The beauty industry has a bad habit of labeling actual change—eliminating harmful ingredients or including actual representation in imagery—as trends. Clean beauty has become a casualty of this phenomenon, which is only emphasized when brands use vague terms and greenwash their products, despite a lack of commitment to true sustainability. Hopefully, this “fad” is here to stay, with consumers continuing to demand higher quality and more eco-friendly beauty products. However, as “green beauty” is being hailed as the new cool thing, Jessica Alba and the Honest Company were one the first brands to pave the way for innovation in the space.
“No one had even heard of the word ‘non-toxic’,” Jessica Alba told ELLE.com, as she discussed the founding of her brand.Started in 2011, The Honest Company–and its later brand, Honest Beauty, which launched in 2015–were emphasizing healthy ingredients and sustainable packaging before these were common PR-manufactured buzzwords.
“Back in the day, when I wanted everything to be in packaging that’s super sustainable, it just didn’t exist,” says Alba. Prior to new innovations in the field, options for a beauty line that also cared for the environment and health of its consumers were incredibly limited. Looking back at where the state of clean beauty was just a few years ago, Alba remarks, “How is this both expensive and terrible?”
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #62 series on my blog.
Luckily, the market has come a long way, and Alba’s company has been at the forefront. Now, cartons that house Honest Beauty products are 100% recyclable or compostable, and completely tree-free. “There are no trees that are harmed,” quipped Alba. Aluminum tubes, tin compacts, and refillable jars are being implemented for customer favorite products, and all orders from Honest.com are now carbon-neutral. And that’s just a snapshot of the changes the brand is implementing, now that more options are available.
Despite having a head start on the conversation surrounding sustainability in the beauty industry, it can still feel like an uphill battle. Along with pricey product stability testing, figuring out the best way to streamline production, and making sure the consumer had the best experience with the products, another major obstacle was raising the bar of manufacturing partners, who create the components for the brand. “They even had to implement new machinery that they didn’t have before, in order to fill our products in the more sustainable packaging,” says Alba. The goal, besides making products for Honest Beauty, was to create an infrastructure “so that they can offer it at more accessible prices to more companies, including us.”
Along with new packaging and sustainability goals, Honest Beauty is continuing to create new products that combine efficacy with its planet-centered goals. Their new Daily Defense Collection, which launched on July 19th, features a waterless cleanser, purifying toner, and setting spray, and was created to be integrated into anyone’s daily routine. And like the rest of their line, all these products were created with a focus on sustainability.
While the goal may be to become one hundred percent green, there is still so much work ahead. Continuing to invest time and money into creating and innovating clean alternatives–and make them available to as many brands as possible–isn’t a goal that can be checked off easily. And yet, it’s essential to keep working towards it, even when small changes may feel feeble. As Alba puts it, “This is just common sense. You should just care about your planet, the ocean, people’s health.”
And as more beauty brands feel the pressure to address their consumers’ demands for cleaner, more sustainable beauty, the more it’s apparent that Alba and Honest Beauty were ahead of their time.
“We’ve always cared about this stuff,” says Alba. “It’s just, the marketplace has finally caught up to us.”
You will have heard it a million times before: wearing a face SPF every day is key to healthy – and healthy-looking — skin. A good sunscreen blocks the harmful effects of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which wreak havoc on the health of our skin and its cells, leading to decreased collagen and elasticity, fine lines, pigmentation, and an increased risk of skin cancer if an SPF is not used.
Historically, SPFs have been sticky and greasy, quick to clog pores, and prone to imparting a grey hue over darker skin tones. The good news is that now, thanks to much-improved formulas and innovative technology, there are plenty of facial sunscreens that protect your skin while also being a pleasure to use. Look for formulas that have both UVA and UVB protection, a minimum of SPF 30, and a formula that suits your skin’s specific needs.
Another factor to consider in your sunscreen selection is its effect on the environment. While the science around exactly how damaging sunscreen is to our oceans is inconclusive, what ingredients should we be looking out for to make the best choice possible? A marine biologist, Professor Cinzia Corinaldesi from the Università Politecnica delle Marche and Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Skin55, provid a five-step guide.
Avoid oxybenzone and octinoxate
The main chemicals to watch out for are oxybenzone and octinoxate, which are commonly used in sunscreen to absorb UV light. “We [have] demonstrated that oxybenzone, octinoxate and enzacamene caused complete coral bleaching even at very low concentrations,” says Professor Corinaldesi. Octocrylene is another chemical that’s potentially harmful to marine life, with the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory compiling a handy list of the ingredients we should try to avoid.
“Certain organic filters have been identified in water sources worldwide and there seems to be a suggestion that they are not easily removed by common wastewater techniques,” adds Dr Mahto. “Many of the filters have also been found in various species of fish worldwide — the impact of this is uncertain on the food chain.”
Opt for a mineral sunscreen instead
Mineral sunscreens, which typically contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are thought to be less harmful to coral reefs in comparison to their chemical counterparts. “Mineral sunscreens rely on inorganic filters, which form a physical barrier on the skin surface,” explains Dr Mahto.
It’s worth remembering, though, that some research suggests zinc oxide can also pose a danger to marine life. “Our studies indicate that zinc oxide nanoparticles are very harmful to marine organisms,” says Professor Corinaldesi, but adds that titanium dioxide with surface coatings — as found in Green People’s scent-free SPF 30 — “has a much lower impact on coral reefs”.
Look for non-nanoparticles
Particle size matters, too. While nanoparticles can be absorbed by coral reefs, research suggests that larger non-nanoparticles (a label you’ll see on lotions) are better for the environment. Ren’s Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 uses non-nano zinc oxide, while Stream2Sea’s sunscreens contain non-nano titanium oxide. “Consumers should look out for sunscreens that use non-nanoparticles because nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are expected to be more harmful to marine organisms than non-nanoparticles,” explains Professor Corinaldesi.
Read beyond the ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’ labels
The increase in demand for eco-friendly sunscreens means that a lot of brands are now marketing their products as ‘reef-safe’ or ‘ocean-safe’. This usually means they don’t contain oxybenzone and octinoxate — the two chemicals banned in sunscreen by countries such as Hawaii — but they could still contain other chemicals on the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory list that are potentially harmful to the environment. “Consumers should check the ingredients on the label of the products,” Professor Corinaldesi comments.
Don’t forget the packaging
Beyond the ingredients in sunscreen, it’s important to consider the packaging as well, with discarded sunscreen bottles contributing, in part, to the 8m tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans every year. Brands such as Green People are using recyclable plant-based packaging made from sugar cane; a much more eco-friendly option compared to traditional plastic containers.
