Are Your Beauty Products Respectful With The Environment?

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11 Apr, 2024

This post was originally published on Luxiders


The world evolves, the markets change, and the sustainable future gets closer for us to achieve. Just like any major industry, beauty brands and consumers are participating in that regeneration, too.


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The world evolves, the markets change, and the sustainable future gets closer for us to achieve. Just like any major industry, beauty brands and consumers are participating in that regeneration, too. This regenerative process is quite effective in catalyzing the green transition, however, it also introduces various illusive information. Sustainability is often considered a constant partner of organic, vegan, and cruelty-free products. Though these products are mostly sustainable, there are some areas that consumers need to get informed in a more detailed way and make choices consciously. Today, statistics mentioned by Forbes show that 92% of consumers tend to trust a company that supports environmental and social issues. However, the illusion starts there: “Chemical-free”, “organic”, “vegan” and “cruelty-free” all seem eco-conscious. Where is the line? How to differentiate the real sustainable brands from the others? We asked three sustainable cosmetic leaders on this issue: Team Dr. Joseph, Seed To Skin, and Rahua. Here is an inspiring discussion on achieving sustainable beauty.


Firstly, the problem centers on the thought of creating beauty without chemical use. Associating the term “chemical” with a bad prestige emerges as quite problematic because the reality is everything we have (both natural and synthetic) has and is chemicals. Hence, the problem becomes not having chemicals in beauty products; what we have to investigate is if the sources are ethically produced, sustainably grown, and respectfully packaged. The “chemical-free” labeling is mostly used to refer to natural and organic cosmetics. These types of cosmetic lines are separated from the rest by not containing preservatives like silicone and paraben in their formula. It is known that silicones are not biodegradable and they cause pollution into the environment. On the other hand, there are no proven health consequences of silicones in beauty products. When it comes to parabens, not being an eco-friendly substance, it is proven that its usage results in some hormone disruptions and even breast cancer.  Combining all this information, organic and natural beauty products seem a lot healthier to prefer than they did before. Still, there are consequences to them either: Firstly, natural products like tocopherol, antioxidants, and honey are often preferred to replace parabens in natural cosmetic products. Unfortunately, these biodegradable substances sometimes become the prisoners of their advantages: The products containing them usually expire a lot earlier than the synthetic-preservative-including ones, because natural preservatives face natural degradation a lot easier. Considering that the lifetime is a quite significant feature when evaluating sustainability, natural makeup and beauty products’ shorter lifetime generally results in customers buying more. However, sustainable cosmetic brands approach the issue with innovative perspectives.

Lena Franz, Head of Sustainability of Team Dr. Joseph and the daughter of legendary Dr. Joseph shares “It is absolutely possible to develop long-lasting products that do not contain parabens and silicones.” and adds: “Pure organic alcohol or essential oils are often used to preserve natural cosmetics.” Asking what measures Team Dr. Joseph takes on their production journey, Franz replies “We developed our own preservation system that works without alcohol. We use a combination of different natural oil fractions which prevent the oxidation of the products and at the same time protect the skin barrier.”. The brand uses osmotically purified mountain spring water during the production phase, Lena Franz expresses. “We use the principle of reverse osmosis to purify our water,” mentions she, which equalizes pressure and results in obtaining pure and clean water. “This enables us to reduce the use of preservatives in the formulation process to a minimum.” Lastly, she points out that factors like correct storage are significant parameters when discussing shelf life.

Jeanne Thottrup, founder of Seed to Skin presents alternative techniques to create longer-lasting organic products. “Today it is easy to be paraben free, all organic companies use Sodium Benzoate and Potassium Sorbate but there are lots of other things that can be added to the formula like vitamin E or certain essential oils.” On the other hand, she points out that the link between silicone and shelf life is not a case, reverse to the known: “Silicone is used to create a better texture and not needed for shelf life. The paradox is that natural products should be used up faster not due to bacteria, but due to the potency of the natural ingredients.” Jeanne Thottrup shows that the case of so-called ‘shorter’ lasting organic products is just about having consumers experience their products efficiently, not about products going useless earlier.

