With language like “circular” and “climate-positive” swirling around the best sustainable beauty brands of 2022 (not to mention reports that 76% of consumers are now seeking out sustainable products), this is the year to consider your relationship with “wish-cycling.” If you haven’t heard the term, you might already be doing it. “Tossing stuff in the curbside bin and hoping for the best” is how Mia Davis, Credo’s VP of impact and sustainability, defines it.
That said, the problem starts long before your wish-cycling. “Brands and municipal recycling facilities don’t usually offer guidance, and a lot of plastic beauty packaging doesn’t even have resin identification code on it,” says Davis, pointing out that in 2018, an estimated 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging were produced globally. “Most beauty products are packaged in plastic—think of all of the plastic compacts, lipsticks, squeezable tubes, jars, caps, and pumps…but only about nine percent of plastic is recycled.” When the rest is incinerated, landfilled, or dumped, and consumers are scream-requesting that Big Beauty recognizes and reforms its role in this wasteful cycle, industry experts are addressing the issue in a number of ways. Credo’s Sustainable Packaging Guidelines require brands to share accurate disposal instructions with customers, plus eliminate single-use packaging. That means no more sheet masks, makeup wipes, treatment pads, or tiny sample packets (an industry first, according to Davis).
Packaging isn’t the only thing that makes a product circular or conscious when factors like production methods, clean energy, harvesting techniques, and ingredient sourcing all play into a mission to improve wasteful or unethical practices. Even creating a refillable option for hard-to-recycle categories (like fragrance bottles, which many beauty-focused programs like Beautycycle don’t accept) is a step in the right direction. At brick and mortar locations for Krigler Perfumes, for example, teams reuse and refill vessels. “Ship or bring back empty bottles and we can recycle them—and our stores are also trained to refill bottles,” explains Ben Krigler, fifth-generation perfumer for the storied house worn by American royals like Grace Kelly (Chateau Krigler 12, credited as a “lucky charm” after her Oscar win), Jackie O (Lovely Patchouli 55), and John F. Kennedy (America One 31). Plus, they’ve considered a circularity gap in one lucrative category: “Our scented candles are eco-friendly,” says Krigler of the non-GMO soy wax blends. “We can also refill them for our clients—with the same scent or a different one.” If luxury brands are considering the long game, the hope is that it soon goes mainstream.
Below, an assortment of products that are stepping (with large and small strides) into the sustainable future:
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N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Cream
For Chanel’s just-launched eco-responsible approach to beauty, the French house’s new N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Cream is made from 95% natural ingredients. New bio-based packaging is clearly marked for each component, like a refillable container made of glass and a cap that includes biocomposite from Camellia husks and wood by-products.
N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Cream, $167, available at Chanel.
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Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream Refill
Housed in a 100% recyclable tube, Augustinus Bader’s eye cream, rich in vitamin C and niacinamide, is created with sustainably sourced botanicals and bio-engineered actives. Even the recyclable box is made from renewable plant fibres. Pop it in its ceramic base, or simply carry it on its own for a truly minimalistic beauty approach.
Augustinus Bader The Eye Cream Refill, US $195, available at Net-a-Porter.
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Viori Rice Water Shampoo Bar
An eco-forward option thanks to lighter packaging and shipping footprint, waterless shampoo ingredients work just as well when activated in the shower. Viori (of TikTok rice water fame) keeps a running tally of the (nearly 3 million) plastic bottles they’ve kept from the ocean, as well as the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water saved. Five percent of the proceeds are donated to initiatives that support the Red Yao tribe’s community in the Huanglo mountains of China.
Viori Rice Water Shampoo Bar, $22.76, available at Amazon.
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Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer Refill Pod
Launched as their first refillable product, Tata Harper Skincare’s Water-Lock Moisturizer features airtight packaging and a 100% recyclable refill pod. Now, their signature green glass packaging only needs to be shipped to you once.
Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer Refill Pod, $84, available at Selfridges.
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Circumference Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser
The main bioactive ingredient in this cleanser, olive leaf extract, is a byproduct (meaning otherwise unusable) from a family-run California farm’s olive harvest. Circumference utilises the olive leaves that would have otherwise been biowaste to carefully (and with a chemical-free method) extract potent actives, then returns the mulch to the farm to be used as compost for a circular production system.
Circumference Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser, $65.53, available at Revolve.
