beauty. Giants in the industry are starting to make much more sustainable choices with their ingredients and packaging. Garnier is leading the way for mass-produced brands and proving that even at that level a brand can be greener. Every one of their products has been approved by Cruelty Free International. They have designed a labelling system that you can track the environmental impact each product has. I particularly love their Intensive 7 Days Shea Butter hand cream, after the past two years we all need a lot of hand cream!

Now almost all brands are becoming more sustainably focused, with major corporations meeting targets on their environmental impact initiatives, with some now operating at a zero carbon footprint for energy consumption. We as consumers are far more aware of the environmental impact that the products that we consume have and we are demanding that the products that we purchase are sustainable and animal friendly. Before now it wouldn’t have been a consideration for the majority of people to only buy products that fit into these categories. Now as climate change is happening, we are all trying to do what we can, when we can for our environment.

Leonard Daly is a make-up artist, beauty consultant and IMAGE.ie beauty columnist, @leonarddaly.

Photography by L’Occitane. We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.