Sustainable Beauty: A Beginner’s Guide to Making the Switch

Beauty is big business, and with an almost constant supply of product innovations and developments, it shows no signs of slowing. But have you ever considered the environmental footprint of your daily beauty routine? Our beginner’s guide to sustainable beauty explains it all.

Sustainable Beauty
Adopt a more sustainable beauty routine


Why is the beauty industry a cause for concern?

Beauty is a multi-billion pound industry, producing countless products that we use in our daily lives. But with this extensive production, comes extensive environmental impact. The beauty industry creates a staggering amount of packaging every year, most of which is non-recyclable and ends up in landfills.

What are the environmental issues caused by the beauty industry?

Plastic containers, wrappings and microbeads used in cosmetics contribute to pollution, harming wildlife and natural ecosystems. Even the chemical ingredients in many beauty products can cause harm to aquatic life when they wash off your body and enter the water system.

Those harmful chemicals can also negatively affect your health. If you knew your daily make up could potentially harm you, or your body wash might destroy a marine ecosystem, would you still use them?

Plastic and non-recyclable packaging
Packaging is a big problem in the beauty industry

How your beauty products are produced, packaged and disposed of all contribute to their environmental impact.

  • Beauty packaging is often plastic and non-recyclable, contributing to the ever-growing plastic waste problem. Our inadequate recycling systems mean even recyclable packaging can end up in landfills or oceans.
  • Toxic chemicals and harmful ingredients in many beauty products can harm your health and the environment.
  • High water usage in the manufacturing process of many beauty products can strain local resources and contribute to water scarcity.
  • Conventional beauty products often rely on non-renewable resources. Ingredients like petroleum and mineral oils are common but finite resources and extraction methods often contribute to environmental degradation.
  • The production and transportation of beauty products often involve high energy use, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Perfumes, hairsprays and deodorants can be as guilty of air pollution as car emissions, affecting indoor air quality too.
  • Unethical sourcing of ingredients can lead to habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and pollution. Palm oil is a common ingredient (not just in beauty products) often linked to deforestation and the loss of critical habitats for endangered species.
  • The disposal of beauty products that contain synthetic chemicals can be harmful when they end up in landfills and eventually seep into our water system.

What is ‘greenwashing’ and how can you recognise it?

The beauty industry has seen an increase in brands that claim to be sustainable, but are only really green in their marketing tactics. This practice is known as ‘greenwashing’.

To avoid falling into their trap, you need to understand what constitutes true sustainability and how to identify it.

Start with brand values. Most genuinely sustainable brands, such as Beauty Kitchen or Evolve are transparent about their ingredients, processes and commitment to environmental responsibility. They provide clear information about their sourcing, manufacturing, packaging and disposal practices.

Look beyond vague marketing terms like ‘natural’ or ‘eco-friendly’ as these won’t always equate to sustainability. Research a brand’s sustainability policy, initiatives and practices.

What is sustainable beauty and how does it help?

Natural and organic ingredients
Sustainable beauty products tend to prioritise natural and organic ingredients

Sustainable beauty represents a thoughtful approach to your beauty regime, where products consider your health and the health of the planet.

Sustainability isn’t just another trend, it’s a vital shift in how we think about and use products in our daily routine. It’s about choosing better products for yourself and making conscious choices that contribute to the wellbeing of our planet.

Sustainable beauty products aim to minimise environmental impact in all stages, from sourcing ingredients to production, packaging and disposal.

Free from harmful chemical ingredients

When you choose sustainable beauty, you’re choosing products that are typically free from the harmful chemicals found in conventional beauty products.

Sustainable beauty products tend to prioritise natural and organic ingredients that are kind to you and gentler on the planet. These ingredients deliver effective results without harmful side effects. Brands like Evolve, Neal’s Yard Remedies, UpCircle and Dr Hauschka are renowned for their commitment to sustainable practices and organic ingredients.

Innovative, plastic-free and zero-waste packaging

Sustainable beauty products are more likely to be presented in eco-friendly bar form, or housed in glass, metal, or compostable packaging. Brands like Ethique, Friendly Soap, Beauty Kitchen, Georganics and Lamazuna are pioneers of innovative, plastic-free packaging solutions.

Ethical practices

Many sustainable beauty brands are committed to cruelty-free practices ensuring no animals are harmed in the testing or production of their products.

Supporting sustainable beauty brands means you’re supporting ethical sourcing and economic sustainability. Workers are paid fair wages under safe conditions. Brands like Fair Squared and We Love The Planet ensure their ingredients are ethically sourced, and many brands hold Fair Trade, Fair Wild or Fair for Life certifications.

