The world is becoming more aware of its impact on our environment, which means that many of us are looking for ways to adopt more sustainable lifestyles. We can all strive to be better in the beauty products we buy.
As I've mentioned before, the beauty industry is one of the most damaging industries to our environment. It uses up so many resources, including water and overharvesting natural resources. The packaging used in the industry is also predominantly plastic and is an incredible waste. And most of it ends up in landfills and the ocean at some point.
But there is a misconception that sustainable beauty is more expensive than conventional beauty. I'll show you how to do sustainable beauty on a budget to bust this misconception.
Why You Should Switch to Sustainable Beauty
Why should we switch to sustainable beauty? First off, let's unpack the word "sustainable." It means being able to be maintained at a specific rate or level. The current statistics show that the way we've been doing things since the industrial revolution around 200 years ago is highly unsustainable. We see the impacts of that in a big way in our environment.
A sustainable world is where the things we do and how we operate and live can be sustained for the long term. Although many brands are taking positive steps toward this goal, we still have a long way to go. But as a consumer, you don't have to sit back and wait for brands to make these changes; it can also start with you.
Whether from the supermarket or high-end stores, the conventional beauty products that we buy are typically manufactured in factories that use up many resources. The ingredients are often excessive and don't add to the product's overall efficacy. And the packaging is, more often than not, made from virgin plastic.
All of these things are incredibly unsustainable. We're running out of natural resources, with predictions that by 2025—only three years away—two-thirds of the world's population will be facing a freshwater shortage (1). We're seeing the overharvesting of natural ingredients ruin ecosystems to keep up with the demand from industries like beauty. Only 9% of all plastic has been recycled; the rest has been incinerated or dumped in landfills (and the ocean) (2).
We will see more brands slowly start to move away from these practices in the future. However, the future isn't soon enough. We should all be taking responsibility for the resources we use.
Click here if you'd like to take a deeper dive into sustainable beauty.
Is Sustainable Beauty More Expensive?
The answer here is, it's not that simple. What I consider expensive may not be your definition of expensive. So let me try and break it down for you, and you can decide.
When we look at brands that formulate sustainable beauty products, often they're formulated with fewer ingredients. The ingredients are sourced sustainably and are often organic, wildcrafted, fair trade, etc. The products themselves are often handmade and don't use considerable resources. All of these things take more time and care to plan and manage. But it doesn't necessarily mean a product will be more expensive because of it.
I used the example of La Mer's famous Creme de La Mer face cream in this article. It costs $350 for one jar. A person who can afford a $350 jar of face moisturizer every month is probably not concerned about the cost of beauty products or the environment, seeing as almost all of the first eight ingredients are made from petroleum, which is an unsustainable resource.
Compare that with Earthwise Beauty's Yasuni Face Balm, a fully sustainable skincare product made with all-natural ingredients that is just as effective and luxurious as Creme de La Mer. It doesn't come with all of the environmental baggage and is less than a third of the price.
We shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and we should always read the ingredients before we believe the label. A lot of effort and thought goes into a sustainable beauty product, and every step of that product is considered carefully so as not to impact our environment negatively. Long-term, sustainable beauty truly is worth every penny, and sometimes, yes, it does cost a little more than conventional beauty. And sometimes it doesn't. However, for the sake of this article, I'll show you how to do sustainable beauty on a budget.
Three Accessible Sustainable Beauty Brands
Allow me to highlight three of my favorite sustainable beauty brands and why they're so. And I'll also show you my beauty ritual using only affordable sustainable beauty products because it doesn't have to cost you or the planet to take care of your skin. Let's dive in!
At the top of my list is my all-time favorite sustainable brand, Earth Harbor. Founded by Ali, an herbalist, health scientist, and humanitarian engineer with a background in philanthropy, this brand is built on the foundations of using sustainably-sourced natural ingredients while simultaneously harboring the Earth—hence the name.
They are probably the most certified brand I've seen. These are their current certifications, with goals to add more in the future:
- 1% For The Planet®
- Carbon Neutral (Climate Neutral®)*
- Plastic Negative (RePurpose Global®)*
- EU Certified*
- ISO Good Manufacturing Practices*
- Pact Collective
- Forest Stewardship Council®
- Leaping Bunny®
- PETA® Vegan & Cruelty-Free
- Nontoxic (Think Dirty®)
- Campaign For Safe Cosmetics™
- Truth In Labeling™
- Independent Beauty Association®
- Local Sourcing (Utah's Own®; Georgia Grown®)
- Ethical Source (EcoCert® or Fair Trade for individual ingredients)
- USDA Organic or Non-GMO (for individual ingredients)
- Woman-Owned (Female Founder Collective®)
That's quite the list!
