The sad truth for makeup lovers is that the beauty industry can be inherently unsustainable. Packaging and containers from beauty products end up in landfills across the globe, and some ingredients require harmful extraction methods. That being said, lip gloss is not one of the beauty industry’s most harmful products when it comes to environmental degradation and sustainability. There are companies that are working to create eco-friendly products for lip balm and lip gloss lovers alike. Glossier’s lip gloss is made from a few simple ingredients, many of which naturally occur in nature. Glossier has established a commitment to listening to their customers’ sustainability concerns and has made active steps to reduce their waste impact on the planet. This lip gloss does not achieve all sustainability goals, such as biodegradable or recyclable packaging and all-natural ingredients, but there is a conscious effort in the supply chain to have a minimal negative impact through the production of this product.
The main ingredients in the lip gloss are a combination of emollients, Vitamin E acetate, and jojoba oil. The website calls the combination of emollients “Gloss-lock technology”. Due to the vagueness of this name, I looked up common emollients in lip gloss to see what the emollients in this specific lip gloss could be. My internet search yielded results that said the most common emollients are jojoba oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E if the company is using organic or natural ingredients. The ingredients can also be synthetic. It appears the Glossier uses both natural and synthetic emollients in the lip gloss. The website gives an option to view the full ingredients list, but this is accessible through a link that some consumers might not click on. The full ingredient list is Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Octyldodecanol, Polybutene, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Flavor/Aroma, Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Red 6 (CI 15850). Jojoba oil is a very sustainable ingredient because only the seeds of the plant are harvested and the rest of the plant is left to thrive. The plant is also highly pest and drought-resistant and doesn’t require much maintenance in terms of water and pesticide usage. Hydrogenated Polyisobutene is a synthetic liquid that commonly replaces mineral or silicone oils in cosmetics. Octyldodecanol is a synthetic emollient. The preservative that is used in the lip gloss is called Phenoxyethanol and is the synthetic version of a preservative that can be found naturally in green tea. The Danish EPA has suspected phenoxyethanol as being damaging to the environment and human health, but there are no known negative environmental effects of the use of the chemical. There are no known environmental impacts of vitamin e acetate and it is not suspected to bioaccumulate in the environment. Another ingredient listed is “Flavor/Aroma” and it is not clear what is used to create this, which means it is most likely chemically manufactured. There have been studies that examine the effects of chemically manufactured fragrances and aromas like this ingredient. These studies have found that there is a potential for bioaccumulation of these chemicals to occur in nature, specifically marine life. Because it is unclear what exactly the ingredients make up the aromas in the glossier lip gloss, it is unclear if bioaccumulation is an issue that will occur from the use of this product. Overall, the main ingredients in the lip gloss have a low negative environmental impact and, therefore, have received a rating of 2 planets.
In terms of packaging, the lip gloss is packaged in a tiny plastic tube and the applicator is also made of plastic. There is no way around the fact that these lip gloss containers will end up in landfills when customers are done using them. Something else to consider is the longevity of a product, as one way to be sustainable is through extending the life of a product so customers need to buy less. This lipgloss is relatively small, which means that when the customer is done using the product they are likely to buy it again if they like it, and due to the size of the product, a person might go through a few of these lip glosses. If Glossier wanted to extend the life of the product, they could make a larger size, which would increase sustainability. Furthermore, when customers order from the website the products are packaged in Glossier’s classic pink pouch, which is made of plastic. However, since 2019 Glossier has offered all of their orders with the ability for the customer to select “Limited Packaging” which would provide their items without the signature pink pouch and without any packaging extras. This puts sustainable decision-making on the consumer. Additionally, starting in 2019, Glossier offers pink pouch recycling at all of the retail locations. The boxes that Glossier ships their products in are made from 100% recycled content and they have begun the process of removing all unnecessary items such as liners in their boxes.
Not all Glossier products are vegan, but the lip gloss is. This means that none of the ingredients in the lip gloss come from animal products. Glossier is certified cruelty-free, meaning that they do not test their ingredients or their products on animals, anywhere in the world. Their suppliers do not test on animals and Glossier does not allow their products to be tested on animals in regions where it is required by law. For example, there are some countries that require animal testing for products such as mainland China, which is why Glossier is not sold in this region. Glossier is certified cruelty-free by the only internationally recognized certification organization for cruelty-free companies, Leaping Bunny. Glossier’s policy on animal testing states that they are committed to being cruelty-free at all stages of product development. This means that they only work with vendors and suppliers who uphold the same standards as them. The Glossier website has a page dedicated to explaining the company’s supply chain transparency. This states that Glossier is committed to doing business in an ethically responsible manner that benefits its customers, employees, partners, and manufacturers. Glossier expects their suppliers to “be in full compliance with the applicable laws of the countries and regions where they operate, including all labor laws”. They have a zero-tolerance policy laid out in the Company Code of Conduct, which is distributed to all suppliers. This policy condemns the use of forced labor, child labor, human trafficking, harassment, and abuse. Glossier also engages in regular audits of their suppliers in order to manage and address labor issues within their supply chain. If a supplier is found to have violated the agreement set forth in the Code of Conduct, Glossier has the right to terminate the relationship with that supplier. Additionally, Glosser provides training to educate employees on issues of supply chain transparency and labor laws, in order to facilitate greater awareness within the company.
Glossier states that they want to listen to the needs and wants of their customers and when it comes to sustainability they share their customers’ desire “to do more good and less harm”. In 2019, members of the Glossier supply chain, packaging, product development, and design teams created a thorough audit in order to create a roadmap and a set of principles for the company’s sustainability goals in the future. Generally speaking, Glossier is a company that is tuned into what the global trends of sustainability in beauty are, and they are especially tuned in to what their consumers want. Due to pushback on one of their products that was formulated with glitter, Glossier discontinued the product. They did this in response to the growing controversy over the use of glitter in products, as it can accumulate in oceans and waterways. The company was responsive to consumer desire and decided to discontinue this product and attempt to reformulate it with biodegradable glitter. Overall, Glossier seems to understand that they will not always get it right and might stumble over some sustainability hurdles, but seem committed to sustainable development. They also encourage consumer input and have an email dedicated to hearing the thoughts of consumers on sustainability in their business practices.