Anna Ayers and Fabian Lliguin, founders of Rahua, share: “The shelf life is 3 years – natural preservative systems that preserve longer than that are already available. Conventional parabens are no longer the only choice, big beauty companies need to change this common practice and their means.” Ayers and Lliguin mention how important it is for these brands to not only apply sustainable methods but also political lobbying to generate funds to invest in natural preservative systems.

Beauty, organic beauty, sustainability, rahua, seed to skin, team dr joseph, natural beauty, cosmetics, sustainable cosmetics

Illustration by FaberZhenya


But is it really sustainable now, considering that the ‘harms’ of the beauty industry are not only about parabens but more? Even if you go natural or organic, the fact that the natural resources of the planet are limited welcomes you to reconsider your consumption. Practices like over-harvesting create a vital question mark to the issue. An article by L’officiel USA states that special substances used for cosmetics can destroy rare plants – just like the prickly pear of Arizona and vanilla of Madagascar. Reminiscing that as a highly-preferred ingredient, palm oil causes clear damage to the rainforests increases the doubts about organic and natural cosmetics to buy. There, it becomes a must to investigate sustainably grown and ethically sourced materials when the beauty industry is tested on long-term sustainability. We asked if caring about sustainability is done sufficiently, and what could be the most sustainable solution according to our beauty leaders.

Founders of Rahua, Anna Ayers, and Fabian Lliguin heavily emphasize that their mission is to take care of the still-standing world forests. “These days cosmetics brands and manufacturers have a lot more clean choices (from well-managed forests) thus avoiding deforestation, which is the first step.” They state. “Yet, at the same time the industry must become more responsible for its consumers’ health and the environment and more alternatives.” add them, and continue “There always will be a need for ever cleaner ingredients, humans have overpopulated the world, and overconsumption is the norm, we have to be responsible as individuals.”. When asked what sustainable solutions that Rahua have developed, they initially point to the reduction of carbon footprint. “It is better to depend on plants than on petroleum, as all plant ingredients and materials dissolve easily in nature,” they say. “While synthetic ingredients sometimes take thousands of years to dissolve.”

Jeanette Thottrup, founder of Seed To Skin answers if the industry is caring enough with a ‘no’: “I think there is a lot more that can be done. The most sustainable solution is to find alternative ingredients and as local as possible.” Thottrup exemplifies this with the issue of palm oils. “For example, palm oil in many smaller companies is now replaced with a mix of other oils.” There, she puts locally grown sources and sustainable ingredients as a solution technique.

Lena Franz from Team Dr. Joseph expresses that the industry still has a long way to go. “Many companies still rely on unsustainable sources for their ingredients and there is often a lack of transparency,” She points out. “The most sustainable solution is a combination of responsible sourcing ingredients and innovative technologies.” Lena Franz elaborates her statement by emphasizing the close cooperation with suppliers and new technologies. “Biotechnology can help to significantly reduce the impact on our ecosystems from the use of microorganisms to produce active ingredients.” Saying that the industry also has to pave the way for environmentally friendly alternative ingredients, she says “Finally, consumers play a crucial role. To make sure that products deliver what they promise, labels for certified natural cosmetics offer good guidance.”.


Another problematic practice that makes both natural and unnatural cosmetic products doubtful emerges as the issue of packaging. It is generally plastic that is used in cosmetic packaging because its hygienic, easy to color, shape, and promoted as more likely to be recycled. Behind the illusion, the case is a little complex. Plastic packaging of cosmetics is rarely recycled because a deep cleaning, removal of stickers and else is needed to do that. Also, recipients smaller than two inches are not recyclable – therefore, plastic pollution is one of the most serious consequences that come with the cosmetics sector. Though glass is offered as an alternative because it is easy to recycle, its fragility and transport costs of being heavier than plastic result in more consumption and more carbon emissions. Also, melting the glass requires high energy which makes recycling not as easy as it is promoted. While each of the alternatives offers a lot to think about, Jeanette Thottrup from Seed To Skin shares the brand’s vision.

