Cosmetics and the Environment – Friends or Foes?

Dainius Martuzevicius

PhD Technology

Eco-Visioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist

Cosmetics and the Environment – Friends or Foes?

Cosmetic products – not unlike pharmaceuticals – put the needs of people first. That being said, these products – created to benefit people’s skin, overall physical appearance and health – are also subject to stringent requirements in terms of the quality of ingredients and shelf-life. Mindful of the above considerations, some people have been asking questions like, “Do the expectations and quality requirements associated with cosmetic products come at a price to the environment?” and, “If so, at which point of their life-cycle does the highest impact come about?”. This article will attempt to sketch out, in however limited a fashion, the relationship between cosmetics and sustainability. Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

Generally speaking, all cosmetic products consist of the cosmetic formula itself (whatever that happens to be) and the container and/or packaging that holds it together. The latter may be divided into three distinct categories: primary (bottle or tube), secondary (paper or cardboard box) and tertiary (shipping envelope).

Let’s consider the formula first.

Cosmetic formulas consist of multiple ingredients (make sure to read the labels!). Some are plant-derived, others – synthetic. In addition, all formulas require a certain amount of natural resources (e.g., water and energy) to be grown or derived artificially. Most of them also need to be shipped more than once – sometimes over great distances – before they reach the final consumer. It’s also worth noting that, upon washing a cosmetic product off the skin, traces of synthetic ingredients often find their way into surface waters, thereby damaging river and ocean ecosystems. All of this is to demonstrate that cosmetic formulas can take a heavy toll on the environment. Take heart, though, for there is some good news, as well! First of all, in most cases only small amounts of cosmetic products are necessary; and second – the environmental impact of natural ingredients is usually lower than that of synthetic ones*. Putting it all together, it would be wise to prioritise more concentrated products that contain mostly natural ingredients.

Now, let’s take a quick look at the packaging.

As you may imagine, packaging is the link where most of the environmental impact of cosmetic products shows up. The requirements that apply to packaging, however, are quite strict, requiring it to ensure adequate protection of the formula against harmful pollution, and a convenient product delivery system, as well as be highly recyclable and (ideally) itself made of recycled materials. Bious Labs took a brave step and designed secondary packaging from recycled paper, which may not be as spick and span as the regular, glossy stuff, but nonetheless serves the purpose just fine. We can’t, unfortunately, say the same for primary packaging – making it from 100% recycled materials simply isn’t viable at this time, mostly due to stringent hygiene requirements and substandard appearance.

Our vision

The ultimate goal of Bious Labs is the production and distribution of cosmetic products that rely exclusively on green biochemistry and fully embody the idea of a circular world economy. Given our firm commitment, we’re always honest with our customers, and therefore not afraid to admit that we’re not there yet (the same, however, can be said for every other product on the market today). With this in mind, our current priorities include the following:

1) Reliance on natural ingredients, with maximum attention paid to sourcing and minimising the need for transportation;

2) Developing highly concentrated formulas that reduce the necessary amount of the product and extend per-unit efficiency;

3) Giving priority to recyclable packaging, and using recycled materials wherever possible.

We promise to keep you updated on the latest in sustainability when it comes to our products.