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Are celebrity skincare brands a detriment to the industry?

The beauty industry has ramped up its commitment to reducing its environmental footprint in recent years. However, celebrities have begun capitalising on Gen-Z’s increased interest in skincare, posing threat to the progress made by longstanding brands.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the beauty industry lately, you’ve probably noticed an extreme uptick in celebrity skincare lines on the market.

Gone are the days where you’d spot your favourite actress or musician in a television advertisement endorsing anti-aging eye cream in between episodes of the newest crime drama.

That’s because celebrities are no longer settling for just a slice of the profit earned from collaborations with well-established beauty brands. They want to instead be the spokesperson of their own brand and – perhaps more importantly – push you to demonstrate your fan-loyalty by buying into their name.

Instagram’s transition from photo-sharing platform to brand-boosting online marketplace has made this process completely possible and, dare I say, too easy?

Celebrities now pilot their entire marketing scheme via social media, directly controlling the narrative around each of their products. ‘Clean, natural ingredients’, ‘sustainable packaging’, and ‘ethically sourced materials’ are some of the trendy phrases celebrities are using to appeal to Gen-Z’s demand for environmentally conscious brand philosophies.

Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Pharrell, Kylie Jenner, and Selena Gomez are just a handful names who are currently dominating the celeb skincare market. Soon to join them are plenty of other stars and influencers who have already secured trademarks for their own pending beauty projects.

This recent trend raises a few questions. How sustainable are these product formulas compared to others in the field? Are these advertisements genuine and honest representations of the product being sold to followers?

With more than 120 billion units of plastic being generated by cosmetic packaging each year, are celebrity skincare brands contributing much beyond adding pressure on the current plastic crisis?

The ingredients used in celebrity skincare lines are questionable

Greenwashing – the process of misleading customers to believe products are environmentally friendly by using words like ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ – is a common practice in the beauty industry, and celebrity skincare is not exempt from this.

Several lines have swapped common, well-researched ingredients for those sourced from rare plants or seeds for the sake of appearing innovative or exotic – most of which have no confirmed medicinal benefits.

In fact, many of the dyes and fragrances which come from these materials can be damaging and especially irritating for sensitive skin types.

Not to mention, incorporating such unusual natural ingredients raises concerns about sustainability, specifically in regard to the potential destruction of biodiversity.

It is an odd marketing ploy, especially when numerous brands have proven that great products can be made from local ingredients. Sourcing locally also means that brands can cut their carbon emissions by reducing the amount of ingredients they import from around the globe.

More plastic packaging hinders the skincare industry’s waste management efforts

In attempts to label their brand as sustainable, a small number of celebrities have launched their products with refillable bottles. Considering the average skincare bottle takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, this does feel like a well-intentioned step made in the right direction.

However, I can’t help but think of a quote from certified dermatologist and YouTuber Dr. Dray (1.18m followers), “If you want to call yourself environmentally friendly, environmentally conscious… don’t make a skincare line!”

The bottom line is that celebrity skincare products rarely offer enough unique benefits to warrant a justification for more of them.

So, which brands are working towards more sustainable practices?

In truth, the path to creating wholly sustainable beauty products is an ongoing challenge we’ve yet to fully achieve. However, there are plenty of existing brands on the market which are committed to offering products that are not only proven to be better for you, but for our planet too.

One of them is Aveda, who has spent the last three years reformulating their product line to be entirely vegan by eliminating ingredients such as beeswax and honey. With over 85 percent of its range using recycled plastic bottles and experiments using sugarcane-derived bioplastics are currently underway, this brand is one to keep an eye on. Bonus points for its head office also being completely wind powered!

For dryer skin types looking for an eco-friendly yet rich moisturiser, Weleda is a gift from the gods. Recognised by the Union of Ethical BioTrade, over 75% of its plant ingredients come from biodynamic or organic farming and none of its products contain any form of plastic.

Finally, REN has been around for two decades and has paved the way for sustainability in the skincare industry. The company is on track to achieving its zero-waste goal by the end of 2021, by switching to packaging made from recycled ocean plastic and by introducing a new product refill scheme.

As consumers, the most effective thing we can do is educate ourselves about the products we put onto our skin and ultimately release back to the planet. After all, celebrity trends come and go, but our planet ­is here to stay.


This article was originally written by Jessica Byrne. ‘I’m Jessica, a recent graduate from the University of the Arts London. I’m passionate about sustainable fashion and beauty, racial and gender equality and protecting our oceans. When I’m not curating Spotify playlists, you can find me watching every existing documentary on my latest subject of interest or hanging out with friends and practicing 35mm film photography.’ View her LinkedIn and Twitter