Editor's Note: Catching 'Green Fever'

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How much do you adhere to green chemistry principles when formulating? We recently asked our audience this question. At press, of those responding, 55% said partially, while respectively, 32% and 14% said fully and minimally.

This seems about right, considering Anastas and Warner introduced the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry in 1998 and it takes time and money to implement a major paradigm shift — as well as for the idea to catch on. L'Oréal states it's been betting on green chemistry for 20 years now; The Estée Lauder Cos. has been on this path for 15+ years.

It's been 23 years and counting for SC Johnson, although the company has a much larger portfolio in homecare than in beauty. Still, like all products, its Babyganics sunscreen +  mosquito repellent and Method bath and body products are measured against the Greenlist program, which was initiated in 2001 to assess ingredients for their impact and risk.

Sustainability Catches On in Beauty

The green and sustainable movement in beauty continues to catch on, which is a good thing. Exploring sustainability in cosmetics, a comprehensive review published by Cleaner Waste Systems in 2022 emphasized, "because of its continuous growth worldwide and due to its high consumption of natural resources, the cosmetics industry represents one of the main sectors requiring a long-term vision to manage sustainability."

It added that cosmetics companies "need to expand their green vision to the entire supply chain," as the sustainability issue should encompass the entire lifecycle of a product. Furthermore, the review identified three main research gaps for our industry: 

  1. Currently adopted methodologies focus on measuring environmental impacts of products (e.g., LCA), neglecting social and economic considerations;
  2. The industry lacks standards and precise regulations, in particular for what regards the transition to sustainability; and
  3. A comprehensive framework has not been developed to enable and guide the shift to a sustainable business, considering the perspective of consumers, cosmetic product lifecycle and managerial practices; especially for small to medium enterprises with limited resources.

Green Cosmetic Chemistry Reactions

Responding to the sustainability movement, some examples of green practices the industry has successfully implemented include using alternative feedstocks, developing environmentally benign synthesis processes, design safer chemical products, uncovering new reaction conditions, developing alternative solvents and catalysts, using biosynthesis and biomimetic principles, and more. The extent to which these facets must be measured, e.g., biodegradation, also hasn't gone unnoticed.

In this Issue of C&T

The latest edition of C&T highlights green and sustainable ideas for cosmetics and personal care product development while also underscoring the urgent need to address negative impacts on the environment. Dell'Acqua and Kostic describe climate change, the beauty industry's influence and a sustainable path forward, while Lad and Shukla propose precision climate farming for sustainable formulas, providing us a case study in microgreens. This month's Ingredient Tracker report also highlights clean beauty "swaps" and new ingredient headwinds.

Yvon presents sustainable plant oleosomes from safflower for their natural emulsifying efficacy and demonstrates their skin barrier benefits. In addition, Meredith, in her European regulatory update, outlines the EU's lockdown on deforestation regulations and intentions from the UK related to forest risk commodities. 

Waite, in her U.S. regulatory update, highlights rules regarding PFAS, among other topics, while 2023 M.G. de Navarre winner Marta Gonçalves explains how clean beauty has evolved and why it needs regulation. Lastly, our Expert Opinions piece delves into current and future developments for responsible beauty.

It's clear the industry has been catching "green fever" for a while now, and every little bit counts. Hopefully it adds up to enough and is in time to make a difference.

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