BEST SUNSCREENS TO SHOP RIGHT NOW:
Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense SPF 50
Doubling up as both a moisturiser and an SPF 50 sunscreen, Kiehl’s Ultra Light Daily Defense is an industry favourite, perfect for those with sensitive skin thanks to its oil-free, fragrance-free formula. It doesn’t leave a chalky residue either, making it a good choice for darker skin tones.
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel SPF50+
If you suffer from blemishes, you may find that sun protection leaves your skin feeling greasy and prone to breakouts. La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream Gel is specifically designed for people with those concerns, offering a non-comedogenic, feather-light formula with a velvet finish alongside SPF 50 protection.
With tranexamic acid and niacinamide, this is a supercharged SPF that’s as good at protecting skin from the sun as it is preventing and reducing discolouration. Put simply, it’s an excellent choice if you want an SPF that works really, really hard.
Making great SPFs its speciality, Supergoop’s latest launch is the Glowscreen SPF 30, a formula that offers the dewiest, most luminous glow, as well as an SPF of 30. With hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5, niacinamide, and protective cocoa peptides, it doubles up as a skincare staple too – and you’ll actively look forward to applying it each day.
Non-toxic to marine life, this formula protects skin from UVA and UVB while offsetting free radical damage from the environment, thanks to potent antioxidants grape juice, sunflower shoot extract, and astaxanthin.
Especially good for those with sensitive or reactive skin types, Avène’s Intense Protect is as light as silk and ultra-gentle. Not only does it contain the brand’s soothing thermal spring water and pre-tocopheryl, a powerful antioxidant, but it also houses TriAsorB, the first organic sun filter that absorbs and reflects UVA, UVB, and blue light. A must-try.
Facialist to the stars, Kate Somerville also has this easy-to-use spray-on SPF in her product repertoire. Not only will it protect skin from the sun, but thanks to a light-diffusing silicone powder and hyaluronic acid in the formula, it helps to set make-up, mattify and hydrate skin. What’s not to love?
Offering a customisable approach to sun protection, Dr Barbara Sturm’s Sun Drops can be worn undiluted as a serum or a few drops can be added to your regular skincare for lightweight SPF 50 protection. It’s a high price point, but it goes a long way, and works well on all skin tones.
Utilising Shiseido’s WetForce technology, which makes the formula work harder when it comes into contact with water or sweat, this Clear Suncare Stick is particularly brilliant for holidays, humid environments, or when playing outdoor sports. The handy stick packaging means it slots easily into your bag and can be rolled onto areas of the face and body as and when needed.
From blue and UV light to pollen and indoor pollution, this intelligent formula is packed full of antioxidants to protect the skin from all manner of external aggressors. Using organic mango leaf extract, it is delightfully lightweight in texture and promises eight hours of hydration while doing its protective thing.
For those who still want to look like they’ve spent an optimal time in the sun (even if that’s not the case), this serum delivers an immediate sun-kissed bronze glow while deeply hydrating skin (thanks to hyaluronic acid and squalane) and protects skin from the sun.
Great for all skin types, especially those prone to breakouts, this SPF feels like a moisturiser but acts as an all-bases-covered skin-protecting formula. From blue light to pollution, it’s got your skin covered for every eventuality, plus it contains multi-weight hyaluronic acid and skin-softening emollients to leave skin in excellent nick in its wake.
When you live in a city, the effects of pollution on your skin are as much a threat as sun damage. Luckily Chanel has the solution in the form of the brand’s UV Essentiel Multi-Protection Daily Defender, which gives broad-spectrum SPF 30 or 50 protection as well as creating a barrier against pollution and free radicals.
“Clean.” “Green.” “Natural.” For planet-conscious beauty consumers, these words can have a strong gravitational pull. But dear global citizens: The secret to saving our reefs and oceans, our forests and trees, is to do so with actions, not words. It all starts with your routine. Some actions can be small (don’t buy a new moisturizer until you’ve depleted the one you have). Some are big (seek out biodegradable or recyclable packages, or skip plastic packaging entirely). And some actions, of course, don’t rest with you, but with beauty companies. (Screaming into the void: Will anyone ever develop a truly earth-friendly mascara? Read on for intel.)
Ultimately, words like “clean,” “green,” and “natural” often have little to do with the buzzword we should really be focused on: “sustainable.” It’s the umbrella term for products that protect the planet’s resources, and the idea can seem, rather ironically, unsustainable. That’s precisely why we went straight to the women who are making a concerted effort, every day, in their own ways, to reduce their impact on the earth. They’re environmentalists, business owners, makeup artists — and they’re all unapologetic beauty enthusiasts.
The Environmentalist: Amber Jackson
After earning her master’s degree at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jackson (and her classmate Emily Hazelwood) founded Blue Latitudes, an environmental consulting firm that helps energy companies determine whether decommissioned offshore-drilling structures can be turned into artificial reefs. She practically lives in the elements, which dictates her beauty regimen.
Protect everything.“Being on boats and offshore diving, we need to make sure that we keep up with our sunscreen but always use formulas that aren’t going to run off our skin and into the water column, and contaminate reefs and fish species. I like Badger Balm — it’s zinc-based. I’m a very fair redhead with freckles, so it’s super important for me to have protection, and this formula stays on in the water.”
Think micro impact.“Some of the biggest problems in our oceans are microplastics, like the microbeads in face scrubs.” The U.S. banned plastic microbeads in 2017, but there’s no way to know if every company has adhered to the ban. So avoid products with these P’s: polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, and polymethyl methacrylate. “Those get washed down the drain, are consumed by fish, and then bioaccumulate, so you eat that plastic yourself. I love to exfoliate, and I use an Origins scrub that uses nutshells.”
Travel lightly.“We carry our own reusable bottles that we fill at home and forgo the disposable hotel options.”
The Advocate: Kathryn Kellogg
The author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, Kellogg began chronicling her experience with reducing her trash and recycling output — down to nothing — on her blog GoingZeroWaste. “Living a zero-waste lifestyle encompasses so much more than just ‘Don’t throw it away,’ ” she says. “It means not wasting water and not wasting food.”
Eliminate the middleman.“I put toner in an upcycled spray bottle so that I don’t waste the product by having it absorb into a disposable pad. I just spray it directly on my skin.”
