25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

"Счастья не становится меньше, когда им делишься." Будда ©

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All-natural skincare is a huge chunk of the global beauty market now – but since it’s hard to know who the real heroes are without having a science degree and scrutinising the ingredients, we thought we’d provide some helpful signposting to genuinely sustainable products.

When it comes to choosing skincare and wellbeing products that aren’t just good for us, but are great for the wider world, there’s much to consider. Is the range mass-produced or packaged in unrecyclable plastic? Ingredients: organic or vegan? What’s their provenance and does the manufacturer use an ethical supply chain that hasn’t harmed animals? Is the company’s carbon footprint off the charts due to long-distance distribution, or does the maker offset emissions? There’s also a consideration that if we wouldn’t dream of ingesting certain chemicals, why would we be putting anything toxic on our bodies to be absorbed transdermally. And what does ‘pure’ or ‘natural’ really mean? These terms are as wishy-washy as ‘green’ and ‘kind’ – what we want to look for is trackable statements of positive impact and credible certifications from respected third parties, surely?

It’s rare to find a product that ticks every sustainability box, absolutely, but we can pick make-up or skincare that’s a hero in some way. In a world awash with kills-all-bacteria-good-as-well-as-bad triclosan, and foam-inducing sodium lauryl sulphate, we’re supporting change-makers who are innovating around genuinely biodegradable plastic-alternative packaging, committing to meaningful positive socio-economic impact for a local community through ethical ingredient sourcing, or championing businesses independently owned by ethical entrepreneurs – as well as treating ourselves to a product that is honest, effective and provides value for money when you think of the bigger picture.

  • 1. Cold Cream, £39 for 100ml, The Seated Queen

    Cleanser, facial and overnight mask in one: minimalists can consider this new cool, contemporary cold cream royalty. It’s an all-in-one product that is a jack of all trades and comes with a knotted black cotton headband to get you routine-ready. Created by Wiltshire sisters Josephine and Libby Banks, it has a roll call of organic cold-pressed oils that includes argan and shea butter sourced from women’s cooperatives in Morocco and Ghana. The formulation may be a little heavy for some skin types, but it’s a dream for eczema and dermatitis sufferers.

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  • 2. Ultimate Skincare Collection, £65, Nourish London

    If supporting ethical and British-made is the way to your eco-warrior animal-loving heart, Nourish London is a delicious option. Dr Pauline Hili, who has always had healthy skin front of mind, has created simple, affordable vegan skincare that reconciles technology with ecology. As travellers, we love the Ultimate Skincare Collection – a three-step kit of the brand’s best-selling products that’s perfect for dry or irritated skin, and ideal as a starter-pack gift: the cult Kale 3D Cleanse (100ml), Argan Skin Renew Moisturiser (50ml), anti-ageing Argan Skin Rescue (15ml). A jade facial roller stimulates collagen naturally with no by-products.

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  • 3. Invisible Touch Liquid Foundation, £42 for 30 ml, Kjaer Weis

    High-performance make-up, in beautifully designed, satisfyingly heavy refillables is the sexiest antidote to throwaway high-street beauty products. We’ve come a long way since eco meant hemp and homespun-by-a-hippy vibes. Danish-born Kirsten Kjaer Weis is a make-up artist turned beauty trailblazer who enlisted designer Marc Atlan to style the already-classic silver cases and red lacquer boxes of her extensive cosmetics range. What isn’t heavy though is the new Invisible Touch Liquid Foundation – impossibly light and serum-smooth it offers serious coverage and instant airbrushing in 24 different shades. Certified organic, it calms and hydrates, employing hyaluronic acid to even out skin tone. It’s impossible to tell you have it on, and you only need a few drops. Less is more.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    4. SPF 50 Unscented Sunscreen Spray, £22 for 88ml, Coola

    Swerving coral-killing oxybenzone (and its alter ego benzophenone-3) and octinoxate (aka ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) is the ultimate priority with sun lotions. And ensuring you’re layered in enough SPF. Sun protection is achieved either with a block that reflects the UV rays or an ultraviolet-processing chemical-based filter. The challenge with some of the best-intentioned eco-friendly sun creams is they feel waxy and leave a visible layer. This barely-there-feel mist offers water resistance and broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and smells lovely – but until 2021 its formulation does contain some octinoxate. Until then, you can skip the hairshirt at least knowing that for its antioxidant-rich formula Coola sources plant extracts responsibly and is committed to waste reduction.

