Environment activist and explorer, Robert Swan once rightfully said, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” We have come a long way in the light of socioeconomic development and in the effort, have caused umpteen threats to the planet. With heightened awareness, global influence and innovation spanning all spheres, adoption of ethical measures is the need of the hour. Not to stay behind, the beauty industry is finally waking up to the calls of sustainability.

Today, we are progressively discerning in our choices and ready to embrace the concept of holistic beauty. Our interest in nature and natural products are pushing brands to adopt transparency when it comes to ingredients, manufacturing methods, green packaging, and environment-friendly initiatives. We have options galore in the ethical skincare category. But, there is more to sustainability than meets the eye. We speak to experts to throw light on the concept and initiative.

Inspired to change

What draws our attention is the fact that brands are leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to offer products keeping nature’s best interest in mind. But, what inspires them to stay true to the cause? Explains Vivek Sahni, CEO & Co-founder, Kama Ayurveda, “Our passion for holistic wellness and ayurvedic principles were the driving forces that led us to launch Kama Ayurveda in 2002.” He further adds, “The concept of beauty and wellness has evolved in the last couple of years. Growing interest in natural, clean ingredients and treatments have gained traction. The beauty industry is quickly adapting to this change, creating sustainable, clean products for long term efficacy.” Mira Kulkarni, Founder, Forest Essentials is of the opinion that the most fundamental ayurvedic standard for pure, fresh and natural skincare product is that “if you cannot eat it, do not use it on your skin.” She adds, “In that sense, Ayurveda has pioneered the idea of ‘clean beauty’ and that is what makes Ayurveda the choicest and most relevant cosmetology today, in the modern age.”

Packed with nature

We have all witnessed our mothers and grandmothers trying their hands at homemade skincare with fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices from the kitchen. So, are we going back in tradition as now these ingredients are packed in the bottles of creams and moisturisers? Shares Vivek, “We source ethical and superior quality ingredients from their respective place of origin. For instance, the roses are sourced from the perfume city of Kannauj, the wild almonds are sourced from the local tribes in Kashmir, and the Jasmine is picked from the city of Madurai and so on.” Mira adds, “We have worked for many years with vaids to produce a range of products, which while keeping the highly effective, inherent properties of ayurveda intact, pleasurable to use, and are made with fresh, pure, seasonal, precious and rare ingredients. We have revisited ayurvedic recipes and ancient methodologies to create products that keep their traditional benefits intact, while making it possible for people to integrate these into their everyday life, in a sensorial and luxurious manner.”

Initiatives to care

From supporting deforestation, promoting recyclable plastic bottles, conservation projects, brands are going all out to show that they care. For instance, luxury skincare brand La Mer is committed to their mission of protecting marine habitats across the globe. The brand has adopted various awareness initiatives and launched La Mer Blue Heart Oceans’ Fund in 2017 in support of ocean conservation projects across the globe. Another popular brand, The Body Shop has struck the right chord in fighting for people and the planet, and is launching its first Community Trade Recycled Plastic, in partnership with Plastics for Change, Hasiru Dala and Hasiru Dala Innovations. Informs Shriti Malhotra, CEO, The Body Shop India, “The global launch of our first Community Trade Recycled Plastic – incidentally from Bengaluru, India – is a significant step forward for us in sustainable packaging and confronting plastic pollution.

It is sourced from small waste-picker communities and this helps us fight more than plastic pollution – we are also aiming to drive social change and helping this community get the respect, recognition and fair pay they deserve. The brand also launched an in-store customer recycling scheme called Bring Back Our Bottles (BBOB). Through this scheme, they encourage customers to bring back The Body Shop plastic packaging to their stores for recycling. In the long term, The Body Shop is looking at a broader focus to take a responsible and circular approach with all materials and not just plastic. In line with the thought, shares Mira, “We are the first Indian skincare company to introduce the concept of recycling used packaging of all our products. For this initiative, we have partnered with a UN award winning non-profit organisation, Chintan, which has been working for more than a decade towards addressing toxic waste in cities, and also facilitating education for underprivileged children.”

Challenges to address

As every right intention might not hit the bull’s eye, propagating the concept of ethical beauty is an uphill task too. Vivek is of the opinion that with proliferation of brands in the Ayurvedic, clean beauty space, the awareness regarding ayurvedic practices has increased, but there is still a lack of understanding. It is imperative that we realise the difference between ayurvedic, organic and natural products. Another challenge is to source packaging which is sustainable and eco-friendly. Mira adds that the processes of procuring potent and natural ingredients, harvesting at an organic farming are labor intensive and time consuming. To do that, people are in the lookout for products with quick-fixes where health can pay the price in the pursuit of such beauty. But, things are changing. It is not about moving mountains in an attempt to switch to sustainable beauty, but we can’t ignore the fact that every bit counts.

Shivpriya Bajpai

Shivpriya Bajpai is the Assistant Editor at L’Officiel India. She loves to hoard sneakers and can intrigue you with her perpetually curious mind.