Last February, ELLE editors along with a team of experts reviewed hundreds of submissions for our thirteenth annual recognition of the best in eco-friendly and sustainable beauty. From Dove’s bottled products, now made from 100% recycled plastic packaging, to French heritage brand Guerlain’s goal to help save a billion bees in the next ten years, the 2020 Green Beauty Stars not only deliver results, they also leave a lighter footprint on the planet in the process.
While the COVID-19 crisis has drastically changed the current state of our world, its future remains in the balance making these beauty brand’s efforts to be more sustainable all the more critical. The need to treat each other and the planet with kindness is now.
MEET OUR EXPERTS
Celebrity makeup artist and clean living expert
Celebrity hairstylist and founder of Harry Josh Pro Tools
Author of Green Giants and CEO of the North America Division of Futerra, a global sustainability agency
Herbal Essences Beach Collection
Each year, about 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, which is why Herbal Essences partnered with TerraCycle to create a recyclable bottle made from 25 percent beach plastic. The plastic is collected from oceans, rivers, lakes, and bays by organizations across the globe before being processed into an entirely new material. So far, Herbal Essences’ new bottles have helped eliminate almost 7.4 tons of beach waste.
Simply Color Permanent Hair Color
At-home hair color company Schwarzkopf is working to lessen the environmental mark of at-home hair color. The new ammonia-, silicone-, and alcohol-free Simply Color formula, which comes in 12 shades, is less damaging to your hair, and the packaging, made from difficult-to-recycle materials (such as color cream tubes), can be recycled through TerraCycle. Even the lid is biodegradable, making the entire packaging zero waste.
Coconut Water & Mimosa Flower Conditioner
The naturally derived shampoo and conditioner are super-concentrated, which means they require less water to create and you need half the dose of product to get the same cleansed-yet-moisturized results. The smaller bottles last for the same number of washes—and are 100% recycled and recyclable.
Dry Shampoo No Residue
Developed during the 2018 severe water shortage in Cape Town, South Africa, this hair-care line saves earth’s most precious resource: water. Recyclable aluminum cans are filled with shampoo, conditioner, and stylers that help stretch the time between washes. “Dry styling products are a must for everyone [looking to conserve] water,” Josh says. “I love dry shampoo for adding texture and grip. The Waterl<ss one doesn’t leave any residue or color behind in your hair.”
A Single Shampoo
It took Italian beauty brand Davines 262 formulas before they nailed hydrating, eco-friendly shampoo. The formula, made of 100% traceable ingredients, is 98.2% biodegradable—so it takes only 28 days for it to break down after washing down your drain. The recyclable packaging is made of renewable sources and uses 48% less plastic, and by the time it makes it to your shower, the product is 100% carbon neutral through reforestation projects.
Kelsen uses natural beeswax and its Marine Performance Blend—a proprietary, sustainably harvested mix of organic kelp, sea holly, and sea rock fennel—in place of silicone. “Silicone can’t be broken down; it’s like liquid plastic,” says Olioso. Kelsen’s entire blue beauty line is microplastic-free, and its recyclable packaging is made from glass or biodegradable sugarcane, some topped off with compostable wood-composite caps.
After wood pulp is woven into suede-like fabric, it’s colored with plant-based dyes, then transformed into pajamas, a sleeping mask, or our favorite: scrunchies that use biodegradable elastic made from organic cotton and natural rubber.
MyKirei by Kao Nourishing Shampoo
The groundbreaking recyclable packaging of MyKirei, a new beauty line from the Japanese company Kao, employs an air-filled design to ensure you get every last drop. Imagine a Capri Sun that slowly collapses with each use— but with sides rigid enough to stand up straight, using plastic that’s 70 percent thinner than in traditional bottles. “The shampoo formula lathers nicely,” says Josh, “and [the conditioner] is light enough for thin hair but conditions enough for curlier hair types.”
Rouge and Satin Lipsticks
These lipstick tubes, sculpted from permabrass metal that’s then lacquered, brushed, and polished to chic French perfection. They’re also eternally refillable, so they can become family heirlooms. Pick from one of the 24 shades that come in both a matte and satin finish.
Lashes For Days Mascara
This glass tube (a first of its kind in the mascara category) is filled with a clean, just-thick-enough, inky black mascara that instantly lengthens lashes and is water resistant. Once you’re finished, wash the tube to recycle—and the wand can up-cycled a the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge’s Wands for Wildlife.
Smoky Eye Brick
The fashion designer’s eyeshadow palettes are housed in a gorgeous tortoise shell case that’s completely luxurious and plastic-free. The color combinations—inspired by Beckham’s signature smoky eye and beauty looks on the runway—are clean formulas, and all of the shipping materials are recycled and biodegradable, too.