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  • 5. A Single Shampoo, £19 for 250 ml, Davines

    The Italian creators declare this gentle olive oil-derived cleanser for all hair types the ‘least-synthetic salon product ever made’. The Bolatti family’s team spent three years refining the biodegradable formulation and there’s something unusually light about it when you’re using it – plus it leaves hair feeling fresh as can be. The bottle is made from polyethylene derived from sugar cane, the cultivation of which absorbs carbon dioxide, partly compensating for the CO2 emitted in further steps of plastic production. As with anything recyclable the onus is on you to get it to the right place to be disposed of and hopefully reincarnated. Davines also supports the Slow Food Foundation, as a reminder of its Northern Italian heritage and a consideration for supply chains.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    6. Phenomenal Organic Tan-infused Cloths, £15 for 8 wipes, Vita Liberata

    Thank you to this Irish-born self-tanning brand for bringing us a pleasant-smelling and natural-looking glow, free from the headache that we’re slapping toxic chemicals on our body’s largest organ. The term the brand has coined is ‘advoganic’ (a portmanteau of ‘advanced organic’– the beauty industry loves a technical-sounding term) as it’s developed its botanicals to perform to an impressive standard. It’s not very eco to use anything disposable but if you must self-tan, who doesn’t love wipes infused with a melon smell, which leave no lingering biscuity scent.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    7. Fortifying Green Bath Potion, £25 for 100 ml, Magic Organic Apothecary

    If luxury denotes special, this spirit-lifting made-in-England line feels anything but ordinary in look, feel and smell. Celebrated by those with super-sensitive skin, this timeless mystical concoction transforms any tub into your own personal spa experience. The brand’s talk of yarrow, which has been hailed for its healing power over the centuries, brings its love of folklore to life. The Latin term for this hero herb, achillea millefolium, refers to the Greek hero Achilles who, legend has it, used it to heal soldiers’ wounds – and now it’s ready to play nurse to you.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    8. Frankincense Nourishing Cream, £30 for 50g, Neal’s Yard Remedies

    For almost four decades this natural skincare brand has supported organic farming, wild harvesting and fair-trade sourcing. We especially love the best-selling extra-rich Frankincense Hydrating Cream with frankincense and myrrh, knowing it comes from a high-street retailer that was the first to be certified carbon-neutral, in 2008. Neal’s Yard has long been flying the flag for the Soil Association’s COSMOS marque, ever eschewing synthetic colours, dyes and fragrances. It feels a lifetime ago that Barack Obama banned microbeads in personal-care products – back in 2015; the UK followed a year later. This brand has never touched such things and was the first health and beauty company to be awarded 100 out of 100 by the Ethical Company Organisation.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    9. Purifying Cleansing Lotion with Dandelion, £55 for 120 ml, Wild Beauty by Rhug Estate

    A living case study for slow beauty and sustainable luxury. In an industry choking in greenwash this organic farm’s new range is a lesson in honourable provenance and transparency. Superstar forager Richard Prideaux personally hand-plucks many of the ingredients that end up in these classy glass bottles and you can smell the authenticity of organic Welsh-grown plants such as bergamot and primrose. As trad and timeless as the Rhug Estates (pronounced Reeg) range looks, it’s forward-thinking – as the Soil Association’s COSMOS seal attests. I love this old-school creamy cleanser, which has you feeling nourished and fresh faced as though from flower-picking hikes in the country air.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    10. Long Lash Vegan Mascara, £25 for 8ml, INIKA Organic

    These vegan, ethical, botanical products from Australia are certified organic, cruelty-free, vegan and halal. INIKA’s chic all-black matt packaging contains clean, mineral-rich products that ensure a thrill as they go on and give a look that lasts. I feel guilty shipping in anything from Down Under but this is genuinely the best smooth-glide, long-lash mascara I’ve tried, and it’s a balm knowing that it’s toxic-chemical-free and won’t run or irritate sensitive eyes.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    11. Nordic Roots Cranberry Micellar Foam, £19 for 150ml, Green People

    This more upmarket line from Green People’s Danish founder, Charlotte Vøhtz, is mindful of the pH balance of your skin. A Scandinavian spirit is always a good start when you’re seeking anything eco, as this new-to-the-market refreshing cleanser with its barely-there light touch demonstrates. Organic plant extracts packed with antioxidants are delivered in an airy foam that is still good at heavy lifting when it comes to make-up removal. It’s COSMOS and EcoCert certified too.

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  • 12. Squalane and Marine Algae Eye Cream, £46 for 15 ml, Biossance

    A beauty-trade trick is to dazzle with pseudo-scientific terms – but let’s salute Biossance’s biotechnology as it’s been developed in the same Berkeley labs where scientists created a mainstream cure for malaria. The anti-aging serum flies off the proverbial shelves, but for delicate skin around the eyes it’s the Squalane + Marine Algae Eye Cream that wows. Its secret weapon is a vegan version of squalene concocted by the Biossance boffins. Squalene is skin-hydrating oil previously plundered from shark livers over centuries, and this sugarcane kind spares marine life. Brands truly making the world greener are those talking their walk and sharing sustainability knowledge – tune into Biossance’s Clean Academy, hosted by FutureEarth co-founder Steph Shep.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    13. Rosemary and Prebiotics Deodorant, £10.50 for 75ml, Green People

    Staying fresh and dry is the aim of the game, preferably without blocking pores. Instead of aluminium chlorohydrate, this roll-on uses prebiotics – which we usually associate with promoting healthy digestion – to fight odour. Here they nurture the healthy natural bacterial flora in our underarms with a herb-infused formulation that contains zinc ricinoleate, an absorbent salt, and antibacterial volcanic mineral salt potassium alum. If you are what you eat, you are also what you spread on your skin.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    14. Eau De Parfum, £82 for 100ml, Clean Reserve

    A breath of fresh air for fragrance and sustainability. The American brand offers an online Fragrance Finder quiz to navigate you to the right notes: Sueded Oud has hints of incense and amber; Warm Cotton is ideal for cosy indoors time. The alcohol base comes from corn and juice; raw ingredients are EcoCert approved. A heavy glass bottle gives gravitas, but is only recyclable if you’re responsible with your waste. Sticklers for keeping footprints low should know it is made in a solar-powered facility. The brand is transparent around its packaging (compostable corn-based cellophane is a winner; the wooden cap is sourced from sustainable Spanish forests) and its fair-trade farming suppliers – sandalwood from Sri Lanka, cardamom from Guatemala, vanilla-like benzoin from South-east Asia.

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  • 15. Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream, £36 for 50 ml, REN

    Ren was ahead of the curve with using reclaimed ocean plastic to make its bottles and now its best-selling moisturiser fights landfill fodder as well as free radicals. As part of this Unilever-owned brand’s commitment to going zero waste, its Infinity Recycling plastic technology ensures recycled packaging made from high-quality transparent plastic that is identical to virgin plastic. Which means a reduction in the need to manufacture new plastic – using petrochemicals – thanks to a material that doesn’t diminish in quality as it’s recycled. And this forward-thinking day cream itself helps stop the clock ticking when it comes to your skin.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    16. Mad About Moisture Home Jar, £35 for 100 drops, Bolt Beauty

    Easy-on-the-eye skincare that comes as quirky single-use capsules in solid see-through plastic jars isn’t an obvious eco-choice — until you realise it’s a lesson in efficiency and efficacy. Each pearlescent teardrop is a tiny serving of serum or moisturiser, so you only use what you need: better for your skin, too. Squeeze to release from these dissolvable seaweed-based pods: white (cleanser), blue (moisturiser), pink (night serum) or purple (day serum). Then order (compostable) bags of refills. The small stackable pots (£2.50) are genius for carry-on, so you only travel with what you need – a mantra for being greener in general. It’s also a carbon-neutral company, meaning it offsets emissions through reputable Gold Standard carbon credits.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    17. B Silent Night Time Bath Concentrate, £70 for 125 ml, Bamford

    Carole Bamford spares no expense in bringing conscious consumers the highest-quality products to live out an exemplary sustainable lifestyle. That includes this bath concentrate made up of organic essential oils of roman camomile, lavender flower and vetiver root to help you sleep peacefully. It’s not the most accessibly priced lullaby-like soak, but you can be sure this potion of honourably sourced ingredients will soothe you into sleepiness. And then you can dream of a world free of genetically modified anything.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    18. Golden Hour body oil, £36 for 100 ml, Wild Source Apothecary

    Wild Source Apothecary was founded in Bristol after Kate Roath – who had struggled for years with eczema – wanted to create honest products bursting with natural and highest-quality organic oils. Small, hand-crafted batches ensure freshness, as is the case with the jasmine and mandarin in this shimmering moisturiser. Wild Source Apothecary intends to inspire mindful beauty rituals at home – after bathing or showering, pump this sweet-smelling botanical body oil into your hands and massage in a deep circular motion onto damp skin, inhaling slowly, deeply and meditatively.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    19. The Midnight Miracle, £145 for 30 ml, Seed to Skin

    Tuscany’s Borgo Santo Pietro is the birthplace of this botanical skincare brand. Seed to Skin is made in a dedicated laboratory using cosmetologist Anna Buonocore’s innovative science and ingredients from the organic farm on the 220-acre estate of Jeanette Throttrup’s boutique hotel. Many of the priciest mainstream purveyors share convincing images of scientists in lab coats – really you’re paying for the marketing. The truth is the best-quality products are more expensive, and here you get what you pay for. This overnight oil includes circulation-boosting rose geranium, anti-inflammatory sandalwood and meadowfoam seed oil to kick blackheads to the kerb. Molecules are cunningly calibrated to ensure maximum absorption of vital vitamins and minerals and that overachiever, sodium hyaluronate acid.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    20. Aloe Vera and Tea Tree Hand Wash, From £45 for 5 litres, Faith In Nature

