Your body beautiful routine laid bare, without the plastic packaging.
Why package-free solid beauty products are the next big thing
As anyone who’s attempted Plastic Free July knows, avoiding single-use plastic is tricky. It’s also confronting when you count the containers in your bathroom – shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, body lotion, not to mention tubes of hand cream, lip balm and cosmetics.
Globally, around one million plastic bottles are purchased per minute. Yet alarmingly, only around 12 per cent of plastic is recycled around the world, with most of it heading to landfill or our oceans. The beauty industry is one of the worst offenders.
The packaging crisis is reaching a tipping point. It’s a signal for the beauty industry, and consumers, to grow up and move on to solids, which are set to be the next big disruptor. They may well leave conventional products sitting on the rank as ‘solid’ alternatives take off just like Uber did.
Cleaning up our act
Beauty giant L’Oréal has pledged that by 2020, 100 per cent of its products will have improved their environmental or social profile. This includes improving the environmental profile of its packaging.
In the meantime, the humble bar of soap is having a comeback after being shunned for the past couple of decades in favour of bottled liquid formulas that are not quite as messy. Modern life loves convenience but it’s worth remembering before soap went soft, it was hard. A work colleague in her 60s proudly told me recently that during her younger intrepid traveller days she carried a bar of Sunlight soap which she used to clean her face, body, hair and clothes. And with companies like Ethique now producing solid shampoo, we have gone full circle.
Founded in 2012 by Cantabrian scientist Brianne West, Ethique has taken the lead by formulating a range of solid beauty products that don’t require water, thus eliminating the need for a vessel. West’s vision is a plastic-free planet. To date, Ethique has eliminated more than 500,000 plastic bottles and in
2016 West was named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers by US Foreign Policy.
“It’s one thing for consumers to make a choice about purchasing ethically and sustainably but I believe that businesses should be responsible for the entire lifecycle of their product – including the packaging,” says West. “You can’t continue to profit off a product that has a detrimental effect on the planet or the people who make it. We have to stop transferring responsibility for saving our environment to consumers. Businesses need to lead the way.”
Each solid bar of shampoo, conditioner or other product can save about a litre of water as well as the plastic bottle, and can last three times longer than the conventional product. “Rival beauty products in the shampoo and conditioner category can contain as much as 90 per cent ‘aqua’ so naturally they need a container to hold all that excessive liquid,” says West.
Also leading the way is fresh handmade cosmetic company LUSH, best known for its bath bombs infused with essential oils. The company also sells solid massage bars, perfumes, soap, reusable bubble bars and shampoos and its recent limited edition SOS shampoo bar raised $163,314 for conservation charity Sumatran Orangutan Society.
Saving orangutans and reducing plastic waste is important, but do solid products perform as well? Especially if you have long, curly frizz-bomb hair?
Ethique have it covered with Guardian, a solid conditioner that contains lots of cocoa butter, coconut oil, vitamin B5 and zesty lime oil to tame frizz and hydrate dry hair. Ethique’s Wonderbar is for normal to oily hair and doubles as a shaving bar.
Small-batch producer Angela Brockwell of Frabella handcrafts her soaps using the cold-process method to preserve the ingredients. Each bar contains at least 30 per cent pure raw goat’s milk, fresh from Brockwell’s Takapu Valley farm near Wellington, combined with olive oil, Samoan coconut oil and sunflower oil.
“One of the benefits of cold-pressed techniques is that the soap melts onto the skin, almost like a lotion, so you can use it to shave with, or as a shampoo or face wash,” says Brockwell.
Ecobeings’ triple milled Eco-Castile Lavender & Rosemary Shampoo bar is moisturising, enriched with argan oil and suitable for most hair types. Ecobeings founder Belinda Robinson has long curly hair that has only been washed with soap for five years.
“Our products are ‘true soaps’ not cleansing bars. It can take up to 10-14 washes to remove all the silicone build-up from synthetic shampoos. Once this is done you will no longer need a conditioner,” says Robinson. “My hair has never been softer. Stick with it and you won’t regret how easy it can be.”
Prior to moving to New Zealand in 2000 Robinson spent 25 years hairdressing and managing salons in London. She was asked to make a soap that would be gentle for someone with skin conditions. “They did not want me to heal them, just give them the ability to shower without their skin stinging,” says Robinson. “This journey led me to rediscover the benefits of soap and the greenwashing around soap-free products. Creating the shampoo bar has taken the longest time ... creating this in a natural product after so many years with synthetics was challenging.”
Robinson is transparent about the ingredients she uses for Ecobeings products, and why. “My first stipulation for any formulation is no palm oil. I visited Borneo in 1994 and since then 80 per cent of the rain forests have been destroyed for palm plantations,” she says. “Secondly I want natural and true ingredients. All our products are vegan. We have removed the Tetrasodium EDTA (an endocrine disrupter) and swapped it for safe alternatives. We only fragrance with essential oils and pure vanilla. All our hair products have organic argan oil in them. Argan is the closest oil to sebum and is great for the hair