Think Green: The Beauty Industry Explores Promising Avenues

Charting a new path towards a brighter, greener future for all.
Published: May 20, 2024
Green Beauty: The Beauty Industry Explores Promising Avenues
Photo: Courtesy of Christine Kreiselmaier

Ecology, once a distant concern for many, has become a central tenet for a growing movement that sees well-being and beauty as intertwined with the health of our planet. Taking care of ourselves and the world are one and the same, as we exist in a symbiotic relationship. This holistic understanding of beauty extends to the beauty industry, where sustainability has become a top priority.

The cosmetic industry barely considered sustainable development in the 2000s, but it is now at the heart of creative strategies, driven by government regulations and initiatives as well as growing consumer awareness. “It’s time to reconcile innovation, sustainable development and progress in order to accelerate our transition towards a more circular economy and to reduce the environmental impact of our products” declared Delphine Viguier-Hovasse, International Managing Director of L’Oréal Paris.

Green Beauty: The Beauty Industry Explores Promising Avenues
Photo: Courtesy of Christine Kreiselmaier

In the space of 10 years, the game-changing ambitions of new beauty startups have altered attitudes and established standards while consumers have become more demanding, seeking transparency and eco-friendly practices. The major cosmetics groups, vital economic players in their countries, have taken their responsibilities seriously by setting targets in their publications and annual reports: L’Oréal for the Future and Life 360 for the LVMH group, Shiseido’s Five Rs philosophy (Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, Replace with Respect), Estée Lauder Companies’ Climate Transition Plan, Clarins’ bio-diversity preservation programmes with “We Care”, and so on.

Aside from the industrial and societal changes that this long-term project entails, and the concrete results that we are achieving, we are also witnessing the establishment of fruitful collaborations between companies that were previously competitors. Change is underway for better.

Related article: From Everyday Staples to Activewear, These are the Sustainable Singapore Fashion Labels to Shop

1. Buy For The Long Term

How can we avoid throwing things away? One of the answers offered by luxury houses is to design appealing objects that people want to keep. Crafted like works of art, with precision, studied proportions, fine materials and elegant colours, they are the epitome of refinement. The idea, of course, is to refill them as their contents run out. One example is Chanel’s new Le Rouge 31, the first lipstick to come in a glass and metal container. Developed by two Japanese specialists, it is inspired by the N°5 perfume bottle and the interplay of mirrors on the staircase at the 31 rue Cambon boutique in Paris: “We wanted to create the ultimate product, durable in every sense of the word. That’s to say endowed with the qualities of a lasting design, with a desirability that will stand the test of time, and that people will love to the point of passing it down to the next generation,” explains Sylvie Legastelois, Director of Packaging Creation and Graphic Identity at Chanel. Not to be underestimated, 75 per cent of the formula contains natural red grapes. In the same spirit, Dior offers Le Rouge Premier, a metal case coated in gold with ceramic produced by Bernardaud. The two-tone containers by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten, or the limited editions of Rouge Hermès designed by Pierre Hardy are also doing their part.

Related article: From Everyday Staples to Activewear, These are the Sustainable Singapore Fashion Labels to Shop

2. Reintroduce Deposits

The idea here is to get rid of single-use packaging by organising a deposit system for bottles, glass in particular, as was done 50 years ago with milk and lemonade bottles. In France, a recent study (Leko x Circul’R October 2023) showed that 94 per cent of consumers are ready to switch to reusing their shampoo bottles. Manufacturers are working together to take a close look at this approach, driven by regulatory requirements. Young brands like or have introduced a deposit system, inviting consumers to return their products back by post, while offers self-service dispensers. In fact, some perfume houses have already set up a system for cleaning and refilling their luxury bottles, such as the refillable “Abeilles” in Guerlain boutiques, those designed by Marc Newson and Franck Gherry for Louis Vuitton, or Mugler’s best-sellers Angel and Alien, refillable at the Mugler Fountains, which have been available in their perfume shops for years.

3. Reduce Water Consumption

The planet is made up of 97.2 per cent salt water and only 2.8 per cent fresh water. According to the UN, due to population growth and increased consumption for livestock and agriculture, the world’s need for freshwater will increase by 50 per cent between now and 2030. The cosmetics industry is a major consumer of water. It uses it indirectly in the cultivation and production of natural raw materials, which require soil irrigation; directly in formulas, manufacturing processes and washing tanks in factories; and in its everyday uses, through the need to rinse-out shampoos and shower products.

The reemergence of “dry” products such as soaps and dilutable powders has led to a growing awareness of the amount of water present in traditional products (and the preservatives used to maintain the formulas over time). Yodi Beauty has made this its mission, as has the Canadian brand Attitude and its Oceanly range of facial care products (, who create anhydrous sticks packaged in zero-plastic tubes. You can also limit bathing and take quick showers (saving 100 litres of water a day) and choose products that require no rinsing or a shorter rinsing time.

It’s a challenge we need to tackle little by little. The latest innovation: In collaboration with the start-up Gjosa, L’Oréal Professionnel has developed an economical shower head system for hairdressers’ wash basins that reduces water consumption by 69 per cent. The Water Saver is currently distributed in 3,100 salons worldwide.

4. Cultivating Neo-Cultures

Agroforestry, agroecology, organic farming—these are appealing words for anyone looking for cosmetics rich in plant extracts. They refer to new methods of cultivation that avoid the use of chemical pesticides, without depleting or drying out the land, and that are beneficial to soil regeneration and biodiversity. There’s a certain amount of empiricism involved, and a return to ancestral techniques and abandoned local know-how. Some brands are helping to revive these techniques. L’Occitane is doing just that with almond trees in Provence. Other companies go so far as to take complete control of the process, cultivating their own fields like open-air laboratories. The Pierre Fabre group owns 180 hectares where realba oats (for A-Derma), calendula, cornflower and water mint (for Klorane) are grown. A few years ago, Clarins decided to invest in 10 hectares in the heart of the Alps, and now produces a Cleansing Micellar Water with extracts of yellow gentian and Alpine lemon balm. The Verdura farm in Sicily supplies many of the ingredients for the Irène Forte brand, including almond, lemon, orange and olive extracts.

Related article: New Isn’t Always Better: Eco-Conscious Luxury Picks

5. Protect the Seabed

We are familiar with the role of the oceans as climate regulators and CO2 absorbers, and we are all aware of the biodiversity they represent. But the oceans are under threat from global warming, rising water acidity and plastic pollution (20 tonnes of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans every minute). We need to do more, including drastically reducing our use of plastic, cleaning up water pollution and preserving aquatic life.

It’s a cause often highlighted on sunscreen packaging. These products are the perfect example of the compromise that must be found between the need for self-protection (against the sun’s rays) and respect for the environment.

In partnership with the Prince Albert III of Monaco Foundation (an organisation working to combat climate change), Lancaster is launching a new-generation SPF 50 Protective Body Lotion. The highly refined plastic tube and cap use 54 per cent less plastic than a conventional product. The broad spectrum formula has been tested to help respect marine ecosystems, in particular phytoplankton, zooplankton and coral.

Other commendable initiatives include the development of half-plastic, half-cardboard tubes at La Roche Posay and Garnier. The latter have even introduced a global environmental and social impact assessment index for each of their products (including the production and usage phases).

Photographed by Christine Kreiselmaier
Styled by Marian Nachmia
Make-up Sarah Jagger using Capsule Paris
Hair Tarik Bennafla
Model Lisa Frattani

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