What’s the deal with conscious cosmetics?

What you put on your skin affects you more than what you eat,” Karina Pereira warns.

“Most of the people interested in sustainable skincare are already living a sustainable lifestyle.” Karin Pereira Credit: Soninke Combrinck

It is easy to be swept up by the allure of the bright colours and smells of a make-up aisle of a store. The bright eyes, long lashes and puckered lips gets our hearts racing and tickles our desires. We don’t want to give up on that colour rush we experience when purchasing a new item of make-up. But there is a way to shop for cosmetics responsibly.

However, ecologically conscious cosmetics products have become synonymous with a lofty price tag. But is it worth all the fuss?

What’s behind the price tag?

“It is unfair that you have to pay to be healthy. But it’s like with food; you have to pay to certify that it is healthy and organic, and that influences the price of the product in the store,” Karina Pereira, a skincare adviser and aromatherapist at Wellness Warehouse, elaborates. Many people who purchase healthier skincare products are those already living a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Trevor Steyn, mastermind and creator behind Esse, explains why conscious skincare products are more expensive. “You’ve got to look at the whole supply chain. It starts local, at a community source, and if you pay attention to what your harvester gets paid it will increase the procurement cost of raw material.”

In order to acquire the  Eco-cert label, the company first has to undergo a rigorous and costly audit, which occurs twice a year. An auditor flies down from France and examines the whole chain of the product, including packaging and raw materials. Transparency  is essential; the auditor will trace every ingredient to the farmer to ensure that it is sourced organically.

“It is important toimprove the lives of community shareholders too, not just the public stakeholders,” says Trevor Steyn. Credit: Soninke Combrinck

The Vegan Society and Beauty without Cruelty certification is a no-brainer, Trevor says. Esse has also adopted the Cradle-to-Cradle policy, although they are not yet certified. This organisation follows the life-cycle of the product’s packaging: from the impact production will have, to use, and to disposal.

“We don’t want our packaging to go to the grave. Instead, we want to cycle material,” says Trevor.

On a journey to becoming carbon neutral, an audit was conducted to investigate whether it was better to recycle or reuse the glass containers. “It is more sustainable to send the bottles back for cleaning and reuse from Cape Town to Kwazulu-Natal, and save a chunk of impact to the planet.”

Do people ever ask about organic and eco-friendly products?

“Most of the people who ask questions want to know about recycling and animal testing,” says Bronwyn Louw, Beauty Advisor at Clicks at Gardens Shopping Centre. Those clients usually have sensitive skin and are aware of the impact skincare products have on their bodies. “They are usually more aware in winter, when their skin is dry,” Bronwyn explained.

The staff at the Body Shop said,”The Body Shop makes people aware of organic products, so people know what is offered when they walk in.” They also noted that customers in Cape Town are more environmentally friendly and aware, and as result, more open to organic products, compared to Johannesburg clients.

“The Body Shop makes people aware of organic products.” Credit: Soninke Combrinck

Ashton Bester, salesperson for Sorbet at local Gardens Shopping Center, responded that the most frequent question is about animal testing. She says that there was a spike in questions regarding organically sourced products last year, but interest dropped this year.

“What you put onto your skin goes straight into your bloodstream,” says Karina Pereira. Credit: Soninke Combrinck

“Is it tested? Is it animal friendly?” these are the questions that Karina is confronted with at the Wellness Center.

Apart from the interest in skincare products without animal testing, customers also question the sustainability of the product, whether its packaging is biodegradable or recyclable.

According to Karina, Esse is the role model with regards to sustainability in the whole life cycle of the product. They have many good accreditation, like Eco-cert, vegan, Beauty without Cruelty and PhytoTrade Africa. “But I will have to save up before I buy products again,” she added sheepishly.

 Is it worth all the fuss?

“The products that you use which are more sustainable and organic are longer lasting,” Shani Wehl, a customer at the Ecoco store said. Cheap products are usually bad for your skin and you need to replace them more regularly. Chemicals are really bad in the long run.

Tanya Wilson, another customer at Ecoco, said that she is definitely prepared to pay more and shop at specific places to get products that are organic and sustainable. “It’s not only about health,” she explained, “But the modern world and how long we can maintain our current trends. We can’t just think about ourselves, but think about our children.”

The Ecoco store on Loop Street, 30 years of ecological cosmetics products Credit: Soninke Combrinck

To become a conscious cosmetics consumer take a look at Faithful to Nature and Eco Atlas for products and prices.

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