Sustainable skincare brands and sustainable skincare products are everywhere now, touting safer ingredients, more ethical practices, more sustainable packaging, and better formulations. But why consider sustainable skincare brands really? And what should we be looking out for when it comes to choosing the better of them? Come along for more on that and our top picks for everything from natural face wash and makeup remover, to vegan options and more.
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Why consider sustainable skincare brands?
The cosmetics (and personal care products) industry is the least regulated among consumer products. And conventional manufacturers have not taken it upon themselves to err on the side of caution. Quite the contrary.
According to EWG, “since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in more than 73,000 products, that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm”. This includes chemicals like formaldehyde (used in embalming fluid and a known carcinogenic), methylene glycol, mercury, phthalates, parabens, PFAS, and more — all of which are banned by the European Union.
Plus, you’d think that after decades of defending the use of all sorts of stuff on our faces and bodies, conventional beauty brands would’ve figured out how to stop aging by now. Instead what we have observed over time is that while many of the undesirable chemicals and contaminants found in conventional beauty and personal care products may not pose a high risk to our health, being exposed to some of these chemicals and contaminants is linked to severe health issues like cancer.
We don’t think it wise to keep using these products on faces, skin, and bodies.
That’s why we prefer sustainable skincare brands that make their stuff without any harmful or potentially harmful ingredients just for starters. And if you are concerned about costs, like several of the brands featured here, there are affordable skincare options worth considering too.
Let’s have a look at what to account for in the search for more sustainable skincare brands.
Things to look for while shopping sustainable skincare brands
1. Is it made locally?
Where possible, we look to buy from brands that are nearest us to reduce our carbon footprint. If you are based in Canada like me, or in the U.S, consider these fabulous Canadian green beauty brands.
2. Is it made of natural ingredients?
Here we look to avoid any potentially harmful ingredients commonly found in skincare products, with the help of our handy list of 18 ingredients to avoid in skincare as well as reputable references from the likes of EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. We’re not looking for the most sustainable skincare brands but for brands that are making an effort to offer better options.
3. Is it certified organic?
Certified organic ingredients are good for the planet and good for us. They help us to stay away from products made with ingredients that are grown using unsustainable production methods. Especially conventional agricultural practices which rely on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Both have adverse effects on environmental health and human health.
4. Is it vegan?
For the vegans among us, we also look out for products that contain any ingredients derived from animals or insects such as beeswax, honey, milk, or cochineal bugs (also referred to as carmine, or carbonic acid). A lot of green beauty brands are vegan now so don’t you fret and consider some vegan shampoo bars if you need them!
5. Is it cruelty free?
Products tested on animals are definitely a major no-no and it’s now very easy to avoid them. The cruelty-free certification program by Leaping Bunny is a great way of checking for this.
6. Is it Palm oil free?
Palm-oil is a no-go too. It is pervasively linked to deforestation, threatens wildlife, and causes a number of other severe social and environmental issues. We try to avoid it wherever possible.
7. Are ingredients sustainably sourced?
Similarly, we want to know where all of the ingredients in the products come from and how they are produced. Sustainable production methods and ethical working conditions throughout the supply chain is really the only thing to do. Brands that are transparent and share information on sourcing are definitely at the top of our list.
8. Does this company use eco-packaging?
Sustainable packaging is crucial, particularly in the beauty industry which generates an estimated 120 billion units of packaging per year. From body wash to sunscreen, everything comes in plastic and that’s the case for the millions of us, who rely on several plastic products that must be replenished several times per year. This is undoubtedly contributing to the gyres of plastic in our oceans and our generally monstrous plastic problem.
Brands that take accountability for their packaging by offering return programs, using more sustainable materials, minimizing packaging, or offering refill programs are best. There are all sorts of zero waste products available now too, like zero waste lip balm, zero waste deodorant, and eco-friendly loofah that don’t need to go to the landfill when you are finished with them!
Our Top Picks for sustainable skincare brands
Elva’s All Naturals is one of our favorites here at The Eco Hub. They are an approved brand with CertClean, which is North America’s leading certification for safer beauty and personal care products. But that’s just a start.
They carry effective and innovative formulations that are made without any toxic synthetic chemicals or preservatives commonly found in conventional products.
You can rest assured that none of their products contain any parabens, phthalates, palm oil, or artificial fragrances. They also omit SLS, sulfate, and gluten.
Instead, Elva’s lovely selection is made from a combination of natural, certified organic, fair trade, and biodynamically farmed ingredients. As well as plant extracts and essential oils. Many of their products are vegan but some do contain certified organic raw honey, so be sure to look out for that where it is a concern.
If you are looking for a full sustainable skincare routine, check out Elva’s GLOW. Botanical Skincare System which features a waterproof eye makeup remover, facial oil + lash serum, a foaming face wash, a toner, a facial oil, and a brightening scrub putty featuring brown sugar, organic honey, and papaya enzymes. Plus a 12-pack of washable bamboo makeup pads!
Of course, you can shop all products on their own, along with bath and body care. Both their Brightening Facial Toner and Facial Oil (part of their GLOW. collection) were internationally recognized in the 2022 Clean Beauty Awards! And looking at the reviews it's obvious why!
