Although the beauty industry is far from perfect when it comes to preserving our planet, you’ve got to give it credit for taking steps toward positive change. We’re starting to see concentrated hair and body products that will radically reduce carbon emissions in their production and transport, as well as ambitious corporate commitments to reduce and reuse packaging and adopt biodegradable formulas. Even glitter (that sneaky microplastic we love all too much) is getting an eco glow-up.
1. The New Celeb Ecowarriors
From the Pinkett Smith clan comes Hey Humans, a new personal-care brand at Target that aims to make planet-friendly vegan products accessible to all. (Everything from the body wash to the toothpaste is under $6.) Even better: The cheerful-looking bottles and tubes are 99 percent plastic free and 100 percent recyclable or biodegradable. Priyanka Chopra Jonas’s Anomaly hair care also debuted at Target earlier this year, and while its packaging is plastic, it’s made of 100 percent recycled materials diverted from landfills and the ocean.
2. Water-Loving Lashes
We love tubing mascara for its staying power and easy removal; its polymers wrap around your lashes and slip off in tiny tubes with soap and water, unlike traditional formulas, which dissolve with makeup remover. Victoria Beckham Beauty’s plant-based Future Lash provides a sustainable upgrade: It releases gently from lashes with just water, then breaks into soluble filaments that won’t bioaccumulate after floating through your pipes.
3. Pint-Size Prize
The formulas in Love Beauty and Planet’s new supercharged hair line are made using less water than the brand’s typical shampoos, and they’re housed in tiny bottles that take 50 percent less plastic to produce. But that doesn’t mean your morning rinse will be any less luxe: Indian lilac gives the concentrated conditioner its sophisticated floral scent.
4. Ocean-Friendly Glitter
TooD’s new plant-cellulose BioGlitter is smartly suspended in an easy-to-apply (read: explosion proof) gel and biodegrades in water in just 28 days.
5. Compostable Cosmetics
Theoretically, in the not-too-distant future you’ll be able to toss your beauty products in with your eggshells and paper towels: Unilever aims to make all of its product formulations biodegradable by 2030.
6. Habitat Heroes
Sales from Chantecaille’s spring Butterfly Collection will help the Xerces Society return more than 40 acres of habitat to butterflies and other pollinators in California’s Central Valley.
7. Apiary Advancement
Through a partnership with UNESCO, French beauty brand Guerlain has pledged to add 125 million bees back to the global population by 2025.
8. Smarter Sweat Protection
Not only does the Clean Deo from Beautycounter eighty-six aluminum and artificial fragrance, its refillable packaging cuts the brand’s water usage and fossil-fuel and greenhouse-gas emissions by 47 percent. The pink pod will look chic in your tote too.
9. Feel-Good Fragrance
There’s a case for both synthetics and naturals: As clean perfume brand Henry Rose points out, synthetic formulas often do less damage—both to the planet’s resources and to allergy-prone consumers. Meanwhile, natural brands like St. Rose are utilizing ethically sourced ingredients and partnering with environmental organizations 1% For the Planet and WildArk to help protect threatened ecosystems. And French vegan candle brand Amen has a new resource for sustainable packaging: mushrooms, used for biodegradable cartons.
10. The Sweet Smell of Sustainability
Aveda is intent on taking the ethical sourcing of Madagascan vanilla—an ingredient in more than 125 of its products—into its own hands, leveraging blockchain technology (which helps log data that proves the source and quality of ingredients) to verify its supply chain.
11. More Tree Hugging
These companies are enabling it: Self-care brand Costa Brazil has partnered with Conservation International to protect 400,000 trees in the Amazon, while hair brand R+Co Bleu is donating proceeds from every sale to One Tree Planted to support the rebuilding of forests that have been plagued with extensive damage due to fires and flooding.
12. Upcycled Skincare
By utilizing excess materials from the food industry—unused strawberry seeds from juice companies, discarded sugarcane that doubles as sustainable packaging—carbon-neutral skincare brand Bybi is moving closer to its goal of becoming carbon negative.
13. Recycled Everything
Easier said than done, but TerraCycle is here to help. Building on ongoing partnerships with beauty giants like Garnier, Herbal Essences, Eos, and Burt’s Bees, the recycling company has signed a host of new partnerships—with Tula, Bliss, and Amika—to facilitate recycling of their products. What’s more, the new Beautycycle program with Nordstrom allows you to send in (or drop off) empties from any brand, ensuring components are properly separated, cleaned, and actually recycled.
14. Biodegradable Blending
Beautyblender’s new green Bio Pure sponge is crafted from a 60 percent plant base of renewable sugarcane, while the carton is composed of PCR, which significantly reduces CO2 emissions and water waste and will save 3,400 pounds of virgin plastic in the next year.
15. The Forever Toothbrush
News flash: More than 495 million plastic manual toothbrushes were purchased in the U.S. last year, and they’re not easily recyclable. Now, if every manual user were to switch to Keep, Colgate’s new reusable-handle/replaceable-head model, the equivalent of 400 million–plus toothbrushes could be saved from landfills in a year.
16. All the R Words
We love refillable packaging. Earlier this year, luxury skincare line Susanne Kaufmann introduced refills for its top products, all housed in glass; Dove debuted refillable deodorants at mass retailers; and Ren, Pantene, and Love Beauty and Planet have partnered with delivered-to-your-door refill service Loop. Expect more options soon: L’Oréal and Unilever have committed to making 100 percent of their plastic packaging refillable, reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025. Meanwhile, Estée Lauder brands (including Clinique and Tom Ford) have vowed to make at least 75 percent of its packaging recyclable, refillable, reusable, or recoverable by the same year. And the promise from P&G: All packaging for all products—from SK-II serums to Old Spice deodorants—will be 100 percent recyclable or reusable by 2030.
17. Low-Waste Compacts
In search of ecominded makeup? Mob Beauty boasts an assortment of silicone-free biodegradable formulas. Currently, 50 to 100 percent of its packaging is PCR PET plastic (the most easily recycled kind), and components are a single material, which is far simpler to recycle than a combination of aluminum, glass, and plastic.
18. A Clean Reinvention
Krave, maker of cult favorites like the Beet Shield and the Great Barrier Relief serum, is focusing on earth-friendly operations for 2021. That means new recyclable packaging, investments in renewable energy, and removing carbon-heavy air transportation from its shipping program.
19. A New Way to Shampoo
The “eco-optimistic” founders of next-gen, zero-waste beauty company Everist have thought through every detail of their creations: Patent-pending shampoo and conditioner concentrates are 100 percent plant based yet perform and smell like traditional formulas (at one third of the volume); the aluminum tubes, once used up, can be unrolled and placed into regular recycling, while the plastic caps can be sent back to the brand.
20. Ocean Potions
Water sustainability is a major goal of L’Oréal (makers of Maybelline, Lancôme, and YSL). The company says that in 2030, 100 percent of the H2O used in its industrial processes will be recycled and reused in a loop. By that same year, all formulas will be evaluated to guarantee they are respectful of aquatic ecosystems—both inland and coastal.
21. Eco Shipping
Kudos to small-but-mighty beauty brand Loli, which, despite the increased costs, has developed garden-compostable PLA bubble bags (made of corn and starches) to ship its glass jars through Amazon. The hope now? That other beauty brands offered by the distribution giant will join it in ditching conventional packing materials.
A version of this story appears in the April 2021 issue of Marie Claire.