How Fast Beauty Is Impacting The Industry (And The Planet)

Your guide to a more sustainable in-store skincare offering.

When it comes to sustainability, the beauty industry is certainly no game-changer. Although a handful of brands and companies have made leaps and bounds towards a more sustainable industry, (think Emma Lewisham’s carbon-positive beauty and Conserving Beauty’s water-free approach) beauty as a whole is generally a large contributor to pollution, water waste and plastic waste. The beauty industry is one of the largest plastic polluters, producing 120 billion units of packaging each year — and it seems that this trend is on the rise.

According to Rohan Widdison, CEO of Australian cosmetic and skincare lab New Laboratories, this phenomenon is a product of the trend-based approach many major brands are taking towards skincare and cosmetics, leading to a “fast beauty” issue. Here, we talk to Widdison to find out more about what fast beauty is and how spas and clinics can opt for a more sustainable business approach.

What is “fast beauty”?

RW: Fast beauty is similar to fast fashion, an idea that refers to trendy clothes which aren’t of great quality being mass-produced with a very short turnaround, the objective being to capitalise on a current trend. The term was originally coined by the New York Times to describe Zara’s mission to take only 15 days for a garment to go from the design stage to landing on their retail store shelves. This resulted in questions being raised around ethical sourcing of materials and ethical manufacturing practices.

Fast beauty is a similar concept — it’s beauty products which have a very short turnaround time from design through to being either sold online or in stores. Generally, fast beauty items are sold online as the traditional bricks and mortar model isn’t set up for agility when it comes to beauty products.

Fast beauty is a problem for two reasons — quality and sustainability. When it comes to product formulation for a quality product, formulation takes time and is a crucial part of the process that can’t be rushed, especially when it comes to testing.

Can you tell us more about the sustainability issues behind skincare, especially cosmeceutical skincare?

RW: The reason why fast beauty is a sustainability problem is because the majority of fast beauty products end up in landfill. Unlike fast fashion, consumers can’t donate fast beauty purchases to thrift stores due to hygiene reasons. Consumers are also unlikely to be able to resell a used cosmeceutical skincare product on eBay or Marketplace, therefore they end up in landfill because due to their packaging size and materials used they’re often not recyclable.

Cosmeceutical skincare also has a shelf life and consumers can’t leave a questionable or trend-based purchase in the cupboard for five years thinking “I might use it one day”.

If lowering your carbon footprint is an important factor for you, locally-sourced and manufactured products will be the best option for you.

Rohan Widdison, CEO of New Laboratories.

How can brands be more aware of fast beauty and what can they do to minimise their impact?

RW: If you as a business owner or founder are not sure if a product is “fast beauty”, do some research before you buy. Check out the supplier’s website and Google the brand. If they’re a reputable brand they should be mentioned, in a positive and value-adding way in some articles. Make sure you order some samples first and test the product. If you’re happy with the samples and the supplier uses ethically-sourced products, you can order more. This is a great way to minimise your impact.

What can spa and clinic owners do to offer a more sustainable range of products?

RW: National resources are finite, so it’s important that the natural ingredients being used aren’t negatively impacting the environment. One example is palm oil. If sustainability is one of your company’s brand values, ensuring your favourite beauty products that use palm oil are RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) certified, may be of importance for you.

If lowering your carbon footprint is an important factor for you, locally-sourced and manufactured products will be the best option for you.

The beauty industry supply chain is an in-depth one, with thousands of products on the market with natural and synthetic ingredients that are sourced globally. Learning where your products are sourced and manufactured, what your supplier company values are and what ingredients are in your favourite products are the first steps in offering a more sustainable range of products. Also using fit-for-purpose packaging that includes recycled content and is recyclable itself is another step to improving your sustainability offering. You can always offer beauty recycling services in your storefront and encourage your clients to upcycle their product empties, too.

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