Consume wisely.“I like the ‘one in, one out’ rule. If I want a new face mask or eyeliner, I cannot buy it until I am out of what I have. Also, ask questions of the people you’re buying from. I buy some of my beauty products at farmers markets, and it’s been empowering to be like, ‘I love your product and want to try it, but I don’t use plastic. Can I get it without that?’ So many times they’re willing to accommodate.”
Be realistic.“There are very few options for completely plastic-free mascara, aside from a couple of brands that make cake mascara, like Bésame. It’s also hard to find a zero-waste alternative for sunscreen. I wear Marie Veronique tinted facial sunscreen as my foundation. It comes in a glass bottle, and I upcycle the bottles. I put homemade hand sanitizer in them — half vodka, half water — and keep that in my bag.”
Be proactive.“We should be doing more work with businesses and emailing our government representatives to get larger systemic changes passed, like the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Products Act.”
The Business Owner: Cindy DiPrima Morisse
As co-founder of the all-things-natural-beauty destination store CAP Beauty, DiPrima Morisse spends much of her days analyzing (and reassessing) which products are worth space in her business — and in her life.
Cut yourself some slack.“Any company that’s shipping is creating some waste and pollution. The best thing we can do is to work with vendors who are prioritizing the same things we are and making sure that their practices are not creating too much stress on the environment.”
Shop smarter.“We encourage our customers to choose thoughtfully. We always say, ‘If you’ve got products in your cabinet that have been sitting there for a year, you’re not using them, and you need to simplify. Find products you love and use. Be an editor.’ We aim to deliver a streamlined collection so you’re not overbuying. We encourage customers to try things. [But] it’s more about a trusted arsenal than constant consumerism.”
Be charitable.“I have a sizable beauty cabinet because of testing for the store. Sometimes there can be a moment when it’s like, ‘I’m not going to get to that.’ There are a few charities that collect beauty products. A favorite of mine is Woman to Woman, which supports women with gynecological cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.”
The Makeup Artist: Katey Denno
She regularly paints the famous faces of Amber Heard and Felicity Jones and has been committed to green, no-waste beauty for the past decade. “I started in this industry as the only person who was really serious about green beauty. And everyone was like, ‘That is never going to fly.’ And little by little, everything changed. A lot of actresses are still like, ‘As long as you make me look good, that’s all I care about,’ but there are some that are now die-hard fans of clean beauty.”
Give new life.“I have friends who make candles, and I give them face-mask pots. I store Q-tips in reused cream pots, or use them as flower vases. I save empty RMS pots and give them to clients for their red-carpet bags. If I’ve mixed a lipstick for them, I’ll take a scraping and put it in there.”
Know your limits.“I do make compromises, like with Beautyblenders, because I have yet to find anything sustainable that re-creates that texture that I can get on skin.”
Food for Thought
What good is a recyclable plastic bottle if it still ends up in a landfill? Tina Hedges, a former Estée Lauder and L’Oréal executive, asked herself that when she created LOLI Beauty. Hedges sells raw balms, powders, and elixirs derived from organic food waste (like pressed plum seed that would have been disposed of after the fruit was harvested) and packages them in recyclable glass containers that she encourages consumers to upcycle for food storage.
The products are waterless (water is a filler ingredient that just creates extra weight to ship), and can be used alone or mixed to expand their versatility — her face powder, for example, can become a scrub or a mask. “I would like the entire experience to be circular zero-waste,” says Hedges, who is now working on refillable packaging and going entirely compostable.
We know plastic is a big problem in the personal care industry. A look around your bathroom will tell you as much but to give some wider context, in its sustainability studies, L’Oréal estimates that packaging accounts for, on average, 50 percent of the environmental footprint of its products.
It’s something that L’Oréal, and many of its peers in the beauty industry, is making moves to address. It seems every hour on the hour there’s a new brand or company pledging to get rid of superfluous packaging or to up its use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic or to switch to other materials entirely, some of which they say are biodegradable. Those are often steps in the right direction, but in truth, we’re just scratching the surface. There’s still much to sort out and it’s all a bit confusing.
Here, a look at the current, well, climate, plus guidance that can help lead you to the best possible purchasing decisions — because we should all be thinking of each one as a vote. “How we purchase things is more powerful than our political [moves],” says Tom Szaky, CEO of recycling giant TerraCycle. “When we buy certain things or don’t buy other things, it changes the world more aggressively and more quickly.”
So, first, here is what to know about plastic packaging.
Plastic packaging is rarely recycled (yes, even when you do everything right).
So far, the big promise of recycling has largely failed us — only nine percent of the plastic is ever actually remade into something usable. One reason why: If you don’t clean that bottle or jar fully and remove all stickers, residue, etc., it will be rejected — and can even contaminate a whole batch of material sent for recycling, according to a report last year by GreenPeace.
Looking for that little triangle of arrows on the bottom isn’t necessarily a slam dunk either. The reality is that only packaging with a 1 or 2 stamped in that triangle is going to be widely municipally recyclable. A quick experiment: Of five plastic-housed beauty products randomly selected from this writer’s medicine cabinet, two had no recycling symbol at all, one was a category 4, one was category 2 and the final was a 1.
But there’s even more to consider: For example, if a plastic pump includes metal (which almost all do), it can’t be processed. (This is something some brands like Love Beauty and Planet are addressing with new designs.)
“Another uncommonly known fact is that dark plastics — such as black, navy, or dark brown — cannot often be seen by sorters in recycling facilities and so they end up in landfills,” says Sarah Dearman, vice president of circular ventures for The Recycling Partnership. Also a problem for sorters: small packaging. According to TerraCycle’s Szaky, nothing smaller than two-inches cubed is ever going to be recycled — that’s pretty much every cap, lid, and a lot of beauty minis.
At the end of the day, recycling is a business. Recycling plants will only recycle what they can recycle at a profit — things like large pieces of clear plastic, clear glass, and aluminum. “The question is really not can something be recycled, but will it be,” Szaky said at a recent sustainability summit.
When plastic is recycled, there are still a couple of catches.
I am by no means suggesting you give up on trying to recycle the plastic that comes into your life. Even a nine-percent recycling rate is a lot of plastic that avoids a landfill. In 2018, for example, just in the U.S. alone, 7.9 billion units of rigid plastic were created for beauty and personal care products, according to Euromonitor International.
What’s nine percent of that? 711 million units of rigid plastic. Plastic isn’t endlessly reworkable, though — most plastics can only be processed once or twice. Recycling plastic essentially downgrades its resulting quality every time it is put through the process — and that means virgin plastic may have to be added to make a “recycled” package functional.
