Our skin is our largest organ. Its function (the integumentary system) is to protect us, but as it’s also visible to everyone, let’s face it, there’s an element of vanity there too.
You might be as frustrated as I was to learn that there is as much greenwashing in the cosmetics industry as there is in the fashion industry. Misinformation, loose terminology and confusing labelling is masked by some of the strongest marketing in the world. However, lack of regulation is more likely at the root of it.
“I think change has started in the industry, but I don’t think it’s going fast enough. The industry will have to be forced by regulations,” says Kasia O’Reilly, founder of Sana Naturals (a minimalist skincare company) in Co Cavan. “The marketing for the industry is huge.”
“There are no regulations that I am aware of in terms of plastic packaging,” Kasia continues. “However, you have to send your formulations to the Cosmetics Health and Safety Authority where they are tested in a lab to ensure they are safe. They will ask what type of containers they are stored in. I chose recyclable transparent glass containers for my products, because this type of glass can be recycled multiple times without losing its quality. I opted for aluminium lids instead of plastic and no outer cardboard packaging, to reduce waste.”
Kasia has a list of methods to ensure her company and products are plastic-free and as eco-conscious as possible.
“Our products also come in a reusable cotton eco-pouch and I encourage customers to use them for shopping for loose fruit and veg and their storage. For shipping, I use recyclable cardboard boxes made of recycled cardboard; every piece of bubble wrap that comes with ingredients and containers is reused for shipping the rose quartz face rollers that I stock.
Our products also come in a reusable cotton eco-pouch and I encourage customers to use them for shopping for loose fruit and veg and their storage
“The product brochure is printed on recycled paper using environmentally-friendly ink and renewable energy. For my marketing materials I use The Factory, which is Ireland’s leading eco-print studio that uses renewable energy for their services and I reuse plastic oil containers for making my own cleaning and washing detergents. I use them to refill in zero waste shops, and even the ingredient and container cardboard boxes are used by my little boy to make DIY cat houses, robots, rockets or cars.”
Kasia wanted to create something with Sana Naturals that was the opposite to what supermarkets promote: aisles full of beauty products in bright-coloured plastic containers that are cheaply priced.
“It was a no-brainer when I launched – the brand had to be eco-conscious, but it is a constant struggle to achieve this. None of the beauty products are 100% ‘eco-friendly’. Firstly, the ingredients are shipped and delivered from different parts of the world and are covered in plastic packaging. One of my biggest challenges is trying to find suppliers who have a similar ethos to mine.
“When I order litres of olive oil, for example, it will come in plastic containers as it’s not practical to ship it in glass. It’s unavoidable at the moment, unfortunately. However, other things are avoidable – for example, I ordered boxes made of recycled cardboard and they came wrapped in bubble wrap! I wrote to the company in question to complain, pointing out this contradiction and oversight, and asked if it could be shipped in a different way – they said yes.”
Beauty is skin deep
Kasia founded Sana Naturals in 2015 after moving to her husband’s family farm in the countryside from Dublin. Kasia’s son Leon was 18 months old when she launched her own business. The idea had grown from her own personal journey with her skincare routine and being a new mom.
“I had created my own skincare products at home because my skin was very unhappy; it was dull and lifeless, acne prone, both dry and oily in places, with some broken capillaries … so it was very challenging. I had invested in a multi-step skincare routine, which helped, but I struggled for time as a new mother and skincare rituals with 17 steps weren’t possible anymore, so I needed something quick, simple and effective, and this led to Sana Naturals.”
Kasia grew up in rural Poland has a deep love of nature. It was her Granny who influenced her to use more natural methods.
“My Granny kept telling me to wash my face with oats, but I didn’t listen to her. I guess she had learned to do this because they were very poor growing up and only used natural soap and ingredients you could find in the pantry. She would cleanse her face with olive oil, followed by oats as an exfoliant,” Kasia recalls.
“Our products are made with high-performing natural plant ingredients, cherished since ancient times for their healing and beautifying properties, and their efficacy is also backed by scientific research.”
Sometimes companies only list the ingredients in Latin, or the scientific name, to cause confusion for consumers
Transparency is key
Too often, ingredients lists in cosmetics products are entirely synthetic and, believe it or not, there can be plastic in the very products themselves.
“Parabens are basically synthetics produced in labs at mass scale and used as preservatives,” Kasia explains. “Some have been banned in cosmetics as they’ve been linked to being cancerous and hormone disruptors. However, there are other plastics being used in cosmetics and the problem is there isn’t enough research on them at the moment to realise fully the effects on humans.
“By law, the list of ingredients has to be on the label, but there is greenwashing there because where it says ‘paraben free’, you think it’s good for you. Actually, this just means that all the parabens that are banned in the EU are not in this product, but there are other synthetics, stabilisers and other unnecessary things not yet banned in there. Sometimes companies only list the ingredients in Latin, or the scientific name, to cause confusion for consumers.”
What can we do to help?
Kasia has some useful tips to help us all on the road to a plastic-free beauty bag and healthier skin: