Green Cosmetics: The Push for Sustainable Beauty

A combination of increased public interest and market trends in the cosmetic industry has led to cosmetics manufacturers seeking more natural and sustainable cosmetic emulsifiers and other products.

As public interest in the health benefits of green personal care materials continues to climb, manufacturers supporting the trend are finding numerous benefits to sustainable beauty products regarding corporate sustainability and cost effectiveness.

However, manufacturing companies interested in venturing into the green market or simply wondering where it came from must know the details behind the sustainability trend, including the benefits of going green and the potential of the market.

What Are Green Cosmetics?

While the word “green” has slowly become synonymous with “organic” or “healthy” in modern marketing, the term “green cosmetics” has been only loosely defined. Typically, the term can be used to describe products using environmentally-friendly recipes, production practices or packaging methods. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has published guidelines to clarify what green or natural means in marketing terms, though these guidelines are still loosely defined.

With respect to the cosmetics industry, “green” and “sustainable” cosmetics are defined as cosmetic products using natural ingredients produced from renewable raw materials. Most companies use petrochemical ingredients derived from petrol, a non-renewable and economically volatile resource. Bio-based oleochemicals, on the other hand, derive from renewable plant and bacteria sources and are the crux of the green cosmetics movement.

Cosmetics developers worldwide are doggedly pursuing these oleochemicals, along with any potential sources for them. Some examples of common green ingredients include:

  • Natural Oils: Coconut and palm oils are often used to derive fatty alcohols, which are used as chemical surfactants.
  • Agricultural Plants: Soybeans, corn and other agricultural plants are used throughout the cosmetic industry to produce oils and alcohols. Green cosmetic emulsifiers, surfactants and biocatalysts are derived using these plants, which can be cheaply and sustainably sourced.
  • Bacteria: One example of a renewable resource currently under development is the Deinococcus bacteria, a bacterium studied by Deinove in France for its chemical production properties. Deinove has used the bacterium to create aromatic ingredients and pigments for the cosmetic industry, representing a potential market value in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Why Produce Green Cosmetics?

  • Improved Product Quality: Many petrochemical products, like mineral oil, present a low level of toxicity to users. When aerosolized and inhaled, such products have been shown to be allergens and, as some studies suggest, may cause cancer. With most bio-based products, the toxicity to the end-user is reduced, improving product quality.
  • Corporate Responsibility: Green cosmetics also present a unique opportunity for cosmetics manufacturers to focus on corporate responsibility. In addition to the positive impacts green marketing can have on a company’s image, taking the extra steps of sustainable sourcing or packaging can also make a significant impact.

With the public eye increasingly focusing on corporate ethics, small steps toward sustainability can significantly improve public opinion and boost sales.

The Green Cosmetics Market

The growing interest in sustainable cosmetics has had a significant effect on the cosmetics market. With an increasing number of consumers and retailers demanding cosmetics with natural or sustainable ingredients, the sustainable and natural cosmetics market has experienced a 15 percent annual growth rate. This growth rate far outpaces that of the $350 billion global personal care and cosmetics industry, which is currently sustaining an overall 5 percent annual growth rate.

Within the personal care industry, the oleochemicals market is increasing as cosmetic manufacturers continue to turn away from petrochemicals. Fatty acids, in particular, should experience boosts on the green side of the market, considering that they accounted for 57 percent of the total oleochemical product demand in 2013.

The Asia-Pacific region is an area of particular interest for this market, since the region accounted for 41.9 percent of the total oleochemicals market in 2013 for its abundance of raw materials and large consumer base. Both figures are unsurprising considering the quantities of bulk cosmetic glycerin regularly exported from the region.

Start Going Green

As petrochemicals continue to experience volatility in the market, turning to sustainable material sources may be the best long-term decision for cosmetics manufacturers worldwide. Don’t wait for the petrochemical market to burn you, contact Acme-Hardesty.

For more than 70 years, Acme-Hardesty, a division of Jacob Stern and Sons, has been leading innovation in oleochemicals, castor oils and derivatives, preservatives, surfactants and palm derivatives. As one of the largest distributors of these products, we work with manufacturers in multiple industries, expanding into bio-based and renewable solutions to give customers more options.

To learn more about or purchase sustainable cosmetic raw materials, contact us today.