And, of course, there needs to be a demand for post-consumer recycled plastic for it to have anywhere to go. With reports of large amounts of plastic being incinerated or sitting in storage due to lack of need, this has been a real problem. However, with more companies working with recycled material very slowly increasing, there is some hope for the future.
“Biodegradable” plastic very often… isn’t.
You may notice a shift toward plastic made from natural sources designed to break down more quickly. “These include materials such as sugarcane, and there are also opportunities to source from other innovative feedstocks such as seaweed and other algae, as well as food waste by-products,” says Olga Kachook, senior manager at GreenBlue, a nonprofit dedicated to the sustainable use of materials.
These alternative plastics could have a big positive impact: A 2017 study found that switching from traditional plastic to corn-based material could reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.
Yet there’s a pretty big “but” here. Some of these alternative materials can contain additives that “may actually result in more environmental harm,” says Kachook. And the term “biodegradable” itself unfortunately doesn’t mean much. “Biodegradability is driven by many factors and stating a package is ‘biodegradable’ doesn’t qualify the timeline, conditions required, safety of the elements, or the degree of degradation,” says Alison Younts, lead sustainability consultant at the consulting company Trayak.
And, for now, looking for the word “compostable” doesn’t help either. A compostable certification only indicates that a material is able to break down in large municipal or industrial composting facilities as opposed to a home or community bin. Right now only four percent of Americans have access to curbside composting pickup, says Szaky. And in a recent study conducted by TerraCycle, only one in 10 of the industrial composters where those curbside binds wind up actually accept compostable plastics.
But plastic isn’t all bad. (Didn’t see that coming did you?)
Yes, plastic pollution is a crisis. But, unfortunately, there is no magic-bullet alternative material, and plastic alternatives can in some cases cause as much if not more environmental impact. Glass, aluminum, and paper all have their own drawbacks — including being more expensive, something consumers may not be ready for, according to a 2019 Euromonitor report — and choosing one of them over plastic isn’t always a sure-fire path to reducing your overall carbon footprint.
Take aluminum, which gets a lot of buzz for being widely recycled, endlessly reusable if uncontaminated, and lightweight. However, it’s important to note that it’s recycled aluminum that gets all the love. When the package you’re buying is virgin, it’s another story, as the byproducts of producing new aluminum, according to the EPA, have global warming potentials (GWP) 6,500 to 9,200 times as strong as carbon dioxide.
And, of course, it has to be recycled by the consumer, which happens about 35 percent of the time when it comes to the category including packaging, according to the EPA. While that’s a number much stronger than plastic recycling, it still leaves a lot of room for improvement.
Paper has its own concerns. When it comes to virgin materials, Life cycle assessments of paper, including those in a case study looking at grocery bags in Singapore published this year in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggest plastic bags could have a lower overall environmental footprint than paper ones. Recycling paper does cut its CO2 output (as is the case with most recycled materials compared to their virgin counterparts) by a considerable amount (40 percent less) but it can only be recirculated between five to seven times, according to the EPA.
And then there’s glass, a material with complex considerations. It’s not always practical, as soapy hands and steamy conditions offer the threat of shattered bottles in your shower. And according to a study published last year in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment that put pasteurized milk bottles made of virgin plastic, recycled plastic, glass, and returnable glass bottles head to head, even after factoring in the savings from reuse, returnable glass ranked behind plastic in CO2 emissions due to the high energy demand in the production process, as well as the carbon footprint of shipping it.
It’s hard out here for an environmentally-conscious consumer. And it can be a tough call for brands when deciding which tradeoffs to make. “Plastic packaging offers a number of benefits, including being lightweight and often requiring less material overall for a package than other materials like glass and aluminum,” says Kachook. “Switching to other formats without considering the tradeoffs might increase the emissions of shipping or sourcing the material.”
So what do we, as beauty-loving consumers, do?
For all of the many factors in this conversation, that answer to that question is actually pretty simple. First and foremost, focus on the “reduce” portion of reduce, reuse, recycle. Strip your routine down to the basics and simply buy less stuff. When possible, you can opt for packaging-free bar options (such as Ethique’s shampoo and conditioner bars).
Refillable packaging is another thing to consider, either directly through beauty brands with refill programs or via Loop, which offers borrowable containers given for a refundable deposit you get back when you return the empty to be professionally cleaned and reused. Pantene, REN, The Body Shop, and more are part of the program, and it recently got a big boost by partnering with Ulta to create the loopbyulta.com store.
For the empties you do end up with, there are ways to up your chances of having the material reused. First, you can check to see if the brand behind it has a mail-back recycling program of its own like Burt’s Bees. If it doesn’t, TerraCycle takes packaging (including hard-to-recycle items) either through drop-off locations (including Nordstrom stores) or via mail with purchasable boxes and labels.
The organization (which is also behind the Loop store) estimates that last year about 10 percent of all the waste it diverted from landfills in 2020 was related to the beauty industry, thanks in part to its launch of over 50 new recycling programs around the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic. “By the end of 2020, about one-third of all of our active brand-sponsored recycling programs were for beauty-related products,” says Alex Payne, North American public relations associate for TerraCycle.
Finally, it’s simply back to showing up with your dollars (i.e., votes) by researching before you add to cart. There are niche lines focusing on sustainability (like the 90 percent plastic-free We Are Paradoxx) and companies finding smart ways to reduce their plastic waste (like Colgate’s new Keep toothbrush with an aluminum handle that you, well, keep forever, replacing only the small plastic head) and big splashy pledges from big brands (like Unilever’s plan for sustainable living and Estée Lauder Companies’ new initiative to create an advanced recycled tube package some time this year) and smaller promises to use more PCR material to reduce the demand for virgin plastic… it all adds up.
Pay attention as well to partnerships with groups such as GreenBlue‘s Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which helps companies make more sustainable choices as well as educate consumers with its clear How2Recycle labeling program. The Recycling Partnership has created the Pathway of Circularity program to help guide companies through the process of creating packaging materials that will actually get recycled. They’re currently working with Burt’s Bees, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oréal USA, Procter & Gamble, and more.
Buying from these brands making moves truly helps the bigger picture. “Investors are looking at what the consumer is doing,” says Simon Fischweicher, head of corporations and supply chains at CDP North America. Nonprofit that runs a global disclosure system for investors and companies to manage their environmental impacts. Purchasing a product that is labeled or advertised to have more sustainable packaging in itself can have a positive impact.
“Maybe spending that extra 75 cents isn’t going to change the world, but that decision is part of a collection of decisions that people are making that creates a trend,” says Fischweicher. And, trends can become movements — the hope here is to make the movement big enough that it’s not even a possibility for brands not to act.
