Beauty redditors are taking sustainability seriously—and the industry is listening

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Editors may be the beauty industry’s traditional arbiters of taste, but in the digital age, Redditors are just as influential. A vast online forum with discussion groups dedicated to every topic imaginable, Reddit is stacked with highly engaged beauty communities whose members passionately swap acne hacks, holy-grail product recommendations, and skin-care science intel. When top Redditors talk, millions of beauty junkies listen—and lately, the topic of conversation has turned to earth-friendly makeup and skin-care solutions.

At the beginning of February 2020, the moderator of r/AusSkincare—an Australian beauty subreddit with nearly 12,000 members—started a wiki for the community titled Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The page was created to be a permanent hub of information for those seeking to be more conscious beauty consumers in the wake of the Australian bushfires. “For a while, [climate] was a source of very high fear and anxiety for me and I felt quite hopeless in what I could do,” says 27-year-old Layla*, the moderator of r/AusSkincare. “As one of my greatest passions and love is skin care and makeup, I realized how much that industry contributes to waste and engages in practices which contribute to climate change. I wanted the wiki to be a way to channel my worry and frustration and provide small ways we can all make changes that are more sustainable while still enjoying a hobby we love.” FWIW: We expected to sustainability within in the beauty industry to reach a fever pitch this year, so much so that we called it as one of our 2020 Well+Good Trends.

In two weeks since the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle wiki launched, Layla says r/AusSkincare members have been enthusiastically adding their ideas to the page, while other Reddit moderators from around the world—including those behind the highly influential, 1.1 million-member r/SkincareAddiction subreddit—have been encouraging their own audiences to read and add to the wiki. There’s intel on brands that reward shoppers for recycling, tips on how to reuse conventional beauty packaging, a list of reusable personal-care products, and even resources for reducing waste in fashion and at home. Layla believes this is a reflection of a broader societal interest in sustainability—one that reached a crescendo in 2019. “Consumers are becoming more savvy and know that they have a choice to demand change with their wallets and their words,” she says. “They want to make changes and choices and are looking for ways to do so.”

According to Emma Grace Bailey, beauty editor at trend forecasting agency WGSN, the beauty industry knows just how powerful forums like Reddit are in influencing consumer perception. “The Reddit community is very vocal—they’re looking to share, like, and recommend, and their habits influence their peers but also shape brands’ and the industry’s thinking,” she says. “Peer-to-peer recommendations are becoming the most important route to purchase for consumers, over and above influencer recommendations and industry campaigns.” She adds that Gen-Z consumers are particularly interested in living the low-waste life and that Reddit is full of users in this age group.

The team at clean beauty retailer Credo, for one, is glad to hear that Redditors are speaking up on behalf of sustainability. “It is great that the Reddit community is creating spaces to talk about the need to consume, choose products consciously, and push the beauty industry to be more sustainable,” says Mia Davis, Credo’s director of social and environmental responsibility. She notes that this heightened level of environmental consciousness is already starting to trickle offline, at least among Credo’s customers. “We see a lot of passion within Reddit, but also in other elements of Credo’s community—on digital channels, in person at our Mission in Action events, and in the store on a daily basis. We see customers seeking brands that have not only safer ingredients, but more sustainable packaging.”

That said, Davis believes that it will take the wider beauty industry a while to create truly eco-friendly makeup and skin-care, from product to packaging. “It is hard, if not impossible, to be truly zero waste in this industry right now,” she says. “The work that we have to do between now—when the majority of cosmetics are in plastic containers, and less than 10 percent of plastic is even recycled—and living in a world where everyone is composting is huge.” But in the meantime, resources like the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle wiki are a reminder that the small decisions we make as consumers, like saying no to free samples we’ll never open or ditching single-use razors, can add up to make a surprisingly big impact. Layla also stresses the importance of personally reaching out to your favorite brands and telling them what you want to see in terms of sustainability. “People think this doesn’t work but really, brands do listen,” she says. “It may not happen overnight, but that isn’t any reason that we shouldn’t use our voice and our time on social media to give feedback.” Spoken like a true Reddit queen.

*Name has been changed to protect source’s privacy

Reddit isn’t just a trove of eco-friendly makeup and skin care wisdom. Check out this subreddit dedicated to tracking down hard-to-find fashion, plus a pomegranate-cutting hack from the archives of r/oddlysatisfying. 

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