Whether you are into make-up, skincare, body care or hair care it can be tricky to swap and navigate the eco-beauty market and understand the different terminologies. This can get even harder when you bring the need for a wide range of skin tones, as a lot of companies, unfortunately, do not cater well to different undertones and deeper skin tones. We have included companies which have a wide range of products and shade ranges.
This page aims to be a starter point to understanding the symbols in packaging and a list of companies which may offer products and operate in a way which are of low negative impact to the planet and healthy for the skin. Zero Waste Week data revealed that, in 2018, the global beauty industry contributed more than 120 billion units worth of waste, most of which were not recyclable. So even small changes in our routines can make an impact. Joining in with campaigns to lobby companies to switch to sustainable practices can also have an impact.
Step one – Understanding the symbols
There are many symbols which are on the packaging that are not always clear or recognisable. It is important to note that there are many other versions and other symbols used throughout the world which also do great work. Other companies may have their own versions of the symbols as well. Some companies will try to ‘greenwash’ you so you buy their product thinking it is a greener option, but this is not always the case. So here is a list of the most common symbols which you may see in packaging.
This is the Period After Opening symbol (PAO) and usually has a number followed by an M. This is the shelf life of the product AFTER you open it for the first time.
This is the Mobius Loop symbol and probably one of the most recognised symbols in packaging. It can be mistaken with the Green Dot Symbol (below) but this symbol signifies that this packaging is recyclable. There are different versions of this symbol which has letters inside the triangle, this an identification of different resins to make the recycling process easier. They can look like this:
The Green Dot symbol indicate that the company which made the product is contributing funds to a recycling organisation to oversee the responsible recovery and recycling of their waste.
Gluten is not only present in food! Products with this symbol means that they are gluten-free.
Two versions of the Vegetarian symbol can be used. This means the product is vegetarian.
This symbol similarly to the Vegetarian symbol, has a couple of versions. These two means that the product is vegan and reassures buyers that the product has been tested and approved.
This symbol means that the packaging is, under EU standards, able to be commercially composted. You can check with your local authority if packaging with this symbol can be disposed of in your food waste bin. Packaging with this symbol cannot be composted at home, as it will only compost in industrially controlled conditions which reaches much higher temperatures.
This symbol means that the product can be composted at home. Home composting will take longer too, so don’t be surprised if the product is still in your compost bin in a year’s time.
This is the FSC Certified Paper symbol, this means that the pulp in the paper packaging you are using has been sourced from environmentally friendly and ethically managed forest.
This one signifies that at least 95% of the product formula is made from natural ingredients. If can be accompanied by the phrase ‘Organic Cosmetic’ which means those plant-based natural ingredients came from organic farming.
If the phrase ‘Natural Cosmetic’ appears, it signifies only 50% of the plant-based ingredients came from organic farming.
The Leaping Bunny symbol. Widely recognised as one of the symbols meaning that the product is cruelty-free. This means that it was not tested on animals. This symbol goes far beyond make-up and can include household items such as bleach, dish detergent and floor cleaner to personal care items such as baby care, insect repellent, frangrences, self-tanner and even condoms!
This is the PETA Beauty Without Bunnies symbol. This symbol, similarly to the Leaping Bunny, signifies that the company has a company-wide ban on animal testing and can be found in a variety of products.
This is another example of a symbol which you will find in products beyond just make-up and beauty. The Soil Association Organic certification means that the product is certified organic. It is rigorous accreditation which looks at the manufacturing process including ingredients, formulation, premises and packaging.
We have highlighted below some companies which have at least one of the accreditations above. Although many of the more sustainable, organic beauty companies tend to be more expensive, we have tried to find options which are more affordable to student budgets!
If you have any suggestions you would like to add to this list please get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Image source: Lush
Lush is a company which go beyond just delicious smelling bath-bombs and soaps. They have a wide range of products from fragrances, skincare, hair-care and make-up. Their Slap Stick Foundation range has an impressive shade range of 40 options with a variety of undertones from very pale to deep dark. You can get help finding your shade and application tips on their website. Sustainability is at the very hear of LUSH and the company is an avid campaigner for the environment and against animal testing. They are aiming to eliminate packaging entirely in the future but at the moment 90% of the companies packaging is recycled.
You can buy LUSH products in stores and online.