Makeup sponges aren’t single use like plastic straws and paper towels, but your beloved blending tools still end up in landfills when you toss them out after they start to crack and crumble.
Along with your other favorite beauty tools like eye makeup remover pads, the makeup sponge is getting a green makeover too. EcoTools has just launched the first 100% certified biodegradable makeup sponge.
While there are plant-based sponges on the market that cut down carbon emissions and water waste during the production process, EcoTools has taken things one step further with its Bioblender, which can be planted into the ground once it’s time to part ways with it. (It’s kind of like a funeral for your go-to makeup tool.)
The violet sponge is made with five bio-based ingredients including water, corn, bionanopol, natural preserve, and natural pigments. According to the brand, BioBlender reduces 59,270 pounds of single-use waste in its creation and use. The packaging is made with sustainability in mind, too. It comes in a FSC-certified biodegradable paper box printed with soy ink.
As for the actual sponge, it has a patented hybrid shape with three different edges. The triangular edge is great for swiping on cream bronzer or getting into the contours of your face. The round tip is ideal for tapping product onto large areas like foundation or blush, for example.
Using BioBlender is no different than any other sponge because it blends like a dream. I like to use to triangular tip to layer on blush and concealer where I want to intensify coverage. Then, I flip it over and tap the product in with the sponge for a seamless finish — no streaky blush stripes here!
It’s arguable that this sponge is the hardest working makeup tool out there, because once it’s retired from blending your makeup and you plant it in soil or throw it in your compost, its work doesn’t stop.
The key is to get traditional color payoff, without traditional formulations.
It’s become quite clear in recent years that more and more consumers want the option of purchasing makeup products that have been formulated without potentially harmful ingredients — and retailers are listening up.
Sephora, for example offers a green seal for products that are made without over 50 controversial ingredients, while Credo Beauty only sells brands, both skincare and cosmetic, that deem themselves as clean. But long before these makeup products can reach shelves, it’s up to founders to figure out how to give consumers vibrant color payoff, all without the use of ingredients like carbon black or petroleum found in many traditional formulas.
“Color cosmetics are arguably the hardest products we create for this very reason,”Lindsay Dahl, senior vice president of social mission at Beautycounter shares with InStyle.”We are constantly working with our team to try different colorants, source new raw materials, all the while considering safety and sourcing issues that may arise.”
Yet, both Beautycounter and Róen Beauty have nailed how to make makeup products that are clean, and offer the color payoff consumers crave by using ingredients like mica and zinc stearate, which are both considered to be low risk when it comes to toxicity, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Here, an interview with Dahl and Beautycounter chief artistic officer Christy Coleman, as well as Róen Beauty CEO Tiffany Thurston Scott to answer all your questions about sourcing clean pigments.
Why Is It Important for Brands to Source Clean Pigments?
“The higher the pigment, the higher chance there is for heavy metal contamination, so it’s really important to go beyond just the Never List[Beautycounter’s list of over 1,800 potentially harmful ingredients that they do not use],” says Dahl. “We believe screening makeup for heavy metals is a practice that every beauty brand should be doing, but is not widely practiced, even among the ‘clean’ beauty industry. We screen each colorant for 23 health and environmental endpoints, in addition to testing raw materials and finished goods for heavy metals.”
As for Scott, it’s personal.
When she was in her early 20s, she shares that she became “obsessed” with understanding where her food came from in order to know exactly what she was putting into her body. This is why it became so important for her to source clean ingredients for her line.
“It was a natural transition for me to focus not only on what I was putting in my body but what I was putting on my body,” she says. “This led me to look into ingredients in my cosmetic and skincare products which was an eye-opener as to the toxic chemicals that are so prevalent.”
Is It Difficult to Find Clean Pigments That Offer Traditional Color Payoff?
Leaders from both brands admit that it was a challenge. However, after working with the right chemists, they were able to find ingredients that offered the best of both worlds.
“All of our products spend at least a year in development, which is why we have a small curated selection of products,” Scott says of Róen. “It’s important to me that we don’t launch anything that I’m not completely proud of and know is clean and high performing.”
Are There Certain Colors That Are Harder to Source Than Others?
According to Coleman, blues, greens, some rich browns, as well as certain glitters can pose a challenge.
“[They] have historically been harder to formulate safely given the high levels of heavy metals,” she explains. “In terms of mica, which gives a shimmery effect, particle size plays an important role. I have found it challenging sourcing a finer particle size which gives more of a subtle sheen, as opposed to larger particle sizes that produce a more glitter effect.”
Does Going Clean Come at a Steep Cost?
The long and short answer is yes, however, Scott believes that a clean bill of health is always worth the investment.
“[Health and glamour] can coexist and complement each other,” she says. “I think that as the clean beauty industry grows and evolves, the ingredients will become increasingly more economical as the demand continues to heighten.”
Dahl also notes that it’s not just about the money.
“We have audited 100% of our mica supply chain — a safe ingredient commonly used in makeup — that has human rights and labor concerns, like child labor,” she shares. “Taking on this important sourcing work comes at a cost, but we care about making sure people are protected all along our supply chain.”
The brand also uses some of their products to give back to areas that have been affected by labor exploitation. For example, ten percent of each purchase from the Golden Hour All-In-One Palette goes towards communities impacted by mica mining in India.
How Can You Ensure Ingredients Are Sourced Ethically?
It truly comes down to founders doing their homework, says Scott, who makes sure that the labs and suppliers she works with prioritize protecting the environment. But she’s transparent about the fact she, and the industry as a whole, can still do a better job.
“Our suppliers adhere to strict ethical guidelines in terms of sourcing materials to how the products are manufactured,” she explains. “For instance, our labs are part of the Responsible Mica Initiative that ensures our mica ethically sourced. We can always improve in this area and will always strive to continually improve wherever we can.”
You know what I think about a lot? That time Jason Momoa called out Chris Pratt for posing with a single-use plastic water bottle on Instagram by commenting, in part, “Bro … WTF.” Since then, whenever I scroll past a picture of serum-soaked polyester plastered to an influencer’s face, I can’t help but wonder: When will the sheet masks be Mamoa’d?
It seems the moment has come. Clean beauty retailer Credo recently announced it will stop selling sheet masks and other single-use skincare products, like makeup wipes and exfoliating pads, by June 2021—an industry first.
