PlantLove lipsticks, a new line from Cargo Cosmetics, are contained in a tube made not of plastic but of a compostable, corn-based polymer called PLA. Visit


The most fashionable colour in makeup this spring may just be green.


Cosmetics companies are increasingly jumping on the eco-chic bandwagon, not only finding botanical ingredients to replace chemical-based ones, but also focusing on improving their packaging practices and the doings of their business partners.

But can an industry that has long relied on synthetic ingredients to create some of its biggest hits really go all natural, all the time? Probably not. Instead, consumers are more likely to see cosmetic companies continue to pick their spots, doing what they can where they can, and of course letting the world know about each move.

The best advice for environmentally conscious consumers is to scrutinize those marketing messages, deciding for themselves whether a product is “lite green” — those with a small eco-friendly detail — or “bright green,” those that come from a company with strong commitment to protecting the earth, said Alex Steffen, executive editor of, a website devoted to discussing solutions to environmental problems.

“People are really interested in guilt-free affluence,” Steffen said. “People want to be rich but they don’t want to feel like they’re drowning polar bears. Once you decide to be guilt-free, you need to know the back story about the products in your life,” he said.

Does using recycled paper for packaging make a difference? Do carbon offset programs work?

“The short answer is yes but not enough,” explained Steffen, who said the companies that are rethinking the process of how they make things will be the ones that catapult environmental change. “It’s a question of gesture vs. impact,” added Steffen, who wrote the book Worldchanging: A User’s Guide For The 21st Century.

Linda Wells, editor in chief of Allure magazine, says it makes both moral and business sense for cosmetic companies to pay more attention to the Earth, especially when courting younger customers who are particularly keen to find eco-friendly beauty products.

But she points out that consumers who want certain kinds of results may have no other choice at the moment than to rely on those made with primarily manufactured ingredients.

“Many anti-aging ingredients are synthetic or chemicals,” Wells said. “So you end up eliminating a lot of the benefits of the products for something that might give you peace of mind and do something for the environment, but you might not give the customer what they’ve been become used to.”