Sustainable Beauty: What can we look for?

Onesta Journal

Sustainable Beauty: What can we look for?

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It’s no surprise more and more of us are looking into a beauty brand’s values and commitments to the environment with 61% of people finding it difficult to tell which products are ethical just from the packaging. So, what does ‘sustainable beauty’ actually mean, and what can we do to help? 



Similar to clothing, it’s not only about high quality and sourcing in a good way, but also about the long-term effects on the planet. The British Beauty Council recommend searching for specific certifications on your products to make sure their ingredient claims are completely honest. Here are some examples of trustworthy certifications you could look out for: 


Cruelty Free / Against Animal Testing – this claim should cover both the testing phase of the product and every ingredient within them. You can also look for items that have been approved under the ‘Leaping Bunny’ programme, which go through strict criteria with brands until they are able to display them. 

Microplastic – liquid microplastics can be found in a lot of common cosmetics like eyeliner, mascara, and lipsticks, to make sure a product is completely free of plastic you need to find the ‘Zero Plastic Inside’ logo.  

Natural / Organic – it’s harder to claim that a product is natural or organic, but NATRUE or Soil Association have meticulous testing methods to guarantee natural or organic products are used. 

Palm Oil – palm oil is extracted from either the fruit or kernels of palm trees and it has a lot of benefits within beauty products. However, there have been a lot of issues concerning deforestation and human rights abuses as the palm oil industry has increased. So, you can seek out either a Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which shows it has been sourced positively, or the Orangutan Alliance Certification to be sure there is no palm oil in the product. 

Vegan / Vegetarian – Vegan refers to there being no animal products within the item, or any involved in the making process; the Vegan Society’s Trademark is the one to look out for. Vegetarian means that no ingredients or production method are a result of animal slaughter, and a similar trademark from the Vegetarian Society can be found to ensure this. 

From these, you should also consider the specific ingredients that you want in the beauty products you use. Researching these will really help you make informed choices in the brands to commit to, Ethical Consumer is a great starting point and recommends some brands for specific environmental commitments.     



Packaging is one of the biggest challenges in the beauty industry when thinking about the environment. I think a lot of us are guilty of buying a product because of its beautiful packaging, but this can cause a whole ton of waste. Within the beauty industry, 14% of packaging makes it to the recycling plant, then only 9% is actually recycled and the other 77% goes straight into landfill. So how can we as consumers make a difference? Here are some things you can do: 

  1. If possible, when you’ve finished a product, wash it out before recycling and only purchase the items you need. 
  2. Look out for products that have minimal packaging, such as shampoo bars and sponges 
  3. Buy items that have refillable and reusable packaging 
  4. Switch your everyday items to products that have guaranteed recyclable materials, for example, glass, paper, cardboard, steel, and aluminium 
  5. If you receive any unwanted products, gift them to food banks or charities such as Toiletries Amnesty or Beauty Banks. 


People & Inclusivity 

The environmental aspect of sustainability is the first thing we all think of, but this can’t happen without brands having a responsibility to the people in society as well. It’s easier to decide on your own what you find most important when it comes to social responsibility. There is usually a code of conduct relating to people or planet (for example, at Onesta we have an Impact page containing this information), so looking at this first will give you an immediate indication on whether a company aligns with your own values. Some things to look for include: 

Black Lives Matter – especially in the beauty industry, it’s really important to have products that are suitable for every consumer. So, from their product line and also their marketing (photoshoots, website images, influencers etc), you can note how inclusive the brand is. 

LGBTQIA+ - choosing to support brands that celebrate acceptance and encourage sexuality and gender identity all year round is a great way to increase brand diversity. Look at whether a brand supports pride charities, either through campaign products, direct donations, or activism within their brand.  

Real Living Wage – a living wage relates to a when someone’s net income allows them to support their household within a good standard of living. A brand who pays their workers a living wage, should have a ‘Real Living Wage’ foundation mark. 

Fairtrade – the Fairtrade mark ensures that ingredients within beauty products have been purchased at a fair price for workers abroad, as well as supporting to invest in community projects such as local healthcare and clean drinking water. The Fairtrade website includes a list of brands that are supported through the Fairtrade organisation.  



When it comes to sourcing, it takes all of the elements that I’ve talked about and brings them together, which would help to make the planet a better place socially and environmentally. An ethical code of conduct is a great way to see a brands values and commitments and helps to ensure that everything throughout the supply chain is having a positive impact. This can be found as simply as googling ‘[brands name] ethical code of conduct’ or navigating through their website. Look for some verification codes such as B Corp, Cradle to Cradle or UEBT as they will promote the highest social and environmental commitments through their scoring systems.  

Another thing to look for in terms of sourcing is the carbon footprint. Essentially evaluating the greenhouse gas emissions that a company or product has contributed to global warming. Of course, the lower this is the better it is for our planet! Seeing that a company has set out some commitments or goals to reduce their carbon footprint is a key element for sustainability. Shopping from local beauty brands that source within the UK is also a great way to lessen your carbon footprint! 


The demand for more sustainable beauty products is increasing all the time, and we are seeing more natural and inclusive items on shelves which is great! There is still a long way to go in terms of full sustainability, as there is in every retail sector, but supporting brands or products that are committed and striving to make a positive impact is an amazing thing to do to help! 

Thank you for reading, 

Jenny x