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Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil
Le Prunier’s best-selling beauty oil can be used as a multipurpose moisturiser, though the entire recipe relies on a single ingredient. Formulated using upcycled plums, the fruit is sourced from a fourth-generation family farm.
Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil, US $72 for 30 mL, available at Le Prunier.
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Korres Santorini Grape Velvet Skin Drink
In 2022, Korres will open its in-store recycle lab in New York City, though they already use 90% recyclable packaging and have picked up over 25,000 pieces of plastic in less than a year at their Athens-based recycle lab. The brand also supports over 1,000 Greek farming families by purchasing 100% of their plant materials from Greek farmers before extracting actives (often from already-discarded vineyard grapes) at a zero-waste lab, then returning any unused plant matter to the soil as fertiliser.
Korres Santorini Grape Velvet Skin Drink, $70.50 for 30 mL, available at Lookfantastic.
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Salwa Petersen Chébé du Tchad Hair Cream
Salwa Peterson shares that 100% of the electricity used to produce her products is green, 100% of the water is “cleaned and returned to nature,” 100% of vegetable trash is composted, 100% of packaging is recyclable, and 100% of paper is FSC certified. The women who respectfully harvest the organic Chébé seeds in the line’s hair cream are paid three times the local salary, and 2% of proceeds go to African Parks Network, which manages 20 National Parks across the continent for a partnership that’s helped them, technically, reach carbon-negative status.
Salwa Petersen Chébé du Tchad Hair Cream, US $43.95 for 50 mL, available at Salwa Petersen.
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Krigler Lovely Patchouli 55 Classic Opus Pink Scented Candle
To create an atmospheric version of their fragrance worn by Jackie Onassis, Krigler infused it into non-GMO soy wax. Poured into hand-made glass by French artisans, the vessel is designed to be reused again and again.
Krigler Lovely Patchouli 55 Classic Opus Pink Scented Candle, $215, available at Krigler.
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La Perla Refillable Body Lotion Serum
Made from clean ingredients with sustainability in mind, La Perla’s new probiotic body lotion serum pump can be swapped out of its sculpted base.
La Perla Refillable Body Lotion Serum, $205.91, available at Nordstrom.
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Rose Hermès Silky Blush Powder Refill
A marriage of high fashion and forward-looking logic, Hermès’s blush refill comes with a tiny key that can be inserted to pop out the powder pan and replace it with a new one. Perfect for the consumer who isn’t ready to forgo design for a category as aesthetically focused as beauty.
Rose Hermès Silky Blush Powder Refill, $64, available at Hermès.
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Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen with Niacinamide Refill
For Rihanna’s invisible SPF, the niacinamide-powered broad-spectrum formula is stamped with Sephora’s clean seal of approval. It also now comes in a refillable container that can be used on its own for a more travel-friendly sunscreen format.
Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen with Niacinamide Refill, $47, available at Sephora.
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Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer Refill
Glow Recipe has built a reputation for adorable packaging, so it makes sense that the brand launched refills so that fans never have to throw them away. The Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid moisturiser’s clean formula also received reviews from 100% of consumer study subjects that it kept skin dewy and hydrated all day.
Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer Refill, US $33, available at Glow Recipe.
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Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation Refill
Long celebrated for clean mineral formulas, Jane Iredale was a leader in the refillable complexion category. Recyclable aluminum tins of pressed powder can be swapped in and out of lightweight compacts for easy transport.
Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation Refill, $67.65, available at Nordstrom.
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Byredo All-in-One Refillable Brow Pencil & Refill
An industry favourite for thoughtful design, Byredo offers a set of their refillable brow pencil and cartridge.
Byredo All-in-One Refillable Brow Pencil & Refill, $40.50, available at Selfridges.
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Rouge Dior Refillable Lip Balm
Dior’s Rouge Dior line of lipsticks is refillable (and recently relaunched with more natural ingredients). For those avoiding lipsticks for masking purposes, consider the crystal clear balm.
Rouge Dior Refillable Lip Balm, $58, available at Sephora.
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The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond Eye Cream Refill
The Organic Pharmacy launched its Diamond Refillable Collection last year for bestsellers like their eye cream. Easily popped into its glass container, the formula combines rose flower water and diamond powder for a hydrating, soft-focus effect.
The Organic Pharmacy Rose Diamond Eye Cream Refill, $157.50, available at Lookfantastic.
