Blue Beauty Is the Next Generation of Green Beauty—Here's What the Movement Is All About

A sustainability spinoff that we can get behind.

Although we've come a very long way from plastic microbeads and non-degradable glitter makeup, there's always progress to be made when it comes to making our beauty routine more sustainable. It might be hard to fully wrap your head around the beauty movements out there—we're looking at you, clean beauty—but we're happy to say this new trend is much more streamlined. Enter: blue beauty.

Clean beauty generally refers to non-toxic beauty, as in non-toxic when being applied to our skin. But what happens when those synthetic fragrances and silicones are washed down the drain? Unlike green beauty, blue beauty has a very focused goal—and that's the ocean.

The overall ethos is an overarching effort to create a positive impact on the sea, which just so happens to have one dump truck full of plastic waste enter it every minute, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). By looking for more sustainable, regenerative, and ocean-friendly ways through the beauty products that we use, we can reduce that number. That doesn't just mean using clean, sustainably-sourced ingredients—it also includes plastic-negative efforts and proactive formulation initiatives regarding water wastage.

Also, unlike other clean and green beauty trends, blue beauty has a focused agenda on helping brands achieve an ecologically responsible level. The movement Blue Beauty was first solidified by Jeannie Jarnot at Beauty Heroes in 2018. "​​Blue Beauty is about companies that are working to make a positive impact on the environment through their brands, by becoming carbon or plastic negative (offsetting more than they create), supporting small farms and indigenous farming practices, giving to environmental causes, and planting trees—basically anything that makes a net-positive effect on the environment," says Jarnot.

It Starts With Plastics

"If nothing changes, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050," explains Jason Domangue, founder of blue beauty soap brand Petal. "Americans throw away more than 30 million tons of plastic a year, and only 8 percent get recycled. Personal care products contribute over 500 million plastic bottles to landfills and oceans every year."

It's no news anymore that plastic pollution is an urgent ecological issue, but it is also worth mentioning that beauty products are some of the most difficult to recycle (and one of the categories that is least recycled.) Not only do they contribute to plastic production, they are quite directly generating more waste because of the little parts, caps, and more in products.

Blue beauty focuses on responsible, plastic-negative packaging. A product might be quite sustainable but still use plastic packaging, making it one that would not be acceptable according to Blue Beauty standards (but with potential to get there!).

The solution requires either sustainable or refill options. "The mantra for packaging has to be refill vs. single-use," says Domangue. "Make sure all packaging is meant to be reused or recycled. The goal is for nothing to end up in the trash can/landfill/ocean." Fortunately, refillable cosmetics are gaining momentum with many brands offering economical options to save an extra buck, as well as the planet. For example, brands like Bathing Culture, OUAI, and Tata Harper offer in-store refills of body care and skincare products as part of their effort to reduce pollution.

The Formula Counts

At the core of all blue beauty products are sustainable formulas, meaning it's toxin-free, non-GMO, and artificial fragrance-free (bonus points if it's locally sourced). Just about everything that we consume on Earth will eventually end up in the oceans, be it chemical toxins, microplastics, and even harmless ingredients for humans that turn dangerous for marine life. Take sunscreen, which protects us from damaging sun rays, but can cause damage to marine life ecosystems. Hawaii was the first U.S. state to ban sunscreen containing coral-harming chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate in January 2021.)

This means that the product must be as good for the planet as it is for our skin. For starters, the ingredient list should be entirely transparent and traceable. "As a blue beauty baseline, be on the lookout for products that contain ethically sourced botanicals and clean synthetics that do not contain petrochemicals, phthalates, or toxins that can leach into our soil and waterways when disposed of," says Beauty Heroes.

Dermatologists rejoice as well: "Ingredients that are better for the environment are usually better for our bodies," says Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. She also reminds us of the sunscreen example: "We know that some chemical sunscreen ingredients get absorbed into the bloodstream, and some recent studies have shown that some chemical sunscreen ingredients may be potentially harmful—particularly oxybenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate—because they mimic hormones." Ultimately, if we keep the planet safe, we keep our skin safe as well.

One of the pioneering beauty brands to address marine and skin wellness is One Ocean Beauty, a clean, clinically proven sustainable beauty brand with the ocean at its heart. It goes further than protecting the oceans (which it does by working with Oceana); it also uses marine activities to supplement skincare. Its marine active ingredients are reproduced in the lab using cutting-edge Blue Biotechnology, thus keeping the oceans clean and benefiting from it at the same time.

How Can We Make Our Beauty Routine...Bluer?

Blue beauty is all about little changes in lifestyle, and that starts with being more perceptive. For starters, try buying less and buying better. A focus on ingredients and packaging is key. However, it also calls for consumers to upcycle and reuse their beauty containers (i.e., for planting or even as DIY decor).

#GOBLUE, as the movement aligns itself, also calls for consumers to "engage in community initiatives that support environmental causes, like beach cleanups and recycle programs." This may include a quick five-minute beach cleanup, donating to initiatives like Oceana, and spreading this concept to other areas of daily life like fashion and food.

The ultimate goal—no matter green, blue, or whatever color you prefer to call it—is to remember that beauty products that benefit us shouldn't do so by hurting the planet. It's absolutely essential that we trace our consumerism and pick responsibly, as every single choice is one that makes for a healthier (or unhealthier) planet.

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