But given the beauty industry is itself a large polluter, are the companies selling products that promise to protect our skin and hair from pollution doing enough to address their role in creating it? Or are they simply cashing in on climate change?
“The problem with ‘anti-pollution’ beauty products is that they are intervening at the wrong place in the system,” says Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.
“At best, individual consumer products that claim to protect us from pollution may mislead us with marketing claims; at worst they may actually deter the real solutions when consumers feel like they have protected themselves, so are less inspired to work with others for the regulatory and business solutions that could protect everyone,” she says.
The problem with ‘anti-pollution’ beauty products is that they are intervening at the wrong place in the system
Annie Leonard, Greenpeace USA
With land and water in scarce supply, it is plain wrong to grow crops that can be used as food for beauty products instead
Luckily, many beauty brands, like Aveda and Neal’s Yard Remedies, are thinking about the whole sustainability picture. As consumers become increasingly careful about the ingredients in beauty products, this “has led to more and more brands jumping on the natural and organic ‘trend’,” says Helen Cooper, managing director of Neal’s Yard Remedies. "So for us it is now more important than ever to help our customers understand how to cut through the greenwash to make well-informed, healthy choices,” she says.
Can we switch off our shower some days in favor of a quick rinse in the sink? Do we need to buy another red lipstick when we already own most shades on the spectrum? Can we buy our products in bulk or support retailers that allow us to reuse packaging?
None of this is easy, of course. Getting clean, having a bath, putting on a face pack or makeup feels good. And the beauty industry drives us to over-consume with its marketing; the raison d'être of big beauty companies and retailers is to sell us more stuff – that’s why they segment us into categories like gender or age. That’s why they bombard us with endless new innovations and ‘must-buys’.
Leonard says there is one great sustainable beauty product that we all should get on board with: activism. “It’s a lot more fun and emotionally rewarding than spending $75 for a small bottle of face cream.”