Can skincare/haircare REALLY be ‘eco friendly’ or ‘natural’?

Leafology Journal: Leaves, Shoots & Roots

I think it’s really important to be honest, and I quite fancy a deep dive into this. Here are some of my reflections on the subject, as creator of the Leafology range…

‘Chemical-free’ skincare

Occasionally, when I’ve been at markets with a glorious table piled high with Leafology wares, a customer has said to me ‘Oh, this is all so brilliant, I love natural stuff – I hate chemicals!’ and I wonder then and there if I should gently remind them that everything they are breathing, eating and drinking, plus everything around them, including themselves, is made of chemicals (even water is H2O, i.e. hydrogen and oxygen). Chemicals are not inherently ‘baddies’, therefore, but simply facts of life.

I’m being pedantic, of course; what my customers mean is that they hate what I tend to describe as ‘harsh’ chemicals – irritating preservatives, sensitising additives, petrochemicals, or really anything which sounds like it would better belong in a strong cleaning fluid. And I agree with them.

While I cannot claim to defy the laws of nature by producing chemical-free products (I do not sell vacuums in jars), I do claim to use ‘natural’ ingredients, and (even while I want to point out that even the word ‘natural’ is not completely innocuous; hemlock, cancer and shark attacks are all ‘natural’) this is a strong value of mine and therefore of the Leafology range.

It is aesthetically/sensually pleasing, safe and beautiful to use carefully-chosen natural ingredients, whether they’re derived from plants (essential oils, seed oils, distilled petals, leaves, infusions, fruit butters, etc.) or the earth (clays, salts, etc.). It’s also (rather importantly) effective; modern medicine, after all, was borne from the study of plants and their uses.

But can a skincare range really be eco-friendly?

There are so many aspects of this question which could be explored, so I’m gonna give it a good bash. A fundamental value of mine (which is, again, therefore reflected in the range) is that we should be minimising our use of plastic. This meant, for me, hours of researching alternatives and surprisingly complicated decisions about what to use both to contain each product and how to package our shipments.

Glass and metal are both recyclable and, in my opinion, simply more beautiful than plastic tubs or bottles would be. They also make attractive objects as well as not requiring you to buy plastic bottle after plastic bottle – the Want to be a rebel? page also encourages multipurpose use of the products, which can mean you need to buy even less! Of course, our use of glass and metal can’t be completely perfect or carbon-free when transporting, and it also doesn’t mean that our suppliers don’t sometimes post the raw ingredients to us packaged in plastic (though rest assured we buy in bulk, so the impact is less! Read on for more on this!) – every order from us of a product which is contained in glass or metal is another person NOT buying a plastic bottle of shampoo or toothpaste or body lotion (etc.). It all adds up (and helps spread the joy!).

One pump for life
The serums/oils across the range come in glass bottles and are all available to purchase with either a metal screwcap or a recyclable PET plastic pump lid. Many of you like to buy metal-lidded versions from your second purchase onward (if not from the very first purchase); this way you can see it as your own refill, simply transferring the old plastic-pump lid over to the new bottle (if you like), and repurposing or recycling the old bottle. See the ‘One pump for life‘ scheme, which has been part of Leafology from the start.

Q: Are Leafology products organic?
A: Here’s a little secret: organic ingredients are sometimes used in Leafology products even when they are not stated as such on the labels (this is because individual ingredients being upgraded to organic sometimes occurs before a print run of labels is used up; this is currently true of several products in the range)! Meanwhile, many of the products use organic ingredients, often to a high degree within the overall composition, but you may notice that the finished products don’t have officially accredited ‘organic’ logos on them (this may be considered in the future). Of the long list of potent plant ingredients in Leafology products, many are strictly organic (like all the plant butters and coconut oil, some of the essential oils), while some are not classed as such, simply because they are currently difficult to obtain (any non-organic ingredients are beautifully cold-pressed and unrefined, however). We’ll keep working on this. Meanwhile, many of the natural ingredients such as salts and clays simply cannot be described as organic as there is no agricultural process involved!

Q: How far up the ‘food chain’ is Leafology plastic-free?
A: An excellent question. The basic answer is that the supply chain is not 100% plastic-free (this is unfortunately very difficult to achieve for now). BUT it is moving in the right direction! Here is an encouraging reply from one of my biggest raw-ingredient suppliers when I quizzed them about their packaging:

Do you realise the void fill is made of corn starch and is biodegradable? If you run them under the tap they turn to water. We are moving to more and more paper… however we have been trialling paper bags for the plastic bottles… and they haven’t been doing very well, they tear during transport and then mix with the shredded cardboard we are using. We have some biodegradable bags for the packaging on the way and we are hoping these will work as a compromise between the paper bags and the current bags we are using. Later on this year we will be launching plastic bottles made from vegetable oils, which will be compostable, although these will be comparatively expensive at the beginning, long term we hope to replace everything with these.

…Don’t you just love companies that are transparent and on the right track?


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