From parabens to petroleum, the beauty industry’s use of chemical additives has long been cause for concern. Ironically, as consumers have become more aware of the downsides of chemical heavy skincare, age-old remedies have staged a comeback, usurping the very synthetics that displaced them half a century ago. But synthetics aren’t the only green issue associated with beauty. Excess packaging and conventionally grown botanicals are also problematic. It’s not all doom and gloom though. As more and more organic, natural brands come through, the industry is seeing a shift away from the chemical back towards the kind of products our grandmothers would have been familiar with. And that’s not as retrogressive as it might sound either.
From the moisturising properties of olive oil to the exfoliating efficacy of sea salt, nature’s beauty products are as effective as ever. Even mainstream beauty giants such as L’Oreal are getting in on the act and are working on including ‘new’ wonder ingredients such as lycopene – an extract found in tomato skin that has unbeatable anti-ageing, anti-oxidant properties – in their products. One of the brands leading the charge is Evolve, whose natural, organic products are based on superfoods. With an ethical policy that looks as if it was written by Bono with a little help from Bob Geldof, founder Laura Rudoe has also made Fairtrade a central part of the brand’s ethos and is also committed to tackling that other beauty bugbear – excess packaging. The Ecologist’s Ali Thomas went to meet a very British beauty pioneer.
Ali Thomas: Where did your passion for beauty come from?
Laura Rudoe: ‘I have always wanted to make a difference through my work and spent years learning about and researching ethical business before I set up on my own. I also suffered badly from skin problems in my 20s and discovered that if I used natural products my problems were reduced. I ended up becoming an expert on natural and organic cosmetics through my research and now I design beauty products.’
AT: Your products feature highly effective super food ingredients? What ingredients can consumers expect to find in your products and what makes them so effective?
LR: ‘We use food-based ingredients in our products as we believe skincare products should be good enough to eat, since they are absorbed by the skin. We also look for highly effective ingredients with real data to support them, so super foods were a natural choice. They are packed full of nutrients such as anti-oxidants, beneficial vitamins and phyto chemicals, which give real results. For example, our anti-ageing creams contain peptides derived from coconut, which reduce the appearance of wrinkles by 32 percent. Our detox range contains moringa peptides, which have been proven to deep cleanse skin and hair. We also use nourishing oils like omega rich Peruvian Inchi oil, anti-oxidant Moroccan Argan oil and hydrating Kalahari melon seed oil.’
AT: In what ways are Evolve products ethical?
LR: ‘For us, being ethical more than just about one aspect of the brand. It informs our entire approach to business and there are many different aspects that need to be accounted for. The products are certified organic, which means the ingredients are sustainable and biodegradable, while a good percentage is organically grown. We also use Fairtrade ingredients wherever possible, we are certified cruelty free and the ingredients are vegan. The bottles are recycled and recyclable with clearly labelled instructions. As many of our products as possible, and most of our packaging, are made in the UK.’
AT: How do you ensure that your products are cruelty free and organic?
LR: ‘All Evolve products are certified organic with ECOCERT, the international organic standard. This means than an independent body checks our ingredients and makes sure that they are free from questionable synthetics as well as containing the required level of certified organic ingredients. We declare the level of natural and organic ingredients on every bottle. Our products are more than 99 percent natural which makes them some of the most natural on the market. We are also certified by the Humane Cosmetic Standard [HCS] and carry the leaping bunny symbol, which means every ingredient has been checked to make sure it hasn't been tested on animals since our cut off date. Our products are also vegan.’
AT: Where do your Fairtrade ingredients come from and how do you police it?
LR: We use Fairtrade ingredients wherever possible. I’ve been to the Amazon rainforest searching for ingredients, so I have seen first hand how the beneficial Fairtrade can be. Our organic Argan oil from Morocco and our organic Inchi oil from Peru are both certified Fairtrade with the Max Havelaar scheme and our Kalahari melon seed oil is also produced to Fairtrade standards.
AT: You try to minimise your carbon footprint and keep food miles to a minimum: how has that affected you? Has it made things more difficult?
LR: ‘We do all of our development and manufacturing in the UK to minimise the distance that our bottles travel once they are filled with heavy product. It also makes it easy for us to stay connected to our manufacturing partner. We believe in investing in long-term partnerships with our suppliers, so this works for us. We also produce the majority of our packaging in the UK, which shortens lead times and helps us to respond more quickly to new developments. So for us, it has actually been beneficial to keep things local.’
AT: You have described the development of your products as having been done in a non-traditional way. Can you explain what this entails?
LR: ‘As a small business, we were very conscious that we needed to test our ideas with real people. I also wanted to change people’s thinking from just consuming into being part of the decision process. We made every major design and product development decision with our advisory team of real people, who get a big discount on products as a thank you. This is either an online survey (via our newsletter) or a face to group with those who live in London.’
AT: What sets Evolve apart from other organic beauty companies?
LR: ‘Evolve is one of the greenest ranges on the market because our bottles are all 100 percent recycled and mostly come from upcycled milk bottles. We also choose food-based ingredients because we believe skincare should be good enough to eat.’
AT: Are there any new products on the cards?
LR: ‘We are currently working with our development group on a hand wash and cream that is in the pipeline to be launched this spring. We're also launching a facial polish late summer. ‘
AT: What advice would you give to companies wanting to go green? How hard is it?
LR: ‘It isn't easy but it sets you apart from everyone else and your efforts will show everyone what is possible, so you might change the whole industry.’
AT: What would you say are the challenges that ethical business are facing to bring green and organic products onto the market?
LR: Most people aren't really aware what organic certification means yet and so they can be taken in by green- washing. This means that the playing field isn't truly level. Better awareness will improve this in the future.’
To find out more about Evolve, go to: www.evolvebeauty.co.uk
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