Conscious beauty. It’s an industry buzzword that’s been discussed increasingly over the last few years as we’ve become more mindful about consumption. But what does the term mean? Like “clean” and “sustainable,” conscious beauty doesn’t have a set definition. At Byrdie, we’ve adopted the philosophy that it’s about applying a more thoughtful approach to our beauty routines. It involves taking a closer look at a brand’s actions and core beliefs to ensure they align with our values.
Brands can’t expect just to churn out products and garner our support. In 2022 and beyond, we are rallying behind companies that put the needs of people and the planet first. We specifically focus on six pillars when it comes to conscious beauty: inclusivity, sustainability, sourcing, transparency, impact, and brand story. When brands approach each area with integrity and intentionality, it benefits us all. Keep scrolling to learn more about our philosophy around conscious beauty.
The Six Pillars of Conscious Beauty
Representation matters, and it should be a priority for everyone in beauty. To be a conscious beauty brand, you must include all races, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, body types, and abilities.
We are always excited to shop with companies that authentically celebrate diversity across all areas—from their marketing visuals to in-house staff. Similarly, we take notice of brands who take the extra step and publicly share what they’re doing to amplify diversity. For example, beauty retailers Sephora and Ulta Beauty have outlined their ongoing internal and external DEI initiatives on their websites to keep consumers informed.
Sustainability means something different to every brand. However, we believe conscious beauty brands do everything in their power to make the most ethical choices across ingredients and packaging. When it comes to ingredients, this can mean a few things. A few of the eco-friendly practices we’ve seen brands turn to are: refraining from using palm oil in formulas, using upcycled ingredients, or using highly renewable resources.
Sustainable packaging is also a very nuanced conversation, but we appreciate brands doing what they can to reduce waste and their impact on the environment. Using recycled materials or refillable packaging are just a few steps we love to see brands taking. Origins, for example, uses FSC-certified cartons made with paperboard from responsibly managed forests. 55% of the brand’s packaging by weight is recyclable, refillable, reusable, recycled, or recoverable. By 2023, the brand aims to increase this number to 80%
Ingredients and Ethical Sourcing
It’s not only important for a brand’s ingredients to be vegan—where the ingredients come from is equally noteworthy. Many beauty brands source ingredients from other countries and rely on native workers to harvest them. When this occurs, it’s critical to examine the ethicality of their actions. Throughout history, African, Asian, Latin, and Indigenous cultures have been negatively affected by the colonization of their ingredients. These nations have been subject to unjust labor conditions and grossly underpaid. Beauty brands have also engaged in cultural appropriation by using a country’s ingredients in their products without giving them the proper credit.
When scrolling through a brand’s website, look for information about where their ingredients come from and whether they are Fair Trade Certified (i.e. the products are made according to strict standards like safe working conditions). Skincare brand Shea Yeleen is a prime example of what it means to ethically source ingredients. The brand ensures funds go toward providing livable wages for the women-owned shea butter cooperatives that help them make their products.
Information gatekeeping is an issue that has plagued the beauty industry for years. However, the rise of conscious consumerism has led us to demand more transparency from brands. When it comes to each product we use, we want to know who makes it, what it does, when it was made, where the ingredients come from, and why the brand created it. Some brands have started sharing answers to these questions on their website to encourage free-flowing communication.
Skincare brand Isla recently rolled out a new initiative that takes transparency to the next level. You’ll find in-depth information about pricing, ingredients, and materials on each product page. Another example: Apottera Skincare has developed a batch number system. This allows their customers to know about their product’s date of production, country of origin, ingredient certifications, and more about the ingredients in the bottle.
We want to spend money with brands making an impact outside of the beauty industry. Some brands have committed to making a difference by using their platform to amplify causes connected to their values.
Sharon Chuter, the founder of Uoma Beauty, is a trailblazing beauty entrepreneur who has launched many initiatives to empower the Black community. One of her yearly campaigns, Make It Black, was created to celebrate Blackness and support Black founders financially. To raise funding, Chuter partners with notable beauty brands to reimagine some of their best-selling items with all-black packaging.
Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty has also centered philanthropy at the core of the brand, creating the Rare Impact Fund to reduce mental health stigmas and increase access to mental health services in education.
No one wants to support a brand with no personality or purpose. We prefer to champion brands that fulfill an undeniable need in beauty and have a sincere founder at the helm. When a founder’s reason for starting their brand resonates with us, it allows us to establish a connection that extends beyond the products.
There are many beauty companies we’ve established an emotional affinity for. Take, Topicals, for instance. The brand was born out of Olamide Olowe’s struggles with several skin conditions (like acne and post-barbae folliculitis). After noticing the lack of inclusivity in the chronic skincare category, Olowe was inspired to create the brand she desired growing up. Since launching in 2020, Topicals has made waves for its compassionate (and fun!) approach to the often daunting category. The brand combines science-backed products with mental health advocacy to ensure its customers feel seen and supported.