The companies looking to reduce cosmetic waste

Many of us purchase skincare, hair, and makeup items that we never use up because they don’t fit us or perform as we had planned.

But may altering how we manufacture and purchase cosmetics lessen the quantity of partially-used goods remaining in restrooms throughout the globe?

Selah Li, a 29-year-old Chinese entrepreneur studying for a master’s degree in human robot interaction at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, started looking into this issue in 2018.

She started “feeling guilty” about the trash generated by her own unopened beauty items, but she also started to wonder how many things wind up in waste because they are never purchased from retailers in the first place.

“I was delighted to see a rack with fifty shades of makeup because I am a minority in this area and sometimes have trouble finding my shade. But simultaneously, I was curious—I’m a trained scientist—about how they anticipate everything’s sales and production, adds Ms. Li.

I examined the data and discovered that brands are unable to accurately forecast it. Demand varies considerably.

Business Daily, a service provided by BBC minimizing waste in the beauty sector

According to Ms. Li, there is a risk of underproduction, which results in customers choosing product substitutes that aren’t quite suitable for them and never get used up, or overproduction, which would leave businesses with inventory they can’t sell before it expires.

It is challenging to estimate how much waste is produced as a result of errors in judgment. This is due to the fact that unwanted bathroom goods frequently end up in trash cans and are counted in normal home waste statistics.

Additionally, the amount of stock that is wasted is frequently kept a secret by the cosmetics industry. None of the major merchants I contacted in the UK and Scandinavia wanted to comment on wasted cosmetics.

Ms. Li founded a company called Ellure because she believed there must be a more effective approach to market cosmetics.

By letting clients create their own goods, which are then produced on demand, it seeks to reduce waste in the beauty business.

“You don’t have the problem that you need to predict what is going to be sold, where,” claims Li.

Additionally, consumers will use this product more frequently since they perceive it to be more personalized.

The business debuted its own line of lipstick last year. Customers upload a selfie of themselves or choose a photo model with a similar skin tone on the Ellure website initially. Then they choose from more than 10,000 colours that they may virtually try on using an online color wheel.

They send their decision to a 3D printer, which is controlled by software that builds the shade from six primary colors and modifies the consistency because some hues require a thicker layer than others.

The finished product, wrapped in a recyclable glass tube, is often accessible in three to five minutes.

“I would think that some customers won’t have the patience and will choose to purchase things that have already been manufactured. However, a lot more clients are now aware that the cosmetics sector could greatly minimize waste, according to Ms. Li.

Even though Ellure’s 3D makeup printing is still in its infancy, it fits into a growing trend in the beauty market for greater personalization, which accelerated during the epidemic when consumers were unable to visit real stores to test items.

Many companies already have digital testing websites and apps where you can upload a selfie to see if a particular shade of eyeshadow or lipstick looks well on you, or you can get recommendations for skin or hair treatments based on an artificial intelligence analysis of your image.

However, despite the fact that businesses have up until now tended to pitch these tools as fresh inventions meant to offer customers a more modern shopping experience, there is currently a growing emphasis on promoting the possible sustainability benefits to customers, particularly in Nordic nations.

“The problem of waste in the beauty business has gotten much worse over time, and it now poses a serious threat. We must realize it, says Irina Mazur of Revieve, a Helsinki-based company that develops beauty technology.

Trial and error contributes to the buildup of waste, but accurate customisation leads customers to the appropriate products, according to research.

Since its 2016 inception, Revieve has created online personalization tools that are used by major cosmetics and beauty companies including Shiseido, Babor, and Boots No. 7, as well as Kicks, one of the biggest beauty chains in the Nordic region.

According to corporate research, which supports Ellure’s findings, customers who use its tools are more likely than other buyers to repurchase the same goods in the future, indicating that they are using up goods before replacing them.

According to Ms. Mazur, this encourages steadfast loyalty while also allowing for the utilization of customer information to optimize production scheduling.

The brand may decide what to stock and what not to stock too much of, as well as what products to get from various locations, with the help of the data.

There is “definitely potential” for “a trend where people use their time to mindfully select what kinds of products that they’re going to buy,” according to Jessika Luth Richter, an associate senior lecturer in sustainable consumerism, waste, and the circular economy at Lund University in Sweden.

Ms. Richter contends that employing personalization tools to entice customers to make more environmentally conscious purchases has certain difficulties.

It depends, she says, on whether they feel the time spent trying to discover the perfect things to be entertaining and worthwhile. Additionally, some people prefer to receive assistance from a real person.

The price is another problem. Ellure’s customized lipsticks aren’t inexpensive at roughly £21 (295kr, $27), whereas Revieve primarily collaborates with high-end luxury labels and mid-range high street merchants.

Even when they indicate they will base their purchases on environmental factors or higher-quality goods, many customers ultimately choose price, according to Ms. Richter. The difficulty of sustainable consumption is always this.

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