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Beauty For The World: Packaging and Human Impact

by Emily Barth Isler

Brands that Give Back

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. 


Kirsten Kjaer, Kjaer Weis

When we founded the company 10 years ago, our goal was to merge the worlds of luxury and sustainability without compromise. The primary packaging of our silver compact is meant to be a one-time purchase that you keep refilling when needed, allowing for a super luxurious product that is still sustainable. 

—Kirsten Kjaer Weis, founder, Kjaer Weis 

Kjaer Weis’ refillable silver compacts are synonymous with chic style, and the refills come in recyclable paper cartons. Even the red boxes that the compacts come in are so beautiful that people tend to keep them as jewelry boxes or memento storage. And then, there is what’s on the inside; Kjaer Weis is also a pioneer in making nontoxic, richly pigmented color cosmetics that are seriously effective, long-wearing and loved by makeup artists and celebrities alike. Its body oil and skincare are also cult favorites, and the brand continues to come out with sustainable storage solutions for its luxurious products, like the Palette that holds six of the brand’s makeup items for travel or easy use at home, and the Beauty Clutch, a vegan leather carrying case for brushes and pencils. 

Yael Alkalay, Red Flower

It has been a dream to offer refills and after much consideration and study we determined that offering the Flowers Hold Life Hair and Body Collection in bulk for home refill would have the greatest impact on reducing waste and single-use plastic. I am thrilled to report that we are truly filling a need and offering our followers the opportunity to make a positive impact with every choice.  

—Yael Alkalay, founder, Red Flower

Red Flower has long been a favorite of customers who discover the adorable shop in New York City’s Soho, online or while visiting its many hotel and spa partners. Recently, in an effort to be more sustainable, the brand shifted from a 1 gallon program to a larger 1.3 gallon program for its spa, wellness and hospitality partners to use in treatment, locker room and bulk refillable hotel amenities. In addition, it decided to extend the opportunity to purchase in bulk to customers who buy Red Flower for use in their homes. The program allows one to buy a 1.3 gallon item and also get two 10-ounce refillable bottles to use with it. Each 1.3 gallon refills the newly designed 10-ounce bottle 17 times! The two 10-ounce bottles and pumps are designed to last for the full usage of the 1.3 gallons of hand soap, body wash, body lotion or hair care. That means at least 10 fewer single-use plastic bottles in use per purchase, and it also allows Red Flower to offer a lot more clean and effective ingredients for less money, making it available to more people.

Erika Rodriguez, Axiology

When I was gearing up to launch Axiology, I moved to Bali, Indonesia, for some peace and clarity. I met a beautiful cooperative of women who had been hand-recycling paper using traditional methods for 25 years. They needed a solution to the massive trash problem on the island. So, they started collecting used paper from schools, hospitals and offices that would otherwise be burned or dumped in the ocean. I knew Axiology had to work with them. All of our packaging boxes are hand-recycled, hand-folded, and hand-stamped. We love knowing that our boxes are purposeful—both for the environment and economically for women.” 

—Ericka Rodriguez, founder of Axiology

These luscious and fun lipsticks are as clean as can be—no synthetic colors, no fillers—and the brand is sustainable from the outside in. This past February, it announced that the lipstick tubes are also made from post-consumer recycled plastics. The Axiology team is also committed to educating consumers about other ingredients and practices that potentially impact the earth and the living beings on it. From palm oil-harvesting practices that endanger the Bornean orangutan’s population, to the dangers of squalene to sharks, Axiology is committed to being “100 percent evil-free.”


Katharine L'Heureux, Kahina Giving Beauty

Our desire to help the women of Morocco who harvest and extract our main ingredients was one of our primary motivations to create Kahina. I couldn’t justify introducing a new luxury skincare range without addressing the inequality inherent in so many of our commodities-based consumer products and to try to offset the carbon impact of creating and selling these products. On a deeper level, I believe that self-care is about more than taking care of ourselves through skincare, diet and exercise. It should incorporate compassion and connectivity through moments that enhance and expand our experience. 

—Katharine L'Heureux, founder, Kahina Giving Beauty 


Kahina Giving Beauty presents beauty as an act, not just something you are or have. It’s what you do, how you care for other people, and for yourself. Since its inception, Kahina has given much energy into improving the lives of the indigenous Berber women who harvest their hero ingredients, prickly pear seed oil and argan oil, and to their communities, through education, environmental initiatives and direct support. “Our close partnership has also allowed us to obtain the highest quality oils by ensuring best practices in harvesting and extraction of our single origin raw materials, while helping to ensure that the region is protected, along with its indigenous customs and traditional plant knowledge,” L’Heureux says.

Susanne Norwitz, Maya Chia

It's always such a happy day when we receive a handwritten note from a child we've helped—whether that's by sponsoring their food, providing medical assistance or by funding a scholarship.  It makes us feel even better about the work we do every day, and certainly helps to keep things in perspective.        

—Susanne Norwitz, founder of Maya Chia

Chic, glamorous indie brand Maya Chia is the corporate sponsor of Adopt-a-Village, a grassroots organization in Guatemala that gives back to the Mayan people by building schools, teaching Spanish to enable participation in the workforce and providing the Mayan people with the knowledge and skills to practice organic and sustainable farming practices. The company chose this organization in an effort to give back to the very part of the world from which its hero ingredient, Chia, stems. “Chia has been a part of the Mayan culture for thousands of years,” Norwitz says. “In fact, the word ‘chia’ means strength in the Mayan language. Just as we knew Chia seed oil would be a mainstay of our formulations, we knew giving back to the Mayas would be a key part of our brand.” 

Michelle Ranavat, RANAVAT

Giving back is core to RANAVAT and is expressed through our "Claim Your Crown" platform, where we share stories of empowerment in the community and also give back to Desai Foundation, a nonprofit focused on cultivating dignity through education and vocational training in rural India through pledging 2 percent of proceeds and an annual angel donation. RANAVAT has always packaged in recyclable glass bottles and now aluminum tubes to enhance the efficacy of the treatments, but also because of its recyclability and reduced footprint. To me, luxury isn’t just about the quality of the product and its efficacy, it is expressed in every aspect of the brand and that includes sustainability and philanthropy. 

—Michelle Ranavat, founder and CEO, RANAVAT

Inspired by the beauty traditions developed for India’s lavish royal families, founder Michelle Ranavat tapped into her Indian heritage, Ayurveda and the Slow Beauty movement to create her line of powder masques, organic tonics inspired by her family’s recipes, potent serums for face or for hair and body, and, most recently, a luxe, cream cleanser. Ranavat learned the importance of sourcing the best ingredients by watching her dad build his pharmaceutical raw materials company 35 years ago from nothing. She focuses on creating products that help people find beautiful moments of ritual in everyday life, and in making sure her products are sustainable from start to finish.

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