How to Be Sustainable in Your Skincare Routine | Guest Blog From UpCircle Beauty

With global warming and #zerowaste at the forefront of our minds, we’re all becoming increasingly aware of the environmental footprint we are leaving.

The skincare industry, having avoided scrutiny for a very long time, is becoming a focus for consumers who are now demanding more transparency, authenticity and sustainability when it comes to their beauty routine. But where to start?

vegan beauty tips
UpCircle’s Soap Bars are completely natural, handmade and cruelty free. Image: UpCircle.

A Cleaner Beauty Regime

At UpCircle, we’re restlessly determined to make skincare products that leave the planet better than we found it. We do things differently – and love sharing our ideas for making things better. Below is our easy guide for assessing the sustainability of your skincare routine, with easy swaps to ensure minimum environmental impact, and maximum results!


Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and given its porous nature, it can absorb practically everything you put on it. If you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, we’d caution you against putting it on your skin. The increasing scrutiny around the ingredients we put our skin is a logical follow-on from what we are eating. Our general rule of thumb? If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or do not recognize it, best to avoid!

The most commonly found chemicals are:

  • Parabens (look for ingredients with the suffix “-paraben”) – usually used as preservatives, these mimic the actions of oestrogen in the body and can disrupt the endocrine (hormone) system.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (surfactant and foaming agent) – often derived from palm oil or petroleum and known as a skin and eye irritant. Depending on the manufacturing process, it may be contaminated with toxic manufacturing impurities such as 1,4-dioxane – a suspected carcinogen which easily penetrates the skin.
  • BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) – typically used as preservatives in moisturisers and lipsticks, this is a synthetic ingredient suspected to be a carcinogen. Harsh on your skin, harsh on marine life.
  • Polyethylene/PEGs – often used as microbeads for their exfoliation purposes, which are toxic to marine life.
  • Fragrance /Parfum – this “ingredient’ is an undisclosed concoction of scent chemicals – best to simply avoid!
  • Oxybenzone (sunscreen) – endocrine disruptor and proven to be a hazard to coral reefs.
  • Triclosan (liquid products) and triclocarban (bar soap) – used in antibacterial products, this was found to cause gut inflammation and trigger colon cancer in animals.

Animal Ingredients & Testing

‘Cruelty-free’ skincare is guaranteed to not contain ingredients or manufacturing methods that support animal testing. Despite the commonly held belief that animal testing is outdated, it is not in decline globally and in many countries it is on the rise. Look for brands that are certified cruelty free, including PETA, Leaping Bunny and the Soil Association & COSMOS. Certified products will have been looked at with a fine-tooth comb and been deemed squeaky clean – just like you’ll be.

‘Vegan skincare’ requires that products do not contain animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products. Many ‘natural’ skincare brands may still use ingredients that are animal-derived. Look for ingredients such as honey, beeswax, gelatin, lanolin and stearic acid, which are commonly found in skincare and cosmetics. Familiarizing yourself with PETA’s Animal Ingredient List is helpful in identifying animal-derived ingredients on packaging.

Many assume that if a product is vegan it has not been tested on animals. However, this is often not the case. So you need to look for vegan ingredients AND the leaping bunny logo or other cruelty-free certification.

Palm Oil and Derivatives

UpCircle uses only 100% recyclable packaging and sustainably sourced oils. Image: UpCircle.

We are increasingly aware of the humanitarian and environmental devastation that is occurring in South East Asia as a result of the world’s insatiable demand for palm oil. Consumers are increasingly looking to avoid products that contain palm oil or ‘vegetable oils’, which are usually derived from palm oil.

Palm oil and its derivatives are currently in over 70% of all cosmetics products, where they serve as emulsifiers and surfactants. Given the generic term ‘vegetable oil’ and the numerous palm oil derivatives, it is often difficult to identify whether a product contains palm oil. At UpCircle we’re proud to have palmed off the palm, keeping it out of our range of sustainable goodies from the start.

Look out for words such as: octyl palmitate, palmytil alcohol, palm kernel, Palm kernel oil, Palm fruit oil, Palm stearine. They all come from palm.

Another key term to watch for is ‘emulsifier’. The following are all palm oil derived emulsifiers and commonly used in organic skincare: cetearyl olivate, sorbitan olivate, sorbitan stearate, cetearyl glucoside, ceteareth-20, cetearyl alcohol, glyceryl stearate and glyceryl oleate.

Waste in the Beauty Industry 

70% of the waste from the beauty industry is from packaging. The cosmetics industry relies heavily on rigid single use plastics to house its products. Refillable containers or sustainable packaging alternatives are key to stemming waste in the industry. Supporting brands that are innovating with respect to packaging is key to initiating change.

Sustainability in the beauty industry is still in its infancy. At UpCircle our focus in on creating pioneering skincare that’s regenerative by design. We elevate leftover natural ingredients, bringing them back to life as beauty products your skin will love.

Revamping your skincare and products doesn’t happen overnight, and we certainly don’t expect you to throw away your current items or feel stressed about them. Moving forward, we can all make more mindful choices, and do it in a sustainable and practical way that works for us.

If you’d like to learn more about how to live a vegan lifestyle, sign up to our free 31-day vegan challenge.


Thinking of trying vegan?

Veganuary inspires and supports people all over the world to try vegan for January and beyond. Millions of people have already taken part. Will you join them?