Beauty Industry Attempts Shift Toward Sustainable Packaging

·4 min read

Beauty brands are looking to shift away from traditional packaging toward biodegradable, plastic-free and refillable options as consumer demand for sustainability grows more intense.

Increasingly turning to biodegradable, plastic-free or refillable options for products, brands are pivoting toward limiting their waste. Retailer Credo Beauty upped the ante last year by banning all single-use products, including sample packettes and sheet masks.

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Nordstrom has partnered with TerraCycle to recycle empty beauty products, while Ulta Beauty has partnered with TerraCycle subsidiary Loop as a part of its conscious beauty program. Brands like Burt’s Bees, Ren Clean Skincare and The Body Shop have also partnered with Loop.

Experts say consumers are responding increasingly to alternate ways of receiving — and storing — beauty products.

Credo credited the pandemic for the shift in attitude. “There has been a total behavioral reset from a customer standpoint, and they really want to know information, and they want to be empowered with information,” said Annie Jackson, cofounder and chief executive officer of Credo Beauty. “If we were having a conversation with a customer that you can just throw [packaging] in your blue bin, she would be, like, ‘Why are you bugging me?’ Today, she really wants to know, and she feels empowered by that information.”

When the retailer first banned single-use products, which include single-use sampling materials and products such as makeup remover wipes, peel pads and sheet masks, Jackson said collaboration with brands was imperative. “Whenever we do something like that, we have calls with about 80 percent of our brand community, and we come together and share resources,” she said.

As a result, Credo cofounded Pact, a nonprofit beauty recycling program with fellow industry stakeholders like Hudson’s Bay, Mob Beauty and Element Packaging. The program educates consumers on which pieces of their packaging can be recycled, and how. One of Mob Beauty’s cofounders, Victor Casale, said reception has been strong.

“On Earth Day, we launched our membership program. We have been approached by every major retailer in the beauty space in North America, and we have been approached by about 100 brands,” Casale said.

When Casale cofounded Mob Beauty, all of the products were designed around their refillable palettes, made of PCR plastic. “If you’re trying to change your packaging or change course, it’s easier to start a brand than to restage one. It’s really expensive for young, indie brands,” said Alisha Gallagher, cofounder of Mob Beauty. “We have a commitment that if we don’t have a sustainable packaging solution, we won’t launch the product.”

Gallagher posited that refillable packaging was more sustainable in the economical sense, too. “When you’re buying into the refill system, you’re actually getting better value long-term for the product you’re purchasing,” she said. “At least half of the cost of a single-use disposable product is the packaging that you throw away, and then repurchase. Getting that out of our system allows us to put in the expensive, PCR materials that allow the product to be of value, and sell if not for the same, then less than the competitor.”

Even brands whose bread and butter comes from single-use products are clueing into consumers’ changing needs. The clinical skin care brand 111Skin, which was founded by plastic surgeon Yannis Alexandrides, earlier this year launched its first multiuse mask lines to accompany its cult-favorite sheet mask assortment in a move away from the single-use format.

The line, which includes six products that range in price from $135 to $150, is reflective of turning tides with more sophisticated beauty consumers. “When we first started 10 years ago, sustainability was not on the forefront, it was more about the quality of the product,” said Eva Alexandridis, CEO of 111Skin.

“Our clients are very in-tune with what is sustainable,” Alexandridis continued. “We keep trying to innovate with our paper packaging. There are clients out there that would not want to use single-use products, and others are OK if it is biodegradable and done in a sustainable fashion. All of our biocellulose masks are biodegradable and fully recyclable, and we want to give choices to our clients.”

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