12 principles of green chemistry hold circular beauty promise says expert consultant

The concept of green chemistry – defined first in 1998 by Paul Anastas and John Warner in their ‘12 Principles of Green Chemistry’​ – had gained important traction in beauty over recent years. Earlier this year, for example, international beauty major L’Oréal said it was transitioning its entire business towards green sciences, aiming to have 95% of its ingredient portfolio bio-based, from abundant minerals or circular by 2030.

The 12 Principles of Green Chemistry

1. Waste prevention 2. Atom economy 3. Less hazardous chemical synthesis 4. Designing safer chemicals 5. Safer solvents and auxiliaries 6. Design for energy efficiency 7. Use of renewable feedstocks 8. Reduce derivatives 9. Catalysis 10. Design for degradation 11. Real-time pollution prevention 12. Safer chemistry for accident prevention. 

But how far off were we in seeing a widespread uptake of green chemistry principles across the global beauty sector?

Barbara Olioso PhD MRSC, managing director of The Green Chemist Consultancy, said achieving true circular beauty on a global level would require a “great shift in culture and mindset”​ – well away from the traditional ‘take, transform and dispose’ idea.

Olioso said it was critical industry focused on reducing its carbon emissions and considered every environmental issue attached to cosmetics production, including deforestation and water pollution. And using green chemistry was an important way to achieve this shift, he said.

A circular ‘mindset’ that needs longer-term backing

Speaking at CosmeticsDesign’s Circular beauty – Sustainable sourcing | Green chemistry | Eco-design ​webinar last month (now available to watch on-demand​), the green chemistry expert said: “Green chemistry is very much the circular model applied to science and chemistry.”  

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