How can sustainable beauty products support your health and wellbeing?

You might be surprised to learn that sustainable beauty products are not only good for the planet, but can also do wonders for your health and wellness, but why?

Sustainable beauty products, from brands like Beauty Kitchen, Ethique and Dr Hauschka avoid harsh chemicals such as parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances that can irritate your eyes and skin, disrupt your hormones or have even more serious health repercussions. By switching to brands that prioritise natural, organic and non-toxic ingredients, you’re treating your body to the care it deserves.

Products like Dr Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps use organic, plant-based, skin-friendly ingredients that are planet-friendly and incredibly versatile too!

Neal’s Yard Remedies are certified organic and cruelty-free, and use ethically-sourced, plant-based ingredients. Their essential oils are incredibly popular and recognised for their therapeutic properties that can enhance your emotional and physical wellbeing.

Which ingredients do you need to avoid?

Many conventional beauty products contain harmful ingredients, but which ones do you need to look out for and avoid?

  • Microplastics are tiny particles often found in exfoliating scrubs and other beauty products. When you rinse them off and wash them down your drain, they can end up in our oceans, harming marine life and eventually entering our food chain.
  • Palm oil production is often linked to widespread deforestation, habitat destruction and climate change. Alternatives include rapeseed oil, soybean and coconut oil, but it’s important to check that all these ingredients are ethically sourced to avoid more damaging environmental consequences.
  • Parabens and phthalates are common ingredients in beauty products that can disrupt hormones in wildlife when they eventually enter our water system.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) create the lather in many cleansers but can cause skin and eye irritation.
  • Synthetic fragrances can contain thousands of chemicals, many of which are harmful to the environment and can cause pollution when washed down your drain.

Overwhelmed? Ingredient checkers like Skin Deep by the EWG and Think Dirty can help to take the guesswork and the legwork out of evaluating your skin care.

A step-by-step guide to sustainable beauty

Beauty products that consider you and the environment
Make conscious choices for yourself and the planet

The world of sustainable beauty might seem overwhelming, but just like any other journey, it starts with a single step.

To begin, scrutinise the ingredients in your current beauty products. Get familiar with the common harmful chemicals mentioned above and consider how you can replace products with cleaner, more eco-friendly alternatives.

1. Replace

Replace the products you need with sustainable alternatives as and when you run out. You don’t need to go out and buy a whole new skin care range immediately. The first step to a more sustainable beauty regime is to use what you have.

Try and avoid the temptation to keep up with all the latest beauty trends. Not only can that prove very expensive, but it also encourages waste as you switch to the latest innovation promising even better results before you’ve finished with your existing products.

Discarded half-empty bottles are a big part of the waste problem.

2. Reduce

Do you really need all the products in your daily routine?

Try and adopt a minimalist approach to skin care. This approach is based on the idea that less is more, and a few high-quality products will deliver better results than a plethora of different ones.

Invest in a few, carefully chosen products to maintain and improve the health and appearance of your skin. The aim is to only use the products that bring you the most benefits. Always consider your skin type and specific concerns, the climate and your lifestyle when choosing products. What works for one person might not work for you.

A minimalist skin care routine will save you time and money, reduce your exposure to potential skin irritants and help you reduce your environmental footprint.

3. Reuse

Consider investing in beauty brands that offer refillable containers to cut down on your single-use packaging. Brands like Beauty Kitchen, Evolve and UpCircle are known for their innovative refill systems.

Alternatively, brands like Faith in Nature and Dr Bronner’s offer large refill products to top up your smaller jars and bottles. Refills and larger sizes offer a simple way to make a big difference to the environment. Buying in bulk not only cuts out the total amount of plastic you consume but can also be kinder to your pocket, as larger sizes often work out cheaper per litre than the smaller versions.

4. Recycle or Repurpose

Disposing of your empty containers properly once you’ve finished with them is vital to improving your sustainability.

If you’re recycling, it’s important to clean jars thoroughly. Any leftover product residue could contaminate the recycling process.

Neal’s Yard Remedies regularly reuse and upcycle their iconic blue glass bottles to make innovative store displays and you can do the same at home – repurpose jars and containers as plant pots, vases, candle holders or homemade organisers.

5. Reduce your water usage

It’s amazing how much water goes straight down the drain when you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face. Turn off the tap when you don’t need it. Simple, but very effective.

Water conservation saves energy. You use energy to filter, heat and pump water into your home, so reducing your water usage also reduces your carbon footprint. Using less water keeps more in our ecosystems and helps to keep wetland habitats topped up for animals and wildlife.

6. Research before making a purchase

Look for honest reviews, check sustainability policies and initiatives, and be cautious of greenwashing. Are they transparent about their ingredient sources and how they treat their workers? Do they support charitable causes or other organisations to help make the world a better place?

Brands like &SISTERS and Natracare support 1% for the Planet, a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support environmental solutions.

Look for certifications and accreditations from trusted associations to verify a brand’s sustainability credentials.

What are the most reliable and meaningful certifications and accreditations?

Look for certifications and accreditations from trusted associations such as the Soil Association or Leaping Bunny to verify a brand’s sustainability credentials.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most reliable and meaningful certifications to check for:

Certified Organic

Organic certification indicates that products are made without using synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and other harmful chemicals.

Brands like Dr Hauschka and Neal’s Yard Remedies carry this certification awarded by organisations such as The Soil Association, EcoCert and the Organic Food Federation

Certification involves an annual inspection and assessment of the ingredients, manufacturing process, packaging and labelling.


Vegan-certified products do not contain any animal-derived ingredients and have not been tested on animals at any point during their production process. It also confirms that the products don’t include ingredients produced by animals, such as honey or beeswax.

Ben & Anna and Friendly Soap are excellent examples of brands certified by The Vegan Society

Cruelty-free Certification

A Leaping Bunny or PETA certification guarantees that a product and its ingredients haven’t been tested on animals. Certified brands commit to a comprehensive audit of their supply chain and their commitments are renewed on an annual basis.

Brands such as Ethique and Lamazuna are certified cruelty-free. However, it’s important to note that not all certified cruelty-free brands are vegan-friendly. Equally, not all cruelty-free brands are certified.

Cruelty-Free Kitty is an invaluable resource with an extensive database of products and guides. 

Certified B-Corp

B Corp companies meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability on a variety of factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

Beauty Kitchen, Dr Bronner’s, Evolve, Faith in Nature, Lafe’s and Weleda are all proudly B-Corp certified. Beauty Kitchen achieved the highest score of any B Corp beauty brand in Europe!

Certified Plastic-free

Brands, such as Georganics, are dedicated to reducing plastic waste and offer alternatives like reusable or compostable packaging. 

Ethical Accreditation

Ethical Consumer Best Buy and The Good Shopping Guide Ethical Company Accreditation both recognise brands for their eco-friendly practices.

Several other certifications can demonstrate commitment to sustainability, including Fair Trade, Fair Wild, and Fair for Life, which all concern ethical sourcing practices. Climate-neutral, Carbon-neutral or Carbon-negative certifications assess carbon footprint. The Rainforest Alliance, FSC Certified, EWG Verified, Cradle-to-Cradle and Made Safe also indicate a commitment to sustainability.

Trustworthy certifications ensure stringent safety, sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices. However, it’s worth remembering that many smaller brands may not have the resources to obtain certifications but are still committed to sustainable practices.

Many sustainable beauty brands offer great products alongside their commitment to ethical and sustainable practices. Here are a few of our favourites to get you started:

  • &SISTERS tampons, pads and liners are made from biodegradable, certified cotton. Fighting the battle against period poverty, 10% of their profits support women’s health, education and economic empowerment across the globe.
  • Beauty Kitchen’s Return, Refill, Repeat system encourages reusing beauty containers. They offer a range of effective, eco-friendly skincare products. 
  • Ben & Anna deodorants and dental care products are vegan-friendly, cruelty-free and packaged in recyclable or compostable materials. 
  • Ethique’s range of solid beauty bars, includes shampoos and conditioners, body washes and body butter, eliminating the need for plastic packaging. 
  • Fair Squared products are made exclusively from natural ingredients. One of the first companies to achieve fair trade certification, their range includes vegan-certified condoms made from fair trade ingredients.
  • Friendly Soap use natural ingredients and plastic-free packaging to create their range of handmade vegan-friendly soaps. 
  • UpCircle is a pioneer in using upcycled ingredients such as used coffee grounds in their skin care products, proving that great skin care can also be sustainable. 
  • WUKA make affordable, absorbent underwear from sustainable, responsibly sourced materials. They believe in breaking down taboos and that periods and sustainable living are not a luxury.

Sustainable beauty is a process that takes time

Remember, the journey towards a sustainable beauty routine is a marathon, not a sprint and each small step makes a difference. If millions of us each make one small change, the potential positive impact on our planet is huge.

It might seem daunting at first, but brands are making it easier than ever to make the switch. So next time you reach for your favourite product, why not consider if there’s a more sustainable option? It could make all the difference.

Start your sustainable journey this July.

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