5 Brands Leading the Circular Beauty Movement

For the future generations to continue, many experts say that a circular economy is the way forward. While this is becoming a reality in many industries, the beauty industry has a long way to go. What would need to happen is that every beauty brand would have to reconsider their packaging and their ingredients that they use. 


At the present time, most beauty brands are still using virgin plastic in their packaging, and are not sourcing their ingredients in a completely sustainable manner. However, there are a few brands who are paving the way for a more responsible future in beauty.


In this article, we’ll discuss what a circular economy means; how the beauty industry can adopt a circular economy; and the brands that are leading the circular beauty movement.



Beauty Trends

In one of my recent articles, I highlighted some of the upcoming beauty trends to keep an eye out for in 2022. These include:


    • Sustainable Products
    • Climate Positive
    • Imperfect Beauty
    • Zero Waste
    • Biodiversity Awareness
    • Circular Economy

A circular economy promotes the use of resources that are already existing. So instead of creating something from new resources, a circular economy creates something new from existing resources. We often see it in fashion and in furniture, and it’s starting to spread into other industries. 


The reason why this is fast becoming a trend has been largely catalyzed by our overconsumption problem. We are consuming, we’re wasting resources, and we’re adding to our landfill issue at a rate faster than our planet can handle. If we continue at the rate we’re moving, we won’t have any natural resources left; and who knows what health implications excessive waste will cause us long-term (1).


The Trifecta of Sustainability 

As mentioned in many of my articles, for brands to be considered sustainable, they need to start looking at their business, from the ingredients, to the packaging, and their operations. This is what I call the “Trifecta of Sustainability”, and it’s something that we take pretty seriously at Fait avec Coeur.


Ingredients

When it comes to ingredients, it’s pretty safe to say that most beauty brands are unsustainable in their approach. We’ve seen a clean beauty movement happening in recent times. But just because a brand uses “clean” ingredients, doesn’t necessarily mean it's sustainable, or harmless to the environment.


Sourcing ingredients, whether it be synthetic or natural, uses up resources. If done carelessly and in excess, the ecosystem suffers. We’ve seen entire species of botanicals become endangered. We also see exploitation of workers when the ingredients come from developing countries, like Palm Oil and Cotton. So when a brand says that their ingredients are “clean”, we also need to ensure that they’re also sustainably-sourced.


Another factor to consider is that not all “clean” ingredients are environmentally-friendly. When we continue to wash products off our skin and down our drains, even if they aren’t considered harmful to humans, it doesn’t always mean that it doesn’t harm our planet. Some chemicals bioaccumulate in ecosystems, and when they reach certain potency they can affect our environment negatively.


Things to look for when choosing a brand for it’s ingredients is:


    • Conflict-free ingredients
    • Sustainably sourced
    • Fair trade/certified organic
    • Circular

Circular ingredients are not very common right now, but we are seeing it in some brands. Take UpCircle Beauty, for example. Their entire brand is built on the concept of repurposing discarded food and beverages to create their skincare range. So far they salvage 10 different byproducts, like coffee grounds and chai spices, with plans to increase their range as they grow.

 

Packaging

We’re still seeing an incredible amount of virgin plastic being manufactured and sold in the beauty industry. This is a problem that many brands don’t even acknowledge. Quite often they use the term “recyclable” to describe virgin plastic packaging. Sure, it’s recyclable. But to date, only 9% of plastic has been recycled. 


I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it over and over again… plastic does not biodegrade in nature. Instead, it breaks down into millions of microplastics, which is now an epidemic everywhere. I talk about this issue on a weekly basis because it’s so incredibly infuriating that brands are not showing more responsibility with their packaging.


The absolute best way to minimize this issue is for brands to use packaging that is either:


    • Zero-waste
    • Low-waste
    • Plastic-Free
    • Circular


Zero-waste is a debatable term. Most brands that claim that their products are “zero-waste” are often still using “recyclable” virgin plastic. The argument is that the plastic should be recycled, so it is technically zero-waste. But as I just mentioned, only 9% has been recycled. So, in my opinion, unless a product is completely package-free, or made from compostable or biodegradable materials that leave no trace behind, a product is never truly zero-waste.


Low-waste is a more accurate term that brands sometimes use, though it isn’t as commonly used. Low-waste can also mean many different things, depending on who you ask. Any packaging that can be recycled is technically low-waste. 


Plastic-Free is my favorite kind of packaging. But it isn’t always perfect. Although using other materials like glass, aluminum, and cardboard is better for the environment, the manufacturing of said materials isn’t the most sustainable option at times. Glass is also heavier, so logistically it can have a heavier footprint than lighter materials. But glass is a natural resource, so if it ends up in landfill, it’s not going to do any harm to the environment.