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Everyday Humans Ease Up Watery PHA Oil Cleanser
The Everyday Humans oil cleanser (that doubles as an exfoliator) is designed to remove SPF and fight sun damage thanks to upcycled green fig extract. Repurposed fig stones that would have been food waste are pressed into an antioxidant-rich extract that’s packed with vitamin C.
Everyday Humans Ease Up Watery PHA Oil Cleanser, $27.50, available at Beauty Bay.
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Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Face Moisturizer and Refill Set
Charlotte Tilbury’s cult-favorite Magic Cream (which was initially inspired by a home recipe she would use behind the scenes on models like Kate Moss) now features an entire refill set. Brands housing products in glamorously heavy lucite jars, take note.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream Face Moisturizer and Refill Set, $235.32, available at Nordstrom.
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Saalt shares that the average person using disposable products uses approximately 16,900 tampons in their lifetime, when a single menstrual cup can last up to ten years. After teaming up with rePurpose Global, they’re slated to be the first period care brand to certify as Plastic Negative (a step beyond neutral) by pledging to remove twice as much waste from the environment as is generated in their supply chain by funding the cleanup of low-value plastic waste. Plus, those funds support recycling programs for impoverished communities affected by plastic waste and provide higher-paying jobs for waste workers.
Saalt Soft Menstrual Cup, $39.59, available at Revolve.
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Face Halo The Modern Makeup Remover Original
An exponentially less wasteful alternative to make-up wipes, Face Halo’s dual-sided, reusable rounds are safe for sensitive, reactive skin types thanks to pH neutrality—plus compatible with preferred cleansers. Lasting for up to 200 wash cycles (a year or more), the brand also offers a circular option for end-of-life with its launch of Modern Merch, where a team of local designers hand stitch upcycled Face Halos onto garments.
Face Halo The Modern Makeup Remover Original, $27 for 3 pack, available at Lookfantastic.
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Youth to The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser Refill Size
Youth to The People created an extra-large refill size for its pH-balanced cleanser that’s become a favourite for even sensitive skin types. It’s also stamped with Sephora’s Clean + Planet Positive seal, which means that ingredients that are harmful to both humans and the planet are left out, and brands are active in climate commitments and environmental giving.
Youth to The People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser Refill Size, $87.59, available at Amazon.
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Susanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel Refill Pouch
While Susanne Kaufmann’s glass bottles fall into the industry’s aforementioned “counter-worthy” category, the refill system cuts carbon emissions by 69%. Designed with 75% post-consumer material, refill bags can be recycled after use.
Susanne Kaufmann Cleansing Gel Refill Pouch, US $96, available at Susanne Kaufmann.
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Youthforia BYO Blush
A plant-based, colour-changing blush oil that reacts to your skin’s natural pH, Youthforia’s formulas are USDA BioPreferred (meaning they’re made with fewer fossil fuels than traditional formulas for a smaller carbon footprint).
Youthforia BYO Blush, $49.09, available at Revolve.
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Kora Organics Berry Bright Vitamin C Eye Cream Refill
Model Miranda Kerr launched her Kora Organics brand with a focus on 100% certified organic ingredients, though the many products with refillable packaging have brought the brand recent recognition. The Vitamin C Eye Cream refill is praised in reviews for cutting cost—and waste.
Kora Organics Berry Bright Vitamin C Eye Cream Refill, $66, available at Sephora.
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Thrive Natural Care BodyShield Mineral SPF 50
Using proprietary native plants to support biodiversity and improve soil on their regenerative farms in Costa Rica is step one for Thrive Natural Care, which also packages its products in plants like this tube, made from sustainably sourced sugarcane from Brazil. BodyShield 50 features medicinal plant oil with anti-inflammatory skin benefits, and the brand was awarded an Amazon Launchpad Innovation Grant for its mineral SPF formula and its regenerative business model.
Thrive Natural Care BodyShield Mineral SPF 50, $26.34, available at Amazon.
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Vapour Beauty Lip Nectar
The Taos-based brand runs on 100% renewable solar energy, and recognises water as a precious resource, making 97% of their clean line waterless, or “anhydrous” as they say. Products are housed in FSC Certified paper.
Vapour Beauty Lip Nectar, US $31, available at Net-a-Porter.
This story originally appeared in Vogue.com.