The brand is also moving away from outsourcing and moving all of its operations in-house, which will give more locals employment, and will reduce their overall environmental impact.
Their packaging is glass, and the plastic tops are made from salvaged ocean plastic. You can recycle their more difficult packaging, like sprayers and pumps, with PACT, a recycling collective Earth Harbor—and Fait avec Coeur—are proud members.
Their products, which are at an accessible price point, are available online, and you can even find them in-store at certain Whole Foods. I've personally recommended their products to many of my friends and family because they have such a great range of products, and I love everything they're doing for our planet.
Coming next is UpCircle Beauty. This brand was founded by siblings Anna and William in London when they noticed how much coffee is discarded at their local café. Knowing the health and skin benefits of coffee, the duo decided to build a skincare brand where they repurpose discarded coffee grounds and other byproducts from the food and beverage industry to create their fantastic line of beauty products.
The company follows the idea of providing low-priced, high-performing products from upcycled ingredients. They believe the beauty industry can become a lot less wasteful.
Their massive success up to this point indicates that the world is ready for sustainable beauty. However, UpCircle Beauty is more than just sustainable; it's circular. Circular means that you use materials and products that have already been manufactured to create something new—like coffee ground into skincare. The future is circular, and UpCircle Beauty is leading the charge.
One of the quirkiest sustainable brands out there is Meow Meow Tweet. This brand proves that sustainable beauty is anything but boring, from their fun-loving branding to their adorable and eco-friendly packaging.
Founded by Art School friends Tara and Jeff back in 2009—before sustainable beauty was cool—the duo noticed how great their skin felt after using natural skincare. They decided to launch and name their brand after their two pet cats and birds.
This creative duo started with just a few skincare products, but their range quickly grew to include face, hair, and body products. All ingredients are clean and natural, and the packaging is low-waste and plastic-free wherever possible.
Sustainable Beauty on a Budget
Follow this ritual of cleansing, protecting, and preparing your skin for whatever comes your way. I have personally used and love these products, and they are all at an affordable price point.
This certified organic oil cleanser effectively melts makeup and dirt while gently calming and hydrating even the driest and most sensitive skin. Use this in the evenings to remove makeup before following a second cleanse.
This is my favorite face and body cleanser. It comes in zero plastic and is formulated with natural ingredients, from shea butter to cucumber extract, grape seed oil, and chai spices salvaged from the chai industry. Use this morning and night on the face and body for a luxuriously deep cleanse.
Follow with the Tidal Rose toner, an excellent combination of rose water, white tea, glycerin, lilac, and ivy gourd, just to name a few ingredients. Leave your skin feeling refreshed, hydrated, and ready for the next step in your ritual.
Treat your skin morning and night with a concentrated coffee serum. This one will brighten and smooth skin texture and help to boost the skin's collagen production. It contains rosehip oil, coffee extract, and sea buckthorn to improve complexion.
Don't forget the eyes. This delicate area is the first place to age, so treat it with a product that helps strengthen collagen and elastin, which start to break down as we age. Coffee helps with puffiness and dark circles, while maple is a natural exfoliant, regenerating the skin.
This is my absolute favorite go-to moisturizer. It's rich and creamy in texture, but it doesn't leave any residue and thoroughly nourishes and protects your skin from external aggressors. Argan has been used in the beauty industry for years because it has remarkable properties that help our skin glow and our hair shine.
Make sure you treat your skin once a week with an exfoliant and mask. Using an all-in-one exfoliating mask will be the most cost-effective way to save money and reap all the skin benefits. This waterless mask contains antioxidant-rich matcha, hydrating marshmallow root, pineapple enzymes, green clay, and healing aloe.
This handmade collection is made with eco-friendly packaging and almost 100% natural and sustainable ingredients. It will set you back around $120.
I calculated the cost of similar supermarket products and came up with a median price of $112. These are products that are mass-produced with mostly synthetic ingredients in virgin plastic. It's evident to me who we should be supporting, but I'll let you be the judge.
I hope that I've taught you a thing or two about sustainable beauty. I love writing about sustainability, educating and informing, and bringing clarity to a new and confusing industry. Sustainable beauty isn't expensive if you understand a brand's story and products. And even if it does cost a little more than conventional beauty, isn't our future worth it?
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