2023’s Best Circular, Refillable, and Sustainable Beauty Products | Vogue

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2023’s Best Circular, Refillable, and Sustainable Beauty Products | Vogue

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With language like “circular” and “climate-positive” swirling around the best sustainable beauty brands of 2023 (not to mention reports that 76% of consumers are now seeking out sustainable products), this is the year to consider your relationship with “wish-cycling.” If you haven’t heard the term, you might already be doing it. “Tossing stuff in the curbside bin and hoping for the best” is how Mia Davis, Credo’s VP of impact and sustainability, defines it.

That said, the problem starts long before your wish-cycling. “Brands and municipal recycling facilities don't usually offer guidance, and a lot of plastic beauty packaging doesn't even have resin identification code on it,” says Davis, pointing out that The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that 10% of packaging is small format (like plastic lip balms, compacts, and caps) which requires special processing if it is recycled, and won’t be if you throw it in your curbside bin. When the rest is incinerated, landfilled, or dumped (the University of Connecticut estimates that the cosmetics industry creates 120 billion units of packaging each year, 70% of which ends up in landfills) and consumers are scream-requesting that Big Beauty recognizes and reforms its role in this wasteful cycle, industry experts are addressing the issue in a number of ways. Credo's Sustainable Packaging Guidelines require brands to share accurate disposal instructions with customers, plus eliminate single-use packaging. That means no more sheet masks, makeup wipes, treatment pads, or tiny sample packets (an industry first, according to Davis). Even creating a refillable option for hard-to-recycle categories (which beauty-focused bin programs like Nordstrom’s Beautycycle and Credo’s Pact are designed for) is a step in the right direction.

Packaging isn’t the only thing that makes a product circular or conscious when factors like production methods, clean energy, harvesting techniques, and ingredient sourcing all play into a mission to improve wasteful or unethical practices. Sangre de Fruta founder Allison Audrey Weldon shares that her luxe (Goop-approved) Garden of Earthly Delights hair products and soaps contain upcycled local ingredients. “The cedar greens are sourced from a family fun farm in Ontario which uses off-cuts of the forestry industry to produce the sustainable oil in the blend,” Weldon explains, adding that they offer refillable packaging to reduce plastic waste. And Tarte’s best selling Maracuja Oil, for example, is infused with sustainably harvested maracuja from an all-female cooperative in the Amazon Rainforest, which the brand helped found in 2018. “I'm proud to say this co-op empowers mothers by providing them with the resources, training, and skills they need to succeed and support their families,” says founder Maureen Kelly. Then, there’s REN, the clean skincare brand that’s taken consistent steps to improve its production (and now has the power of Unilever behind it) like an Infinite Recycling program that repurposes plastic once deemed unrecyclable. “We pioneered this technology in the circular recycling space, in one year repurposing 16 tons of plastic destined for landfills,” says CEO Michelle Brett. “In an ideal world, more manufacturers would take interest in this space in order to scale up and improve service.” The greater the consumer demand, the faster the movement can go mainstream.

Below, an assortment of products that are stepping (with large and small strides) into the sustainable beauty future:

Ganni x Submission Beauty glitter

Ganni’s limited-edition collab with Submission Beauty makes zero-plastic glitter a reality. Available in pink, gold, and silver, the chunky glitter flecks made with cellulose from eucalyptus trees are gentler on skin than old-school sparkles.

Sangre de Fruta Garden of Earthly Delights shampoo & conditioner

Goop-approved and made in small batches from organic botanicals, Sangre de Fruta offers refill pouches for each of its scents (which also come in the form of body wash and hand and body lotion) to make sure that you can reuse the chicly packaged pumps again and again. Essential oil distilled from off-cuts of cedar greens (aka waste from the logging industry) is used in their Garden of Earthly Delights blend. 

La Bouche Rouge La Lumière highlighter stick

The latest launch for the French clean beauty brand after gaining praise for their refillable satin lipsticks and balms, this refillable highlighter offers a silicone-free formula that can be used on its own (in chic paper packaging) or dropped into one of the brand’s signature vegan leather cases. With a mission to avoid microplastics (the brand notes that 83% of the Earth’s water is filled with plastic), even their growth-stimulating mascara is packaged in glass.  

Tarte founder Maureen Kelly sought out cooperatives in the Amazon Rainforest to develop an all-female farming community to repurpose seeds that would normally be discarded and cold-press them into the line’s best selling Maracuja Oil. Packaged in a glass bottle with a bamboo top (and now in a new mini format), the formula can be used for everything from a face serum to a scalp mask and cuticle moisturizer.