Radiant Ruby Lip Crème
This creamy lip formula uses ethically and sustainably sourced crushed ruby powder give you the perfect red lip—sans any animal-derived ingredients (many traditional red lipsticks use crushed beetle shells). It’s vegan and the first luxury lip color packaging to be made of 100 percent recycled plastic.
Ultra-Gentle Reusable Makeup Remover Pad
Disposable makeup remover wipes, tissues, cotton pads, and swabs sap precious resources during production and ultimately translate to trash. Take My Face Off’s Mitty Mini is a washable, zero-waste finger glove that replaces a number of the single-use items in your medicine cabinet; its recyclable polyester fabric absorbs less liquid than cotton does.
Super Serum Skin Tint SPF 40 Foundation
Blendable mineral sun protection with skin loving ingredients like hyaluronic acid and plant-based squalane to create a silicone-free tinted serum with reef-safe, patented, non-nano zinc oxide. “The texture goes on really nicely,” says Denno. “Sometimes tinted moisturizers break down under blush, but this works well with both cream and powder blushes.” Bonus: The dropper and bottle are also recyclable through TerraCycle.
This is a magic trick in a sustainable, recyclable aluminum tube. Saie uses factories that run on renewable resources to minimize carbon emissions and responsible suppliers. Each Dew Balm contain hyaluronic acid and marshmallow root lit-from-within glow in three super flattering shades. The aluminum containers are curbside recyclable when you’re finished.
Sunlit Glow Bronzer Blush Duo
Danish-born makeup artist Kjaer Weis founded her sustainable and refillable beauty line a decade ago. Her newest launch, a creamy bronzer-blush duo, comes in the chic chrome compact that the brand is known for and gives a post-vacation complexion we could all enjoy.
Nourishing Body Washes
In January, Dove converted its bottled products to 100% recycled plastic packaging and launched a new collection of 14 body washes. Pick up the speckled bottles (the recycled plastic has “beauty marks” that are an inevitable part of the recycling process) and know that you’re helping to combat the world’s plastic problem: the amount of virgin plastic Dove saves in a year with this new initiative can circle planet earth 2.7 times. And the brand promises all of their packaging will be plastic-free, made from 100% PCR, or reusable and refillable by 2025.
This iconic New York fragrance house has revamped the packaging on their classic TriBeCa scent. Shoppers now have the option to go completely packaging free when they pick up their fragrance, which comes in a recyclable bottle. The scent—which uses three raw materials (cacao butter, jasmine sambac absolute and sandalwood) and one 100 percent renewable raw material (ambroxan)—is inspired by creative movement happening in downtown Manhattan.
Self Tanner and Refill
This year, Aussie sunless tanner brand Australian Glow starts packaging its Self Tan Mousses using ocean-waste plastic, with each bottle saving eight plastic bags from the sea. The brand also sells refills of its vegan, cruelty-free, and organic formula in pouches that reduce plastic use by 83 percent.
Brilliant Black Dental Floss
Touted as one of the world’s most renewable and sustainable crops, bamboo is the backbone of Terra & Co.’s biodegradable floss. Woven with antibacterial activated charcoal and scented with mint-spiked coconut oil, this floss is chic enough to make recommended daily flossing a reality. Toss used floss (and the biodegradable box) into the compost bin instead of the trash can.
Dedtergent 01 “Taunt”
DedCool’s new biodegradable laundry detergent comes in a chic, 100% recyclable aluminum canister. Choose from the brand’s two best-selling unisex scents: fresh and citrusy Spring and a cozy vanilla-and-bergamot Taunt.
Antiplaque and Whitening Toothpaste Tablets
These tablets are the plastic- and water-free alternative to traditional toothpaste. Pop one into your mouth and start to chew: the tablet is activated by your saliva, transforming into a thick peppermint lather that both cleanses and whitens with natural peppermint, tea tree oil, and coconut oil.
Manufactured in facility that uses solar power for 80 percent of its energy, Radiant Nectar is a blend of sustainably harvested essential oils and blue beauty–friendly ingredients (ambrette seeds, pear nectar, orris butter, tobacco flower, cedarwood, and musk) comes in a glass bottle that is recyclable, and even the cap is made from sustainable wood.
Mind and Body Wash Refillable Glass
This California company’s bottles are already locally sourced from 100 percent preexisting recycled materials, but now Bathing Culture is going one step further by allowing customers to bring in any bottle (an Atlanta customer recently brought in an empty maple syrup bottle) to refill with the brand’s vegan, toxin-free, and biodegradable Mind and Body Wash for the bargain price of $1.75 an ounce.
