Saving the world isn't just a superhero fantasy. It's actually happening, with real life heroes showing up in the most unlikely places.
In the health and beauty world, these cape-free supers are seeking out alternatives to satisfy our makeup, skincare, hair and hygiene needs, without the side of environmental damage. And it's mainly down to packaging. Sustainable switches are seeing aluminium take precedence over plastic, product refill incentives are kicking into gear, and biodegradable, plant-based pots, tubs and tubes can be found peeking out of every product-stacked shelf.
Now, there's still a lot to do before we undo the damage of unconscious beauty consumption. But slowly slowly, these sustainable switches are giving our planet a chance. If only we could take away packaging altogether. Now, that would make a real difference!
Rushing to the rescue from New Zealand, biochemist and founder of , Brianne West, is on a mission to do just that, with one solid solution - beauty bars. But we're not talking about soap. In fact, Ethique products are completely soap-free, as well as being zero-waste, vegan and fully sustainable. There's currently 28 products to choose from, covering everything from shampoo and face wash to conditioner, serum and even self tan. And such is the demand they have the capability to hand-make up to 156,000 solid bars per day.
With such impressive eco creds, we've been following the brand from afar, alongside their 41K Insta followers, waiting patiently for it to land in our bathrooms. And the good news is it's now available for shipping to the UK, with prices starting at £13.
Our firm favourites so far include the Pinkalicious Shampoo Bar that lathers well, and left hair feeling super clean with a lightweight, voluminous feeling. Also, worth trying is the Boost Hair Mask. It's bit of
a faff remembering to prep the hair mask before the shower, but it feels super nourishing and leaves hair with a healthy sheen. The glide-on, lavender-scented Deodorant Bar is also impressive.
Ready to go package-free? Meet Ethique founder, Brianne West, as she shares the inspiration and challenges in creating a zero waste beauty brand. We're pretty sure you won't need much convincing on why this eco-conscious brand deserves a spot on your shelfie.
Caring for the environment is second nature
I have always been eco-minded; my parents bought me up that way in New Zealand. It’s always been my goal to have a positive impact on the environment in some way. I initially thought it would be through scientific discovery or exploration.
It's about time beauty was disrupted
The majority of cosmetic packaging is obviously plastic and yes, it is often recyclable, however what most people don’t realise is that only 12% of plastic worldwide is actually recycled and that 8 million tonnes end up in our oceans every year. Ethique is genuinely making a difference to that.
Being sustainable is our responsibility
So far, Ethique has prevented over 3M plastic bottles from being made. Our supply chain is completely free of ingredients like palm oil and practices like child labour and animal testing. It’s immoral and despicable to produce cosmetics products that use animal testing or contain animal products. If we start to demand better quality stuff, made by happier, fairly treated people, from sustainable resources, everyone and the environment would be better off in relatively quick measure.
Practical solutions form the heart of Ethique
While studying at University, I learnt that up to 75% of shampoo and even 90% of conditioner can be water, which just seemed crazy to me. I was interested in what happened if you simply combined the ingredients without water. Shampoo bars aren’t particularly unusual, but the majority of them are soap, which has a very high pH and leaves residue. I wanted to create something much closer to a typical salon quality shampoo - but solid, of course!
Next step, a completely solid beauty routine
After solid shampoo, I branched out into conditioners, then started replacing everything in my bathroom with solid versions. A couple of our newer products do contain a little water, such as The Perfector, our solid face cream, and Bombshell, our self-tanning bar which is necessary to get some of the ingredients in there, but the majority are completely water free. You have water in your bathroom, why do you need it in your products too?
There’s no reason to NOT try bar formulas
To store Ethique products once open, we’ve developed compostable in-shower containers made of bamboo & cornstarch. They look like plastic but are plastic free and will biodegrade in your garden, yet last at least five years in your bathroom. Some people think bar formulas are more likely to have bacterial or fungal problems, but we have run ours through rigorous testing, including challenge testing, which sees how easy it is for a formula to support microbial life by continually infecting a sample with a microbe and sampling for growth over time. Pleased to say our bars all passed with flying colours.
My products are for everyone, not just beauty addicts
I’m not a particularly girly girl. I obviously use Ethique bars; Pinkalicious, Wonderbar, Bliss Bar and The Perfector regularly, But I switch in new products that we are working on (right now, we’re looking at oral care!). I adore Eye of Horus mascara and eyeliners which are cruelty free and vegan, but I look forward to the day I can get a really good range of makeup that is plastic free. Maybe we’ll need to move into that space too…
We haven't finished the hard work just yet
I want it to be a significant multinational brand that puts a bar in every shower. I don't necessarily one of our bars. I want Ethique to inspire other brands to think about how they sell and package their products, and encourage consumers to think if they really need liquid bodywash or shampoo- or have they been taken in by marketing. Our solid products are really no different, the shampoo is shampoo, NOT soap, the conditioner is what you buy in a bottle, the moisturisers are the same as lotion, just without the water. We have 28 new products on the way this year, including a line of household products (watch this space), new international markets, new retail partnerships (for the UK in particular), new team members and new ways of people accessing our products- it’s all very exciting!