“Sustainable,” “Natural,” “Organic,” “Clean,” “Cruelty-free.” More and more beauty brands are finding ways to leave our planet a healthier and happier place. Where exactly do J-Beauty brands stand as we cruise into 2021, and what have they done to take action? Let’s look beyond the labels below.
Sustainable can mean a lot of things, but includes product ingredients that were sourced sustainably and ethically, minimize waste, and are proven to be safe for the environment. The definition extends to product packaging as well. Given the broad spectrum of sustainability, there are many ways brands can contribute towards preserving the earth and its resources. Minimizing food waste is a route we’ve seen many J-Beauty brands embrace recently.
In 2020, Kewtopia launched its Hyalo One Moisture Serum. Kewtopia’s parent company, Kewpie, is also the manufacturer of the famous Japanese mayonnaise that goes by the same name. Being in the food industry, Kewpie was naturally concerned about food waste and discovered that discarded eggshell membranes in mayonnaise production actually work wonders in accelerating the skin’s natural collagen production. With their in-house technology, Kewpie was able to isolate and hydrolyze the eggshell membrane for inclusion in skincare products.
J-Beauty brand Biolab likewise scores major points in sustainability. The brand sources Japanese peach extract, a core ingredient in their botanical moisturizer Créme Brillante, directly from the “peach mountain village” of Japan. They found that the village’s green and unripe peaches, which needed to be picked early to allow other peaches to ripen, were deemed unfit for consumption and would go to waste. Biolab salvaged these fruits and put them to work as skin-brightening agents in Créme Brillante.
La Vie Précieuse deserves a special mention as well. Proteoglycan and apple-derived ceramides, both chief ingredients of the brand’s A.P.G. Line, are sourced sustainably. Proteoglycan, which holds 1.3 times more water retention capacity than hyaluronic acid and supports collagen and hyaluronic acid production, is extracted from the nasal cartilage of discarded salmon heads. The brand also derives its unique ceramide from apple cores on their own farm in Aomori. Way to grow local AND minimize food waste!
Beauty products that include nature-derived ingredients are considered natural. While harnessing the power of mother nature has taken on a trend in the western skincare industry in recent years, it has traditionally been part and parcel of the Japanese approach towards beauty. In other words, nature-derived ingredients are nothing new for J-Beauty brands. In fact, consumers in Japan tend to value products that tap into their local natural resources, such as camelia oil, sake, and green tea. With many brands carrying on the wisdom of the past, natural ingredients in skincare products seems to be the rule rather than exception with J-Beauty brands (which also makes it difficult to provide a complete list of J-Beauty products and brands). We just recommend that you know the active ingredients in your products, and what issues they address.
Products that contain organically grown ingredients, free from pesticides and chemicals, can be defined as organic. And yes, J-Beauty brands have been making strides to shift towards organic skincare. Take the KITAO Matcha series, for example. Their collection utilizes only ECOCERT certified organic matcha harvested in the Uji region of Kyoto, Japan. Uji’s history of organic tea cultivation goes way back – they have consistently upkept their organic, pesticide-free cultivation for over 350 years. Uji matcha has been considered the finest of its kind since the 14th century, due to its purity and premium-grade quality.
Clean beauty definitions vary, but products that are free of substances toxic to human and environmental health – namely parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, artificial colors, refined petroleum, and other notorious offenders – are generally considered “clean.” We can see several emerging J-Beauty brands keeping their clean standards high, such as Perfect One, Kewtopia, and Biolab.
Like clean beauty, cruelty-free is a spectrum, but includes products free of ingredients that have been tested on animals, as well as products free of animal-derived substances extracted at the expense of animal welfare. Take a look at KITAO, Kewtopia, and Biolab for a few examples of J-Beauty brands working towards cruelty-free production of skincare products.
As you can see, each niche provides a unique way to make – or rather minimize – impact on the world. Just like these brands, we too can play our part, simply by choosing brands and products that align with our ethics, one bottle (or jar or tube) at a time.