Brightening Honey Melt Facial Cleanser with Manuka Honey
This cleanser starts out as a honey-like gel (inspired by the star ingredient, raw New Zealand-sourced manuka honey) and foams into a rich lather when combined with water. Kiwi Botanicals works with members of the Ngāi Tahu tribe, principal Māori tribe of the southern region of the country, to sustainably grow, harvest, and manufacture the honey, ensuring the environment is always considered when working with the precious ingredient.
Chantecaille 100% Natural Sunscreen Mist
To be released in summer 2020, this sunscreen from friend-of-the-planet beauty brand Chantecaille checks off all the boxes: It’s a reef-safe, non-nano zinc sunscreen that comes in a super-easy to apply spray mist. It’s also formulated with skin-loving ingredients like orange flower water, sunflower seed oil, aloe vera juice, ashwagandha, and green tea to nourish while it protects.
Pacific Glacial Clay Detoxifying Mask
The making of this glacial oceanic clay mask leaves zero ecological footprint. The purifying clay, harvested under the watchful eye of the Canadian government, is combined with moisturizing squalane and detoxifying activated bamboo charcoal for a mask that sucks out all the impurities while deeply hydrating.
Mineral SPF 30 Face Moisturizer
With every product priced under $10 and available at megaretailer Walmart, Cleen Beauty makes paraben-, phthalate-, mineral oil–, and cruelty-free skin care accessible for every budget. It’s also vegan. A standout in the 14-product collection is the moisturizer made with SPF 30 zinc oxide sunscreen, which goes on sheer while smoothing skin with shea butter (and it’s packaged in a recyclable container, to boot).
High Performance Cleanser
Dermatologist and geneticist Macrene Alexiades, MD, PhD, literally wrote the book on cosmetic treatments—last year’s Cosmetic Dermatologic Surgery—but still believes plant actives, not lasers or injectables, are the future of antiaging. She sources ingredients for her super-transparent skin-care line, Macrene Actives, from her own organic farm in upstate New York. The result is highly effective products in which luxury and eco-consciousness exist in perfect harmony.
Squalane+ Rose Vegan Lip Balm
There are more than 2,000 ingredients blacklisted by California-based Biossance, and at the top of the list is squalene, a hydrating oil traditionally found in shark liver. Instead of sourcing from animals, the brand uses sustainable biotech to create renewable sugarcane which can be turned into squalane (note the spelling difference). The thick, super moisturizing, rose-spiked balm is packaged in a sugarcane box that’s curbside recyclable.
Yerba Mate Resurfacing + Exfoliating Energy Facial with Enzymes
Sustainable micro-exfoliants bamboo and diatomaceous earth combine with stimulating yerba mate and soothing aloe for a clean two-minute facial. This is the first time the brand has teamed up with a plant in Peru to ensure all of their packaging is sustainable, too: the facial is housed in recyclable glass jars, which are boxed in sustainable boxes before they come to you.
Vinoperfect Instant Brightening Moisturizer
Caudalie’s newest face cream is packed with niacinamide and white peony, all housed in a biodegradable formula. Cofounder Mathilde Thomas has banned parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates, sodium laureth sulfate, mineral oils, silicones, bisphenols, and animal derived ingredients from the brand’s products, and she estimates the company offsets approximately four times its carbon footprint. Plus, she’s set a goal of zero-waste packaging by 2022.
Guerlain – UNESCO Partnership
In 2020, French heritage brand Guerlain started a partnership with UNESCO to help save the bees—honey is one of the brand’s signature skin care ingredients. The goal is to support a billion (yes, billion) bees in the next decade by sponsoring beekeepers and their hives around the world, eventually helping just under 100 beekeepers and 8,880 beehives in ten different UNESCO biospheres at the end of 10 years.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastics Economy Global Commitment
Major companies like Unilever (with brands such as Love Beauty and Planet, Dove, and Suave), L’Oréal (Lancôme, Kiehl’s, etc.), and Johnson & Johnson (Neutrogena, OGX, Aveeno, etc.) have signed the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Global Commitment, pledging that all their plastic packaging will be fully recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025.
Estee Laundry #shopmystash
#ShopMyStash challenge began with a glamorous zero-waste call to action for its 154,000 followers: Finish the existing beauty products in your collection instead of purchasing more. Unlike clothing or a handbag, a beauty item’s lower price point makes it a tempting impulse buy—with a high risk of being discarded (or forgotten) before empty.
Fresh Lotus Farm
To sustainably source the lotus used in its Lotus Youth Preserve line, Fresh partnered with Ten Mile Creek Nursery in Alabama. Each plant is handpicked from the water in full bloom—flower, stem, and root—and then tested in the on-site mobile lab to ensure maximum, well, freshness. The plants are gently pressed whole to extract their juice, and all by-products are returned to the soil, so there is zero waste.
Model, Quentin Jones. Styled by Sophie Beresiner.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of ELLE.