Professional Beauty
Professional Beauty


Is 2021 the year of sustainable beauty?

With everything that has happened over the past year, one thing that has been made evidently clear is that the topic of sustainability is going nowhere – if anything, the coronavirus situation has only made it more pressing.

With 50 million single-use facemasks going to landfill each day during the pandemic, according to waste collection company Business Waste, it’s never been more important to look at how the rubbish we produce is impacting the planet – whether you’re a big corporation or a small business. The beauty industry in particular has quite a lot to do to become more eco-friendly, with Zero Waste Week reporting that 120 billion units of packaging are produced by global cosmetic companies every year, with much of this heading to landfill. The abundance of single-use plastic produced is a serious issue and one that needs to be addressed ASAP.

Despite the C-word having taken over everything, it hasn’t stopped UK consumers thinking about the planet, with 41% feeling guilty about the environmental impact of their beauty and grooming products, found the British Beauty Council’s (BBC) “Courage to Change” sustainability report.

With a pot of moisturiser taking around 1,000 years to decompose, also stated in the report, this information has ignited a new generation of eco-conscious consumers, with the British Beauty Council finding that 91% want less packaging in beauty products and 88% want the option to refill them.

Sustainability pledges

This leads to the question: is 2021 the year that sustainable beauty really takes off? With new eco-friendly plans being brought to the fore by some of the biggest beauty corporations, the future is definitely looking greener. For example, The Hut Group (THG), which has brands such as Espa and Illamasqua in its portfolio, has launched THG Eco – an action plan to embed best practice in sustainability at the heart of its product design, manufacturing, delivery and customer journey.

Meanwhile, the British Beauty Council is finalising plans to form a Sustainable Beauty Coalition which will be charged with accelerating collaborative change across the UK’s beauty sector. It will be responsible for commissioning reports and developing an ambassadors programme to empower the industry to actively participate in sustainable change.

Not to mention that environmental group A Plastic Planet is calling for the end of single-use sample sachets in beauty, asking lawmakers to add them to the single-use plastics ban, which currently includes stirrers, straws and cotton buds. But that’s not all. Many pro brands have individually set out pledges to not only make their companies more eco-friendly, but to also help your business reduce its environmental impact. This is important when 89% are setting goals to make their salon more sustainable in 2021, according to Professional Beauty’s digital poll. Here’s what you need to know.

“Becoming a sustainable salon is a journey. We are all where we are, rather than where we’d like to be… so start now”

The war on plastic

The industry’s leading brands are making swift changes to reduce the amount of plastic they use. Crystal Clear Skincare is aiming to reduce plastic packaging on its full-sized clinical products by more than 72% by 2022 and is also investigating ways to develop a single-use plastic recycling programme for its accounts, with more information coming soon.

“Sustainability is so important [and]… 2020 gave me time to seriously take a look at what we do well and what we can improve,” explains managing director Sharon Hilditch.

Cosmeceutical brand Medik8 has pledged to ensure all its packaging will be 100% recyclable, refillable or reusable by 2023 and will be sharing its progress so far in its Annual Eco Report in 2021.

All the company’s buildings are run from 100% renewable energy sources, its sunscreens only contain coral reef-friendly filters and all products packaged as part of its professional line now come from postconsumer recycled plastic. Meanwhile, Aromatherapy Associates has removed 1.5 tonnes of virgin plastic from its packaging, and pledges to be carbon neutral and for all plastic packaging to be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2023.

The company now also has ethical B Corp certification, which states it is changing the way it does business by giving equal weight to people, planet and profit.

The International Institute for Anti-Ageing (IIAA), which is the UK distributor of Environ, has also rolled out a Recycling Scheme for its salons, which aims to reduce the number of beauty containers that end up in landfill. The company will dispose of any empty Environ containers (professional or retail) for accounts in a sustainable manner, free of charge.

