Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry & Which Brands are Eco-Friendly


Environmental issues in the beauty industry is a larger problem than most people think. In fact many are not aware of how their beauty habits could be destroying the environment.

The beauty industry is one of the worst contributors to un-recyclable plastic in the world.  Every year more than 120 billion units of packaging is produced by the cosmetics industry, and most of this isn’t recyclable. 

Shockingly the average moisturiser pot takes nearly 1,000 years to decompose (according to Harper’s Bazaar).

This post is an analysis of the environmental issues in the beauty industry

Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry

Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry

The BBC’s recent documentary Beauty Laid Bare looked at this darker side of the beauty industry and the effect that it’s really having on the environment. The documentary followed four people for two weeks across America and revealed the sheer quantity of un-recyclable plastic produced by cosmetic companies. Most of us don’t realise that the majority of empty shampoo bottles and makeup products we put into the recycling will just end up on a landfill site.

Are Consumers Becoming More Aware?

There is evidence to suggest that in recent years consumers have become more aware of the environmental impact of goods and services. Opinion polls have shown that people are reacting more strongly to businesses that disregard environmental concerns. A study by YouGov in 2019 found that:

  • 50% of people would be willing to pay more if it meant that the packaging was environmentally friendly
  • 69% said they thought companies should be required by law to use eco-friendly packaging, even if it meant prices going up
  • 89% felt guilty about the amount of plastic waste they produce

Promoting Conscious Capitalism

The message that bloggers such as myself and other digital content creators and influencers should be sending out is: “I’m not going to promote your products unless you reduce your waste.” Up until now the beauty industry has relied on plastic, most of which is not recyclable and is destroying the environment. Below are five brands who have committed to environmental sustainability and managing their ecological footprint.

5 Eco-Friendly Beauty Brands

1. The Body Shop

Plastic is destroying the environment, Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry

The Body Shop was one of the first companies in the beauty industry to invest in recycled plastic. Since the late 1980s The Body Shop has promoted conscious capitalism investing in local suppliers and projects. They have given 2,500 waste pickers in India access to better working conditions, education and health services as well as a fair price for the work. All empty containers from The Body Shop can be returned to stores to be recycled.

2. Neal’s Yard Remedies

Neal’s Yard Remedies was the first UK brand to be Look For The Zero certified meaning their products are 100% microplastic free. In January 2019, microbeads were banned from being used in beauty and personal care products in Britain. This change in the law was in part thanks to a huge pressure movement from consumers and eco-friendly beauty brands such as Neal’s Yard Remedies who campaigned tirelessly alongside Greenpeace. Although their own packaging is mostly glass, they have committed to be 100% recyclable by 2025. Neal’s Yard also have a recycling scheme where customers can bring in any packaging from any brand to be recycled.

3. L’Oreal

L’Oreal has committed to 100% eco-friendly packaging by 2025. Since 2005 L’Oréal has already reduced the amount of waste generated by its plants and distribution centres by 60%. The company is committed to reducing and improving its plastic packaging by ensuring it is refillable, reusable, recyclable or compostable.

4. Weleda

Plastic is destroying the environment

Like Neal’s Yard, Weleda was also one of the first brands to earn a Look for the Zero badge showing that none of its products contained any form of plastic. Weleda’s commitment to ethical treatment of workers has also been recognised by the Union for Ethical BioTrade.

5. Aveda

Plastic is destroying the environment

Aveda was first beauty company to use recyclable plastic, and now more than 85% of its containers are 100% recyclable. The company has raised £49m for environmental initiatives since 1999 and from 2021 all its products will be vegan. Working with the nonprofit organisation Charity: Water, Aveda provides access to clean water for people in India, Nepal, Madagascar and Ethiopia (from where the brand ethically sources ingredients).

Eco-Friendly Products

Aveda Chakra 7
Hemp Body Oil
Rose Body Yoghurt
Aveda Chakra 7
Hemp Body Oil
Rose Body Yoghurt
Aveda Chakra 7
Hemp Body Oil
Rose Body Yoghurt

The Bottom Line

Consumers are increasingly adopting a green mentality when choosing their beauty products. There is greater awareness than ever before that un-recyclable plastic is destroying the environment. For the beauty industry, consumers are now looking for brands who put environmental issues at the core of their efforts. In the future their actions and words are going to have to be more than just “skin deep”.

Please help spread awareness of the effects of un-recyclable plastic in the beauty industry by sharing this Pin to your Pinterest account. Thank you.

Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry, Are your beauty habits destroying the environment?  The beauty industry is one of the worst contributors to un-recyclable plastic in the world.  Most people don't realise the average moisturiser pot takes nearly 1,000 years to decompose.  I look at five brands who have committed to environmental sustainability and managing their ecological footprint.

FAQs on Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry

How does the beauty industry affect the environment?

Unfortunately the beauty industry relies on plastic. A lot of this is plastic that cannot be recycled and ends up on landfill sites.

How much plastic does the beauty industry use?

In 2018 Zero Waste Week reported that more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry, most of which are not recyclable.

What is sustainable beauty?

The term is used to describe products which use environmentally friendly formulations, production practices or packaging methods.

Does shampoo have plastic in it?

Shampoo may contain plastic particles. These micro particles are made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon.

Environmental Issues in the Beauty Industry

Olivia Herlihy
Olivia Herlihy

Olivia is the owner of UK Beauty Room and founder three other successful websites. Read Olivia’s inspiring story – from NHS Nurse to top beauty blogger in less than two years.

Find me on: Web


  1. February 29, 2020 / 9:28 am

    Thanks for writing such detailed and helpful post about a problem we all face in the beauty industry. I have always been conscious of beauty product’s packaging and recycling. We always jump on the wagon of the next great beauty product promoted by our favourite influencers that we forget the impact on the environment. I wasn’t aware I could recycle my Bodyshop finished products, now I know. Thank you.

  2. February 29, 2020 / 11:04 am

    Thank you for a well detailed post. I really like this part “I am not going to promote your products until you reduce your waste”. This helps influencers and marketers to become aware of the products impact to the environment.

  3. February 29, 2020 / 12:04 pm

    This is very detailed post, I think sometimes a lot of people don’t even realise their habits are impacting the environment. Great post x

  4. dr.rasi gupta
    February 29, 2020 / 10:09 pm

    YES! It is high time we care! And stop supporting products that continue to use plastic and petrochemicals too! Horrifying! Thank you for featuring a few great eco friendly brands as options too! Great post and definitely the need of the hour!🙂

  5. March 2, 2020 / 4:28 pm

    I love The Body Shop! Such fantastic products and so amazing for the environment. Their products work really well on my skin, currently saving up for my first Body Shop face mask as those are expensiveeee! x

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