Over the past few years, the phrase “clean beauty” has been one of the main beauty buzzwords, and many brands have jumped on the bandwagon when they weren’t actually “clean”. Clean beauty, like all areas of the beauty world, is a spectrum and while many brands fit into what we now call “clean beauty” by having sustainable packaging, their products may not. to be, and vice versa. Basically we think we’re buying a “clean” product but that’s not 100% there. And to be honest, I’m not totally convinced they have to be.
Of course, there are ingredients that we should avoid. The EU’s governing body for the beauty industry has banned the use of more than 1,000 ingredients that have traditionally been used in the production of cosmetics while their US counterpart, the FDA, has banned just under 100, so anything we buy here in Europe will always be safer than some that are available in the US. Two examples of ingredients now banned here are ultra-dark tanning lotions containing more than 10% DHA, an ingredient that has contributed to streaking and the development of ultra-dark tans. Another is the Brazilian Blow Out which changed the hair of many unruly Irish heads in the late 2000’s but contained formaldehyde – if you were in a salon when we were doing one it was obvious yes this stuff is harmful.
Brands like View, Codex Beauty Labs and marine body are doing incredible work in the world of clean beauty, literally taking it to the next level when it comes to the environmental impact of their brands, from sustainably sourcing their ingredients for production to ensuring that all ingredients are sourced fair trade. Codex even works with a negative carbon footprint. Seabody is a local brand that harvests all of its main ingredients, seaweed, from the Irish Atlantic by hand. Seaweed is one of nature’s most sustainable crops and it grows in abundance off our coasts. They want to have a positive impact on the planet with their line of products ranging from skin care to supplements. They use renewable energy to make their products and the packaging is mostly glass – an infinitely recyclable material. All paper used comes from Irish suppliers as passionate about the planet as Seabody and is FSC certified. The brand is plastic free and the inks they use for their printing are biodegradable. Treatment prices range from €40 to €70. Although not cheap, it is much more affordable than comparable products on the market and the ingredients used are traceable and safe.
And then there are established brands that have always been ‘clean’ from the start, like Nuxe whose packaging is from sustainable sources. The brand is 100% vegetarian made from beeswax, and in some products it is certified as 90% vegan. They’ve won awards for their sustainable packaging design, and they haven’t changed the way they’ve done since they started operating in 1990. If you haven’t tried their products, you gotta give it a go, the scent of each product is amazing. Their sunscreen is my favorite body sunscreen and I love the iconic Hulile Prodigieuse multi-purpose oil – it literally smells like you’re on vacation at a fancy 5 star spa resort. L’Occitane in Provence has always been deeply committed to the safety of its products while limiting the environmental impact from agriculture to packaging. They impose on themselves a formulation charter that goes beyond global regulatory compliance, using ingredients of natural origin but they also favor those with high biodegradability. They recently re-opened their Wicklow Street store after an upgrade and to my delight they have a refill station of their top five selling products, my all time favorite hand soap, Verbena, being the ‘one of them. You can buy a lifetime refillable bottle in two sizes 250ml and 500ml, €3.50 and €5.50, with refills ranging from €13.50 to €31.
Gen See is a new range of colored cosmetics that are both clean and effective. Gen ‘See’ means the generation that sees how we impact our environment through what we consume. The packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and is 100% recyclable. The packaging is cheerful and bright and will have you smiling before you even discover the splendor inside. They have 11 products; with four shades of the Pick Me Up Matte Lipstick, a beautifully textured lipstick that’s matte but doesn’t dry out, three shades of my favorite Clean Sheen Cheek and Lip Colour, a wonderfully lightweight wash of color to give you a perfect blush – the Apricot shade is the perfect blush color. There’s also a Clean Sheen lip gloss, a bright-but-not-too-sticky clear lip gloss, and three shades of the Arch Support Brow Powder Gel, a hybrid of the two brow products we should all be using. In addition to being eco-friendly, Gen See ensures that anyone working to manufacture the products or grow the ingredients earns a living wage while ensuring the products remain affordable to us, with all products at a lower price. at €20. Gen See also has a European hub where all Irish orders are processed so there are no nasty surprises when they are delivered.
Beauty Victoria Beckham is a luxury premium clean beauty line that guarantees the ingredient list is safe, ethical and environmentally friendly. They do not add any unnecessary filler ingredients in their formulations. Their packaging uses minimal plastic and if you order online, the boxes used are 100% Forest Stewardship Council certified, made from recycled and recyclable paper. Additionally, they use corn packing foam to ensure your purchases are not damaged, which dissolves under water and does not harm the environment.
But it’s not just independent and luxury brands that are carrying the flag for sustainable beauty. Industry giants are starting to make much more sustainable choices with their ingredients and packaging. Garnier paves the way for mass-produced brands and proves that even at this level, a brand can be greener. Each of their products has been endorsed by Cruelty Free International. They designed a labeling system to track the environmental impact of each product. I especially love their 7 Days Shea Butter Intensive Hand Cream, after the last two years we all need a lot of hand cream!
Today, almost all brands are focusing more on sustainability, with major companies hitting targets for their environmental impact initiatives, with some now operating with a zero carbon footprint for energy consumption. As consumers, we are much more aware of the environmental impact of the products we consume and we demand that the products we buy are sustainable and animal friendly. Previously, the majority of people would not have considered buying only products that fall into these categories. Now that climate change is happening, we are all trying to do what we can, when we can for our environment.