“We use glass because it is the best material for the products, it stores them very well and keeps oils for longer,” She starts. “Micro plastic beads are absolutely avoidable and should be banned from the industry. We don’t use micro plastic beads, instead we use Crystal beads.” She also notes that aluminum packaging is being considered the best recycling material, still reminding the reality that everything we do will have an impact on nature. When it comes to recycling methods, Thottrup states:  “I think refilling is a great idea, but it is important to look at all the aspects.” Thottrup says that she does not believe in bioplastic: “Plastic is plastic and cannot be green-washed but sometimes it might be better to use a little recyclable plastic to create refills in order to use the same bottles.” When it comes to the use of glass, Jeanne Thottrup mentions that glass is much better for products than plastic. “Dark glass keeps the products fresh for longer.” In Seed To Skin, “We are constantly researching new methods,” she states. “We just introduced biodegradable ‘plastic’ to all our spa partners last year for their mud wrap and detox treatment. It’s something we work on all the time.”

Lena Franz of Team Dr. Joseph indicates the petroleum derivatives. “The primary raw materials of conventional cosmetics still consist of petroleum derivatives, which cannot only be harmful to the human organism but neither derived from renewable raw materials nor are biodegradable.” Team Dr. Joseph, instead of synthetic microbeads, uses biodegradable jojoba seeds, fruit acids, and natural enzymes for their peelings. For the glass in packaging, Franz mentions it as an advantageous material to use with some problems like its high weight and increased risk of breakage. “All the elements needed to make glass, such as sand and limestone, come from natural resources. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be reused or refilled as often as desired without losing quality.” expresses she, and adds: “Furthermore, glass is considered the most stable of all packaging materials due to its inertness and impermeability. This means no risk of harmful chemicals coming into contact with the product.” Lena Franz also shares that “When using new glass, the proportion of waste glass can be as high as 90%.” – This proves that glass is a sustainable packaging material that contributes to circularity. Team Dr. Joseph is perfectly motivated on using 100% recyclable packaging: “Our outer cartons are made of 100% recycled paper,” says Franz. “We also try to keep our use of plastic to an absolute minimum and offset anything that cannot be reduced through our partnership with Plastic Bank®.” This partnership establishes recycling ecosystems in countries where pollution and poverty are common. “Residents of these regions can collect plastic from their surroundings and bring it to their local Plastic Bank to exchange for money, fresh food, clean water, mobile phone services, cooking oil or even school fees for their children.” There, Team Dr. Joseph contributes to both nature and social justice.

Anna Ayers and Fabian Lliguin of Rahua take the problem of plastic packaging into consideration: “Organic plastics are slowly moving in the right direction, but mostly these plastics end up in the garbage because there are no ways to dissolve these materials.” There, we ask how Rahua reflects on this problem and they mention the glass. “Glass is a great alternative, especially when it is reused or refilled,” they note. “Rahua is switching to glass.” In addition, they put the down-to-earth techniques to the table. “For example, plastic is recycled by every government around the world and is made into floor tiles or similar.” Ayers and Lliguin embark on a futuristic perspective on this issue: “At some point, plastic has to be standardized because that way people can create any object at home or in the industry with a 3D printer.”


Considering all the brands and most of the research agree that glass is a better option for packaging in terms of sustainability, we asked our beauty leaders if the cosmetic brands are transparent about their greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation, packaging, and manufacturing processes. Ayers and Lliguin of Rahua says “Some companies are, while others are too big to control the whole process. We need better and more accurate metrics.”. Lena Franz of Team Dr. Joseph supports: “Unfortunately, the transparency of many cosmetics brands regarding their energy-intensive processes and associated greenhouse gas emissions is often insufficient. Many companies do not disclose whether they take measures to minimize their energy consumption or offset the associated emissions.” When asked what their brand initiates, Franz states “As a certified carbon neutral company, we record our carbon emission sources, analyze them and update our balance annually to gain better control over them.”. She also attaches that Team Dr. Joseph uses all renewable energy sources and their certifications are verified by independent third parties, which means a lot for the accountability.

