Takeover Tuesday: Balancing sustainability and design in the beauty industry

A growing consumer desire to buy more sustainable products has led to significant change in the cosmetics industry over recent years.

This shift in consumer behaviour has driven beauty brands to re-evaluate their strategies and prioritise sustainability in their product offerings. As a result, companies are increasingly focusing on eco-friendly packaging, ethically sourced ingredients, and cruelty-free testing methods. At the same time, they must continue to meet consumer expectations for high-performance products and visually attractive designs.

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Beauty brands are trying to navigate the crucial balance between sustainability and aesthetic appeal, striving to create products that not only perform functionally, look attractive but also minimise any negative environmental impact. This focus has led to a wave of innovation within the industry, with brands experimenting with new materials, production processes, and marketing approaches to stand out in a competitive market. Take Lush, for example. They are known for their minimal waste approach, with solid shampoo bars and bath bombs that come without any packaging, reducing plastic use. Even for products that require packaging, they stick to recycled and recyclable materials, setting a great example of environmental responsibility.

Here are a few more noteworthy brands

Everist began as a low-waste and waterless brand and has evolved to create unique hair and body care products with a loyal customer base. Their products are one-third the size of traditional shampoo bottles, further reducing the carbon footprint of packaging and shipping. Their aluminium tubes, made from 100% recycled materials, are infinitely recyclable, minimising environmental impact. They have also crafted a unique handy tool called the ‘zero-waste tube key’ which they include as a free item with every full-sized purchase, encouraging customers to use every last drop of their products.

Wild has designed an innovative reusable deodorant applicator and shower gel case made from durable and sustainable aluminium. This eco-friendly design not only ensures longevity but also aligns with a zero-waste lifestyle. The refillable cases are paired with natural, biodegradable bamboo pulp refills that are conveniently delivered directly to your doorstep. Each time you use these refills, you save over thirty grams of plastic from ending up in landfill, significantly reducing your environmental footprint. Their commitment to reducing single-use plastic waste extends beyond just the product design – Wild also uses minimal and recyclable packaging for all their shipments.

All Tropic packaging is recyclable, refillable, or returnable. For items difficult to recycle at home, Tropic offers a Freepost label to return five empty products, rewarding customers with a voucher for a new product. Tropic is the first beauty brand to use 100% refillable INNERBOTTLE™ technology, aligning with their mission to create a healthier, greener world. Their moisturisers are suspended in airless, BPA-free silicone balloons for freshness and zero waste. Returning five empty INNERBOTTLE™ balloons to Tropic HQ earns customers a £10 product voucher as a thank you for their environmental efforts.

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The shift towards sustainable packaging is not just about reducing plastic, it is about exploring new, innovative materials that are kind to the planet. Biodegradable plastics, made from natural materials like cornstarch and sugarcane, decompose more quickly than traditional plastics, leaving a smaller environmental footprint. The use of glass is making a comeback as well - infinitely recyclable and luxurious in feel, brands like Tata Harper and Herbivore Botanicals use glass for their product containers, combining sustainability with sophistication. Paper and cardboard have seen advancements in durability and waterproofing, making them viable options for packaging. Additionally, upcycled materials are gaining popularity. UpCircle Beauty, for example, repurposes coffee grounds and discarded fruit stones in their packaging, giving new life to materials that would otherwise end up as waste.

By creating products that are visually interesting and eco-friendly, brands can attract customers based on aesthetic appeal, ensuring that these brands stand out on the shelf. When customers are drawn to and purchase these products, the built-in eco-friendliness becomes an added bonus, smoothly incorporating sustainability into their everyday purchase behaviour.

Sustainable packaging must also meet the expectations of the modern consumer, who demands transparency; they want to know the story behind the packaging. Clear labelling about materials used, recyclability, and brand sustainability initiatives foster trust and loyalty, the same can be said for any industry which is looking to educate their customers about this topic.

While sustainability is crucial, packaging design must still attract consumers. Innovative design elements, such as unique shapes, textures, and finishes, can make sustainable packaging visually appealing. Sustainable does not have to mean plain or boring. Packaging can also be a powerful storytelling tool. Integrating brand values and sustainability messages into the design can enhance consumer connection and brand loyalty.

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The beauty industry’s shift towards sustainable packaging is not just a trend, it is a necessary evolution driven by consumer demand and environmental responsibility. Brands that innovate in this space, across all industries, not only contribute to a healthier planet but also resonate deeply with a growing segment of eco-conscious consumers. The challenge will remain to continue pushing the boundaries of sustainable design, ensuring that products remain not only kind to the planet but also irresistibly appealing to the consumer.

At WDC Creative, we continually seek out the most sustainable materials that do not compromise on design or aesthetics. We are committed to educating and challenging the use of traditional materials by exploring and promoting sustainable alternatives. Our creative process centres on using innovation to solve design challenges, opening up the opportunity for us to incorporate the use of more responsible materials and approaches into our work.

We’re always ready to listen

If you’d like to have an informal discussion about your design needs, please get in touch.

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