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Sustainability in the skincare industry

What is sustainability? It is a relatively new word, plus its meaning has been changing with time.

Originally, “sustainability” meant making such use of natural, renewable resources like a forest so that people could continue to rely on their yields in the long term. In other words, using a resource in such a way that it never runs out.  Nowadays it means keeping the balance between environment, equity, and economy. In any of its uses, it’s an admirable aim and looks great in advertising.

Because the meaning of the word changes with the source, it’s a good idea to ask what the person (or the advertiser) means by it. How is the company dealing with sustainability in its daily activity?

We at Skin Actives have been at the forefront of the sustainability issue since long before we created our company. I was there when plant genetic engineering was created; the hope was great and there was excitement at the prospect of how it would improve life in general. I was there too when the first worries about unwanted and unpredicted (but not unpredictable) effects were expressed and committees were started to analyze possible unwanted effects of the methodology. Looking even further back, I remember studying ecology in the 1960s, when this was still an obscure academic subject. I was involved in the culture of microalgae to supply antioxidants and valuable chemicals from the very beginning. Later, I advised committees about the dangers of spraying herbicides and told other scientists about the obvious (to me) dangers of using plants to express human proteins. Jonatan (who had to listen to discussions on the scientific methods on his way to elementary school) obtained an MSc in Energy and Environmental Studies. I tell you all of this not to impress you with our qualifications but to show you that ecology, sustainability, and ethics in science have been a family preoccupation for many decades.

So here are some of my suggestions, about what we can do for the environment while using (or producing) good, effective, and safe skincare products.

  • Avoid buying products that contain materials extracted from species in danger of extinction
  • Avoid sources that employ transgenic plants, a day of the triffids danger
  • Promote projects that recycle plastics, like the Plastic neutral initiative
  • Promote projects that decrease our carbon footprint
  • Cruelty-free: don’t buy products tested on animals, a useless practice anyway
  • We offer vegan products whenever possible
  • Use materials discarded after processing crops. Examples: coffee fruit (the coffee seeds are used to make coffee).

Unless it is backed by action, sustainability is just one of those shiny words that the beauty industry uses when they ran out of ideas. Don’t fall for it.