Slow and sustainable products are the new buzzword in cosmetics.

There are so many amazing brands that carry the sustainable/natural philosophy and I discovered a lot of them are men! I contacted three of the best trail blazers from amazing brands across the world to get their views on sustainability and certifications.

Ian Lirenman – emerginC


Tell me about the philosophy of the brand

emerginC is a simple story of emerging. Our journey began in 1996 with one of the most stable and effective vitamin C serums to emerge on the market. We had no formal marketing plan or even an office — just a Manhattan studio apartment. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t emerge. The buzz about the product began to spread and emerginC started to grow by word of mouth. More products emerged — two, then four, then eight, some amazing facials and body treatments — and now we have approximately 80 products and a wide variety of cost-effective treatment options from both our emerginC signature and scientific organics ranges. All the while, we never compromised our commitment to quality and effectiveness. And we continue to emerge.

We work with top chemists, state-of-the-art labs, incorporate clinically proven cosmeceutical and medical-grade ingredients, active botanicals and marine extracts, and are always on the lookout for new technologies to ensure that, no matter your environment, your skin radiates and the best of you keeps emerging.

We have taken a leading role in giving back and sustainability with our industry-first “buy one, plant one” tree planting program. We started our emerginBees bee habitat initiative as well as our emerginCeeds organic vegetable program, while taking pains to source ethically and sustainably wherever possible, including the use of fair trade ingredients. And we have long ago emerged from our studio apartment. We are now headquartered in our own building near the waterfront in Brooklyn, with weekly yoga classes, rooftop vegetables, flowers, and chickens that give us organic eggs all year round.

Today, emerginC has emerged into THE top spas and doctors’ offices in many countries around the world. For our clients, we offer first class in-house training, online refresher classes and video tutorials, reward and incentive programs, regular gift with purchase offers, online ordering options and responsive, courteous and helpful customer service. emerginC delivers the products, support and RESULTS you need to succeed, all with an eye to sustainability, giving back, nourishing our skin and our spirits, lighting the way for a better community — all of us — to emerge.

How is your product sustainable?

We try to source responsibly, including the use of organic and fair trade ingredients.  Over 80% of our products are manufactured with wind power; our office is run on wind power.  We use vegetable inks for printing and paper from sustainably managed forests.  Our box printers also run on wind power.  We have reduced our plastic use in our current transition to glass jars and bottles.  We pack our boxes with biodegradable packing “peanuts”.  We started an industry-first tree-planting program, whereby we plant a viable, indigenous tree in a non-harvest location for every retail product sold.  We launched an industry-first emerginCeeds program, whereby (in the U.S.), we give organic lettuce or rocket seeds with every order.  We launched an industry first emerginBees program, whereby we provide seed bombs to help create bee (and pollinator) habitat.  We compost at our office and have our own organic vegetable garden and hens on our roof that give us organic eggs.  We continue to explore initiatives to improve our sustainability.

Do you have current certifications and how important are they to your brand? 

We ensure that any organic and/or fair trade ingredients that we purchase provide the requisite documentation.  We sell in many countries and each country has different regulations, so for us it was more important to engage in direct action (tree planting, etc.) than spend large sums of money on government or independent certification that would only affirm what we already know about our brand.

David Reccole – Zao



Tell me about the philosophy of the brand

Zao philosophy is based on 3 values we believe essential:

  • Quality
  • Transparency
  • Respect

If quality is our first value it’s because we don’t want to hide ourselves behind organic or natural excuses. Our brand is a makeup above all and Zao quality must be as good as conventional makeup in terms of long lasting, comfort and colors. Even if we are aware about 2 strong limitations linked to organic certification so far (there is no waterproof mascara/eye liner nor true red color without carmine), our brand as to be as much attractive as others at first glance and we do our best to go even further.

Our world is full of secrets and even if we agree that some secrets have to remain so, most of companies’ secrets are not so justified. We believe in strong relationship with our partners and end users as well. Listening carefully to the market voice is a key for improving what we do. For that it’s necessary to open the door and explain what we are, where we go, which are all ingredients we use, who are our strategical partners. Besides, managing with secrets and things to be hidden is ok for people able to handle such behavior. We are not.

Respect is overused value by everybody so it doesn’t mean a lot. Nevertheless, I keep this term even if there are some nuances according to who or what is related to. When we think about people such as all partners, customers, end users, our staff, we rather intend “satisfaction”. A real pleasure to work with us. A real involvement in Zao project. When we consider environment and animals, we really mean “full respect”.

