River Organics | Leading the Way to a Clean and Plastic-Free Beauty Industry

If you look at the makeup you own, how much of it is in plastic packaging? And if you read the ingredients, how many of them can you pronounce? Chances are it’s a lot. With the current climate crisis, makeup brands are starting to think outside the box with their products; in their packaging, and in their formulations.


Consumers are also becoming more aware of the impact they have on the environment with their everyday purchases. But there are still many improvements that need to be made in the cosmetics industry before we can say that we are making some real progress as a whole.


In this article I’m going to talk a little bit about the effects the cosmetics industry has on our environment; and I’ll feature an innovative company leading the way to a clean and plastic-free beauty industry.



The Cosmetics Industry

Cosmetics are defined as a product applied to the body, especially the face, to improve its appearance. When we buy cosmetics, we are essentially wanting to look and feel better about ourselves. Wearing makeup has benefits to not only our self esteem; but it has been linked to higher performance; improving body image; and it is also a beautiful form of self expression.


But, although there are many benefits to people wearing makeup, the same can’t be said about our planet. There is increasing evidence showing that products in the cosmetics industry contribute to environmental damage. We’re talking about skincare, and also makeup that gets washed down the drain.


Many chemicals that are released into aquatic environments continually—such as makeup and cleaning products—are considered environmental pollutants. These chemicals are environmentally persistent, bioactive, and potentially able to bioaccumulate, ie. build up in the ecosystem. 


Pharmaceuticals are subject to more scrutiny and testing than cosmetics, and studies are regularly done to uncover the effects pharmaceuticals have on the environment. The cosmetics industry, on the other hand, has had very little research conducted for the same reasons, and yet, it has been found to be far more damaging than pharmaceuticals. This is likely due to the fact that cosmetics are used more widely and frequently, and for longer periods throughout a person’s life (1,2).


It’s also been found that some of these chemicals are in fact toxic to humans. Even if they are considered safe in the small amounts that they are in the cosmetics we use, as mentioned above, they can sometimes bioaccumulate in our systems. So if you’re using five different products every morning to do your hair and makeup, and they all contain traces of triclosan—for example—then eventually it could bioaccumulate in your system and potentially affect your health. Fortunately, triclosan has been removed from many products because of its carcinogenic properties, but it was used in toothpastes and other products for many years before it was banned. And there are still many questionable ingredients that are allowed to exist in our skincare and cosmetics.


So it’s no wonder we’re seeing a number of newer brands jumping into action and innovating their products so that they are not harmful to us, or damaging to the environment.



River Organics

There are many amazing skincare and makeup brands out there who are making a real difference with their products, but in this article I’m going to focus on one brand in particular; River Organics.


This indie makeup brand was founded in 2017 after Canadian and French native couple Corinne and Fabien travelled through Europe and the Middle East and discovered that traditional skincare was formulated using oils, not creams. Our skin naturally secretes oil, and we know today that using oil on skin can be incredibly beneficial, and it's really no wonder many traditional cultures use oil to enhance the skin.

But makeup in the Western world is often made up with creams, chemicals, and other filler ingredients that don't work with the skin to enhance it, rather they just work at masking the skin's natural beauty. Corinne realized this was an issue.

The pair decided to launch their own natural makeup brand that contained minimal, safe and nourishing ingredients, including oils and butters, all naturally-derived and conflict-free. They have also branched into skincare, too, and have facial and body oil, infused oils, a body moisturizing block, and soap bars.



The Ingredients

River Organics promise to deliver safe, high quality beauty products that are 100% transparent. Corinne knew it was important to consumers to know exactly what they are putting on their skin, so you’ll easily be able to locate every ingredient they use for their simple formulations on the packaging and on their website.


Conventional makeup brands contain excessive ingredients that are often filled with chemicals and fillers to preserve and bulk-out the product so brands can get the most for their money. Take concealer, for example. Conventional concealers have ingredients like ​​cyclopentasiloxane, a chemical compound used to make concealer more silky and smooth to apply. Yet, this chemical is a known possible toxin to the environment (3). For context, the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind concealer contains almost 30 ingredients—all of them are synthetically-made chemicals, and a number of them are questionable when it comes to their safety for either our health, or the environment's health.


Compare that to River Organics concealer, with only ten ingredients that are all derived from nature, it’s easy to see which concealer is definitely going to be safer to use. As mentioned earlier, chemicals, like those from makeup, can bioaccumulate in the environment and in our system.