Salons just have to collect the empties in a special recycling bin provided by IIAA and they will receive an incentive of £1 for every empty unit received. A specialist firm will then repurpose the plastic containers into secondary products.

Elemis also has huge plans for 2021, follwing the appointment of co-founder Oriele Frank into the role of chief product and sustainability officer. Having created 100% recyclable packaging for its Christmas collection at the end of 2020, the group now plans to make 80% of all packaging recyclable by the latter part of 2021.

With face coverings continuing to be a big part of our lives for some time yet, it’s important that therapists and clients can sustainably dispose of their used personal protective equipment (PPE).

Recycling PPE safely

Recycling expert TerraCycle has created Zero Waste Boxes where single-use masks and gloves considered “non-recyclable” in traditional recycling systems can be recycled, to stop these items ending up in landfill or incineration.

When the boxes are returned to TerraCycle for processing, the PPE waste is aggregated, before being cleaned and melted into pellets. The recycled pellet material can then be used by third parties to manufacture a variety of new products.

Although the idea of beauty refills has been around for some time – Neal’s Yard Remedies, for example, launched its Refill Initiative in 2019, with customers receiving a £2 discount when they refill a bottle instead of buying a new one – the concept hasn’t really stuck in the industry, until now.

The age of the beauty refill

In a bid to be more sustainable, skincare brand Dermalogica has launched its Daily Microfoliant exfoliator as a refillable product. The Daily Microfoliant Refill packet is made with 92% less plastic, 95.6% less oil and 95.7% lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to the Daily Microfoliant canister, sifter and cap, and is completely recyclable.

The idea is that clients can pour the exfoliator into their existing cannister, helping reduce plastic waste. By the end of 2020, 90% of all Dermalogica packaging was recyclable or biodegradable, and all paper and cartons are set to be FSC-certified to be sustainable for forests.

Spa brand Espa has also launched refillable bottles for products in its most recent Essentials Collection, including Hand & Body Wash and Purifying Shampoo & Nourishing Conditioner. Clients can decant their product into the bottle and then buy the recyclable refill pouch, which reduces plastic waste by up to 60% in comparison to a regular plastic bottle.

Espa has also launched its RecycleMe Scheme, which invites clients to return plastic packaging from their used products, from any beauty brand, directly back to the company for recycling for free.

Smart swaps to prevent waste

Reducing the sector’s impact on the environment requires more than just cutting down on what we produce, it also needs everyone to think smarter about how they work. Buying new tools is a must at times, but what if you could give your current kit a new lease of life instead?

PB Award-winning nail tech Katie Barnes, founder of the KB Tool Range, has launched a resharpening service to help the industry reuse blunt scissors, pushers or nippers, helping to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

The KB Reuse & Resharpen: Sharpening Service involves experts cleaning, inspecting and testing your old tools for defects, before they are sharpened and hand-honed using modern and traditional methods.

“It would be great if we could get more techs doing this to help prevent waste, but it also saves them money by reconditioning their tools so they don’t have to buy new ones. It’s surprising how many don’t know this is possible,” explains Barnes.

89% of UK beauty salons and spas are setting goals this year to become more sustainable (*professional beauty digital poll)

For more guidance on creating less waste, reducing your carbon footprint and making your business more environmentally sound, check out the Salon Re:Source guide by Anne Veck and her husband/business partner Keith, owners of certified carbon neutral salon Anne Veck Oxford.

The free toolkit consists of a threepart checklist of actions you can take in your salon or spa, from quick wins (small things you can do immediately), to next steps (changes that involve more time but have bigger pay offs) and major changes (large-scale investments).

These actions involve measures from turning off equipment when not in use, to insulating water pipes and investing in biodegradable recycled plastic, paper or reusable canvas bags for retail.

“Becoming a sustainable salon is a journey,” says Veck. “We are all where we are, rather than where we’d like to be on this, so do what you can, but start now.” PB

This article appears in the January 2021 Issue of Professional Beauty

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This article appears in the January 2021 Issue of Professional Beauty