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

Let’s Ditch Sheet Face Masks!

WHERE DID SHEET MASKS ORIGINATE FROM?

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. 

ORGAID Article
INSIDER Article
HUFFPOST Article