55 Brands That Are Defining a New Era in Sustainable Beauty


(Image credit: @allisonmcnamara)

Some feelings triumph over others. Take, for example, the giddiness of unwrapping a newly delivered package or finding a favorite beauty product on sale at Sephora. And while there's no denying the adrenal rush of unwrapping the new beauty products, as an editor, I must admit I often feel overwhelmed and guilty about the amount of product waste I witness within the beauty space. Of course, there are sustainable beauty brands out there. Today, it's possible to craft a whole zero-waste beauty routine or even a clean beauty routine. But even for an editor, the terms around what sustainable beauty is compared to clean beauty, waterless beauty, and zero-waste beauty are unclear. 

To clear up some of the confusion around what makes a beauty brand sustainable, we spoke with Credo's VP of sustainability and impact, Mia Davis. Ahead, you'll hear from her about what makes a brand sustainable, what to look out for, and how you can adopt a more sustainable beauty routine. A greener routine awaits.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Mia Davis)

Sustainability has become a massive point of discussion within the beauty industry over the past few years. Do you think this is a trend? Or the future of the industry? 

MD: I am so glad that sustainability has become a significant focus for consumer products as of late. Sustainability is not a trend; it is the future, no doubt about it. The more that consumers and other stakeholders learn about sustainability and the critical juncture we're at on this beautiful planet, the more they will bring others to the table. And once you know, you don't go back (you simply can't).

There is so much confusion around what sustainable beauty is. In layman's terms, how would you describe it? 

MD: "Sustainable beauty," like so many other terms in our industry, can mean something or not too much depending on who is saying it. To Credo, sustainability is a fundamental part of the Credo Clean Standard. It means that we, and our brand partners, think about the likely effect on the planet when we make decisions. For example, how are ingredients grown, harvested, mined, or manufactured; are the practices sustainable, meaning they do not harm (or as little harm) to the ecosystem and the climate as possible? Or are they unsustainable, which means that there is a negative impact that cannot continue without causing a lot of damage? A big one for beauty is the packaging: Is it designed to use as little material as possible (an example of a sustainable step), or is it made with virgin plastic that is unlikely to be recycled (unsustainable)?


(Image credit: Who What Wear)

What should consumers know about the differences between sustainable beauty, eco-friendly beauty, clean beauty, cruelty-free, organic, water-free, and recyclable beauty? 

MD: Sustainable beauty means thinking about the likely effect on the planet. Clean/ eco-friendly beauty implies that it not only avoids using a list of restricted materials (though The Dirty List encompasses 2,700 ingredients). Instead, it incorporates natural elements. It's composed of three components: ingredient sourcing/integrity, ingredient and product manufacturing, ingredient safety, and a products' end-of-life.


(Image credit: @allisonmcnamara

Globally, there are different regulations around what constitutes "sustainable" beauty. What is your opinion that makes a brand sustainable?

MD: There are different cosmetic regulations worldwide, but they are not specifically around sustainability (more to do with safety and disclosure). Some certifications address sustainability. For example, organic growing standards have rules around chemical use, no genetically modified plants, no clear-cutting, which is all more sustainable. To me, a truly sustainable brand has a meaningful plan. It might be hitting it out of the park when it comes to using organic ingredients and safer chemistry (which is great), but it isn't stopping there; it also takes action on its carbon footprint, its packaging use, and more. And that is a journey. You don't have to be perfect. In fact, we can't all be. But I don't like to see a "safer" beauty company that kicks the can on the packaging, for example, or has a private corporate jet. That isn't true sustainability.


(Image credit: @emmahoareau)

Within the fashion and beauty industry, many brands have adopted greenwashing practices. In your opinion, is it better that brands are trying to be more environmentally friendly? Or do you find that the efforts to be relevant to consumers but not sustainable are just as hurtful for the environment long-term?

MD: Greenwashing makes it hard for customers to trust brands and makes it much harder for the brands to formulate safer, more sustainable materials to show they're doing it right. Fortunately, customers are savvy and increasingly demanding transparency, and Credo is doing our part to push and pull the supply chain to quell greenwashing. We're especially leading on this in the realm of packaging. There are so many false claims about recyclability and bio-resins, and we're working hard to bring honest, informed information to our community. 

How can consumers know if the beauty products they're using are sustainable?  

MD: One tip is to ask brands what they're doing on sustainability and where they get their information from. If they're just passing on some marketing jargon from a packaging supplier without doing their research, then you might be being greenwashed. Of course, we do a lot of the homework for you, so shopping at Credo is one great tool. Also, check out what some of the leading nonprofit organizations (like Environmental Defense Fund, Women's Voices for the Earth, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Greenpeace) say about these topics. They tend to offer great information. 


(Image credit: Who What Wear)

How do you think consumers can adopt a more sustainable beauty routine?

MD: There are three simple things you can do to adopt a more sustainable beauty routine.

#1: Do more with less. Clean beauty is well-known for beautiful multitasking makeup, so it's not difficult to find one product that can do it all to reduce the number of products—and ultimately waste—in your beauty routine.


(Image credit: @nitsanraiter)

What does the future of sustainable beauty look like in your eyes? 

MD:  We expect considerable strides in the space going forward—primarily around more sustainable packaging options, which we are driving at. Customers are demanding this, and we are committed to real, actionable change in packaging sustainability. We have prohibited single-use items and all sample sachets as of June 1, 2021. This is a huge first step on what will be a long journey! We're showing up for sustainability in beauty in a big way.

Shop More Sustainable Beauty Brands



The Nue Co.

One Ocean Beauty





Summer Fridays

Codex Beauty


Static Nails


Kōv Skincare


Jojoba Company

Meow Meow Tweet

Grown Alchemist

Alder New York


Bathing Culture

The Beauty Chef

Jozi Curls

Okoko Cosmétiques


Luma & Leaf

Pholk Beauty

Common Heir







Love Beauty and Planet


Ren Clean Skincare


Evolve Organic Beauty

Terra Ties



Moon Juice

Next: 25 Low- or No-Waste Beauty Products for a Greener Routine

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman is a fashion editor living in New York City. What began as a hobby (blogging on Tumblr) transformed into a career dedicated to storytelling through various forms of digital media. She started her career at the print publication 303 Magazine, where she wrote stories, helped produce photo shoots, and planned Denver Fashion Week. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked as MyDomaine's social media editor until she was promoted to work across all of Clique's publications (MyDomaine, Byrdie, and Who What Wear) as the community manager. Over the past few years, Jasmine has worked on Who What Wear's editorial team, using her extensive background to champion rising BIPOC designers, weigh in on viral trends, and profile stars such as Janet Mock and Victoria Monét. She is especially interested in exploring how art, fashion, and pop culture intersect online and IRL.