Image Source: Revolution Beauty
One of the UK’s fastest-growing companies, Revolution Beauty are entirely cruelty-free, having a PETA accreditation, and have an extensive range of vegan make-up, hair dyes, brushes and skincare (76% of their products are vegan according to their website). It is committed to continuously improving its practices to identify and eliminate any slavery and human trafficking in its business and supply chains, and to acting ethically and with integrity in all its business relationships. It has policies partaking to anti-bribery and corruption, corporate hospitality, social accountability, animal welfare, environmental policy and modern slavery. It also has one of the largest shade ranges and variety of products at the high street level. It is also affordable and offer a 20% student discount on their website through StudentBeans.
You can buy it in stores and online.
Image source: Tropic Cosmetics
An Australian company but products are freshly-made in the UK so you don’t have to worry about air-miles. Tropic Cosmetics is a make-up brand that is a certified carbon-neutral company. They use natural and botanical ingredients. You can purchase refill pouches and it has products ranging from sheer foundation, mineral foundation, lipsticks, eyebrow powder and many more. Coupled with their vegan brushes, it has everything for a full face of makeup without having to sacrifice the planet. It comes in biodegradable bubble wrap too. It is Leaping Bunny, PETA Cruelty-Free and Vegan approved.
You can buy Tropic Cosmetics online.
Image Source: Urban Decay
Well known and entirely cruelty-free! Although not all their products are vegan, their vegan selection is huge and most of their best-sellers are vegan. This includes their Stay Naked Foundation which is available in 50 shades and the ever-popular All Nighter Setting Spray. Everything from concealers, eyeshadows, eyeliners, primers, Urban Decay has everything you need to make a full face of the most colourful combinations to the most subtle. A bit more on the pricier side however they have a 25% off student discount with UNiDAYS!
You can buy Urban Decay in stores and online.
Image Source: Juvia’s Place
An affordable US based make-up company which has a strong focus of shade inclusivity and beauty. It is beautifully vibrant and entirely cruetly- free. Most of their products are vegan too (according to their website at the moment only their Warrior Eyeshadow Palette is not vegan). All brushes are vegan and cruelty-free as well. They have a fully inclusive shade range of foundations, concealers and highlighters as well as lip products too. Their US site is extensively accessible too, with options to increase the text size, invert colours, change the contrast and brightness of the page, greyscale, hide images and even change the fonts.
Image source: Milani
According to Milani, their products are 100% Cruelty Free and PETA certified and while they strive to always be Vegan-friendly, a few of their products contain beeswax, lanolin and carmine. However, they have created a handy area on their website where you can shop with confidence that all the products are vegan. They are affordable too! Their cream to powder foundation costs £10 comes in 13 shades.
You can buy Milani online through their website.
Image Source: Garnier
Garnier‘s new organic skincare range is made with organic and vegan ingredients. It is also cruelty-free and made with biodiversity in mind. The packaging is also made with recycled materials and is entirely recyclable as well. The range includes facial oils, toner, face wash, micellar water, konjac sponge and a range of moisturisers including anti-ageing. You can buy it in Superdrug and Boots, as both have a discount scheme it makes the range even more affordable too!
You can buy Garnier Organics in stores and online.
Image Source: Simple
Simple is the UK’s no. 1 skincare company. They are entirely cruelty-free and vegan. Their packaging is recyclable and made from recycled materials. It is artificial colourant free and artificial perfume free. It is also alcohol and soap-free and does not contain harsh preservatives. There is a wide range of products too; from face scrubs, masks, shower washes, hair care and sheet masks to moisturisers and deodorants. It is also super affordable, with a lot of products being under £10. You can buy the range from most shops and in Superdrug and Boots, and as both have a discount scheme it makes the range even more affordable too!
You can buy Simple products in stores and online.
Image source: Ethique
Ethique is an entirely plastic-free hair-care company. It has compostable, plastic-free packing and it is also vegan, cruelty-free and palm-oil free! It’s climate-neutral, meaning the carbon emissions caused by the brand have been balanced out by its environmental work elsewhere. It operates honest trading of its ingredients such as coconut oil, to ensure fair pay for workers, less environmental impact, and safe practices in communities. It also has Trial Kits starting from £11 so you can test out their products. One cube of their shampoo bar is equivalent to 8 bottles of liquid shampoo, so one bar will last you a long time. And according to the brand, it has saved “over 4.2 million plastic bottles from winding up in a landfill to date,” with plans to hit 10 million by 2025.
You can buy Ethique products online.