Prioritizing bee welfare is part of Gisou’s process for the line’s star ingredients, Mirsalehi honey and propolis. For cruelty-free, sustainable beekeeping, they only harvest the surpluses of honey and propolis from the bees, and over the past year, they’ve added a second bee garden location in the Netherlands to further support the population. Packaged in glass and manufactured at a 100% Carbon Neutral powered by solar energy, all Gisou products come with recycling instructions.

Humanrace Ozone SPF 30 protection set

For Pharrell’s award-winning skincare line, the reef-safe face and body sun protection creams leave no white cast (without the help of chemicals) thanks to moisturizing non-nano mineral formulas that come with refills for bottles made with 51% post-consumer recycled landfill plastic that also utilize a foil-sealing process which prevents the need for over 1,200 single-use plastic caps per hour during production.

Westman Atelier baby blender brush

Makeup artist Gucci Westman sought out “the most prestigious brushmaker in the world” for her entire collection that’s built to last. Handmade in Kumano, Japan by artisans using traditional methods, Westman Atelier’s brushes are crafted with cruelty-free nylon bristles and sustainably sourced birch wood.  

Uni uses a signature closed-loop system, meaning each kit includes a dispenser (keep it) and a 100% recycled aluminum refill (return it with a prepaid label or recycle it directly in your everyday bin). The line’s clean, vegan, carbon-neutral products are made in Australia with exclusively reef-safe ingredients. In their first year of business, Uni saved over 50,000 plastic bottles from being produced.

Costa Brazil Creme Paro O Corpo body cream

For Costa Brazil’s new body cream, ingredients sustainably sourced from local farmers in the Amazonian Rainforest are super-concentrated so that even less formula is required to hydrate with the likes of vitamin C-rich camu camu oil and brightening murumuru butter. Plus, its aluminum packaging can be endlessly recycled.

SOSHE Beauty G.L.A.M. mascara

SOSHE Beauty’s water-resistant mascara is housed within a refillable case that’s helped the company reach certified plastic negative status. The clean refills (brush included) can be popped in and out of the case for a hygienic solution to single-use plastics.  

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm overnight recovery balm

Featuring sustainably sourced bioactive ingredients, REN’s line received Sephora’s Planet Positive seal for multiple environmental efforts, including removing 1.5 tons of plastic from ocean sources (with help from Terracycle), saving nearly 2,000 pounds of plastic from landfills, and creating an infinity recycling initiative by regenerating plastic containers that were previously considered unrecyclable. All of the line’s moisturizers are now part of this Infinity Recycling initiative (plus the Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask with AHA, a favorite of makeup artist Sir John). 

Valdé Beauty Soar Collection lip balm

Designed to be collected, reused, and refilled forever, Valdé’s winged packaging and magnifying mirror inset avoid single-use plastic in favor of luxe metal “Armor” that universally fits its lip products. The bespoke balm’s color-adaptive pigments enriched with shea butter and jojoba oil create a sheer shade based on your body chemistry, while shades (like this refill set featuring the line’s bestsellers) can be swapped in and out as the mood strikes.   

A plant-based, nontoxic, aluminum-free formula is shipped in no-box packaging, which means 100% biodegradable and reusable, food-safe waterproof pouches printed with soy ink. The actual tube is made from 70% post-consumer plastic that’s fully recyclable, and a new Upcycle Program makes it possible to return tubes to be power washed and reused.  The brand also contributes to nonprofits that keep plastics out of the ocean and plant trees (reportedly 1,000 a week). 

Sana Jardin Paris’s oft-sold-out scents like Sandalwood Temple are part of a mission to empower women within their supply chain to upcycle flower waste for individual financial gain. Through the brand’s  Beyond Sustainability™circular business model, female harvesters from the rural flower-growing region in Morocco are able to repurpose botanical waste from perfume production into their own products (like candles and orange blossom water) and keep 100% of the profits. 

Chanel N°1 de Chanel Revitalizing Cream

For Chanel’s eco-responsible approach to beauty, the French house’s N°1 De Chanel Revitalizing Cream is made from 95% natural ingredients. New bio-based packaging is clearly marked for each component, like a refillable container made of glass and a cap that includes biocomposite from Camellia husks and wood by-products.