“‘Clean’ has to include sustainability,” Mia Davis, the Director of Environmental & Social Responsibility at Credo, tells ELLE.com. After all, what good is a product that’s supposedly safe for your skin if it’s unsafe for the earth, contributing to the health- and skin-degrading pollution particles that precipitate the need for “clean” skincare products in the first place? A 20-minute sheet mask, for example, is typically made of petroleum-based fibers, packaged in a non-recyclable foil packet or non-recyclable coated cardboard, sandwiched between two sheets of non-recyclable plastic, and covered in cosmetic chemicals—more of a sachet of superfluous waste than a skincare product, really. “We realized that prohibiting these items [at Credo] would, at a minimum, keep 3,000 pounds of trash out of the landfill,” Davis shares.
Yes, sheet masks are literal trash.
“Usually, none of these components are recyclable and all of them end up in the rubbish—at best, in a landfill; at worst, in the ocean,” Susan Stevens, the founder and CEO of Made With Respect, explains. Over hundreds of years, these materials break up into microplastic particles or break down and release greenhouse gasses, eventually polluting the air, water, soil, and bodies of all living beings (humans included). “Synthetic cosmetic chemical ingredients may make their way through waste-water treatment plants and into the ocean when they are washed down the drain, polluting marine life and causing environmental damage,” Stevens adds. But this visible excess—the foil packets, the plastic inserts, the product itself—only scratches the surface of the unsustainability of sheet masks.
The production of petroleum-based materials affects human health.
“Plastic affects our health way before it becomes a waste management issue,” Dianna Cohen, the co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, says. She notes that the same goes for many cosmetic chemicals used in sheet masks, including petrochemicals (derived, like plastic, from petroleum) and the endocrine disruptors found in some synthetic fragrance formulas.
“When you look at the process of extracting crude oil, then converting it into hydrocarbon monomers, then converting that to plastic, you see that we’re polluting the environment and local communities by releasing greenhouse gasses and harmful chemicals into the water and into the air,” Cohen shares. Along that production line, potentially toxic substances like bisphenols and phthalates are added to the mix. “When we finally manufacture it and mold it into various products”—microfiber or polyester cloths, outer packaging, and cosmetic petrochemicals, just to name a few plastic products associated with sheet masks—“we are polluting the people who work at those factories and the communities surrounding those factories,” the co-founder says.
This pollution primarily impacts low-income communities and communities of color.
“These facilities are built in the neighborhoods where they live,” Cohen says, noting that this is known as environmental racism. “It’s a relic of colonialism and slavery and how we treat people as disposable and have built a culture around disposability with materials, but none of these materials are actually disposable,” she says. “Nothing is disposable.” Everything goes somewhere. The component parts of a sheet mask will live on in the environment, outliving the user.
Even “natural” and “plant-based” sheet masks present problems.
Davis points to the massive amount of resources required at the production level, “from the pesticides used growing cotton, to the water used growing crops [for plant-based materials].” For reference, producing just one pound of organic cotton demands 1,320 gallons of water; that means hundreds of gallons of water are wasted on each and every short-lived cotton sheet mask.
As for “biodegradable” or “compostable” versions? They are rarely biodegrade. “The unfortunate truth is that most people who are using those products are throwing them in their waste bin, and that’s going to a landfill, and nothing biodegrades in a landfill,” Davis says, confirming that Credo’s ban on sheet masks extends to these supposedly “eco-friendly” iterations as well. “We don’t want to lull anyone into a false sense of action. It’s not real.” Even if consumers plan to compost at home, ingredients matter. A plant-based sheet mask isn’t doing the soil any favors if it’s coated in a petrochemical-infused serum.
All of the above issues apply to regular beauty products, of course—it’s just that sheet masks have a particularly concerning product-waste-to-product-payoff ratio, no matter what they’re made of.
Can a ban on sheet masks really make a difference?
Like previous bans on plastic straws, bottles, and bags, a ban on sheet masks—even one from a small-scale retailer like Credo, which has proven to be a leader in the clean space—is more than a ban. It foreshadows a shift in the culture of consumption. The same way seeing a single-use water bottle on Instagram now calls to mind the plastic it’s made from and the marine life it could harm, spotting a sheet mask on social might soon signal the small pile of garbage sitting out of frame, the chemicals it leaches into the soil.
“When I see an influencer using a sheet mask, I do consciously think about the waste they’re creating,” Avery C. Banks, the beauty blogger behind The Boheaux, explains.(Banks used to sheet mask four times a week, but stopped earlier this year in an effort to be more eco-friendly.) “I don’t judge their sustainability journey, though. We’re all out here trying our best and maybe they simply haven’t thought about the environmental impact of that little mask.”
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain ignorant of said impact, if Credo’s stance on single-use skincare (and the urgency of climate change) is any indication—not that it was necessarily easy to ignore before. Consumers need only gaze upon their bursting garbage bins to realize the product is problematic.
“I was taking out the trash and all I could see were mask packages,” says Clare Neesham, a recently reformed sheet mask obsessive. She was sheet masking twice a week at the peak of her habit. “After a while, I started thinking about all the waste that was being produced, not just the masks themselves, but all the serum [and] the package,” Neesham recalls; too much for a few fleeting moments of self-care.
Still, eco-conscious retailers may have a hard time convincing customers to give them up.
“We let go of a sheet mask because it wasn’t fully biodegradable, and people complained that we didn’t have it anymore,”says Jeannie Jarnot, the founder of green beauty retailer Beauty Heroes. Credo’s Davis anticipates a similar reaction. “I do think that there will be some customers that are really bummed, and it will affect our bottom line,” she says. “We’re hoping some of the larger retailers”—Sephora, Ulta—“will make the same commitments, so that we will increase consumer awareness” and decrease the industry’s impact on the earth. This push-pull between companies and their customers is “the chicken or the egg” of the current climate crisis: Who bears the burden of creating a more sustainable future? “Corporate waste is the majority of the problem,” adds Aja Barber, a writer, stylist, and consultant in the environmental space. (100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, as The Guardian reports.) “But corporations don’t change unless the general public takes an interest and holds them and our government regulators to account, and I think to do all of that, it starts with changing your own habits,” Barber continues. “A lot of people saying ‘I’m not interested in this product anymore’ changes the system.””In the comparison between individual action and corporation action, the question isn’t either/or,” Cohen agrees. “It’s that every action matters.”
Credo’s ban may be the catalyst to inspire that action, to make posting a sheet-masked selfie as taboo as posing with a plastic water bottle—to create a mass-scale Mamoa moment, if you will. It just may be the beginning of the end of the sheet mask.
