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Beauty For The World: Energy and Water Conservation

by Emily Barth Isler

Brands that Give Back to the Environment

We have all heard about the $532 billion that the beauty industry wastes on water, while water shortages are expected to seriously impact two billion people by 2025. According to the FDA, one-third of all plastic waste is generated by the beauty industry, 129 billion units of plastic waste per year.

Every year, we pour eight million tons of plastic into the sea, where it is exposed to the elements and broken down into microplastics, which are now found in every organism sampled (including the smallest plankton). On land, deforestation results in the loss of one to two acres of rainforest every minute. Then there are the hundreds of toxins women are exposed to daily in their beauty and personal care products, and the 11—or 14, depending on who you ask—ingredients banned in the U.S. versus thousands banned in the European Union. 

Beauty is supposed to be fun and glamorous. But it can also change the world, and not always for the better. Meet these exceptional beauty brands, whose founders have implemented initiatives to conserve energy and water, create sustainable packaging, make a positive human impact and fight deforestation. They are leading us in a more sustainable direction, just as we need it the most.


Annie Tevelin, Skin Owl

We are always working toward being the best brand we can both from formulation to environmental impact. In the coming months we are rolling out our new packaging design that will no longer house boxes or extra packing material. Our glass bottles, droppers and labels will remain eco-friendly and recyclable with a fresh, clean look.

—Annie Tevelin, founder, SkinOwl

SkinOwl has always made efforts to lessen the brand’s environmental footprint, most recently by working in a natural-light assembly line with no overhead or fluorescent lighting, and implementing energy-free production. This means that its sumptuous oils and soaps are made by actual humans using measuring cups, instead of machines that use extra energy. Like many of its cohorts, all of SkinOwl’s packaging is recyclable, from glass bottles to the biodegradable peanuts made of corn that are used as packing materials. Not only does hand labeling, hand bottling and hand shipping everything in-house ensure incredible quality control, but it allows the SkinOwl team to work efficiently without a large consumption of energy.

Krysia Boinis, Vapour Beauty

Human and planetary health are essential to Vapour. Each of our initiatives puts our values into action. We’re excited to empower our customers through new programs like Empties Recycling that feels good to everyone and benefits the planet. 

—Krysia Boinis, cofounder, Vapour Beauty

Vapour Beauty is one of the original pioneers of what we now recognize as the Green Beauty Movement. From its start in Taos, New Mexico, over a decade ago, Vapour’s take on clean color cosmetics has been nothing short of trendsetting. Starting with acknowledging water as a limited resource and creating products that are 97 percent water-free, Vapour uses 50 percent renewable energy at its headquarters, manufacturing, warehouse and research facilities in Taos. This includes extensive use of skylights for natural lighting throughout the day. The company is working on increasing that percentage every year for the next three years, to reach its goal of becoming 100 percent daylight solar by 2022.


Brianne West, Ethique

The vast majority of our products are completely water free, so they are highly concentrated and high value, yet work just as well as your favorite liquid product. To compare, your typical shampoo is up to 70 percent water, a conditioner 90 to 95 percent and a moisturizer 65 percent.  What sense does this make when you use these products in your bathroom—a room filled with water? 

—Brianne West, founder, Ethique

Ethique (pronounced Eh-tique) is the French word for “ethical” and is the first beauty brand in the world to develop an entirely solid product range. Ethique’s dedication to sustainable beauty practices has prevented the manufacture and disposal of more than 6 million plastic containers worldwide. The concentrated face, hair and body products last two to five times longer than their traditional bottled counterpartseven the sleeves they arrive in are 100 percent compostable, meaning zero consumer waste. 

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