How is your product sustainable?

Based on our philosophy, our brand is eco-designed that means we use not only a “recyclable” material but vegetal material for our casings made in glulam bamboo. We removed outer casings that are thrown away after opening and replaced it with a cotton pouch that should have following lives. We introduced as much as possible the refills in our makeup and we work to add new ones (Mineral Silk and Mineral touch are on the way). Of course with all our cosmetic material organic certified, we promote organic farming against conventional one which is the major responsible for waterways, soils and undergrounds pollution.

But sustainable for us doesn’t only mean to care about environment. We also include in our labor force handicapped or rejected people because sustainability means also avoiding people isolation as well.

Then, we cannot talk about sustainability without considering our company that must last. Managing our company with a strong economic viability is a key point to invest in R&D as we are doing for specific research such as vegetal red pigment or waterproof mascara.

Do you have current certifications and how important are they to your brand?

In order to be a readable brand from end users point of view, certifications are necessary. They provide consistency to what we say based on third party recognition. The list of our products certification is as follows:

  1. Ecocert certification: All our range excepted nail polishes are organic certified. Ecocert is one of the most internationally recognized standards for cosmetics. This standard not only certifies that products do contain ingredients from organic farming but it ensures the end users about healthy products with a very limited risk of allergy or intolerance.
  2. Cosmebio label: This label is subjected to an Ecocert certification. That means without it we couldn’t show Cosmebio label on our products. It is more a marketing opportunity than an intrinsic certification
  3. Cruelty free certification (BUAV): It took almost 2 years to get all official commitments from each raw material suppliers (around 100 of raw materials are concerned). It is important to say that of course this certification is related not only on finished products testing but it guaranties that none of our ingredient is tested on animals.
  4. Vegan certification (Vegan Society): Excepted concealers, lipgloss and lip balm, where we still have organic beeswax inside, all our range has been vegan certified since May 2015. To make it possible our company refuses the possibility to use carmine (red color) even if it’s tolerated by Ecocert, Cosmos, Cosmebio,…
  5. Slow Cosmetic ( On the basis of the slow food philosophy, a Belgian association has founded the same concept for cosmetics in 2014 in order to promote another kind of beauty that must be more responsible, more transparent and safer. Zao has been the best classified makeup brand.
  6. Gluten free: This is not really a certification but it is a kind of label. All ingredients issued form cereals we use are gluten free certified which allows us to offer a full brand without any gluten.

There are other specificities for Zao we worked on to achieve the safest products, without real certificates nor labels. I am talking about talc, nickel, heavy metals, nanoparticles, GMO, palm oil (or derivatives),…. All our ingredients are also selected based on the absence of such pollutions.

Trevor Steyn – Esse


Tell me about the philosophy of the brand

We believe in optimising skin health to slow ageing in the long-term. Currently, the best way to do this incorporates the new understanding of skin as an ecology – a symbiosis of microbes and human cells – and this opens the way for probiotics.

Most people associate probiotics (good microbes) with maintaining a healthy gut, but the Human Microbiome Project has discovered that optimal skin condition is dependent on the probiotic microbes living on, and in, your skin.

Your microbes permeate deep into the skin structure and work with your human cells to perform the complex chemistry that keeps your skin radiant. Without your microbes, your skin can’t perform its basic functions and the rate of skin ageing increases sharply.

Esse creates an environment on the skin that favours the growth of beneficial microbes. We use prebiotics to selectively feed good microbes and we have included live probiotic microbes in two of our serums to make functional changes to the skin’s microbiome.

How is your product sustainable?

We do the best we can – the products are packaged in recyclable glass, we offset our carbon emissions and the products themselves are rapidly biodegradable. We make sure that people are treated fairly the whole way through the supply chain and we use PhytoTrade Africa to ensure that the wild-harvested plants are sustainably managed.

To be perfectly sustainable, we would have to close the recycle loop on every component of our packaging and control perfectly how our products are retailed … and everything in between.

Do you have current certifications and how important are they to your brand?

We’re certified organic with Ecocert, certified vegan with the Vegan Society and accredited cruelty free with PeTA. We also support fair trade through PhytoTrade Africa.

The thing is … we don’t feel that these stamps define us. They are a functional way to communicate the level of attention to detail in the products but the goal is to make sustainable changes to our client’s skin that will result in a slower rate of ageing. We haven’t found that the standards imposed by the certifiers have interfered with this goal.


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