We’ve all heard about sustainable food developments, but what about sustainable beauty?

In recent years, the beauty industry has undergone a profound transformation, driven by a growing awareness of sustainability and a desire for more natural, eco-friendly products. Consumers are increasingly seeking out beauty products that not only enhance their appearance but also minimise harm to the environment and promote overall well-being. As a result, there has been a significant rise in the use of natural ingredients in cosmetics and skincare products. This trend towards sustainability in beauty has led to the emergence of a new paradigm: sustainable beauty.

Rising trends in sustainable beauty

One of the key driving forces behind the rise of sustainable beauty is the increasing demand for products that contain natural plant extracts. Natural ingredients are perceived as being safer and more beneficial for the skin compared to synthetic alternatives. Consumers believe that natural ingredients are more effective at addressing various skincare concerns with fewer side effects, which can be a misconception. A typical cosmetic or skincare formulation contains about 15-20 ingredients with consideration to its emulsifiers, preservatives, colours, emollient and fragrances. While an active ingredient may be natural and environmentally sourced, it has to prove to be as effective or better than the conventional or synthetic ingredients.

Increasingly, scientific research has shown that certain plant extracts possess potent skincare benefits such as whitening or shortening the skin renewal cycle of the skin etc. Ingredients like green tea extract, aloe vera, and rosehip oil are known for their antioxidant properties, which help to protect the skin from environmental damage and premature ageing. Similarly, plant-based oils such as argan oil and jojoba oil are highly sought after due to their moisturising and nourishing properties and offer a natural and effective solution for various skin and hair care needs.

Challenges of natural ingredients

However, despite the growing popularity of incorporating natural ingredients in beauty products, there are challenges associated with their use from product formulation and stability to supply chain sustainability and consumer safety.

Eunice Soh, Manager of Innovation & Technology at IPI, says, “One of the main challenges is ensuring the efficacy of natural ingredients when formulated. While some natural extracts have been scientifically proven to deliver tangible skincare benefits, others may lack sufficient evidence to support their claims and can potentially cause skin sensitivities and allergic reactions in certain individuals. The quality and potency of natural ingredients can vary depending on factors such as sourcing, extraction methods, and formulation techniques.”

Another challenge is the sustainable and ethical sourcing of natural ingredients. As demand for natural beauty products continues to rise, there is growing concern about the environmental impact of harvesting and extracting raw materials. For example, the cultivation of certain plants for their extracts can lead to deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss. Moreover, the extraction process itself may involve the use of chemicals and energy-intensive methods, further exacerbating environmental degradation.

The rise of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) ingredients

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional medicine practices from around the world, including Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is based on a holistic approach to health and wellness, which emphasises the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and environment. Many TCM ingredients, such as ginseng, goji berry, and liquorice root, have long been used for their medicinal properties and are now finding their way into modern skincare formulations such as toners, serums, creams, and masks.

TCM ingredients are highly valued in the skincare industry for their ability to address a wide range of skincare concerns, from acne and inflammation to ageing and pigmentation, which works by promoting balance and harmony within the body based on the principle that external beauty is a reflection of internal health. For instance, ginseng extract is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing effects, while goji berry extract is rich in antioxidants that help to protect the skin from free radical damage. Another attractive value of using TCM ingredients is the natural preservative effect, eliminating the use of preservatives in skincare while still giving a higher efficacy when benchmarked to Niacinamide or Vitamin C.

However, the adoption of (TCM) in the realm of sustainable beauty is often hindered by the high cost associated with the extraction of its natural ingredients. While TCM offers a wealth of botanicals and herbs renowned for their skincare benefits, the extraction processes required to harness their active compounds can be prohibitively expensive. To harness the benefits of TCM while maintaining affordability and accessibility for consumers, requires a multifaceted approach such as innovation in extraction technologies, scale of production and more to address the high extraction costs for wider adoption and integration of these traditional remedies into modern skincare formulations. Innovations in sustainable beauty

Innovations in sustainable beauty

Despite the challenges and complexities associated with sourcing and formulating natural ingredients, the beauty industry continues to innovate and push the boundaries of sustainability.

Innovations in sustainable beauty extend beyond traditional extraction methods, encompassing ground-breaking advancements such as the utilisation of amphibian collagen, natural proteins, and growth factors for topical skin rejuvenation.

Amphibian collagen, sourced ethically and sustainably, offers a potent alternative to conventional collagen sources, promoting skin elasticity and hydration without contributing to environmental degradation as well as its versatility for biomedical applications such as the management of chronic wounds. Likewise, natural proteins and growth factors derived from goat placenta undergo a green and economical extraction method to harness their regenerative properties and use micro-spicules for deep skin penetration in hydrating and anti-ageing  skincare products. Furthermore, integrating nanofibrillated cellulose into these formulations enhances their stability and bioavailability, ensuring optimal delivery of active ingredients to the skin. By embracing these innovative approaches, the beauty industry not only prioritises sustainability but also elevates the efficacy and potency of natural skincare solutions, paving the way for a more environmentally conscious future.

Some beauty brands are embracing circular economy principles by implementing closed-loop systems for sourcing and production. By partnering with local farmers and suppliers, these brands can create a more transparent and sustainable supply chain for natural ingredients. Additionally, by using recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials, brands are advocating eco-friendly packaging solutions to reduce their environmental footprint and minimise waste.

In conclusion, the trend towards sustainable beauty represents a fundamental shift in the way we think about and consume, shifting towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and conscious approach to beauty. As technology advances and consumer awareness grows, the industry is set to continue evolving, offering products that are effective, ethical, and environmentally friendly. By prioritising natural ingredients and adopting eco-friendly practices, the beauty industry has the potential to not only improve the health and well-being of consumers but also protect the planet for future generations. However, achieving true sustainability in beauty will require collaboration and innovation across the entire supply chain, from sourcing and extraction to formulation and packaging. It is only by working together cohesively among individuals, businesses, governments, and non-governmental organisations, we can build a more sustainable future.

To learn more about the sustainable beauty industry, contact us at [email protected] and get started on technology scouting for the available health tech solutions we have curated here at IPI.