What does it mean to be beautiful on planet Earth in 2020? In search of clear skin, a mellow demeanor, the perfect eyebrows, and a high vibe, what are we reckoning with? From sheet masks to disposable salon sandals to plastic lining in the shipping of even eco-friendly materials, waste permeates the beauty industry in ways that can no longer be overlooked. According to the United Nations, half of all plastic is designed to be used only once, and environmental scientists are suggesting that plastics will serve as a geological indicator of the Anthropocene era, despite becoming ubiquitous only within the past hundred years. It’s not cute that Styrofoam takes up an estimated 30% of space in landfills and lingers for about 500 years, that trash floats in the oceans, and that microplastics exist in our food supply. With packaging accounting for 40% of plastic usage, beauty brands are turning to a natural solution: mushroom mycelium.
“Mycelium is the root structure of mushrooms,” explains Loney Abrams, florist, artist, and co-owner of Wretched Flowers. “Mycelium networks can take on any form and once they colonize a form, it’s incredibly durable, insulating, and flame resistant”—properties which make mushrooms an ideal substitute for Styrofoam and plastic. Abrams and her partner, Johnny Stanish, have considered mycelium in a variety of settings. It was the material that made up their Bondage vases (also designed in special colors for a collaboration with the sustainable clothing brand Eden), which function conjunctly as vessels and shipping containers. Stanish and Abrams dream of a day when mycelium can replace Styrofoam in the shipping of large pieces of art, and make the case that mycelium could benefit myriad industries, from art and flowers to beauty. Wretched Flowers sources from and is inspired by Ecovative Design, the company that has been growing mycelium in the U.S., Europe, and New Zealand to combat single-use plastics since 2007.
“Mushrooms are nature’s recycling system,” explains Gavin McIntyre, cofounder of Ecovative Design. “They’re decomposers. Mycelium grows really quickly, and for the industrial process, [we’re able to grow it] in days.” Many compostable products, such as the compostable cups that you see at coffee shops, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), a corn sugar fermented by bacteria, and are only industrially compostable. Mycelium products biodegrade within a month in a home compost, meaning they don’t need to be sent out to a facility. I asked McIntyre about composting in New York City, where the mayor has recently suspended the composting program, and he pointed out that you could technically cut up the packaging and put it out next to a tree or—though he doesn’t recommend this—a local body of water, as the product is safely marine compostable and used to protect scientific buoys in oceans around the world by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mycelium acts like a glue and is grown into molds (no pun intended) fitting any shape, from packaging inserts to sculpture to beauty applicators. Ecovative Design grows mycelium beauty and skin-care products, including eye masks, sheet masks, and makeup wedges. They are also partnering with beauty, fashion, art, and technology brands to customize packaging.
One such brand is Hudson Hemp, a farm and CBD company built on land owned by Abby Rockefeller and her family in the Catskill mountains. I spoke with cofounder Melany Dobson about how and why she decided to integrate mycelium packaging into Hudson Hemp’s CBD line, Treaty. Dobson’s team grows hemp as part of a dynamic crop rotation alongside grains that supply flour to local bakeries, livestock feed for dairy farms, and rye and hops for brewers and distillers. Part of the mission of Hudson Hemp is to develop soil that relies on nutrients that come from the farm itself; since mycelium goes hand in hand with soil health, it was already in mind. “I learned about Ecovative through Seed—a probiotic brand that has used Ecovative since 2018 in their original packaging—and decided to go for it,” Dobson says. This ethos of open-source sharing when it comes to sustainability is one that is inevitably moving the industry forward. Since its launch, all Hudson Hemp CBD has been shipped in custom Ecovative packaging.
How does change happen in the beauty industry? I think about my own brand, Masha Tea, and how the transition to more thoughtful packaging finally happened when I saw an Instagram post by Nu Swim (which, incidentally, fills my bathing suit collection with perfect fits made from regenerated ocean waste) about the biodegradable packaging company Ecoenclose. The fact of the matter is, companies are always looking to one another to see how they can improve. On a larger scale, as Dobson notes, “Multinational companies [look to] small brands once they get attention. It helps set trends. If Treaty uses Ecovative, L’Oréal starts thinking about it too.”
This idea was at the heart of my conversation with Rodrigo Garcia Alvarez, founder of Amen, a vegan line of candles produced in the historic fragrance capital of Grasse, France. “The new luxury is when things are done by ethical and sustainability standards and not just by how things look,” he says. Amen candles, which are sold at Dover Street Market, 10 Corso Como, and The Conservatory, are all shipped in mycelium grown in Amsterdam. In fact, Garcia Alvarez sees mycelium as the future of luxury, with the goal of inspiring 10 major brands to incorporate mushroom materials, then 100, and eventually a world in which mycelium can “reach the economics of scale and efficient cost,” making mushrooms more accessible in the way that plastics are today.
Eyes are on mushrooms as the future of our reckoning with waste. “Why is CBD a beauty product?” I asked Dobson toward the end of our conversation about Hudson Hemp. “Because it brings the inner-outer beauty conversation full circle,” she answered. “If you’re feeling how you need to feel in the moment you’re in, that is beautiful.” As beauty brands consider how best to meet the needs of the earth alongside those of their consumers, mycelium reminds us that there are exciting alternatives to a wasteful existence.
What are parabens, and why are they used in cosmetics?
Parabens are a family of related chemicals that are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetic products. Preservatives may be used in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold, in order to protect both the products and consumers.
The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics are methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben.
Product ingredient labels typically list more than one paraben in a product, and parabens are often used in combination with other types of preservatives to better protect against a broad range of microorganisms.
What kinds of products contain parabens?
Parabens are used in a wide variety of cosmetics, as well as in foods and drugs. Cosmetics that may contain parabens include makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, and shaving products, among others. Many major brands of deodorants do not currently contain parabens, although some may.
Cosmetics sold to consumers in stores or online must have a list of ingredients, each listed by its common or usual name. This is important information for consumers who want to find out whether a product contains an ingredient they wish to avoid. Parabens are usually easy to identify by their name, such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or ethylparaben.
Does FDA regulate the use of preservatives in cosmetics?
FDA doesn’t have special rules that apply only to preservatives in cosmetics. The law treats preservatives in cosmetics the same as other cosmetic ingredients.
However, it is against the law to market a cosmetic in interstate commerce if it is adulterated or misbranded. This means, for example, that cosmetics must be safe for consumers when used according to directions on the label or in the customary way, and they must be properly labeled.
FDA can take action against a cosmetic on the market that does not comply with the laws we enforce. However, to take action against a cosmetic for safety reasons, we must have reliable scientific information showing that the product is harmful when consumers use it according to directions on the label or in the customary way.
