Green Beauty’s Identity Crisis

Green Beauty is facing an identity crisis. 

This past week I was having a conversation about sustainable beauty and someone asked what the difference was between clean beauty , sustainable beauty , eco friendly beauty and non toxic beauty is. The truth is these are all just labels causing a lot of confusion in customers (retailers slapping a “clean” label on everything in sight isn’t helping)  and division in the green beauty community right now. 

What is actual Green Beauty?

Green beauty started out as a grassroots movement , an antidote to the marketing machine of conventional beauty, a way for some to heal their skin & bodies using plant based medicine , recipes based down from generations and innovative ingredient sourcing , a community wanting to lessen their environmental impact and plastic waste contribution. It was (and is) a space where small ,  independent owned brands were given a voice by organizations like @nightforgreenbeauty and @indiebeautyexpo.

Yet just like any industry experiencing rapid & explosive market share growth , polarizations and divisions have begun to fracture a once tight knit community.  The root of the chaos seems to be around the quest to label and define it.  Articles and posts declaring “clean beauty is over” are popping up right and left  while others are being accused of anti- science and fear mongering when offering natural healing. Walking through a Target or Sephora is more confusing than ever with “Clean” beauty sections featuring many brands that are in no way rooted in actual green beauty. 

So what IS Green Beauty then?

Let’s get back to the core of what green beauty has represented:

Green Beauty is Based in Nature

The green beauty industry was created by brands and products that eliminated conventional synthetic ingredients that were causing disruption to the balance in our skin and bodies. These products introduced plant based ingredients from nature (such as aloe, rosehip, calendula, pomegranate, sea buckthorn, algae, plum/moringa/burit/jojoba oils)  that are as effective, if not more, than those in mainstream brands.  

The call to brands to stop “fear mongering” by listing ingredients brands won’t use and ingredients to avoid is tone deaf at best and bullying at worst. It’s not “anti-science” to urge customers to watch out for ingredients such as petrochemicals, endocrine disruptors , & other known irritants. In fact many of the best and most effective green beauty brands were founded by people looking to heal from diseases such as auto immunue disorders, inoperable brain tumours, adrenal fatigue, psoriasis, eczema and other health scares. So many of these founders have stories of their own medical doctors advising them to look at their toxic burden on their bodies in personal care.

Green beauty NEEDS brands sharing and telling their stories like

  • Lovinah a west African immigrant passing down century old recipes for healing skin in luxurious formulas
  • Osmia– where former ER doctor Sarah Villafranco shares her medical and chemistry background through plant based gorgeous soaps and simple / effective skincare
  • Free and True– where renowned asetecian Tammi Blake has done countless years of study on which ingredients in nature best support the skin
  • and so so many more !!

Education on these ingredients is necessary, helpful and purposeful and to label it as “Fear mongering” is dangerous and disrespectful to their own journeys and medical experiences.

Natural isn’t enough : FACT: Natural isn’t automatically better

Green beauty has a long history of brands sourcing and finding super power ingredients found in nature. Hero ingredients such as chia oil, plum, buriti oil, sea buckthorn, and new to the scene Chebula, have all been game changers in green beauty skincare. However just because something is natural it doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable resource.  It’s important that fair trade practices are being followed and sustainable sourcing, farming & harvesting practices are being followed.

It’s wonderful when brands such as Le Prunier are able to be the farmer, harvester AND manufacturer so true “farm to shelf” is happening. One of the gold standards in green beauty is the “Made Safe” Certification however this can be expensive to obtain. Luckily there are plenty of other ways to ensure sustainability (another cornerstone of Green Beauty).  Producing in small batches, open and clear communication with the farmers & harvesters of ingredients and overseeing manufacturing at labs (if not made in on site labs).

Sustainable for the environment: Fact: Green Beauty reduces waste

While ingredients play a huge role in environmental impact so does the manufacturing , packaging and shipping decisions. Cold pressed or supercritical extraction processes reduce the need for heat and refining and has become standard in most green beauty practices. It’s no secret that the carbon gas emission in our environment is at a tipping point so utilization of solar and wind technologies in plants & labs for manufacturing is another goal for most brands. 

When considering packaging there are tons of unique options beyond just miron glass. Axiology’s boxes made from trash, Meow Meow Tweet’s paper roll deodorants, Kaejer Weiss refillable standard, Aether Beauty’s magnetic free palettes etc.  Plant based inks have become standard for green beauty brands as well as eliminating extraneous product information cards in shipments.

Some brands such as Earthwise Beauty even have an “ECO CART” checkout option online which offsets the carbon footprint of shipping. 

While brands certainly don’t have to follow every example above, an attempt and goal towards most of these changes should be expected in green beauty.

Green Beauty supports the community: Fact: Even the smallest brand can make a difference

The complete definition of sustainability should include support of the planet, support of the consumer, AND support of the community. 

Green beauty brands have long been leaders in “social conscious beauty” whether through partnering with national organizations such as One Tree Planted , starting their own private funding of schools and programs in areas where their ingredients are sourced, or adopting local charities in their hometown headquarters. This is a crucial part of green beauty’s legacy as new consumers discover brands while wanting to see their dollars go back to more than just a corporation.

Green Beauty is INCLUSIVE: Fact: Green beauty doesn’t have a political party, religion or race

With the onslaught of social media apps and real time updates in form of Instagram stories, tweets, etc brands have the ability to share more of their personal lives and beliefs more than ever.  While this has created amazing community connection for the most part , with consumers feeling they have a personal relationship with many brands, it has also created an environment where suddenly a brand founder’s personal beliefs are being held to the same standard as the community ethos.

This is not unique to green beauty. Across industries, brands are being scrutinized for their reactions to political and world events. Pressure to post at the right time, with the right words, and the right tone in response to events is at an all time high. Cancel culture is running rampant when beliefs or values vary from the crowds. Repeat after me: GREEN BEAUTY IS INCLUSIVE.

  •  Green Beauty is not Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Catholic, or Agnostic or Pagan. There is space for all beliefs here
  • Green Beauty is not a political party. Founders can choose to share thoughts on anything they care to or not.
  •  Green Beauty is not a diet. A brand that is cruelty free can still have a founder that eats meat (or whatever they like).
  • Green Beauty is not a rejection of corporations. While this is an industry founded by strong independent brands, large companies are welcome at the table. The more the merrier in the pursuit of TRUE green beauty! A brand can aim to sell interest to larger companies without being labeled a “sell out”. Heck the more money behind a brand the more interesting research into innovative ingredients and packaging we can have!
  • Green beauty founders are actual, living, loving, imperfect humans. They live complex, intricate lives, with varying beliefs and that is what makes this space beautiful! They are even allowed to get elective medical procedures and injections if they want! The standard to which founders and brands in ALL industries are being held is enough to make any one question wanting to put themselves out there for judgement by the masses. 

What are your thoughts? Does green beauty mean something different to you? I’d love to keep this conversation going! Comment below, find me on instagram or shoot me an email!


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