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Is the personal-care industry doing enough to tackle its plastic problem?

In order to reduce their plastic footprint, some personal-care brands are trying to reconsider the nature of their products, packaging, and the supply. chain itself.

It’s no secret that the booming $500bn per annum personal-care industry relies heavily on plastic. So much so in fact, that there’s now seven times more plastic than young fish in the ocean. With researchers predicting a whopping eight million tons of plastic waste to be ending up in our oceans annually, it’s a trend that – if ignored – could eventually lead to more plastic than fish by 2050 (United Nations).

But it’s not being ignored. At least not by consumers who, encouraged by the ‘Attenborough Affect’ have reduced their single-use plastic consumption by more than half, considering sustainably packaged products a key factor when shopping (GlobalWebIndex).

And fortunately, brands are also taking note, making a conscious effort to confront the ugly side of our obsession with beauty by reconsidering the nature of their products, packaging, and the supply chain itself. But alongside the industry-wide ban on microbeads, voluntary moves from stores to phase out plastic from cotton buds, and the growing eco-awareness of young shoppers, it’s still not enough to slow down the rapid pace at which beauty is impacting the environment.

To make a real difference, brands must replace already established habits with updated, sustainable alternatives and use the resources we already have, acknowledging that a product’s usability does not depend entirely on toxic materials. With this mindset, they are also much more likely to appeal to modern-day consumers, 50% of which prefer products that have been sustainably produced. So, without further ado, here are a few beauty brands that have gone the extra mile, committed to eliminating the throwaway culture we’ve become so used to. Maybe strive to buy from them the next time you’re stocking up – I know I sure want to.

The Body Shop

Unable to justify the level of waste and environmental impact associated with face wipes any longer, The Body Shop has announced that it will stop selling them as of October later this year. Additionally, the company wants to use its products to actually clean up the planet, collecting and reusing old materials that may have otherwise polluted lakes, rivers, and oceans. It even went as far as purchasing a colossal 250 tonnes of plastic (12.5 million recycled bottles to put it into perspective) from Indian waste pickers and customers currently have the option to return empty containers to stores as part of The Body Shop’s Return, Repeat, Recycle programme.

One Ocean

A breakthrough, sustainable, scientifically-proven beauty and wellness company, One Ocean is on a mission to save the waves. With ‘look good, feel good, do good’ as its motto, if ever there were a brand dedicated to making a difference, it’s this one. All packaging is made from 100% recyclable bioplastic and wood, while the ingredients themselves – primarily lab grown marine algae with unique properties – avoid harvesting limited resources.

Love Beauty & Planet

With brands such as Dove, Lynx, and Dermalogica under its belt, Unilever is one of the world’s biggest consumer products companies. As testament to doing things more sustainably, the conglomerate launched an eco-beauty skin and haircare range called Love Beauty & Planet that offers 100% recycled and recyclable products. Specifically aiming make use of the excessive amounts of existing plastic and ditch the need for anymore to be manufactured, Unilever has ‘been working to reduce its packaging footprint for a long time,’ says chief research and development officer, David Blanchard.

‘Currently, about 95% of the value of plastic packaging put on the market is disposed of after first use, which is a huge waste of resources and a major threat to the environment. We’re working with government and other organisations to help tackle the problem, including ploughing money into research funds and new ventures like Love Beauty & Planet.’


From day one, BYBI has invested a great deal of time and effort into being a completely sustainable beauty brand, opting for glass packaging wherever it can and biodegradable plastic bottles that can be decomposed chemically into nothing at composting plants. What’s more, in order to stop the material production loop, it recently introduced a revolutionary new system that allows customers to send back empty ‘skin booster bottles’ in freepost envelopes that can then be sterilised and reused. ‘We aim to make environmentally responsible beauty the norm,’ states the brand’s website. ‘It’s time we paved the way for other brands to follow as well as pushing existing brands to do better because sustainability is a need to have, not a nice to have.’


Every single year, 20% of Ethique’s entire profits go to charities fighting to protect our planet. Similar to Lush Cosmetics, its products are plastic and water free, sold in a concentrated bar form that provides a sustainable alternative to body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Designed to lather on their own once they come into contact with water, this means they’ll last much longer than your average bottle of liquid soap – three times longer to be exact. Kept to a minimum, all packaging is 100% compostable, leaving no trace behind once you’ve used it and as a result, the brand has so far managed to save 3.4 million plastic bottles from being used.