How much of the makeup you own is in plastic packaging? How many of the ingredients can you pronounce? Chances are, not many. With the current climate crisis and health awareness, makeup brands are starting to think outside the box with their products, packaging, and formulations.
Consumers are also becoming more aware of their impact 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.
In this article, I'll discuss 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 products applied to the body, especially the face, to improve its appearance. We essentially want to look and feel better about ourselves when we buy cosmetics. Wearing makeup benefits our self-esteem, is linked to higher performance, improves body image, and is 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 makeup that get washed down the drain.
Many chemicals 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, i.e., build-up in the ecosystem.
Pharmaceuticals are subject to more scrutiny and testing than cosmetics, and studies are regularly performed to uncover pharmaceuticals' effects on the environment. On the other hand, the cosmetics industry has had very little research conducted for the same reasons, yet it is far more damaging than pharmaceuticals. This is likely because cosmetics are used more widely and frequently and for longer periods throughout a person's life (1,2).
Some of the chemicals in cosmetics are toxic to humans. Even if they are considered safe in the small amounts used in cosmetics, 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—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 toothpaste and other products for 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 several newer brands jumping into action and innovating their products so that they are not harmful to us or damaging to the environment.
There are many amazing skincare and makeup brands out there who are making a real difference with their products, but in this article, I will 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 traveled through Europe and the Middle East and discovered that traditional skincare uses oils, not creams. Our skin naturally secretes oil, and we know that using oil on the skin can be incredibly beneficial. But it's not a new concept, as oils have been used for centuries to beautify the skin.
Makeup in the modern world is often made of 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 and have facial and body oils, infused oils, a moisturizing body block, and soap bars.
River Organics promises to deliver safe, high-quality beauty products that are 100% transparent. Corinne knew it was important for consumers to know what they are putting on their skin, so you can easily locate every ingredient they use for their simple formulations on the packaging and 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 all derived from nature; it's easy to see which concealer is safer to use. As mentioned earlier, some of the chemicals that bioaccumulate come from conventional makeup.
River Organics makeup 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 nourishing and kind to skin and our planet.
Their concealer has only ten 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.
Their blush sticks contain sunflower seed oil, safflower seed oil, candelilla wax, jojoba oil, shea butter, and 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.
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:
- Rose Gold
I also use my Nude Lip Balm to tame flyaway hair.
River Organics also make lip stains similar to the balms but have a slightly darker pigment and will give your lips a bolder pop of color.
Their eyebrow wax can bulk up eyebrows naturally and has only eight natural ingredients; candelilla wax, golden jojoba, and shea butter are three of them.
Their mascara contains only seven natural ingredients. You can layer the mascara to make your lashes bold.
Highlighters & Bronzers
River Organics Highlighters and Bronzers are nourishing while giving your face a subtle contour. They contain shea butter, cocoa seed butter, rosehip seed oil, and conflict-free mica.
They also have a small range of skincare; facial and body oil, a lotion bar, soaps, and infused oil rollers are all made using natural and certified organic ingredients.
One of my favorite things about River Organics is their choice of packaging. The beauty industry is arguably one of the worst contenders in the plastic packaging crisis. Over 120 billion units of plastic are being manufactured every year just for the beauty industry alone, and that number is expected to grow.
There aren't many makeup brands that can say that they are genuinely plastic-free. River Organics can just about make that claim. They use cardboard to house their makeup products, including their mascara. The only plastic in their packaging is their body oil, a sprayer and lid, and their infused oil rollers with plastic caps. But you can 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 gets 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 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 want, and less waste.
With only two plastic elements of their packaging, it's a definite win for the planet. If only more beauty brands were as thoughtful as River Organics.
River Organics is also one of the only brands 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, consumers can purchase these at a discounted price instead of the product going to waste. This contributes to a wasteless society and gives consumers an even better price for exactly the same product.
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 donates 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.
As consumers, we are more aware and conscious of the environment and health, and brands like River Organics are paving that way. We can only hope that most brands will start to look more like River Organics in the near future, and less like conventional brands we've been supporting for decades.
Emma Jade 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 profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition