The ultimate guide to refillable beauty

Refillable beauty: everything you should knowKerastase

We all know that plastic is problematic: sadly, it will be little surprise to most people that 12 million tonnes of it are dumped in our oceans every year.

It’s also common knowledge that the beauty industry is one of the biggest offenders – from the era of excess cellophane to gold-plated boxes and those tiny skincare spoons, our personal care products are heavy with additives (which , according to Zero Waste Europe, and about 120 billion units per year).

However, recycling is not always as easy as we think – or rather as brands would have us believe. Throwing an empty lotion bottle in the recycling bin might seem like a quick and simple solution, but it’s not that easy. In fact, 91 percent of plastic is not recycled. It’s a daunting number, but the reality is that the recycling process is a minefield, full of stumbling blocks. Not only are we confused about what can be put in the recycling bin and we are consuming too much for a pressurized system to process, but some countries do not have the right facilities to process certain plastics.

So why don’t we prevent throwing away our empty essentials altogether? It may not be a panacea, but switching to refillable beauty products is certainly a step towards greater sustainability. The concept started creating ripples a few years ago but, like most radical changes in our consumption, it took time to hit the masses. (Remember the controversy we faced with reusable coffee cups?)

Once a pretty but niche ideal, refillable beauty is now all over the mainstream, with brands from Kérastase to Diptyque launching keep-it-forever products and beauty refills as the new normal.

Of course, refillable products are nothing new – loyalists will know that brands like Kjaer Weis and L’Occitane have been quietly producing them for years, with the latter launching refill stations in 10 of its stores across the UK and Ireland in 2022.

Another attractive prospect is the idea of ​​investing in incredible packaging – something that is too beautiful to throw away. Diptyque knows this clearly: its glass hand wash and body lotion jars are worthy of the most well-kept bathrooms, and the refillable pouches also make them a symbol of sustainability status.

The perfume revolution

Perfume is another area where refills can shine: multifaceted glass flacons and appointment bottles are made to last almost forever. Molton Brown, Frederic Malle, Le Labo and (Rihanna’s favourite) Kilian are all already producing refills that reduce the waste involved, and Mugler is appealing to the eco-conscious Gen Z with excellent additions to its Aura scent, which can be poured into. your original bottle at home.

Taking things a step further is the Costa Brazil brand, founded by Francisco Costa as a love letter to the healing rituals of his native Brazil. The brand’s signature scent, Aroma, features a refillable glass vial encased in sustainably sourced ash wood, and simply packaged using FSC certified paper.

In the make-up area, there are real opportunities to create statement objects to be refilled. See paper-wrapped La Bouche Rouge lipsticks slot neatly inside hand-stitched leather cases, made using cuttings from Parisian tanneries. Although Isamaya Ffrench’s provocative boda-shaped lipsticks demand to be displayed as art.

On the high street side of the spectrum, of course, is The Body Shop, which has installed its refill stations across the country (an initiative the brand first trialled in the 1990s). These smart stations allow shoppers to purchase an aluminum bottle that can be filled and refilled with the brand’s shower gels and creams, with a 20 percent savings to boot. Similarly, Space NK has its own brand line of bath and body products refillable through in-store stations across the country. (Take our word for it: the Rewild Body Wash is heavenly.)

Of course, it takes time and investment to change culture, which means that many global brands are still lagging behind in the race for true sustainability. This has opened the floor for agile, direct-to-consumer brands that speak to the eco-savvy Gen Z consumer, such as Fills, which sells hair and body care with a circular replenishment philosophy, and Beauty Kitchen, whose ‘Fill , Reuse The , Refill’ concept covers everything from body wash to eye cream. Kankan offers natural body cleansers and hand washes in beer-style aluminum cans with reusable pumps made from PCR (post-consumer waste), while Micaela Nisbet’s refill company On Repeat delivers product additions in 100 percent compostable packaging – which she offers him. her own beauty brand, Neighborhood Botanicals.