Their products are simply high quality, effective, and feel amazing on the skin. Plus everything is made with love, in small batches to ensure freshness and to reduce waste.
For packaging, Elva’s chooses the most sustainable options they can find, which are partially curbside recyclable and/or reusable. Based in Canada and one of the most eco-friendly skincare brands, definitely be sure to check out Elva’s! Use code ECOHUB15 for 15% off.
Blissoma is a holistic, botanical skincare brand founded by Julie Longyear, a herbal chemist and green beauty activist who specializes in compassionate care for sensitive skin, acne, rosacea, and other skin concerns. A holistic approach means that the brand cares about impact to the whole person and the whole planet. Blissoma products are packed with organic plant nutrition that deeply supports and balances the skin. And they are all made without irritating synthetic ingredients that can cause skin flares for sensitive people. Months of in-depth research goes into each new recipe to ensure it really solves a specific problem.
The line offers a complete range of cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, oils and more which are used by over 200 estheticians in professional skincare treatments. One of their best-selling and most highly rated products is Free, a Rejuvenating Herbal Gel Cleanser + Makeup Remover. It is designed for ultra-sensitive skin and is suitable for all skin types and ages. It has won 2 awards and customers love and swear by it because it is gentle, effective, and does not dry out the skin. Some customers even reported seeing reduced redness and softer, more supple skin!
To source their ingredients, Blissoma is betting on regenerative agriculture, favoring ingredients sourced from farms that are not only organic but also grown using more sustainable regenerative practices. About 30% of their herbs are sourced farm-direct from regenerative, organic farms like La Colina Linda in Illinois and Oshala Farm in Oregon. As they work to source more and more ingredients from regenerative farms, ingredients may no longer carry organic certifications but would still be organically farmed.
All Blissoma products are vegan and Certified Cruelty Free by the Leaping Bunny program. Some of their products do contain palm oil, but they try to avoid it wherever possible and reformulated their bar soaps a few years ago using cocoa butter rather than palm oil.
In terms of manufacturing, the Blissoma herbal production studio receives 80% of its electrical power from a rooftop solar array. It is lit using energy-conserving LED lights which use a fraction of the power of fluorescents. Herb waste from their manufacturing is also composted locally, and in 2022 they composted over 250 lbs of used herbs.
For packaging, recyclable aluminum and glass are made from recycled materials. Boxes are printed on Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified sustainable paperboard and manufactured in a wind-powered facility. They also make sure to reuse boxes and packaging material where possible and to recycle paper, cardboard, plastics, and metals used at their facility.
Founder Megan Douglas, a multi-hyphenate turned naturopath, entrepreneur, and heir to generations of medical herbalist expertise, joined forces with her sister-in-law Lisette, to create The Organic Skin Co. with the purpose of offering effective skincare designed to help our skin and to give back to the earth.
Find moisturizers, cleansers, toners, exfoliants + masks, oils, balms, serums, and more. Everything here can either be recycled or returned to the soil after use.
One of the customer favorites is The Good Oil, a honeysuckle and turmeric face oil. It is designed to nurture and rejuvenate skin, and can also be used to prep skin for makeup. Customers love it because it smells amazing and feels very good on the skin.
To make their products, the brand partners with organic community farms and manufacturers based in India. Their products are also certified by Bio-Gro, a reputable Certification Agency based in New Zealand, where the brand was established. This certification ensures that their supply chains and ingredients are ethically sourced, free of GMOs, and free from potentially harmful synthetic chemicals, as well as herbicides and animal by-products. The brand is also certified vegan.
In partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects, they offer a "One Product, One Tree" initiative. For packaging, biodegradable eco-pulp, aluminum tubes made from recycled aluminum, along with recyclable and reusable containers.
Whamisa is owned by Korea’s leading clean beauty manufacturer. Together they tout the first Korean-certified organic facility, and unique organic fermentation techniques to create their antioxidant-rich formulations. Find toners, serums, cleansers, lotions, facial oils, and more.
One of their favorites is the Organic Flowers Toner Deep Rich, loved for its delicate yet effective formulation, that doesn’t dry out the skin and carries a lovely scent. The Whamisa Fresh Inner Skin Moisture Bouncy Serum is also well-liked. It is part of the cactus-derived mucilage line and is revered for its lightweight, smoothing feels that leave skin soft and hydrated.
They also ensure that all of the ingredients used to make their formulations are made from mindfully sourced, plant-derived ingredients, as well as natural preservatives. The latter is inspired by the traditional Korean food preservation technique of wrapping freshly cooked rice cakes with leaves.
With that, the brand also avoids a laundry list of ingredients including inputs derived from animals, artificial dyes, coal tar, parabens, PFAS, phthalates, PEG, silicones, synthetic fragrances, and triclosan, to name a few.
In terms of packaging, you will find recyclable glass bottles and jars, recyclable plastic bottles, biodegradable tubes and caps that will naturally decompose in 6 years, as well as soy-based inks and sugarcane paper for boxes and printing. Some of their products do contain pumps that are difficult to recycle but can be reused.
