Plastic-Free Beauty Is About To Do a Solid for the Environment

Photo: Stocksy / Tatjana Zlatkovic
All parts of wellness had a shake up this year—how we work out, what we eat, the products we put on our faces, the way we rest—and the reverberations of those changes will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Here's how the innovations born of this year will usher us into the future.

“Plastic is a serious issue in the beauty and personal-care industry,” says Luana Bumachar, vice president of innovation at Grove Collaborative, an online marketplace of sustainable home and beauty products. “There are over 120 billion plastic units created per year globally and 91 percent of that is not being recycled.” To solve this plastic problem, beauty brands are thinking outside the bottle. In 2021, you’ll be able to create an entirely plastic-free shower routine, thanks to the launch of new and improved shampoos, lotions, and skin-care products in bar form from brands like Peach, Love Beauty Planet, Ethique, and more.

“We've seen the rise of bar products because they offer a more sustainable approach,” says Annie Johnstone, analyst at WGSN Beauty. “They can be formulated in solid formats, creating a zero-waste product with zero packaging.” Citing data from Nielsen, Bumachar says that sales in the bar category have grown 150 percent year over year.

"Consumers are increasingly mindful of their choices and their consumption, even within beauty and personal care." —Sonika Malhotra, Love Beauty and Planet co-founder and global brand director.

New-to-2020 solid shampoos and conditioners from Shambar and Superzero use the same hair- and skin-friendly ingredients you’re used to seeing in your bottles, like coconut-derived surfactants, panthenol, and glycerin. Next year, KMS will launch a shampoo bar, sold in salons, while drugstore behemoth Garnier plans to do the same at mass, joining brands like Love Beauty and Planet, which have been helping people lower their plastic consumption with bar shampoos since 2019. "Consumers are increasingly mindful of their choices and their consumption, even within beauty and personal care," says Sonika Malhotra, Love Beauty and Planet co-founder and global brand director. "Through innovative technologies from our formulas to packaging, we aim to make choices big and small that help you be a little more mindful while continuing to enjoy your beauty rituals."

In 2021, however, the biggest innovations in the plastic-free category will be for products used outside the shower. In January, Freeman Beauty is launching a line of cleansing face “mask bars” that target specific concerns like acne and hydration. Superzero is bringing its first hair styler to market: a frizz-fighting bar that’s meant to be smoothed over dry strands. Mirage—a just-launched brand that makes hair-washing tablets you use by crushing in the palm of your hand and then sudsing up—is also eyeing expansion into skin and body products. And Peach, similarly, confirmed it will move into new categories of plastic-free and water-free formulations outside soap and shampoo—though they’re not saying how just yet.

Soap bottles have been around for 60 years, so it's high time that the packaging of our personal care products innovated to help solve the growing plastics crisis we've built, one shampoo at a time. Because as Bumachar puts it: “The issues are not new. What is different right now is the consumer is ready for a change.” And in 2021, we’ll see that change on their countertops, without having to sacrifice for the sake of our skin and hair.

Explore the rest of our 2021 Wellness Trends.

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