Sustainable is difficult to define as it is one of many terms a brand can use that is unregulated in the beauty and skincare industry.
Brands may claim they are sustainable or ethical but may not actually be so.
The term ‘Sustainable,’ especially now days, as it is very trendy and a marketing favourite is often a form of Greenwashing.
A sustainable skincare brand should be doing everything it can to make sure their environmental impact is a positive one.
Accreditations are excellent proof that a brand is being held accountable for its claims, it means that their actions are being judged against certain criteria by objective third party organisations ensuring that they are being held accountable for their actions.
Look out for accreditations like ‘Certified Organic’ by:
Ecocert (as used by The PÜRE Collection)
1% For The Planet
COSMOS (held by The PÜRE Collection)
EWG (our products have been safety reviewed by EWG)
PETA (we are members of)
Cruelty Free International (again, we are members of)
Brands that are palm oil free, contain no environmentally devastating palm oil or any of its derivatives, however it is not always so simple.
On the one hand, palm oil plantations are responsible for a massive amount of destruction to rainforests and displacement of thousands of species.
On the other hand, palm oil has the highest oil yield of any oil crop making it ironically more economical and less destructive.
Look for brands that use sustainably sourced oils, specifically related to Palm oil, look for the RSPO designation – The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). It is a global certification scheme formed in 2004 to set the standard for ‘sustainable palm oil’.
Non-toxic refers to a product that does not contain any un-natural manufactured herbicides, GMOs, artificial fertilisers, preservatives, parabens or other toxic ingredients.
A brand that markets their products as non-toxic would often identify themselves as part of the ‘clean beauty movement’.
Unfortunately, many brands still test on animals or use animal derivatives, ethical and sustainable brands obviously should not.
When brands say their products are cruelty free, it should mean that the product was not tested on animals in any part of its developmental stages.
Surprisingly, there is still some vagueness around this term, brands that claim to be cruelty free may still put animal derivatives into their products, and although they may not directly test on animals themselves, they could still use third-party organisations and ingredient suppliers that do.
Vegan products should not contain any animal derived ingredients such as collagen or beeswax.
Brands are now undertaking the environmental impact of their packaging far more seriously, and have started to re-use existing packaging, recyclable and even upcycling packaging.
Look for skincare brands that use materials and packaging that have been, or can easily be recycled.
Look for the recycle Logo.
Brands that truly care about the environment should consider all areas of their impact, including waste management.
Their policies should be, but not limited to:
Water and energy management
Being minimal waste as possible
Using sustainable energy sources like renewables
Office recycling programmes
Another category that defines sustainable is ethics, from how the ingredients are sourced, to ensuring that all workers throughout the supply chain are treated fairly.
Ensuring that from sourcing the raw materials to selling the final products, every step supports and improves the quality of life of the workers and prioritises people and the planet over profit.
Workers are paid and treated fairly for their work, child labour is not involved and communities are not suffering as a result of diminishing resources.
See if, and how brands talk about their workers on their website and check how and where they source their ingredients from.
Ethical ingredient sourcing and transparency are two of the most important signs of a sustainable skincare brand.
Brands must be transparent about where their ingredients come from and consider all ethical and sustainable ways of sourcing them.
This means thinking beyond the specific ingredients, and on to the people involved in obtaining them, and whether or not they were treated fairly.
It is also about considering the social implications linked to the supply chain, issues like whether or not the resources are disempowering communities.
Brands should be paying a fair price for their raw materials and they ensure that their suppliers are committed to ensuring safe and ethical conditions for their workers.
Sustainable brands work with suppliers who implement sustainable and conservation practices so as not to reduce natural resources.
It is becoming increasingly common to see skincare brands with a dedicated giving policy for causes they are passionate about to drive social change and help others less fortunate.
A skincare brand needs to adhere to health and safety regulations to make sure the products are safe to put on your skin.
The skincare industry for the large part, is unregulated and many countries that have regulations do not have the financial resources to police it properly.
What ingredients are deemed safe is up for debate and depends on where you are in the world.
For example, the EU has banned approximately 1,300 ingredients, whereas the USA has banned only 11, but this in itself is confusing and a topic for a future blog.
Just because ingredients are natural or botanical does not mean they are safe, botanical ingredients such as cucumber, ginkgo, lavender oil, peppermint, rosemary, chamomile and tea tree oil have been known to cause skin irritation and allergies.
To ensure your skincare is not going to do you any harm, it is always a good idea to read the ingredients list and patch test new products. (We offer sample sizes to our customers).
If you are unsure, apps like Skin Deep by the Environmental Working Group (who we are verified by)
Or Think Dirty can help.
Use the apps to check the safety of ingredients on your skin