Supported by windows 11
Beauty in Progress

2022’s Most Innovative In Sustainable Beauty

We’re highlighting the people, organizations, and brands who are working to help reduce the industry’s carbon footprint and make sustainable beauty better.

Squiggly Line

Beauty Ingredients We Want To See More Of

Upcycled ingredients

WHY WE LOVE THISYou’ve probably heard of upcycling in food and fashion, but the sustainable trend is making its way to beauty as brands incorporate waste and by-products that would otherwise be discarded into beauty products. Think coffee grounds in body scrubs, floral extracts that make hydrating serums, and mushroom roots that turn into compostable product packaging.

•••

Regeneratively-grown ingredients

WHY WE LOVE THISTraditional farming practices can strip the soil of nutrients, not to mention the use of herbicides and pesticides are harmful to the environment and communities. Unlike industrial agriculture, regenerative farming avoids synthetic pesticides, utilizes composting, and supports the people practicing sustainability.

•••

Biotech ingredients

WHY WE LOVE THISNo one needs any convincing that natural ingredients in beauty products can be great, but what some do not consider is that many of those ingredients are becoming endangered. The solution? Biotechnology. Scientists are recreating ingredients, like squalane and keratin, or some of their specific properties using biosynthetic actives (meaning they are 100% naturally derived) in the lab, all without negatively impacting the planet

•••

Our Favorite Sustainably-Minded Beauty Brands

Izzy Zero Waste Beauty

WHY WE LOVE THISThere’s this myth that clean cosmetics don’t look as good or stay on as long as traditional makeup. Izzy is here to change that narrative. The sustainable beauty brand not only offers sleek, refillable mascara and brow gel, but the formulations are actually really good — just ask this Refinery29 beauty editor. When you’re done, you just send the aluminum tube back and you’ll receive a sterilized and refilled product of your choosing.

BUY
•••

Bathing Culture

WHY WE LOVE THISThe sustainable body care company was created by two Northern California outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to create products that evoked the scents of the mountains and beaches they visited. Bathing Culture uses organic, biodegradable, plant-based ingredients in its products, ranging from a body wash to a hydrosol, and in addition to being Instagrammable, the chic bottles can be refilled at select stores nationwide.

BUY
•••

UNI

WHY WE LOVE THISNewcomer UNI calls itself the world’s first closed-loop body-care system, offering shampoo and body wash made with upcycled ingredients and packaged in recycled aluminum bottles that can twist into reusable dispensers. LA-based founder Alexandra Keating wanted customers to also feel like they knew exactly what they were using. On the brand’s website, you can hover over any ingredient and learn its purpose in the formula, plus its EWG rating.

BUY
•••

Common Heir

WHY WE LOVE THISThere is so much to love about Common Heir. The gorgeous, plastic-free packaging. The beautifully crafted, clinically tested, leaping bunny-certified formulas. The fact that the brand is part of 1% for the Planet and partners with Ocean Blue Project. Founders Angela Ubias and Cary Lin believe that sustainable beauty should be innovative, thoughtful, accessible, and inclusive. The brand currently offers two products — a vitamin C serum and a retinol.

BUY
•••

Pholk Beauty

WHY WE LOVE THISAs big as clean beauty has become, the same problem remains: lack of representation. Niambi Cacchioli was frustrated that she couldn’t find beauty products from natural brands that addressed her specific concerns, leaving her to experiment with her own at-home recipes. She began to think about skin care as a way to include the herbalist rituals of her family and ancestors, using ingredients like Kalahari watermelon seed oil and mango.

BUY
•••

Cocokind

WHY WE LOVE THISPriscilla Tsai is proof that if you are committed and you care enough, you can create a skin-care brand that offers products that are efficacious, are produced and packaged sustainably, and are affordable. Recently, Cocokind made an effort to be even more transparent: In addition to being able to see exactly what makes up each product’s formula, you can also find stats that show the carbon footprint for a product’s life cycle.

BUY
•••

Organizations That Are Helping To Replace Beauty Waste

RePurpose Global

WHY WE LOVE THISrePurpose Global is an organization dedicated to eliminating millions of pounds of plastic waste from nature every year and works with major brands to calculate, reduce, and offset their plastic footprint. In February, it announced a partnership with 100 personal-care brands, including Mara, Evolve Beauty, and Illamasqua, across 15 countries with the goal of helping them go plastic neutral, plastic negative, or pledging waste removal.