Recycled plastic is considered a circular material. It takes plastic that already exists, and it is made into packaging. So instead of creating new plastic, which involves extracting crude oil, and refining it to create more plastic, which takes an unbelievable toll on our environment, it uses existing plastic.


The problem with recycled plastics is that they can only be recycled a couple of times before they lose their integrity. So, unless that plastic is then repurposed into other things, like park benches, or homeless shelters, that plastic is going to end up in landfill eventually.


No solution is perfect. But a circular economy is better than the current operation we have in place. It just isn’t sustainable to keep consuming and creating new products, when we already have so much already existing.



Brands Leading the Circular Movement

While the circular movement is fairly new to the beauty industry, there are a number of brands taking the initiative and adopting more circular operations in their business. Here are just a few honorable mentions:


UpCircle Beauty

UpCircle Beauty salvages byproducts from the food and beverage industries that are destined for landfill. What started out as two siblings getting their morning coffee, has now become one of the leading circular beauty brands on the planet. 


The pair noticed the coffee grounds that were being discarded everyday in their local café, and when they learnt just how much coffee was going to waste just in London alone, the duo decided to come up with a solution. As mentioned earlier, they now have 10 different byproducts that they reclaim and use in their skincare formulas.


Our ultimate mission is to leave the world better than we found it by transforming ingredients that would otherwise be discarded into natural, organic beauty products – better for you, better for the world.”


Fruu 

Another brand that uses salvaged food is Fruu. This UK-based beauty company is focused on bringing sustainable products to the masses. Their balms and lip products are largely formulated using byproducts from fruit waste.


“If you can't afford to buy it, it is not sustainable! We strive to use the most responsibly-sourced ingredients possible and offer guilt-free sustainable living at the most affordable cost possible.”


Three Ships 

Three Ships salvage Aspen Bark from the lumber industry. Aspen Bark is brimming with salicylic acid, a natural acne-fighting ingredient, which is why you’ll find this ingredient in one of their best selling products—Refresh Papaya and Salicylic Acid Cleanser. They source the rest of their ingredients sustainably, and create products at an affordable price.


Three Ships are also members of Pact, a recycling company who take difficult-to-recycle packaging and repurpose or recycle it responsibly. Three Ships acknowledge that their packaging isn’t perfect, so they have given their customers a solution, which shows their commitment to sustainability.

“Our goal was to solve the problems we faced as consumers, we were tired of being lied to and ripped off by overpriced, green-washed brands filled with unnecessary chemicals.”

 

Earth Harbor

One of my favorite brands, and perhaps one of the most certified that I’ve seen right now is Earth Harbor. Their small batch beauty products are lovingly handcrafted, and contain 100% natural ingredients that are sustainably and responsibly sourced.


Earth Harbor is committed to ocean conservation, and part of their commitment is to use salvaged ocean plastic to create their packaging. They’re also proud Pact members, so you can send your difficult packaging off to be repurposed into something new. 


We are anchored in responsibly sourcing the most premium, pure natural elements Mother Earth has to give. Therapeutic treatments are engineered using nutrient-rich plant oils, salts, herbs, seaweeds, and earth to return skin to ideal health and youthful radiance. Everything is lovingly crafted in sustainably manufactured micro-batches by skilled artisans to maintain quality, purity, and freshness.”


Superzero

Last brand on the Circular Beauty list is shampoo bar company, Superzero. This brand uses upcycled blueberry seed oil, and compostable bio-wrappers salvaged from the beer industry in some of their best-selling formulas. They’re committed to making waterless, plastic-free products that actually work.


“... we started from zero and turned to natural chemistry to create the world’s lightest personal care – from the way it makes you look and feel, to being light on your purse, to being ultra-portable wherever your life takes you, all the way to the lightest footprint beauty could ever have. No more compromise – just the best of both performance and sustainability.”




Conclusion

There aren’t too many beauty brands out there who are taking on a circular beauty operation, but if you’re looking to take your sustainability journey to the next level, look at the circular beauty brands I mentioned as a solution. A circular economy helps to ease the demand on our planet, and is something we’re going to see more of in the very near future.

 

Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.

 

Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition





1 https://www.epa.gov/report-environment/wastes

2 https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=circular+economy+ncbi&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart

3 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0921344916301604

4 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6559262/

5 https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/gallery/circular-beauty

6 https://www.natrue.org/circular-beauty-upcycled-ingredients-in-cosmetic-products/

7 https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Hot-Topics/Sustainability-and-circular-beauty

8 https://www.cosmeticsdesign-asia.com/Article/2021/11/03/Circular-beauty-How-beauty-is-accelerating-the-transition-in-the-post-pandemic-era

9 https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/skin-care/a37754699/emma-lewisham-jane-goodall-circular-beauty/

10 https://www.econyl.com/blog/community/6-circular-beauty-brands-to-have-on-your-radar