    If the amount of waste your life generates is what weighs heaviest on your mind, and you have space for storage, invest in Faith In Nature’s new five-litre range. You’ll be economising while minimising plastic as you refill bottles. Maybe it’s hand wash you’re getting through most at the moment – stock up with antibacterial tea tree oil and organic aloe vera to soothe. Faith in Nature has been around since 1974, keeping that hippy spirit alive and sidestepping those parabens and sulphates. For true zero-waste wizards, bulk stations await in stores across the UK too.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    21. Lucas’ Papaw Ointment, From £13 for 75g

    This Australian brand’s red tubs and tubes of therapeutic Vaseline-alike are considered by many a panacea of a balm, thanks to the healing enzymes from the papaw. The brand was originally created by a naturalist, and has been relieving sunburn, heat rash, fungal infections and chapped lips for more than a century. This is not a fashionable new concept built on sustainability but it does showcase the naturally occurring powers of a fruit extract.

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  • 22. Clarifying Mask, £55 for 30 ml, Tata Harper

    You won’t catch any harsh synthetics in these EcoCert-certified products formulated, batched, filled and shipped out of Tata’s Vermont farm. Harper felt that because she couldn’t find 100 per cent natural products that were up to her standards in terms of efficacy, quality and purity she would start her own namesake brand. We love this Clarifying Mask, packed with plant-based, pollution-fighting ingredients. This jar is ammunition against congested, spot-prone skin due to a natural enzymatic peel effect. Don’t even get me started on how plasticky sheet masks are all about the gimmick and not good for you or the planet.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    23. Toothpaste for Whitening Teeth, £9.50 for 100 ml, Spotlight Oral Care

    Dynamic dentist duo Dr Lisa and Dr Vanessa Creaven were struck by the lack of sustainability in something we all use every day – toothpaste. Their ‘harm-free oral health’, as they’ve taglined their Spotlight Oral Care products, is vegan and triclosan-free, with tubes made from sugar cane. Yes it contains fluoride and hydrogen peroxide for performance, but at ocean-friendly levels not as bad for you or the environment. You can definitely find more sustainable toothpastes if you drill down (sorry) and I’d love to be satisfied with a simple bicarbonate of soda powder, but when it comes to the properly worthy, good-enough-to-swallow options, I find they don’t leave your teeth as dazzling. Sometimes it’s about striking a balance and a compromise between efficacy and good conscience.

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  • 25 best sustainable beauty products that are good for the soul (and the planet)

    24. Beat the Blues Room Spray, £29 for 50ml, Ilapothecary

    Blending phytoactives, naturopathy, homeopathy and herbology, Ilapothecary’s products are made in small batches from British-grown plants, are free from the baddies – mineral oil, silicone, propylene glycol, ethanolamine, parabens and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) – and employ aromatherapy to calm the mind and nervous system. Denise Leicester, the brand’s founder, is the qualified nurse and spiritual philosopher behind this British brand that aims to be a balm for your soul. We love its lotions, but we could all do with a spritz of the depression-busting Beat the Blues room spray, in these times especially. Potent essential oils include clary sage, rose geranium, tuberose and petitgrain to soothe and uplift.

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  • 25. Rouge Universels lipstick duo, £126 for two lipsticks, La Perla x La Bouche Rouge

    Parisian sustainable luxury beauty brand La Bouche Rouge has created a set of two bold reds, made near Orléans, for use in a refill system available through the lingerie brand La Perla’s shops and website. Pop Art Red and Regal Red are the ultra-pigmented vivid matte colours presented here in a red-leather lipstick case in a way that sidesteps the usual single-use plastic situation – an estimated billion lipsticks are thrown away annually globally. Until we can kiss goodbye to all things disposable, pucker up for this sexy solution, which shows some love to the French make-up purveyors’ charity partner Eau Vive Internationale, which provides drinking water in rural communities in Africa.

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    SCAN AND SCORE

    Yuka food and cosmetics scan app

    This is a great tool allowing you to scan the barcode of a product so that it can flag all the bad chemicals within, using an easy traffic-light coding system. It’s important to think more deeply about what makes toiletries perfumed, or whether pesticides and parabens are part of a xenobiotic supply chain. It’s not just suds-making sodium laureth sulfate you should skip in the shower, but also phthalates, often used to thicken lotions and make fancy shampoos smell sweet – for our wellbeing and the wellness of the world as a whole. yuka.io

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