These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a skincare brand that didn’t market itself as sustainable. Yet while many brands are devising more eco-conscious product formulations and packaging, there’s still the oft overlooked problem of wasteful production and delivery practices to contend with.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that many people are ordering their beauty and grooming products online rather than purchasing them in-store. This in itself is a problem for sustainability, with the transportation of every package contributing to carbon emissions.

And while subscription services don’t entirely solve the problem, the best make some effort towards cutting down on the environmental waste of shipping – with bulk deliveries and refills, for example. They also mean you never have to think about buying skincare again, which isn’t a bad deal either. 

by Humankind shower essentials 

by humankind bar body wash, shampoo, and conditioner in grey soap holder against beige background

Wallpaper* Design Award nominee by Humankind is a personal care brand dedicated to reducing the prevalence of single-use plastics with its refillable and recyclable solutions. Its shower products include solid shampoo, conditioner, and body wash designed to be suitable for all hair and skin types. Each bar is entirely plastic-free, with recycled-paper and soy-based-ink packaging that can be re-recycled at home.

To ensure the bars don’t disintegrate in the shower, we recommend the brand’s sleek shower dish. Made of diatomite, a sedimentary rock formed by fossilised phytoplankton, the quick-drying dish ensures you can get the most out of your bars. Subscriptions come as a two-pack refill every 12 weeks. 

Haeckels cleanser

Haeckels Ocean Cleanse with tablets and grey dispenser against grey background

Haeckles has always been at the forefront of sustainable beauty with its products made from ethically sourced seaweed, grown-to-order face masks, and entirely compostable packing. Yet its latest launch, the 60%H2O Ocean Cleanse Concentrate + Allantoin, has proven to be its most innovative yet.

Almost five years in development, the Ocean Cleanse is a completely water-free body cleanser that consists of soap-producing tablets and a slate-grey milled ceramic dispenser for dissolving them in – 3 tablets will make 300ml of shower gel when mixed with water at home. 

And while waterless beauty is nothing new, Haeckels has distinguished its design by considering every aspect of its environmental impact – from production to delivery and use – and worked out a way to minimise it.

While this is not a subscription-based product, Haeckles supplies an entire year’s worth of tablets upon purchase, which means that – by the company’s math – Ocean Cleanse avoids 94 per cent of carbon emissions in manufacturing and 95 per cent in shipping compared to its water-based counterparts. 

The Nue Co skincare supplements 

Nue Co powder and supplement pills in brown glass bottles on tabletop

For those who suffer from problematic skin, the promise of a simple pill that makes blemishes disappear is a tantalising prospect. For a while, that promise was too good to be true.

The Nue Co founder Jules Miller grew up watching her grandfather work in the world of supplements as a pharmacist and member of the Cambridge University team that developed B12. Yet he was averse to taking the pills himself (principally, says Miller, because he knew exactly what was in them). Seeking to find a natural alternative, Miller created a line of food-based supplements that combines clinically proven ingredients with Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal practices.

One of the brand’s latest launches is Skin Filter, which is designed to dispel blemishes, improve skin luminosity, and reduce pigmentation. A natural alternative to ingestible retinol, Skin Filter uses Ayurvedic amla berry, the vitamin-packed Amazonian superfood camu camu, and anti-inflammatory zinc. Subscribe and your first order will come in a refillable glass jar, with refill packets of the supplement then arriving every month. 

Forgo hand soap

forgo soap in frosted glass bottle next to packet of soap powder
Forgo featured in the Wallpaper* Design Awards February 2020 issue. Photography: Adrien Dubost

Great design is often born from a problem with no satisfying solution. For Swedish design collective Form Us With Love, that problem was the staggering wastefulness of many beauty and grooming products.

‘When we don’t have a partner to work on a great idea with, we just start it ourselves,’ says the studio’s design manager Allon Libermann. ‘We knew nothing about the personal care industry, we just knew it was very wasteful.’ So what was their solution? Working with a lab in Canada, the studio designed a powder made of only six ingredients that, when mixed with water, creates a sweet-smelling hand wash. The powder comes in paper sachets without the un-recyclable plastic coating used by many brands, and can be mixed in frosted glass bottles designed by the studio.

Best of all? As a subscription-based service, the sachets will regularly be slipped through your letterbox to ensure you’ll never be low on soap.  

Akt deodorant 

Akt deodorant in orange box, grey box, blue box on dark red curtain

Akt was founded by two performers in London’s West End, frustrated that no natural deodorant could combat the smelly effects of their gruelling physical performances under hot theatre lights. Their solution? A deodorant balm that uses natural botanicals such as moisture-absorbing fossilised algae, deodorising plant powders, and antimicrobial coconut oil for effective results.

The balm comes in plastic-free, 100 per cent recyclable toothpaste-like packaging decorated with bold typographic designs inspired by theatre marquees. 

For an added element of self-care, we recommend picking up the brand’s gua sha-inspired applicator. Squeeze a small bit of the balm onto its cooling brass and massage around the underarms, chest and neck for a lymphatic massage.