•••

Pact Collective

WHY WE LOVE THISPact is the first not-for-profit collection program aimed at making beauty packaging more sustainable, while also finding a solution for the existing hard-to-recycle beauty packaging, such as plastic containers, squeezable tubes, and other formats. In addition to diverting these plastics from landfills and finding new uses for them, Pact is dedicated to educating brands, retailers, and customers on how to make packaging more sustainable and circular.

•••

BEAUTYCYCLE

WHY WE LOVE THISIn 2020, Terracycle launched BEAUTYCYCLE with Nordstrom, a beauty take-back and recycling program that offers customers the opportunity to drop off most of their empties, no matter the brand or where you purchased it. Last month, the program expanded to Nordstrom Rack locations, for even more storefronts where you can recycle.

•••

People Who Are Making A Change In The Space

Sophia Li

WHY WE LOVE THISWhether you follow her for her fashion and culture reporting or her green beauty product recommendations, one thing’s for sure: Sophia Li is the future of sustainability. Li co-founded and co-hosts All of the Above, the first sustainability talk show, and also hosts Meta’s podcast, Climate Talks. Her ability to discuss hard-to-digest climate crisis issues in a way that makes it not only easy to understand, but also gives us hope through actionable tips, is the reason Harvard named Li one of the top climate communicators of 2022.

•••

Jen Novakovich

WHY WE LOVE THISFor every golden nugget of clean beauty advice there is on the internet, there’s a boatload of misinformation. If you’re ever wondering what to believe, head over to @TheEcoWell, Jen Novakovich’s Instagram account, or check out her YouTube channel, or podcast, The Eco Well. The Canadian cosmetic chemist has become the authority about how beauty products are made, sharing the science behind formulations, and debunking beauty claims.

•••

Jasmina Aganovic

WHY WE LOVE THISRemember this name: Jasmina Aganovic. Aganovic is a chemical biology engineer, an entrepreneur, and the CEO of Arcaea, a biotech beauty company focused on growing new ingredients through DNA sequencing, biological engineering, and fermentation. Thanks to Aganovic’s work, the industry will no longer have to rely on petrochemicals or harvesting from endangered natural resources to create the beauty products of our wildest dreams.

•••

Jazmin Alvarez, founder of Pretty Well Beauty

WHY WE LOVE THISRepresentation in clean beauty has a long way to go and Jazmin Alvarez is working to change that. The Fenty Beauty alum didn’t see herself in the clean beauty stores she shopped. So, she launched Pretty Well Beauty, an e-commerce site featuring a highly curated selection of sustainable beauty brands from founders of diverse backgrounds and celebrating the rich beauty rituals that are so often appropriated by non-POC in the space.

•••

Sustainable Product Packaging We Can Get Behind

Recyclable aluminum

WHY WE LOVE THISYou probably don’t need us to tell you that aluminum (along with other metal packaging) is 100% infinitely recyclable, meaning that, unlike paper or plastic, it can be recycled over and over again without degrading. In addition to its circularity, aluminum packaging can provide the perfect home for cosmetic products because it can withstand extreme temperatures, extend the shelf-life of a product, be kept air-tight, and works for most formulas.

•••

Biodegradable or Dissolvable Packaging

WHY WE LOVE THISWhat’s better than recyclable packaging? The kind that can completely disappear after you’re done with it. Makeup brand Saie uses packaging boxes that are 100% organic and will completely compost. Body care brand PLUS created body wash sachets that are made of wood pulp and labeled with bio-renewable ink, both of which dissolve down your drain. While these kinds of packaging aren't the answer for every product formulation, we hope more brands incorporate these elements.

•••

Solid Products Without Any Packaging

WHY WE LOVE THISThe beauty industry produces more than 120 billion units of packaging, 95% of which are thrown out after one use. More and more brands are offering products in solid form. LUSH Cosmetics has been a pioneer since 1988, and others like Garnier, Vaycay, and Kitsch are following suit. ate McLeod’s body and face moisturizer stones (a former BIA winner) and Ethique’s collections are not only beautifully-formulated, but also last up to five times longer than their liquid counterparts.

•••
Advertisement

More from Beauty

R29 Original Series

Advertisement