Long gone are the days when eco-friendly beauty meant putting up with patchy foundation powders in limited colours, chalky moisturisers, and essential-oil-based fragrances that ran the gamut from patchouli all the way to patchouli-sandalwood. No longer the domain of crunchy hippies, eco-friendly beauty and natural ingredients have been embraced at large by both consumers and brands, as part of a global, earth-loving trend. With green solidifying its place as the new black, you’ll now find it easier to tick off ethical must-haves on your eco-friendly check-list.
For those looking to explore the world of eco-friendly beauty, a great first stop is supporting small brands that are actively doing their part to protect and benefit the environment, whether that’s saying no to animal testing, or supporting the community and eco-system that provides the raw ingredients.
Tammie Umbel, the founder of Shea Terra Organics, says that protecting the native plants that her company develops into deeply soothing skincare is a major priority, as is giving back to the community. “My idea was to introduce local beauty traditions that could help protect indigenous flora and wildlife habitats, while bringing needed income into impoverished regions,” she explains. A mother of 12, the Muslim businesswomen now works with cooperatives and conservation groups throughout Africa, where she sources ingredients such as shea butter and mongongo oil, to help preserve the region’s environmental resources.
The founder of Arya Essentials, Shadoh Punnapuzha, says that her skincare brand takes care in sourcing their organic resources. “Our first and foremost significant imperative is using ingredients that are certified organic or wildcrafted,” she explains. “[This] makes us an eco-friendly brand, because we source our ingredients from sustainable sources that follow organic methods of farming, [and] we’re lucky enough to work with ingredients from distributors who carefully source and have a concern for the environment. My belief is nature takes care of us, and we should do our part to take care of it, allowing it to continue to nourish us!”
An ethical hot button issue for decades, it’s shock to know that some beauty brands still depend on animal testing – using sensitive creatures such as rabbits and mice as guinea pigs. With brands that do test on animals hardly likely to shout it from the rooftops, shoppers wanting a cruelty-free bathroom vanity will need to read the fine print on their favourite products, and be aware of labelling loopholes. While a product may say it’s not tested on animals, this may not cover individual components that make up the final product; it also may not be revealing the testing required by international markets. For example, any product retailed within China must be certified as safe to use by government labs, which test exclusively on animals. While the brand may not be directly carrying out experiments on Mr Fluffy, by retailing in a market that requires it, they’ve agreed for their product to be tested on animals. Unsure of how to check if your favourite moisturiser is against animal testing? Look for brands that have been accredited by animal cruelty watchdog, Choose Cruelty Free (CCF), and sport their rabbit stamp, or head straight to the source and confirm testing methods with the brand directly. Most companies are more than happy to share their cruelty-free status! For example, UAE-born brand Herbal Essentials is firmly against animal cruelty, and throws its support behind PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies initiative, taking an oath never to test on animals.
With the UAE not exactly known to shy away from all things artificial and decidedly unnatural, the question has to be asked – what’s in it for us? Our experts are adamant that choosing green beauty products is one of the best things you can do for your skin, as well as the environment. “I think in the past people have always thought that natural products do not provide effective results, [but] being eco-friendly affects the quality of our products in a positive way,” says Punnapuzha. “We understand the impact of using synthetic additives, pesticides and chemicals when farming, and the effects these ingredients has on the body.” Her customers agree, with Punnapuzha calling the response to the range “very positive”. Umbel says that the effectiveness of Shea Terra Organics products is not diminished by being eco-friendly, but instead enhanced by her decision to not use synthetic ingredients. “Being eco-friendly drastically affects the quality of our products - our products are extremely effective because they use large concentrations of ingredients sourced directly from nature.”
But, sometimes it can be difficult for shoppers to separate the truly natural from the pretenders. Umbel says that doing your research on a brand ahead of purchasing can help you make an informed decision. “What I tell people is that it is important to build a relationship with a company to be able to trust that they are telling consumers the truth,” she suggests. “For example, a liquid and oil emulsion must have a proper preservative system. Is the company listing preservatives? Get used to what real essential oils smell like by purchasing from reputable companies, [the authentic oils] are not cheap. Does the brand in question have products that smell like real essential oils, or do they smell like bathroom freshener? These are ways of unveiling the honesty of eco-friendly claims.”
Punnapuzha agrees that researching brands is key. “Their reputation and information on the website they have will be helpful, [and] their packaging also will be a key indicator of how environmentally friendly they are,” she says. “Generally, if they do use ingredients from organic farming, you know that the philosophy for the brand is alongside being eco-friendly.”
Cutting down on unnecessary packaging is another way beauty brands are saving the world, one shampoo bottle at a time. Arya Essentials uses renewable glass bottles instead of non-biodegradable plastic, and recyclable paper boxes explicitly to benefit the environment. Haircare brand O’Right, takes its promise to save the trees very seriously, with its Tree in a Bottle line literally just that. The packaging that houses their natural shampoos and conditioner (from Dhs99, at selected salons) breaks down in the soil when disposed of, and thanks to the acacia seeds secured in the base, will one day bloom into a tree. Or, if you prefer, look for products that use no packaging at all. Spill-free, airport-safe and anti-landfill, solid cosmetics are a fantastic addition to your shower if you’re concerned about contributing to the 110 million tons of plastic which is discarded each year. Our go-to for solids, Lush, specialises in face and body-bars that keep well in reusable tins. For haircare, New Zealand brand Sorbet produces coconut oil-infused shampoo and conditioner bars (from Dhs71, sorbetcosmetics.com) that smell amazing and keep your hair healthy and shiny. Each bar’s paper wrapping dissolves in the shower during the first use and can be stored in a soap dish, making this vegan product 100% packaging-free.
Given the myriad ways to update your beauty routine to something a little more eco-friendly, it makes sense to practise a little extra kindness at the cash register. By simply reading the labels and switching out your products, you can help reduce land-fill, rehabilitate forests, provide fair-trade income to remote communities, and ensure you’re not contributing to animal testing practices. Plus, your skin will thank you for choosing products loaded with high quality organic ingredients. So, what’s stopping you from going green?
Add these eco-friendly hero products to your beauty routine:
Nutmeg & Sunflower Oil 24 Hour Face Cream, Herbal Essentials, Dh189 (herbal-essentials.com)
This local brand has loaded its signature Face Cream with antioxidant-rich sunflower oil, to gently nurture skin and replenish moisture levels. Suitable for all skin types, daily use helps fight fine lines and other signs of aging.
Dry Shampoo, A’Kin, Dh42 (akin.com.au)
Made from a blend of bamboo and rice powder, this 100 percent vegan and cruelty-free dry shampoo claims to absorb four times more excess oil than its competition, for instant volume and texture.
Face Oil, Arya Essentials, Dh349 (aryaessentials.com)
“Our hero product is our Face Oil,” Arya Essential’s founder tells Friday. “I formulated it because I am too lazy to use 4 or 5 different products - I wanted one that would just do everything. Our Face Oil helps balance the skin, reduces hyper-pigmentation, brightens skin, increases cell turnover, has anti-aging benefits and refines pores.”
Rose Hips Black Soap Deep Pore Facial Wash, Shea Terra Organics, Dh66 (sheaterrorganics.com)
Made from a traditional botanical soap by women in Nigerian villages. The brand says that the cleanser has been a life changer for its customers, who have reported that the wash has gotten rid of their acne and helped firm their skin.