Beauty For Good – S & S Decoded: A Beauty Life Cycle Assessment

Introducing Beauty for Good, the S & S channel & home to truly conscious cosmetics, sustainable skincare, friendly fragrances, honest haircare & so much more! This hub has the mission to educate, elevate industry innovations, decode the ethical make up misnomers & spotlight brands that benchmark best practice in protecting our people & planet. Through our lotion & potion decision making we can drive this multi-trilion dollar beauty machine as a force for good. A. X 

If you’ve read my other S & S Spotlight features you will have seen my life cycle assessments but I thought it would be useful to review this in the cosmetic context. In a beauty utopian ideal, a sustainable brand would source organic ingredients sustainably for people and planet, using natural colours and fragrances from flaura and fauna, have transparent manufacturing processes and complete transparency surrounding its supply chain activity. It would deploy biodegradable ingredients, minimal packaging with the capacity for reuse, recycling or better yet, upcycling to create a net positive impact for its users but also wildlife and biodiversity. They would be void of synthetic components, including chemicals and GM ingredients and not tested on animals. Assessing a product or company’s sustainable offering could be utilised through a life cycle assessment (LCA). 

Briefly summarised, a LCA is a form of analysis and systematic approach that accounts for the environmental performance that a product may have at various stages within its life. It evaluates inputs and outputs throughout the product’s life cycle to identify where value can be created in reducing emissions and increasing efficiencies.

A beauty life cycle assesment Source: Sustainable & Social

Such stages can be traced from: 

  • Raw material extraction 
  • Material processing – Chemical/hazardous/water waste used to treat raw materials to prepare them for manufacturing 
  • Manufacturing – Energy usage to construct the product, packaging production, energy consumption in factory operations and machinery similar to material processing 
  • Distribution and transport – Energy usage, emissions, warehouse logistics, shipping methods, considering the carbon footprint and if parts are outsourced from across the world, where have they travelled from before they have arrived in-store or in their warehouse? Are they distributed by energy efficient carriers? 
  • Consumer use – How do we use our beauty products? Does the formulation require a lot of water to gain a lather? Do we get as much use of them as possible or does say 1/5 of a bottle end up in waste because of a pesky pump?
  • Repair and maintenance – Does the brand/retailer offer refillable stalls? Do they offer a take back packaging scheme? Do they offer advice on how to make the most of your products?
  • Disposal and recycling – Where do the empty containers go when they have served their purpose? Are they reused as decorations or do they go to landfill? Are they recyclable or upcycled and innovated with a material /modular design that can easily be disassembled and transformed into another product with value?

A note on packaging

Packaging and branding is a crucial component of any beauty product that can make or break your purchasing decision. Not simply aesthetically but if the applicators, pumps or lids are not up to scratch this can sway us to look elsewhere.

Sustainable product packaging has become increasingly innovative in the beauty arena as of late in designing containers that can be rinsed, reused, recycled or returned to close the loop and embrace circularity.

Sjaniël Turrell, a contributor to organisation Eco Age has elaborated in detail about the pros and cons of various substances used for materials which you can find here.

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