What “Green” Means In The Natural Beauty Industry

“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

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 22: Marine Scientists and Conservationists Amber Jackson and Emily Callahan pose with their award at Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Awards – 2016 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC John Zuccotti Theater on April 22, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)

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.”

Glitz it up. Aether Beauty has an eye shadow palette. The pigment is intense, and the shimmer is fine. It’s not big chunks of glitter, which a lot of green products have had.”

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.

ALLURE article

EcoTools’ Biodegradable Makeup Sponge Blends Like A Dream

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.)

To shop: $6; ulta.com

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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CMgC6OUhHyu/

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.

INSTYLE article

Do Reusable Silicone Sheet Masks Actually Work?

A large glass of red wine, a steamy bubble bath, and a cooling face mask are all it takes to make a perfect night in my book. There’s just one (very big) issue: this sheet mask habit of mine isn’t exactly eco-friendly, thanks to all of those single-use materials. That’s why I was more than intrigued when several brands debuted reusable sheet masks in 2020. Nurse JamieSephora CollectionAvant Guard, and Honest Beauty have all created silicone versions of the masks we know and love — but these treatments don’t contain serum of any kind. They’re designed to be worn on top of skincare products of your choosing, then washed, stored away, and re-used infinitely, therefore cutting down on waste from cotton, plastic, hydrogel, and other materials.  

At the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn’t help but wonder: What difference can a reusable mask make in my skincare routine if it’s not infused with some sort of brightening or hydrating concoction? I want to make more sustainable choices, but will I have to sacrifice my favorite self-care activity in order to do so?

Nurse Jamie Face Wrap Skin Perfecting Silicone Mask

Buy at Revolve $33

Honest Beauty Reusable Magic Silicone Sheet Mask

Buy at Honest Beauty $15

After doing my full night-time skincare routine, complete with serum, moisturizer, and sometimes a face oil, I simply wear the reusable mask anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes, just as its instructions advise. It has loops on either side to hook around the ears, so it never slides around or falls off, even when I’m up and walking around. When I’m done, I simply take it off, wash it in the sink with warm water and soap, pat it dry with a towel, then place it back in its provided storage bag until next time.

What benefit does this serve beyond the benefit of the skincare routine itself? According to the people who created the Magic Mask, a combination of things — the first one being sustainability, which is what initially drove brand founder Jessica Alba to create it. 

“There’s all of this plastic that you throw away immediately… it’s almost like the sheet mask has become the plastic straw of 2021,” Alba tells Allure. “At the end of the day it’s just some serum and some moisturizer that you’re penetrating into the skin with the mask, so I thought wouldn’t it be great if we could have a more sustainable option?”

Beyond the environmental benefits, a silicone sheet mask can actually make your already-established skincare routine a little more effective, another reason Honest Beauty opted to create its iteration. “Often when we apply serums and moisturizers, most of the water evaporates during application, but our sheet mask helps to lock in product,” says Mallory McMahon, the associate director of research and innovation at Honest Beauty. “Using [exfoliating serums] with a [reusable] sheet mask may help boost efficacy; when used with hydrating products, it helps lock moisture in and decrease evaporation overall.”

Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara concurs. “Essentially [a silicone mask] acts as a canvas to drive active ingredients [into the skin] as opposed to being the active itself,” she explains. “It works to protect the ingredients so they don’t rub off.” And because these silicone alternatives aren’t already infused with active ingredients, customers get the freedom of fully customizing their mask experience.

OK, so it might look like I’m wearing a piece of thin-sliced hickory ham on my face, but it’s worth it to cut down on sheet mask waste. 
–  Nicola Dall’Asen @Allure

It’s all possible because, as McMahon points out, silicone is a “chemically inert” material. I’ll let cosmetic chemist Ginger King explain exactly why that’s important. “[Chemically inert materials] will not have potential reactions to active ingredients,” she says. “You want to avoid any potential interaction of materials that may eat up the mask or leach out undesirable ingredients.” In other words, the silicone material of the mask ensures that you can wear it on top of any skincare product safely and without any adverse reactions. 

To make a long point short: Reusable silicone sheet masks are, indeed, effective — maybe just as much as traditional ones. I might not have seen a visible difference in my skin after I began using one, but you can take that with a grain of salt (my skin stays pretty stagnant regardless, thanks to genetics and a skincare obsession). The real benefit is that I can kick my feet up in my bubbly tub with the knowledge that I am not creating as much waste as I once did, so consider me a reusable sheet mask convert. 

If you, like many other folks across the globe, are trying to become more sustainable this year, this could be a great, albeit small, first step. Then, it’s time to ponder: What other aspects of your routine are due for an eco-friendly upgrade? 

ALLURE article