Gone are the days when the Body Shop was the only accessible source of socially-conscious skincare products (a venture that began, quite impressively, way back in 1976, less than a decade after Rachel Carson’s seminal environmental manifesto, Silent Spring). And, while we’ve gone through the rigamarole of transforming our diets, our homes and our lifestyles to pledge allegiance to a better cared-for planet, it feels like “ethical beauty” (defined by a focus on natural ingredients, sourcing and manufacturing processes) has been somewhat stuck in the blindspot of mainstream skincare consumerism… until now.
In June 2018, the UK issued a ban on the sale of products that contain microbeads (following a manufacturing ban in January) and, while a few luxury beauty houses are undergoing a sort of recalibration for greater transparency and ethical focus, there is a swath of exciting smaller brands, some of which have been around for years, that are getting some much-deserved attention. Here are five of our favourites.
From Japan over to India, where Ayurveda (which is Sanskrit for “life”and “knowledge”) has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. True Veda was founded by a couple who were frustrated with the current selection of “healthy” products that were quote “full of rubbish like additives, fillers and binders.” They also wanted to introduce Ayurveda to a wider, western audience, and so True Veda was formed. The line is super conscious not only of the ingredients it sources (which are all free of preservatives and nasty additives) but of how they are sourced, pioneering a practice called “Natural Fusion Extract” that maximises potency and purity.
You can thank the natural mysticism of the Highlands and Okinawa for this next brand, which was founded by Scottish-Japanese musician Clare Uchima in 2016. Majo, which means “witch” in Japanese, is a “pro-ageing well” collection of vegan skincare products that prioritises clean, natural and active ingredients with strong medicinal properties, like the 10 potent certified organic oils that go into>Majo Medicine’s popular Face Food Cream (€34). Think plenty of Rosehip, Apricot Kernel, Japanese Camellia Seed, Hemp, Argan, Aloe Vera and Provitamin B.
This UK-based brand began after co-founder Lisa O’Connor sent a dowser to her Sussex farm and found a spring of silver-rich “living” water under its meadows. She teamed up with friend Kerry Moore in 2014 to start AMLY Botanicals, a line of facial mist products “consciously blended’ with essential oils and natural bio-actives distilled from plant extracts which are sourced directly from O’Connor’s farm. Special mention goes out to the Silver Rich Radiance Boost Facial Mist (€52), which does a marvellous job of reviving stressed out skin.
Ethical beauty is by no means an exclusively female concern, as Michael Sarnitz & Istvan Laszloffy proved with the launch of vegan male skincare line, SA.AL+Co. The line is produced in the alpine region of Tyrol, Austria, and is as serious about its stylish, brushed steel aesthetic (the aluminum is 100% recyclable ) as they are about their manufacturing philosophy, emphasising organic, vegan and naturally-derived ingredients from reputable sources. The duo has also taken a small-batch style manufacturing approach to optimise the quality and preservation of these ingredients, perfectly suited to the conscious man.
Karen Ballou had over 30 years experience in the skincare industry when she decided to set up Immunocologie. After being diagnosed with cancer, she grew concerned that the products she was using on her skin weren’t beneficial to her overall health and saw a gap in the market for a product that looked good, felt good and did good. Her goal was to create healthy, natural and effective skincare that felt luxurious and focussed on skin’s immune health. All of Immunocologie’s products are 100% free from parabens, phthalates, sulfates, mineral oil, artificial fragrance, artificial colours and formaldehyde.