Augustinus Bader Eye Cream Refill

Housed in a 100% recyclable tube, Augustinus Bader’s eye cream, rich in vitamin C and niacinamide, is created with sustainably sourced botanicals and bio-engineered actives. Even the recyclable box is made from renewable plant fibers. Pop it in its ceramic base, or simply carry it on its own for a truly minimalistic beauty approach.

An eco-forward option thanks to lighter packaging and shipping footprint, waterless shampoo ingredients work just as well when activated in the shower. Viori (of TikTok rice water fame) keeps a running tally of the (nearly 3 million) plastic bottles they’ve kept from the ocean, as well as the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water saved. Five percent of the proceeds are donated to initiatives that support the Red Yao tribe’s community in the Huanglo mountains of China.

Tata Harper Water-Lock Moisturizer Refill Pod

Launched as their first refillable product, Tata Harper Skincare’s Water-Lock Moisturizer features airtight packaging and a 100% recyclable refill pod. Now, their signature green glass packaging only needs to be shipped to you once.

Circumference Daily Regenerative Gel Cleanser

The main bioactive ingredient in this cleanser, olive leaf extract, is a byproduct (meaning otherwise unusable) from a family-run California farm’s olive harvest. Circumference utilizes the olive leaves that would have otherwise been biowaste to carefully (and with a chemical-free method) extract potent actives, then returns the mulch to the farm to be used as compost for a circular production system.

Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil

Le Prunier’s best-selling beauty oil can be used as a multipurpose moisturizer, though the entire recipe relies on a single ingredient. Formulated using upcycled plums, the fruit is sourced from a fourth-generation family farm.

Korres Santorini Grape Velvet Skin Drink

In 2022, Korres opened its in-store recycle lab in New York City, though the brand already uses 90% recyclable packaging and picked up over 25,000 pieces of plastic in less than a year at their Athens-based recycle lab. They also support over 1,000 Greek farming families by purchasing 100% of their plant materials from Greek farmers before extracting actives (often from already-discarded vineyard grapes) at a zero-waste lab, then returning any unused plant matter to the soil as fertilizer. 

Salwa Petersen Chébé Du Tchad Hair Cream

Salwa Peterson shares that 100% of the electricity used to produce her products is green, 100% of the water is “cleaned and returned to nature,” 100% of vegetable trash is composted, 100% of packaging is recyclable, and 100% of paper is FSC certified. The women who respectfully harvest the organic Chébé seeds in the line’s hair cream are paid three times the local salary, and 2% of proceeds go to African Parks Network, which manages 20 National Parks across the continent for a partnership that’s helped them, technically, reach carbon-negative status.

La Perla Refillable Firming Body Lotion Serum

Made from clean ingredients with sustainability in mind, La Perla’s new probiotic body lotion serum pump can be swapped out of its sculpted base.

Rose Hermès Silky Blush Powder Refill

A marriage of high fashion and forward-looking logic, Hermès’s blush refill comes with a tiny key that can be inserted to pop out the powder pan and replace it with a new one. Perfect for the consumer who isn’t ready to forgo design for a category as aesthetically focused as beauty.

Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer

Glow Recipe has built a reputation for adorable packaging, so it makes sense that the brand launched refills so that fans never have to throw them away. The Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid moisturizer’s clean formula also received reviews from 100% of consumer study subjects that it kept skin dewy and hydrated all day.

St. Rose Vigilante Eau de Parfum

For its 97% naturally derived scents, St. Rose also upcycles ingredients. Petals that create rose concentrate (a fragrance staple) are typically discarded—instead, St. Rose captures its “smokier” rose essence by saving them and distilling the petals a second time, while sawdust from a Moroccan furniture business using wood from the Atlas mountains is saved and turned into cedarwood atlas notes. Both are present in their Vigilante eau de parfum. With its recycle program, empty bottles can be returned for customer credit on a next purchase.

Saalt shares that the average person using disposable products uses approximately 16,900 tampons in their lifetime, when a single menstrual cup can last up to ten years. After teaming up with rePurpose Global, they’re slated to be the first period care brand to certify as Plastic Negative (a step beyond neutral) by pledging to remove twice as much waste from the environment as is generated in their supply chain by funding the cleanup of low-value plastic waste. Plus, those funds support recycling programs for impoverished communities affected by plastic waste and provide higher-paying jobs for waste workers.

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2023’s Best Circular, Refillable, and Sustainable Beauty Products | Vogue

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