Mentioning energy use, we also discuss the use of water in the cosmetics industry: Since the production of beauty products often requires significant amounts of water, for ingredient cultivation and manufacturing, it is important to implement water-efficient practices and develop technological solutions to compensate for the waste. Jeanette Thottrup says “Seed To Skin uses the hydrolat (the active herb water) that comes as a byproduct when we distill. There are also a lot of dry Mediterranean crops that use very little water but are also super active like helichrysum.”. Thottrup continues by stating that Seed To Skin’s motto is formulated on creating products that are fully active and effective, so the consumer will need very little product.

Rahua, on the other hand, focuses on sourcing the water. Ayers & Lliguin suggests, “Water should not be taken directly from sources but must be obtained after water services has been provided.” They continue with a stimulating example: For example, recycled water that has been used to irrigate fields, then filtered, treated and biologically disinfected for use in industry.” Their motto is clear cut: “Reduce, recycle, and reuse should be the norm for a better future for humanity.”

Team Dr. Joseph chooses the way of biotechnology. “By using microorganisms such as bacteria or yeasts to produce active ingredients, considerable amounts of water can be saved. In addition, biotechnological approaches have the advantage of being less dependent on climatic conditions and thus being able to guarantee consistent quality and availability of active ingredients,” says Lena Franz. Reminiscing that the great use of water is still a problem in the industry, she continues by emphasizing that a comprehensive approach is a need. Franz remarks that products that do not use water in the formulation are a branch of this approach: Team Dr. Joseph’s “Solid” products like Gentle Hand Wash and Super Soft Hair Wash are examples. “Furthermore,” Franz continues. “Instead of water in our formulations, we use different flower waters, which not only have a wonderful effect on the skin but are also created as by-products during the distillation of essential oils.” What Team Dr. Joseph considers of “use”, then, proves itself to be a fight against waste: Creating byproducts and new technologies are the techniques to ensure it. Lastly, Franz states that production location is one of the most important factors – where Team Dr Joseph is lucky to be in South Tyrol that they are not affected by water scarcity, since Alpine spring water is present there.


As mentioned, one of the labels that make consumers think that the product is sustainable emerges as “vegan” and “cruelty-free” ones. Though they generally intersect, still, it is quite crucial to remember that not everything vegan or cruelty-free means they are sustainably grown, sourced, or produced. However, the ethical concerns and animal welfare issues are quite important to achieve a successful sustainable story for our planet, thus, the historical pattern of the cosmetics industry that applies animal testing for product safety is quite a matter. We wanted our leaders to share their thoughts on differentiating sustainability from vegan/cruelty-free productions and what alternative testing methods can be developed.

“A ‘cruelty-free’ product simply means that no animal testing was done in its production. A ‘vegan’ product, on the other hand, contains no ingredients of animal origin, but in no way excludes animal testing.” Lena Franz of Team Dr. Joseph explains. “None of these terms automatically guarantees that the product is sustainable or natural.” Pointing out that these are often used for marketing to create a positive impression of brands, Franz concludes “It is important that consumers are aware that not all green claims are the same.”. The issue of animal testing seems like one that Franz has quite an expertise in. She starts with the legislation when interpreting. “Animal testing of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients has been banned in the EU since 2013. However, there are two regulations for cosmetic ingredients in the EU that contradict each other.” Later she explains, “The European Cosmetics Regulation prohibits the use of animal testing in the cosmetics industry, while REACH requires animal testing for the safety assessment of chemicals in certain cases.”. Franz moves to the alternative testing methods to overcome that problem. “For example, in vitro testing and computer modeling have great potential to reduce the need for animal testing.”. She describes the details of the technique: “In vitro testing, where human cells or tissues are tested in the laboratory, can give a better idea of how human skin or bodies react to certain ingredients. Computer modeling, on the other hand, uses advanced algorithms and biological databases to simulate the effects of chemicals on the human body.” Stating these are being developed now, still they promise a lot. Lena Franz says it is important for the industry to support and invest in these methods to catalyze the transition.

