The Big Beauty Brands Embracing Sustainability

From clean and green to carbon-neutral and zero waste

With climate change and anxiety about the future of our planet at an all-time high, it’s little wonder so many of us are hitting the reset button on our beauty-buying habits and how we dispose of our empty bottles. Thankfully, companies are making it easier for us to choose wisely.

“We are seeing more beauty brands using recycled plastic for their packaging, as well as offering extra-large sizes and refill options,” says Kate Morris, founder of online beauty retailer Adore Beauty, which has a clean beauty section highlighting the sustainable attributes of a brand, whether that’s based on sustainable packaging, animal testing, veganism or the brand’s supply chain.

Information, says Morris, is key. Because in many ways, the buck stops with us and our willingness to purchase a product – or not.

“As consumers, we are just as responsible as the manufacturers; we demand, they supply,” says Susan Stevens, founder at Made With Respect, an online beauty emporium that specialises in sustainable beauty. “We must move away from a make-use-dispose mentality and start making more conscious choices; buying better and buying less.”

Conscious consumption is now firmly in the lexicon but it can be confusing – do we opt for recycled plastic, which is limited in the number of times it can be recycled? Do we shun everything but glass, which can be reused infinitely yet is heavier to freight? So much new information can feel bewildering. “People become overwhelmed when they don’t know what to do and where to start,” says Stevens. “The mentality becomes ‘how can one person possibly make a difference?’”

The reality is, even small changes in our beauty routine make a difference. “It’s not about being perfect, it’s about trying to do a little better every day,” says Morris.

The experts say it’s more about timing, which means acting now, rather than do nothing and wait for the inevitable fall out. Our power as consumers lies in the products and services we’re prepared to pay for. “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly,” says Stevens.

In the name of small changes for good, we round up the brands leading the way.

Armani Si perfume


Now in its 10th year, Giorgio Armani’s Acqua for Life project, working with Unicef’s WASH program and WaterAid, has invested upwards of $13 million to provide clean water to more than 195,000 people around the globe.

GIORGIO ARMANI Sì Passione Intense 50ml, $171;



The OG of responsible packaging, Aveda has long been concerned with minimising its packaging and maximizing its use of recyclable and postconsumer recycled materials.

The majority of their plastic bottles use a minimum of 80 per cent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic (made from milk bottles). The packaging for the Stress-Fix Body Lotion has been made using 100 per cent PCR bottles, saving over 600 tonnes of virgin plastic each year. Aveda is also the first beauty brand to manufacture its products using 100 per cent wind energy.

AVEDA Stress-Fix Body Lotion, $50;



All of Biolage’s bottles are made from PCR plastic, while their natural-origin range Biolage R.A.W. uses 100 per cent recycled plastic bottle packaging, and all its products are 99 per cent biodegradable. In addition, their factory is 100 per cent carbon neutral, runs on solar energy and sends zero waste to landfill.

BIOLAGE SmoothProof Shampoo and Conditioner, $31 each;



Free from GMOs, toxins, fillers, artificial colours, artificial fragrance and synthetic chemicals, Californian clean biotech brand Biossance is your go-to for responsible beauty with skin-improving benefits.

With a mission to save deep-sea sharks from being inhumanely slaughtered for their squalene (a skinhydrating ingredient taken from their liver), Biossance came up with its sugarcane-derived squalane. The range is based around this buzz ingredient (sugarcane grows in abundance with very little water nor need for fertiliser) and also on-sells its squalane to other beauty brands.

BIOSSANCE Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, $112;



The French brand has long been concerned with educating people about recycling and preserving the oceans. Case in point: Clarins has partnered with the Plastic Odyssey, a ship powered exclusively by plastic waste collected on its three-year voyage, which sets off this year. They also support the Pur Project, which aims to preserve biodiversity in Asia-Pacific, Europe and America. The partnership has seen more than 420,000 trees planted.

CLARINS Extra-Firming Neck & Décolleté Cream, $100;

Davines A Single Shampoo


This sustainably minded Italian brand recently unveiled its new HQ, the Davines Village, which boasts sustainable initiatives such as using 100 per cent renewable electricity. This year sees the launch of A Single Shampoo, a carbonneutral product, thanks to the CO2 emissions generated during its life cycle being offset by the brand’s EthioTrees project, an initiative that generates environmental change in Ethiopia and beyond.

DAVINES A Single Shampoo, $45.95;

Dior Capture Totale


Dior’s new Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Energy formulas not only contain at least 80 per cent natural ingredients, they have been housed in packaging made from FSC cardboard paper, which is both recyclable and smaller in size, translating to a 25 per sent reduction in cardboard weight for the entire range. 

DIOR Capture Totale C.E.L.L. Super Potent Serum 30ml, $215;

Kevin Murphy Angel Wash

Kevin Murphy

Up to 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic enter our ocean each year according to the journal Science. “It’s the equivalent of a truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute,” says Kevin Murphy, founder of Kevin Murphy haircare. With technology allowing this waste to be repurposed, Kevin Murphy has switched its packaging to Ocean Waste Plastic. “We produce 56 per cent less greenhouse gases because we’re not using virgin plastic,” says Murphy. “All we’re doing is shredding waste plastic.”

KEVIN MURPHY Angel Wash, $40.95;

garnier micellar water


Garnier has reduced the weight of plastic in its shampoo bottles by 25 per cent, saving 180 tonnes of plastic per year. The brand has also introduced vegetable dyes and recycled paper in its packaging, and by 2009 it reused and recycled 91 per cent of its industrial water waste. The brand also boasts three ‘dry factories’, meaning all water is recycled and reused.

GARNIER Micellar Cleansing Water 400ml, $13.99;



A frontrunner in sustainability, L’Occitane switched its bottles over to 100 per cent recycled plastic last year. The brand has never used plastic bags in its stores, and in 2008 started offering refills for 16 of its best-selling products (this number is set to swell to 25 refills by 2022). The refills use up to 90 per cent less plastic than a regular bottle.

L’OCCITANE Almond Eco-Refill Shower Oil, $58;


L’Oréal Paris

All PVC plastics have been eradicated across the L’Oréal group. The company has also pledged that by 2025, 100 per cent of products will be recyclable, reusable or compostable, while COemissions will be reduced across the group by 77 per cent, with a goal to be zero net emissions by 2050.

L’ORÉAL PARIS Revitalift Laser X3 Day Cream, $44.95;

La Mer

La Mer

In keeping its focus on biofermented sea kelp, La Mer’s charitable works concentrate on our oceans. Its Blue Heart Ocean Fund has donated more than $8 million to sea conservation projects. Its bestselling Crème de la Mer is also packaged in recyclable glass.

LA MER Blue Heart Crème de la Mer 2020 limited edition, $665; available May 31 at



Local skincare brand Natio has updated its tube packaging to be composed of recycled material and renewable sugarcane. Made in Australia, the packaging is manufactured using solar energy and marked with special codes to ensure correct recycling post-use.

NATIO Spirit Desert Lime + Salt Coffee Scrub, $15.95;

ren evercalm


Petrochemicals manufacturer SABIC has developed a process to recycle plastic waste otherwise destined for incineration or landfill. Creating an ‘Infinity Recycling’ packaging, this could be the way forward in terms of recycling our plastics repeated times. This year, Ren, which aims to be zero waste by 2021, has repackaged its iconic moisturiser, Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream, using this new technology.

REN Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream, $75;

This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of marie claire.

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