SENSE AND SUSTAINABILITY
All across the beauty industry, the push towards being more sustainable is gaining steam, from the rise of slow beauty to waterless and water-saving products.
Say goodbye to the beauty shelfie – those photos of bathroom shelves or vanity tables crowded with cosmetics products – as consumers move towards simpler skincare routines.
A part of the wider cultural shift that has seen people adopt slower, more considered lifestyles, and being more conscious of what they buy, slow beauty is about an uncomplicated beauty routine that uses only the essential products skin needs – and being patient enough to give those products time to work.
How does this tie in with sustainability? The idea here is that when you use fewer but better products, you cut down on unnecessary consumption and wastage. There’s no need to keep buying new-fangled products that promise the same effect when one or two wellmade ones with proven formulas will do.
Michael Nolte, creative director of Beautystreams, an online insights platform for the global beauty industry, says the slow beauty trend had already emerged before the Covid-19 pandemic, but was accelerated in 2020 and 2021 by the crisis.
“Slow beauty and mindful consumption focus on value and utility, and therefore will resonate with consumers who have to watch their budget. They’ll favour quality over quantity,” he says.
“During lockdown, many consumers realised that wellbeing and health are key to a balanced lifestyle. The goal is to have simple routines, comfortable textures and a healthy, rested look.
“And third, there’s conscious consumption. The crisis underscored the certainty that we are able to act if we want to, and that small efforts combined can make a big difference. Therefore, multi-purpose products are on the rise as they allow for self-indulgence without feeling wasteful,” he explains.
Although multitaskers are nothing new, brands do seem to be coming up with more products that roll numerous benefits into one package. Take Estee Lauder’s signature product, the Advanced Night Repair Synchronized MultiRecovery Complex Serum, for instance. Upgraded last year, the new iteration isn’t just a night-time recovery serum, but a protective and moisturising one for day too, packed as it is with antioxidants and hyaluronic acid. It’s even suggested for use as a pre-makeup skin prep.
Su-Mae Chia, founder of local brand Bskin, says: “Our recent launches such as the Eye Care Multi-Tasking Power Serum and Smart Skin Cream, have all been multitasking products, and this is no coincidence. We developed them in response to the trend of customers decluttering their vanities by paring down their skincare routines.
“Some do this because of environmental concerns – less products mean less boxes and packaging waste – and others, to save time and money. Whichever the case, well-designed, multifunctional products let you simplify your skincare routine without compromising on results,” she says.
The rise of the simpler beauty routine
Study the ingredients of a beauty product and, odds are, the first on the list – and hence, making up the biggest proportion – is water. That’s because water is a natural and inexpensive ingredient that serves various functions, such as being a filler, a solvent for ingredients and a lubricant to soften the texture of products.
But with the United Nations estimating that by 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in areas with absolute water scarcity, and twothirds of the world’s population could be living under water-stress conditions, using and managing water in a sustainable way is a hot issue. And beauty companies are taking heed.
Some have created waterless products – that is, products that don’t contain water. Often, these come as powders, balms and concentrated oils. Or they use plant waters and other fluid ingredients in place of H2O, such as home-grown brand Sigi Skin’s Dew Potion face mist and Idyllic Fields moisturiser.
Xenia Wong, Sigi Skin’s founder, says: “Without water, we can pack more concentrated actives in the formula – that’s why Idyllic Fields contains 71.9 per cent skin-calming colloidal oats.”
She adds that water dilutes active ingredients. “So whether you’re looking for brighter, clearer, or firmer skin, water-free products will get you there faster. Plus, you need less to get results, thus reducing wastage.”
There are also more and more hair and body care offerings in solid form, such as Lush’s wide selection of shampoos and conditioners, Patrichory’s hair mask and shampoos, Oasis’ Head To Toe Magic Powder Wash, and Bodhi Bloom’s deodorants.
However, Nolte feels that even though waterless products may address water scarcity in a visible way, what we should really be paying attention to is the water footprint of products – the amount of water used to produce the formulation and packaging.
Accordingly, some companies are cutting down on water consumption through their production methods. Chantecaille, for instance, uses mainly plant stem cells to power its skincare. This reportedly requires 10 to 30 times less water than growing the actual botanicals.
The brand’s founder, Sylvie Chantecaille, says: “Plant stem cells are extremely potent, but require practically no water because they are so small and grown in labs. When we realised how little water and earth it took to obtain such powerful ingredients instead of harvesting a mountain of herbs, we understood that we had something very important at a time when water is becoming a premium.”
There are even products made to reduce water usage. Hair conditioners by Love, Beauty And Planet, for instance, are formulated with fast-rinse technology because their stats indicate that shortening a rinse by just 10 seconds can save 1.2 litres of water. And Holistic Hair’s Herbal Finishing Rinse Concentrate can be used in between hair washes to refresh your mane and reduce shampooing frequency.
Nolte says that for reduced water footprint to work, big mass-market corporations need to take the lead, and they have. “Companies like Unilever, L’Oreal and Procter & Gamble have already pledged to reduce their water footprint in the coming years to varying degrees,” he says.
Switching to waterless and water-saving products