Jeanne Thottrup of Seed To Skin, on the other hand, states “I think for allergic patch tests it is difficult to use computers.”. This is why Seed To Skin prefers to test on human skin only. “That is always the best option,” says Thottrup. On the other hand, she shares that “Animal testing is actually becoming prohibited, so I think the industry is finally changing. Many natural companies did not want to sell to China as they required animal testing, but they have just dropped that, too.” Saluting the shift in the world, Thottrup emphasizes the transparency and education for the brands that do tricks on their labels. “I think words like vegan, sustainable and clean are being used on even the most hardcore toxic non-natural products. The bigger problem is that companies can call their products natural even if they are not, there is no law for that.” – This is how the Green Claims Directive proposal constitutes of great importance because just as Thottrup stated, the lack of legislation leads to disinformation on labels and creates doubts on sustainable brands and their reliability.

What Rahua emphasizes is the tricks applied to petroleum dependency again: “Some brands use ‘vegan’ to get around cruelty-free or petroleum-based ingredients. It sounds sustainable, the consumer has the power and becomes aware of it – and buys from the heart.” Ayers & Lliguin then moved to animal testing. “Animal testing is no longer the best choice, ingredients are getting cleaner, the bad ingredients are being labeled, so software and AI can do a good job so far.” They reminisce of studies where animal testing can only predict human response to cosmetics between a scale of 40-60%. “Alternatives are correct 80% of the time,” they continue. “Animal testing is not only inefficient but also expensive.”

It is easily seen that keeping track of sustainability is quite complicated when it comes to the beauty industry. As Team Dr. Joseph, Seed To Skin, and Rahua have proved; we mainly face problems of deforesting when getting natural ingredients, inclusion of silicon and parabens which treat both the environment and human wellbeing, the case of animal testing, plastic packaging problem and huge amounts of water being used. What might have been a conscious way to follow in this sense shows up in both the consumers’ and brands’ responsibility: While brands invest and support sustainable practices like replacing their natural ingredients to prevent overharvesting and committing to the certifications that they have promised on eco-conscious production; consumers might go with buying less, choosing glass packaging and cruelty-free products. As seen, local producers can contribute to preventing the carbon emissions that are caused by transportation and locally grown ingredients and new technologies to remain clear and reusable water centers themselves to the core. As the world keeps evolving to our green future, beauty, and cosmetics are hopefully integrating into that journey and becoming more and more promising.


Rahua’s Legendary Amazon Oil offers a fully sustainable unity: With its highly concentrated formula, the oil includes a natural preservation system, natural color, and wonderful natural fragrance. With its glass packaging, the oil offers multifunctional treatment options. As the top-seller product of the Rahua, Legendary Amazon Oil is produced with sensitivity. Performing like a lightweight silicone but with natural preservatives, the oil gives ultra-shine to hair.

Committed to an organic, completely recyclable, and biotechnological production, Team Dr. Joseph presents the brand’s solid cleansing products: A sustainable set where a solid shampoo, body wash, and hand wash are included that uses no water at all. Without synthetic additives, fragrances, and silicones and the ability to be used solid; the high-quality products have compact sizes and light weights where the brand seeks to reduce waste and carbon emissions during transportation. Hand made in South Tyrol, the products are certified organic, vegan and biodegradable.

Seed To Skin is launching two new creams: Mostly sourced in Europe in terms of ingredients, The Light Source and The Night Force have obtained biotechnology during their production. The cremes reverse the signs of photoaging, protect the skin with potent antioxidants and brighten the complexion. With the instant lifting effect, The Light Source transforms the harmful UV radiation into a source of light that enhances skin brightness. The Night Force, on the other hand, presents a boost of oxygen and energizes, refreshes, and transforms the skin overnight.


Tolga Rahmalaroglu
Luxiders Magazine Contributor

Der Beitrag Are Your Beauty Products Respectful With The Environment? erschien zuerst auf Sustainable Fashion – Eco Design – Healthy Lifestyle – Luxiders Magazine.

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