Sustainable Cosmetics: How Beauty Companies Are Preparing For a Greener Future

The issue of climate protection and sustainability made its way to beauty and cosmetics companies a while ago. Through ecological packaging or products with refill options, companies in the FMCG segment are making their way onto greener paths.
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Image: Shutterstock

The list of beauty and cosmetic products with sustainable and climate-neutral formulations and packaging is growing. Companies are increasingly paying attention to their environmental footprint and are committed to climate protection. As a result, drugstores, supermarkets, and perfumeries fill up with products made from recyclable materials and ecological ingredients or use minimal packaging.

Plastic Packaging and Microplastics in Formulations

Cosmetics companies respond to their customers' desire for greater transparency concerning formulations and packaging materials and are researching ways to reduce plastic waste. The problematic impact of this has been disclosed several times: A study by the environmental organization NABU has substantiated the urgency of banning microplastics, while the Environmental Protection Agency has shown the low recyclability of plastic packaging a study conducted in the USA.

Especially in the beauty and cosmetics sector, plastic containers and lids conceal tiny particles in the formulation, such as exfoliating grains or film-forming microplastics or dissolved polymers, all of which get washed down the drain into the world's oceans.

Small plastic particles, big problem: microplastics in cosmetic products. Image: Shutterstock

Sustainable Packaging Models and Ecological Ingredients

Many companies address the issue and research ways to replace ingredients with carbon-neutral options and produce alternative packaging.

To make it easier for companies to adopt and switch to green packaging and provide more transparency to consumers, SPICE (Sustainable Packaging Initiative For Cosmetics), a pre-competitive initiative launched by L'Oreal and Quantis - a consulting group that advises companies on sustainability - offers an eco-design tool that cosmetics companies can use to calculate the environmental impact of their packaging materials on the climate - from the creation of the packaging to its final recycling. The tool simulates several scenarios of how different packaging designs contribute to a reduction of the ecological footprint.

These can be glass jars instead of plastic tubes, recycled materials or packaging that is biodegradable, for instance.

Paper, glass and other recyclable materials instead of plastic packaging. Image: Shutterstock

Return Programs, Refill Options and Sustainable Packaging Designs

In addition to reducing plastic packaging, return models for used-up products are another way to avoid waste. If a certain number of empty packages is returned, you can choose a new beauty product for free in exchange. A well-known example here is the cosmetics brand MAC, which offers such a model with its BACK TO MAC program. In exchange for handing in any six empty original packages, you get a free eyeshadow.

Other major brands, such as Dior, Mugler, and Hourglass, are increasingly relying on products that can be refilled. Mugler offers this option for its perfumes. So does Dior, which offers refills for foundations and creams in addition to perfumes. Hourglass, among others, offers a lipstick that can be replaced with a refill when used up.

Babor and Guerlain are committed to recycled and reusable packaging materials. Babor's goal is to produce 100% recyclable product packaging and reduce the use of plastic. Guerlain uses recycled glass for 95% of its perfume bottles - 100% is also the goal here.

A Greener Future for Beauty and Cosmetics

Climate-neutral by 2030, plastic alternatives in packaging, organic ingredients and more refill options - the sustainability mindset in the beauty and cosmetics sector is constantly growing. Consumers' strong desire for greater transparency and commitment to climate protection and the call for resource-friendly materials will continue to encourage companies to change their approach and promote innovative, ecological ideas. For cosmetics not only to feel good but also to do good for the environment.



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