Why are parabens thought to be bad for us?
While the FDA continues to conduct research regarding the effects of various Parbens on our health, other organizations have conducted their own studies to come up with the following conclusions.
‘Parabens allow products to survive for months, even years, in our bathroom cabinet; however when you use these products, they can also enter your body through your skin’, explains Tom Oliver, Nutritionist & Personal Trainer.
In 2004, a British study found traces of five parabens in the breast tissue of 19 out of 20 women studied. The study didn’t prove that parabens can cause cancer but identified that the parabens were able to penetrate the skin and remain within tissue.
Parabens are believed to disrupt hormone function by mimicking oestrogen. Too much oestrogen can trigger an increase in breast cell division and growth of tumours, which is why paraben use has been linked to breast cancer and reproductive issues.
Why are parabens bad for the environment?
Parabens aren’t just bad for humans, they impact the environment too. ‘A scientific study reported that parabens have been found for the first time in the bodies of marine mammals’, reveals Tom, ‘Researchers believe that it is likely these parabens come from products we use that are washed into the sewage system and released into the environment.’
So we should stop using parabens ASAP, right?
Don’t panic. It’s important to note that the percentage of preservative in a formulation is generally very small.
‘It’s difficult to say if parabens are categorically “bad” for us,’ says Michelle, ‘but there are many other preservatives now available so it’s no longer necessary to use them.
‘Manufacturers are creating new and effective preservatives all the time so there is a greater choice currently available.’
Some people assume that paraben-free and natural products are simply not as effective. ‘Paraben is cheap to mass-market,’ explains Tom, ‘but there are so many synthetic-free products on the market that are just as effective, I don’t see the need of using artificial ingredients which can cause irritation and stress, especially to sensitive skin types.’
The conclusion? Make an educated decision about what you put on your skin.
The term ‘paraben-free’ isn’t always the final answer.
Tom warns that we should remain sceptical. ‘Although it looks as though many beauty companies are responding to the public’s concerns about parabens, some may be merely “greenwashing” – a term used when a “paraben-free” company markets themselves as a natural alternative, when in fact they contain other synthetic ingredients that may cause harm or irritation to the skin.’
In general, never take marketing and adverts at face value. With so much information available, it’s easy to educate ourselves on the label content of our beauty products.
For an approved preservative listing, refer to ECOCERT – a certification body for the development of standards in natural and organic cosmetics.
Sheet masks originated from Japan and South Korea, known for their dedication to cosmetics and skin care. Today, sheet masks are widely popular in Asia as a whole. Sheet masks have recently began to change the beauty industry and gained popularity in the U.S by various celebrities utilizing sheet masks and posting about it on social media. From the recent study conducted by NPD Group in the USA, the sale of masks increased by about 60%, overwhelming other categories in the skincare business (ORGAID).
HOW DOES A SHEET MASK WORK?
There is a sheet fully soaked with concentrated serum, which consists of many beneficial ingredients to the skin, such as hyaluronic acid and vitamins. These ingredients are in the water phase as dissolved. The sheet prevents quick evaporation of the water phase and extends the time frame the ingredients require to penetrate deep into the skin. This results in the sheet masks outperforming the effects of the traditional serum-type skincare even when applied once.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
They bring fast effects in regards to enhancing the skin. The serum is filled with various vitamins and minerals, and doesn’t dry out the skin compared to the paste-type face mask. The sheet on the face helps the serum to soak into the skin a little longer. Some of the sheets also claim to brighten and make the skin firm. Basically, sheet masks are an inexpensive alternative compared to going to a spa: convenient, easy to apply, and brings a glowing effect to the skin.
WHAT ARE THE DRAWBACKS?
Their purpose is to nourish, not exfoliate or cleanse the skin. Sheet masks are probably not as effective at exfoliating or cleaning the skin compared to the paste-type mask. In addition, serum from low-quality sheet masks evaporates quickly, even before it gets soaked into the deeper layer of the skin. Currently, ORGAID researchers are using sheet masks made with high technology to avoid those problems (ORGAID).
WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE USED IN THE SERUM?
Depending on what function the sheet mask is made to perform, the serum contains various different ingredients and concentrations that are commonly used, such as aloe vera and vitamin C, to more unusual ones such as pearl, snail extract, and seaweed. Also, for prevention against bacteria/fungi contamination, most sheet masks contain chemical preservatives such as parabens, and recently phenoxyethanol, which are not good for the skin.
WHAT MATERIALS ARE THE SHEETS MADE OUT OF?
Diverse types of fabric are used for the sheet masks. Four most used materials from worst to best:
* Non-woven fiber – Inexpensive, difficult mobility, low capacity to deliver serum into the skin * Cotton – Inexpensive, difficult mobility, low capacity to deliver serum into the skin (but better than the non-woven fiber) * Hydrogel – Little pricey, great absorption system, gel-type consistency, two separate parts (top and bottom) to apply on face, difficult mobility, fits the shape of the face well * Bio-cellulose – Expensive, all-natural material, adheres to the skin well, better absorption properties, comfortable mobility.
MATERIALS END UP IN LANDFILLS!
First, you have the plastic or foil packaging. Then more plastic wrapped around the mask itself. In ten years, there’s probably going to be a whole trash island made entirely of sheet masks.
Sure, there are brands out there with compostable options – though most people probably end up throwing them out anyway – and ones made from plant fiber. Be honest, though. If you’re looking at a $3 plastic-laden mask or a $10 plant one, which would you choose? Besides, many of the sheet masks on the market are soaked in things that may make them non-biodegradable (INSIDER).
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU WANT TO BE MORE ECO-CONSCIOUS?
The easiest answer, hands down, would be to avoid using non-recyclable, non-compostable, single-use sheet masks altogether. But that’s not so easy for everyone.
If you absolutely love your sheet masks and can’t give them up, just know there are other options out there that will yield similar results. As mentioned above, you can try to find products that use organic, biodegradable and recyclable materials. Korean beauty brand Innisfree has a line of biodegradable sheet masks, for example. Andalou Naturals, another beauty brand, also carries masks that are said to be biodegradable. The outer packaging, however, isn’t necessarily recyclable.
You can also look for masks sold in packs, as opposed to individually wrapped ones. They do exist, and they don’t generate as much plastic waste as the single-use masks. Some people even make their own sheet masks by soaking clean face cloths with their own serums or mixtures of desired ingredients (HUFFPOST).
At the very least, do your research. If you really want to be more responsible, look up your local municipality’s recycling and composting guidelines.