Jenni Middleton, beauty director at trend forecasting agency WGSN points out that eight to 23-year-olds are the key to changing the way we consume beauty products. “Gen Z has environmental concerns deeply woven into their worldview as they grew up at a time when our impact on the planet is increasingly visible,” she says. This generation is clearly concerned with seeking out more sustainable options, with Middleton referring to them as “pre-cruisers”, meaning they will bring their own containers and totes to a retail outlet if they can. to dispose of the packaging waste. “As this value-driven generation uses their voice and actions to make an impact, they will force brands to offer recycling, reuse and refill options and create change.”

The skin care struggle

So far, so easy – but skin care is more difficult. Here, there are many hygiene problems – especially with face creams and serums. Luxury skincare brand Noble Panacea offers an innovative solution: its active formulas come individually packaged in recyclable pouches (which can be returned to Terracycle for free) inside a contained bioplastic box.

Another brand that has invested the time (and money) to come up with a winning solution is Tata Harper. Her first refillable skincare product, the Waterlock Moisturiser, eliminated any hygiene issues by using replaceable product pots that click into an airtight jar. More launches – including the cult Restorative Eye Cream – followed suit in a refillable format. Suddenly, it seems to make perfect sense.

But of course, this kind of innovation is not without its difficulties (not to mention financial implications). “All our formulas are engineered with up to 72 natural active ingredients. When dealing with such highly concentrated formulas, you need to ensure that ingredients are kept fresh. This can be difficult when creating a refillable system for skin care compared to bath and body refills as the system must avoid any sanitation or hygiene issues. Our easy three-step system has been engineered so that the formula stays intact in the pot while our customers refill their jar, and it’s also airtight after assembly,” says Harper.

Arnaud Meysselle, CEO of sustainability tracker REN Clean Skincare says “the stability of highly active skincare ingredients can be a challenge and the need to ensure that multiple ingredients remain safe from contamination is even more challenging in facial products. Bath and body products often use natural essential oils that preserve themselves by nature, but facial products usually do not. Replenishment with skincare is therefore more challenging and safety must be paramount.”

Middleton agrees that hygiene is a key barrier to refillable beauty success. “Obviously, hygiene is more important to consumers now than ever – they want to be sure their products won’t develop bacteria or become contaminated if they reuse them, so commercial cleaning schemes can will go a long way to allaying those concerns, especially if consumers get a financial incentive from refills.” Speaking of financial incentives, they can often be significant – an aspect that feels very attractive right now, on the brink of the impending recession. For example, refills of La Mer’s Luminous Elevating Cushion Compact Foundation are half the price of the original compact, but Molton Brown fragrances can be refilled in-store for £35 less than a new bottle.

Of course, for long-term success, refills must also be convenient. One promising initiative is Loop, which promotes a circular economy by helping brands create zero-waste packaging. REN Clean Skincare and Molton Brown were among the first beauty brands to sign up, offering their best-selling products in glass bottles. When you’ve finished your product, return it to a Loop drop-off point (in the UK, you’ll find them at Tesco stores) and the brand will collect the empty bottle, sterilize and refill it, before sending it back. the shelf (with each bottle or jar lasting at least ten cycles).

“REN Clean Skincare has been promoting sustainability in the prestigious beauty industry for years (we made our commitment to become a zero-waste brand by the end of 2021) and we always want to try all the innovations that will help us in the fight to protect our planet. Lúb is one of those: it is simple, innovative and makes packaging sustainable rather than disposable, paving the way for a ‘zero waste’ ecosystem,” says Meysselle.

“The pandemic has played its part in forcing consumers to rethink purchasing habits and reflect on what really matters in life: our friends, our families, the world we live in and how we leave it that’s for the generations to come,” says Meysselle. consider in our purchases, choosing brands that care for our planet, and focus on being recycled, recyclable and reusable.” Indeed, as the world of fashion and beauty hits a reset, perhaps that this is the time for less to be more finally, and for the products we buy to settle on our shelves for good.

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