The brand also carries certifications from EWG, BDIH (the oldest and most stringent European organic certification system created in Germany), and ISO 9001.
Founded by Allison Callaway, Activist Skincare is an artisanal line of skincare products, lovingly handcrafted in small batches in Southern California. Born from a personal journey toward self-care, holistic wellness, and a love for the planet, Activist Skincare’s collection is vegan & cruelty-free and made from carefully selected ingredients that are non-toxic and non-irritating to both skin and the planet.
They also make sure to omit any ingredients that might be contaminated with hormone disruptors like phthalates, parabens, and dioxins. Find cleansers, toners, serums, oils, sunscreen, travel kits, sets, and more! New customers can try all seven of their refillable products with the Trial & Travel Kit!
Their most highly reviewed cleanser is the Sea to Skin Cleansing Gel. It is designed to gently remove makeup and impurities and is praised for being effective without drying out the skin. It is also said to smell great.
In terms of sourcing, Activist Skincare ensures that all of its ingredients are ethically sourced and of high quality. Their organic floral waters are sourced from small regenerative growers located in the Pacific Northwest, which is great since their studio lab is located in the Los Angeles area.
For packaging, all Activist Skincare products are available in glass containers and refill pouches. The refill pouches are better than plastic bottles, especially when recycled. If you do opt for the pouches, look for recycling facilities that will accept them when you are finished.
For shipping, low-impact packing materials like corrugated cardboard and shredded paper are made with post-consumer waste and can be recycled and/or composted. The refill pouches are shipped in a flat paper envelope for reduced emissions.
A proud member of 1% For the Planet, Activist Skincare has also donated as much as 5% of its annual revenue over the past few years to organizations such as Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Rainforest Trust, Outdoor Afro, Changing Tides Foundation, Communities for a Better Environment, Cultural Survival, and more. Use code THEECOHUB for 15% off.
Their name means active ingredients + advocating for change = Activist Skincare.
In a bid to help consumers steer clear of conventional brands filled with unwanted chemicals, synthetic ingredients, and contaminants, Lily Farm Fresh Skincare focuses on helping us explore organic skin care products by offering an entire line of products made on their very own USDA Certified Organic farm.
That’s right, they grow some of the sustainable skincare ingredients used in their products, at their own farm, where founder, Lily Morgan and her team take charge of growing these ingredients from start to finish. No parabens, phthalates, sulfates, or GMOs here either. These products are also Vegan and made in the USA.
Their collections feature products geared toward different skin types such as acne-prone skin, dry skin, and sensitive skin – including face washes, toners, lotions, and more, formulated on-site at their USDA Certified Organic laboratory.
One of their most highly rated products is the Balancing Oil-Free Conditioning Serum. It is designed to condition and firm skin and offers moisture without a greasy feel.
As they work to formulate the best natural skin care products possible, they also want to help the planet. All of their full-sized products come in recycled glass bottles which are great for recycling but also for reusing.
7. Earth Harbor
Earth Harbor is a small family business founded by Ali Perry-Hatch, a certified toxicologist, herbalist, and self-proclaimed beach wanderer. All of their products are made from carefully selected nontoxic, natural ingredients, favoring fair trade, organic, non-GMO, or wildcrafted sources — with no parabens, phthalates, or sulfates.
Vegan and Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, you will find serums, exfoliants, moisturizers, facial soap, cleansing oil, and more. One of their most highly rated products is the Celestine Hydra-Plumping Peptide Serum loved for its refreshing and rejuvenating effects.
Everything is handmade in small batches in the USA — either at their studio in Saint Simons Island or their solar-powered factory located in Utah.
For packaging, the brand uses glass, with minimal plastic accessories that can be reused, as well as FSC-certified paperboard boxes.
ABLOOM is 100% vegan and offers what it calls slow skin care, using the powerful therapeutic properties of plants, flowers, seeds, oils, and algae. Their products are made with extracts from high-quality, organic, raw, and vegan ingredients, paired with Aloe Vera as a base rather than mineral or water-based solutions.
They also ensure that no fillers, artificial additives, and synthetic perfumes are included in their products. Based in Zwolle, in the Netherlands, they also source ingredients from local farmers and work to minimize their carbon footprint by choosing environmentally-friendly materials and packaging. Find aftershave, cleaners, moisturizers + oil, masks, serums, and more.
One of their best-selling products is the Organic Day Cream which is made to restore skin from free radical exposure. It is well-liked for its hydrating and soothing properties, as well as its scent. A certified cruelty-free brand, you will find products with a “zero plastic inside” label for products containing no plastics.
A final word on sustainable skincare brands
Finding the right skincare brands can be a struggle, and adding the sustainability component to things doesn’t help, but we think these sustainable skincare brands are worth a try. Their products are made with both our well-being in mind, and that of our planet too, and that’s something we can always stand behind.
If you’ve ever considered creating a zero waste bathroom altogether we can help with that too and don’t hesitate to drop by the brand directory for everything from green beauty brands to home goods and more sustainable living essentials.