5 Beauty Brands Embracing the Refill Revolution

With reusable and refillable packaging promising to become the new normal, more companies are offering customers sustainable alternatives. Indies and mass-market brands alike have overhauled their products, but many are now going beyond the singular item to assist in seamless refill processes. 53% of consumers would opt for package-saving refill packs, but there are still pending shifts in consumer mindsets, supply chains, and hygiene practices that have held up the progression. Ultimately, to persuade the other half, opting for the refillable option would need to offer minimal difference in convenience and product experience to rival their disposable counterparts.

Some companies are collaborating on their mission, while others are seeking to improve upon the refill process supply chain to become even more eco-friendly. BeautyMatter rounds up a handful of new initiatives that aim to reduce packaging waste.

Susanne Kaufmann: The clean skincare brand has always had an interest in nature, but is now taking its sustainability further. On February 5, the company launched a refill program (two years in the making) for its best-selling Cleansing Gel, Hand Soap, and Shower Shampoo. The refill pouches are made of 75% recycled high-density polyethylene (RHDPE), which is 100% recyclable and results in a 69% carbon emission and 55% greenhouse gas reduction. The company has also unveiled a world-first solar-powered bulk mixing unit at their Austrian headquarters to produce their cream, oil, and lotion products.

REN: The company joined forces with Loop by TerraCycle, being the first premium skincare company to do so. Loop delivers products in reusable packaging straight to the home, that, once used up, can be booked for a free pickup, sterilization, refill, and redelivery. Each bottle lasts for approximately 100 refills. While this premise has only been adopted for its six best-selling body washes, body lotions, and facial cleanser, there are plans to expand the program to its entire portfolio if the endeavor proves successful.

Montamonta: A sustainable skincare company based in East London, Montamonta offers completely in-house production that fuses the worlds of plants and science using hyper-locally sourced ingredients, as well as waste raw materials like coffee grounds and beeswax sourced from London Honey Co.

Its best-selling hand wash—available in verbena + geranium + cedar and basil + parsley + black pepper scents—is available in liter-sized refill bottles that are collected, cleaned, refilled, and redelivered for local amenity customers including bars, restaurants, and cafés.

Perfumer H: Lyn Harris co-founded perfume house Miller Harris before founding Perfumer H in 2015, complete with refillable handblown glass containers for candles and fragrances, the latter of which are available in 50ml and 100ml sizes. Harris produces two seasonal collections a year comprised of five scents each, as well as bespoke fragrances on request. Her latest Winter 2020 collection is comprised of the smoky woody scent Charcoal, the warm citrus Gold, the juniper and patchouli-infused Rain Wood, and the earthy and herbal-smelling Smoke, plus six candles (Mint Tea, Salt, Wood Land, Honey, Marmalade, and Smoke).

Essence + Alchemy: While fragrance refills have been on the up among the likes of Mugler, Le Labo, and most recently Giorgio Armani, candles (which have witnessed a large retail boom since the pandemic) have only offered sustainability in terms of repurposing their glass vessels around the home. Essence + Alchemy’s Refills line offers pre-formed candles in 7 different scents that simply slide into the brand’s beakers, with monthly, cost-reduced subscription models. Each candle is made from 100% natural ingredients, and all of the seven scents on offer boast aromatherapeutic benefits. Swedish brand L:A Bruket has a similar premise, with at-home packs containing wick anchors and holders for their Black Oak, Coriander, Grapefruit, and Tabac candles. The soy wax blend simply needs to be melted, poured in, and left to stand for two hours before use.

Buying a refillable option can reduce emissions of CO2 by 70%, energy by 65%, and water by 45%; but for companies, creating these alternatives can be a logistical and financial challenge. “Producing products in a refill format (five litres in our case) requires significant investment. In the factory you need a completely new production line and that’s not cheap. For many brands the investment isn’t worth it and it’s hard to justify—particularly if they don’t think the demand is there,” Faith in Nature’s CEO Joy Parkinson tells Dazed Digital. In an industry driven by the next shiny new thing, a booth-operated refill may not offer the same novelty factor, but as more consumers awaken to the undeniably gargantuan plastic pile building up before them, and the financial benefits of refill options, there is hope that demand will help push supply.

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