River Organics makeup range consists of concealers, blush, lip balms and stains, eyebrow wax, mascara, highlighters, and bronzers. Each product has been specially formulated to ensure they contain naturally-derived ingredients that are nourishing and kind to skin, and to our planet.



Concealer

Their concealer is formulated with only 10 ingredients, like apricot kernel oil, shea butter, and candelilla wax. After warming the concealer in your fingers, it can be applied easily to the skin to create a natural coverage.


Blush Sticks

Their blush sticks are formulated with sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, candelilla wax, jojoba oil, shea butter, and a few other ingredients, including conflict-free mica. Mica is found in mines mostly in India, but they choose to use a synthetic version of mica to avoid the risk of worker exploitation, child labor, and other issues that arise when sourcing natural mica from developing countries.


Lip Balm

My favorite River Organics product is their lip balm. With only six ingredients—all of them natural—these balms are incredibly hydrating and nourishing, and they come in six colors:

  • Bare 
  • Sand
  • Nude
  • Rose Gold
  • Rouge 
  • Mulberry

I also use my Nude Lip Balm to tame flyaway hair.

River Organics also make lip stains, which are similar to the balms, but have a slightly darker pigment, and will give your lips a bolder pop of color. 


Eyebrow Wax

Their eyebrow wax can bulk up eyebrows in a natural way, and has only eight natural ingredients; candelilla wax, golden jojoba, and shea butter being three of them.


Mascara

Their mascara contains only seven natural ingredients. You can layer the mascara to make your lashes as bold as you like.


Highlighters & Bronzers

River Organics Highlighters and Bronzers are nourishing, while giving your face a subtle contour. They contain ingredients like shea butter, cocoa seed butter, rosehip seed oil, and conflict-free mica.

 

Other Products


They also have a small range of skincare; facial and body oil, a lotion bar, soaps, and infused oil rollers are all made using a range of natural and certified organic ingredients.



The Packaging

Perhaps the most alluring thing about River Organics is their choice of packaging. The beauty industry is arguably one of the worst contenders in the plastic packaging crisis. There are over 120 billion units of plastic being manufactured every year just for the beauty industry alone, and that number is expected to grow. 


There aren’t many makeup brands out there who can say that they are truly plastic-free. River Organics can just about make that claim. They use cardboard to house all of their makeup products, including their mascara. The only plastic in their packaging is their body oil, which has a sprayer and lid, and their infused oil rollers that have plastic caps. But you are able to recycle these plastic pieces in recycling programs like Pact. Their facial oil has an aluminum lid, and their soaps come housed in cardboard.


The problem with plastic is that around only 9% of it has been recycled, due to facilities not offering the service, trash not being separated correctly at facilities, or consumers just not recycling properly. River Organics cardboard packaging can be easily recycled in any curbside collection that offers recycling. And the shipping packaging is also 100% recyclable.


Another reason to choose River Organics—if you still need convincing—is that you get more bang for your buck. Conventional beauty is often housed in excessive plastic packaging, and the actual makeup is only a fraction of the overall product. A standard blush stick is usually around 4g to 10g of product. River Organics blush sticks are 14g. The minimal packaging means you can have more of what you actually want, and less waste.


With only two elements of their packaging that is plastic, it’s a definite win for the planet. If only more beauty brands were as thoughtful as River Organics.


Imperfect Beauty

River Organics are also one of the only brands out there that offer Imperfect Beauty. This is where the products that have been manufactured with an error, be it an overpour of product, or the packaging has been damaged, instead of the product going to waste, consumers can purchase these at a discounted price. This contributes to a wasteless society, while also giving consumers an even better price for exactly the same product.


Philanthropy

If you purchase directly from River Organics, you can offset carbon emissions. They match dollar for dollar using Carbon Checkout. Carbon Checkout invests your donations in renewable energy projects by purchasing and retiring carbon offsets.

River Organics also donate part of their proceeds to the Coral Restoration Foundation, where they are actively restoring coral reefs; they provide education on the importance of our oceans; and they use science to further coral research and coral reef monitoring techniques. 



Conclusion

As consumers are becoming more aware and conscious about the environment, and their health, it’s brands like River Organics that are paving the way. We can only hope that in the near future most brands will start to look more like River Organics, and less like conventional brands we’ve been supporting for decades. 


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. file:///Users/emmajade/Downloads/cosmetics-04-00011.pdf
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21185057/
  3. https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredients/701741-CYCLOPENTASILOX-CYCLOPENTASILOXANE/