A quick search on Instagram reveals millions of #eatclean and #greenbeauty posts. Online or offline, there’s no escaping the rise of conscious consumption over the past few years. From the ethical and environmental impact of how products are made to the effects these products have on your body, consumers are now savvier than ever, and are prepared to spend more on products that make them feel, in addition to look, better. Just look at how many Singaporeans are happy to shell out $10 for an acai snack, $30 for a sustainably-sourced main course and hundreds more for fitness classes.
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“The clean living movement is at the forefront now in Singapore, and people want to treat their bodies with more care and attention. It’s inevitable that this approach would affect beauty as well,” says Olivia Thorpe, who founded organic beauty brand, Vanderohe, and splits her time between Europe and Singapore. “It goes hand-in-hand with a more mindful approach to living in general,” she adds. While green beauty brands have been around for decades, they used to attract a specific group of customers: Those with chronic skin sensitivity or those looking to eliminate harsh chemicals and potential irritants from their skincare products. In 2017, products labelled “natural”, “toxic-free” or “organic” are no longer novelties but the norm. Green beauty brands have transitioned from niche to mainstream, going from retailing at specialty beauty boutiques to filling the shelves at superstores like Sephora.
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The rise in popularity of green beauty brands can also be attributed to how consumers are now more conscious of what they put in, and on, their bodies. Thanks to how accessible information has become, it is now easier to learn about the impacts of our consumption, be it environmental or social. It takes little to no effort for consumers to learn about a brand’s corporate social responsibility efforts before they choose to associate with it. Add the fact that many green beauty brands are privately-owned companies that make products in small batches and operate with far less revenue than large beauty conglomerates-instead of traditional advertising, they rely on social media to promote themselves and educate consumers about their products and brand ethos, which further engages their customers by creating an inclusive and participative experience.
“Our customers no longer just want to take care of themselves but also want to care for the environment, the farmers and the workers in the entire manufacturing process,” explains Janice Chew, Brand Director of Neal’s Yard Remedies Singapore. Neal’s Yard Remedies, for example, prides itself on the long-standing relationships it has built and maintained over the years with local communities in Turkey, Morocco, the Amazon and Madagascar, by establishing fair trade practices. The brand was also involved in the successful ban of microbeads in certain parts of the world, reducing its detrimental effects in the marine food chain. Likewise, Clarins partners with Pur Projet to fight deforestation and climate change in Thailand, China, Peru and Brazil, while The Body Shop is one of the most vocal advocates against animal testing. THREE, a Japanese brand that recently launched in Singapore, also prides itself on being formulated without artificial fragrances, colouring and parabens. Instead, it uses top-grade Japanese ingredients that conform to international organic certification standards as far as possible.
Fans of green beauty products recognise that their benefits are not just skin-deep. Many also contain essential oils in their formulations that can have positive effects on your mind. For example, lemon improves concentration while lavender helps reduce stress hormones. According to the Global Wellness Institute, despite a dip in global economic growth over the past few years, the wellness industry grew instead, indicating that when times are bad, people are willing to shell out to feel good. Thorpe’s Vanderohe No.1 Nourishing Face Serum, which has earned rave reviews globally since its launch early this year, aims to do just that—on top of feeding your skin, it harnesses the healing powers of aromatherapy and calms your senses during application.
BAZAAR’s Green Beauty Finds
But as with all trends, it is important to know what you are buying into. Technically, the terms “natural” and “non-toxic” are not legally regulated. This means any product can bear the “natural” label, as long as it contains something that is derived naturally, regardless of whether the majority of its ingredients are synthetic. Similarly, any product can be labelled “non-toxic” as long as it doesn’t contain anything that can cause toxic responses in humans, such as affecting your nervous system, or causing cancer and death, regardless of whether any toxic by-products were produced in its manufacturing process.
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The only way to be certain about what you are buying is to pay attention to whether the product has been awarded seals of certification from reputable certification bodies like NATRUE, ECOCERT, Soil Association, COSMOS-standard AISBL, CCOF or the gold standard, USDA. A product that has been certified organic by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), means that at least 95 percent of its ingredients are certified organic and the remaining five percent are those not considered to be potentially hazardous. However, these certifications might only be awarded to a specific ingredient, instead of the entire product, so it is necessary to always read the ingredient list carefully and do your research.
The demand for green beauty products will only continue to grow as consumers adopt healthier, more sustainable lifestyles. According to the latest 2015 Nielsen study, sustainability has become a shopping priority, particularly among millennials and Generation Z. By going green, corporations not only heal the world, so to speak, but also fatten their cash registers. Finally, the greenback will truly realise its colour-coded efficacy.