The Sustainability Sessions: The New Green Beauty Regime

On Monday night Khandiz Joni, Annee De Mamiel, Dr Anjali Mahto and Madeleine Shaw joined Melissa Hemsley to discuss all things natural and organic beauty in the latest event of The Sustainability Sessions.

There’s a lot of confusion about what the terms ‘green’ and ‘clean’ beauty mean which means the potential for greenwashing (making misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product) is high, our host Melissa Hemsley noted during Monday night’s discussion.

As consumers become more concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions, it comes as no surprise that organic and natural beauty products’ sales rose significantly in 2018. And with campaigns against the testing of cosmetic products on animals helping to draw widespread attention to cruelty-free brands, now is the perfect time to take a long, hard look inside your make-up bag and assess its ethical credentials. 

Melissa was joined at the exquisite Ennismore Sessions House by author and leading voice in the clean beauty scene Madeleine Shaw, skincare practitioner Annee De Mamiel, conscious beauty product connoisseur Khandiz Joni and dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. From the impact of diet and stress to how to make the most of your products, the conversation moved between each panellists’ specialisms as they shared their expertise generously.

There’s no denying that the natural and organic beauty arena can be overwhelming – “unless you’ve got a chemistry degree, it is really hard to know what ingredients mean,” said Anjali. Her top tip? Look at the order in which the ingredients are listed on each product; the higher they appear on the list, the higher the concentration within the product. “If it’s number 10 on the list, it’s not really doing anything for you,” she noted.

“Find the thing you are no prepared to compromise on,” was the advice given by Khandiz, who has seven distinct factors that she considers when looking at products: animal welfare, health, environment, inclusivity, social impact and religion – she noted on the final point that some faiths would prohibit the inclusion of alcohol or ingredients sourced from animals in beauty products. For Khandiz make-up is about self-expression, her products simply “a paint that I’ve learnt to make a living with.”

In the last two to three years, Madeleine has approached her beauty regime with a view to minimising and making use of what she already has. Before buying a new product, she asks herself: ‘Will I use it until the end?’ – and if not, it goes back on the shelf or gets deleted from her online beauty basket. 

With almost seven years’ of experience running a natural and organic beauty brand, Annee has seen the industry landscape shift to embrace environmentally-conscious consumer demands. “It was so much more difficult in the beginning,” she said; “People used to look at me like – ‘you funny hippie’.” Now, finding sustainable solutions to the issues a beauty brand faces is much simpler – and Annee takes a 360° view to making these decisions. For instance, while glass may be easier to recycle, it’s heavier to ship, and if she’s looking at plastic, she’s asking whether it’s a virgin plastic and if it’s wholly recyclable. “I’m looking at the impact every step of the way,” she says.

The impact of health and wellbeing on skin is now widely accepted and Anjali stressed the importance of considering the emotional impact of your lifestyle on your skin; she often refers patients to see clinical psychologists as part of their dermatological treatment. “You can’t remove stress from modern day life, but you can try and control it,” she said. Annee recommended familiarising yourself with your stress; where do you hold it, and what techniques work for you to control it. She suggested placing red stickers on objects you come across throughout your day – your phone, a light switch, the TV remote – so that when you come across them, you can treat them life a red traffic light, taking a momentary opportunity to stop and breathe. By doing so, you can slow down your sympathetic nervous system (the system which activates a fight or flight response) and psychological reaction to stress. Anjali also advises that anyone visiting a medical professional about their skin gather the following information before: know how long you’ve had the problem, what treatments you have already tried, your current skincare regime and the products you use, and any other medication you are on.

Madeleine’s wellbeing toolkit is packed with yoga, spending time in nature and with the people she loves (as well as the odd Man U game down the pub!). She recalled a transformative moment when she realised the importance of what we say to ourselves each day, our inner dialogues and thought patterns. “I realised I can rethink my thoughts and I can retell my stories,” she said.

Answering questions from the audience, the panellists pointed out that we need to shift the way we think about beauty and make-up from frequently buying cheap, disposable products to longer-term investment in performance-proven item. “Sheet masks are the next plastic straws,” said Annee.

Every week, Melissa asks the panel for their one takeaway to share with audience, a recommendation for further reading, listening or inspiration. Maddy recommended following @HalfBakedHarvest, and Anjali’s put forward @nadia.craddock and @foodandpsych. Khandiz told us all to listen to Anne Lamott’s Ted Talk ’12 things I learned from life and writing’, and Annee follows @adamreedhair for daily positivity and recommends reading Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo.

Find out more information on the upcoming Sustainability Sessions and how to get involved.

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