When it comes to the beauty products we buy, the savvier we are, the more hope we have of combating the gargantuan amount of waste that heads out of our bathrooms and into the world’s landfill sites (Singapore sent 3 million tonnes of waste to landfill last year). But the beauty industry is finding new ways to put the health of our planet first, whether through recyclable packaging or the formulas housed within. So how to navigate all the confusing and unregulated terminology? Here are the need-to-know terms that demystify the jargon…
Ethical products are cruelty-free, which means that they have not been tested on animals, and nor has their production involved child or slave labour, or dangerous conditions for workers either. Look to brands, such as The Body Shop and Lush, that work with ethical co-operatives in places of origin.
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We’ve been working with Tungteiya Women’s Shea Butter Association in Ghana for over 25 years. Over 600 women from the association use traditional techniques handed down through generations to handcraft the shea butter that fills our favourite Body Butters. It was our founder, Anita Roddick, who started this partnership, and it’s something we’re really proud of. #CommunityFairTrade #SheaButter #BodyButter #VeganBeauty
Natural & Organic
Without any strict definition or regulation in the cosmetics industry, the terms “natural” and “organic” often fall prey to greenwashing. In essence, products that don’t have any artificial ingredients, preservatives or chemicals but use components found in nature can be thought of as natural. Pay close attention to the label, but note that there are plenty of natural products that rely on preservatives, such as parabens, to keep their formulas stable and safe for skin – this in itself can actually be more important than a “100 per cent natural” label. Meanwhile, organic ingredients are grown without the use of herbicides or synthetic fertilisers; note that the term “made with organic” can mean as little as 10 per cent of the formula is organic.
It’s paramount that we learn how to recycle – and properly. Pumps are not recyclable because they are usually made up of more than one material, so always remove them before recycling and ensure different materials (such as plastic and glass) are separated before disposing of them. Any remnants of liquid waste in packaging are also a no-no, as are labels and products with magnets and mirrors within them. Look instead for post-consumer recycled (PCR) material – as used by Aveda, Soaper Duper and Neal’s Yard Remedies. Meanwhile, the next frontier in beauty is refillable packaging, so consider brands that work with pioneering company Loop. Ren, Dove and Pantene have all added products to their online refill services, which saves you throwing away and buying yet more packaging.
Vegan beauty formulas contain zero traces of animal products. It’s shaky ground, though, since the term “vegan” on a label doesn’t guarantee that a product hasn’t been tested on animals. Peta, Leaping Bunny and The Vegan Society all provide certification for peace of mind.
A sustainable beauty buy is one that contains ethically sourced ingredients (vegan, organic, fairly traded and palm oil-free), is housed in recyclable or reusable packaging and is made by an environmentally responsible brand that considers its carbon footprint at all levels of production. Sustainability has a spectrum and can be difficult to gauge, so decide which values are most important to you and aim to only buy products that meet those standards.
Certifications To Know
Guarantees that the product is organic and natural.
Certifies the product hasn’t undergone any animal testing in its development.
Indicates that the packaging can be recycled.
Means 95 per cent of the formula is made of natural ingredients.
Offers workers in developing countries a good trade deal to help improve their futures.