Last Update: September 28, 2023
Clear skin ahead! That’s your sustainable beauty forecast thanks to the newest crop of eco-friendly brands that have quickly become must-have additions to your daily routine. Thrive Market’s Senior Category Manager, Kristin Ratcliffe, has the pulse on all the latest innovations and says in recent years, consumers have become a lot more invested in understanding what’s going into the products they’re using, from ingredients and their purpose, to where it’s sourced from, to how it’s packaged, and the full life cycle of the product.
“Many brands have started to incorporate ingredient origin and sourcing details, exact percentages, or “defining” the ingredient in terms the consumer can actually understand (as the actual ingredient names can be quite confusing sometimes) directly on their packaging, which is a great starting point,” she says. In addition to wanting formulas free from parabens, sulfates, aluminum, and other questionable ingredients, there’s also increasing demand for sustainable and lower-waste alternatives to everyday products, like elevated refill options and compostable packaging.
Packaging is the biggest offender when it comes to waste in the beauty industry, generating 120 billion units of plastic globally each year. In fact, since the beginning of large-scale plastic production in the 1950s, only 9 percent of the world’s plastic has been recycled. (A Greenpeace USA report found that only plastics #1 and #2, out of seven types, could legally be claimed to be recyclable.)
Complicating matters, Ratcliffe notes the lack of education for how, when, and where to properly recycle the plastic products in our drawers. “The types of plastics that recycling facilities accept varies greatly based on where you live. Some cosmetic components are too small to even be picked up by the recycling scanners, and many products have multiple pieces to the packaging which may need to be separated in order to be properly recycled,” she says.
So what’s a conscious consumer to do? Brands are making strides by incorporating clearer instructions on their packaging, leveraging more sustainable materials (like glass, aluminum, and biodegradable cardboard), and in some cases, eliminating packaging altogether. “Brands are also addressing waste by starting at the beginning of the production cycle, using upcycled ingredients, reducing water and energy use, and reducing their overall carbon footprint,” Ratcliffe explains.
Lots of exciting things are happening in the world of sustainable skincare and eco-friendly reusables. Here are three (of many) inspiring brands leading the way to a cleaner future.
NONIKO’s deodorants aren’t just made with clean ingredients—the packaging is sustainable too. “At NONIKO, we’ve always been focused on sourcing the highest quality, natural ingredients to craft our formulas, but we were never satisfied with the packaging options available,” says Director of Operations & Sustainability Piper Lacey. After learning that only a fraction of plastic packaging was actually getting recycled, founder Kerri Leslie wanted a solution that wouldn’t go to waste.
Enter, stainless steel. NONIKO’s innovative design is a reuse model that’s forward thinking but also inspired by bygone eras (remember the 1950s milkman?). It’s a simple 3-step system: throw your empty refill into the same shipping box it arrived in, use the provided paper tape to re-seal the box, then affix the USPS return shipping label (also provided) and pop it in mail. Your container will be cleaned, sanitized, and refilled at their Southern California HQ before receiving your refill.
Try it: Natural Deodorant Starter Kit, Drift
Traditional shampoos and conditioners are getting a makeover. To perfect its waterless concentrate, Everist experimented with more than 100 iterations. As Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer Jayme Jenkins explains, “we’ve worked hard on our plant-based formulas to ensure we capsure the rich lather and refreshing scent that people love from their shampoo experience.” The slimmer bottle is lighter to ship (which means a smaller carbon footprint), and requires less packaging—Everist uses recyclable aluminum tubes and no single-use plastic, allowing the brand to be fully Climate Neutral Certified.
Clean Circle makes sustainable reusables (like makeup removers and skincare pads) to help green your beauty routine. Before launching, founder Lena Chao sought out a variety of different fabrics before settling on bamboo. “There were key non-negotiables that I wouldn’t budge on,” she says, like that fabrics had to be gentle enough for all skin types months after washing. Bamboo, combined with a small amount of OEKO-Tex® fabrics, became the ideal material to bring these products to life. When it comes to sustainability, “we think about the lifetime use of our products (that’s why our fabrics are of such high quality), our supply chain transparency, and our 100% recyclable packaging. With all this, we elevated what it means to be a beauty reusable,” she explains.
Plastic-free packaging, waterless formulas, and biodegradable ingredients are just a few of the planet-friendly trends these brands are embracing.
From head to toe, these innovative brands make it easy to care for your skin and the planet simultaneously.
Tom’s of Maine deodorant not only offers 48-hours of odor protection and an aluminum-free formula, but this stick comes in plastic-free packaging.
From Moroccan rose to mountain lavender, Humble’s deodorant formula is made with simple ingredients (like coconut oil and essential oils) and housed in a 100% biodegradable and plastic-free container.
Now you can enjoy all the benefits of electric toothbrushes while keeping your routine eco-friendly. Plus Ultra’s replacement brush heads are made using biodegradable cornstarch and are compatible with Philips Sonicare.
Embrace the great outdoors (and keep the bugs at bay) with Murphy’s travel-friendly wipes. Each sheet is made with plant-based ingredients and DEET-free. Thrive Market member Leann from Oregon says they’re “so much easier and neater than a spray or lotion, and easy to pack.”
Inspired by ancient restorative ingredients like rosehips and French grey salt, this soothing soak comes in 100% compostable packaging—the pouch is printed with vegetable ink and the inner bag is made of renewable wood pulp.
This sweet and citrusy vegan body wash comes in a convenient, non-drying bar that’s formulated with sweet orange, vanilla, and no palm oil.
When it comes to scrubbing up multiple times a day or sanitizing on-the-go, treat your hands to these moisturizing formulas.
Hello’s plant-based and biodegradable foaming hand wash is gentle on hands and infused with aloe and sea minerals. This kit comes with 1 reusable glass bottle and 1 tablet to get you started.
This velvety formula combines calendula and comfrey to cleanse sans harsh chemicals, and don’t toss the container when you’re done—just refill it.
Just clip and go! This bundle features OLIKA’s convenient hydrating sanitizer (formulated with 65% ethyl alcohol and uplifting essential oils), plus a refill pouch for when you run low.
Shampoo bars, skin brushes, tanning towels, and more—these brands have your clean beauty routine covered.
Our Certified Organic moisturizer helps you care for skin day and night using ethically sourced and cold-pressed jojoba oil. Thrive Market member Miranda from Pennsylvania uses this oil every night before bed and says “my skin is super smooth and glowing the next morning.”
Brush on a tropical glow with HAN’s talc-free bronzer formulated with oil-absorbing rice powder, cocoa butter, and organic cocoa powder. The packaging has recently been updated with 100% recycled paper and is designed for curbside recycling.
It’s glow time. Beauty by Earth gives you a natural looking tan—no harsh rays required. For fair to medium skin, this dye-free formula is free from toxic chemicals and lasts up to six days.
Designed in Denmark and made with compostable fabric, Last Object makes it easy to swap out traditional makeup pads for a sustainable alternative that can be used up to 250 times. The material softens when wet so you can add your favorite toner or makeup remover.
This floral and citrusy bar offers twice as many washes as liquid cleansers—it’s formulated with beneficial herbs and essential oils to refresh your locks with ease.
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