There are people who care about sustainability and then there is LeiLani. A veteran in the beauty space, she understands the impact of her products on our bodies and the environment. LeiLani has always been ahead of the curve and a leader in bringing to market clean, impact-driven products. We recently sat down with LeiLani to discuss some of the myths and mistakes she sees in the space and what sustainable practices beauty brands and retailers should be adopting.
Sustainability seems to be a loaded term. As a leader in this space, what are some of the myths you frequently hear?
“That if it comes from a plant it must be sustainable! The thing is, you can grow and harvest crops in a very unsustainable way—like palm oil and its many derivatives. Sure, plant ingredients can be the best, most safe, and sustainable ingredients, but that’s not true for all. Instead, brands and consumers should be concerned with where it came from, its growing practices, and what it takes to actually bring those products to shelves.”
Is there anything that brands do that they think is sustainable but really isn’t?
“Sometimes brands walk a fine line. They may be sustainable but not natural, or vegan, but have chemicals, or be natural, but use plastics in the packaging. One thing to keep in mind is that just because the manufacturer implies it’s a more sustainable choice doesn’t mean it actually is. With Sweet LeiLani, we’ve spent a long time perfecting our processes and product to tick off all boxes – sustainable, natural, vegan. ”
Any other nuances you’d like to see cleared up?
“There’s still the belief that cleaner, greener ingredients and packaging must cost a lot more, or that they can’t compete on performance. That’s true in some cases, but it’s not necessarily true for all materials. I was at the forefront in bringing clean, green beauty to the drug and grocery market and we really had to educate in the early years that we could compete with performance and price point.”
With all you know about this world, if you were starting your own beauty brand today, what are the kinds of things you would be thinking about?
“First I’d focus on formulas. I’ve been pushing for safer, more sustainable ingredients since I started working in this industry. I would be evaluating every single ingredient for its potential health and environmental impacts.
Next, I’d look at the packaging. We have cleaner product formulas on the market, and they’re more accessible than ever before, which is a huge step in the right direction. But beauty packaging—even in the ‘clean’ space—is in desperate need of an overhaul. So much waste, so little recycled. Reduce plastic as much as possible. In the beginning, I was told by printers/packaging companies that the cardstock we use wouldn’t fly, that no one would like it. They were right to some extent; some don’t. But those were the ones that didn’t fully grasp the mission, vision, and goals when it came to our ingredient and packaging.”
You also know so much on the retailer side. What do you think needs to be top of mind for retailers when it comes to sustainability?
“Packaging, big time. We’re truly in a packaging waste crisis; less than 10% of plastic packaging is recycled and far too much of it is ending up as pollution. Sweet LeiLani Cosmetics is paving the way with our industry-leading sustainable packaging. Our tubes are now made from straw (hay). Everything is 100% biodegradable and recyclable and we use soy ink for all of our printing.”
Any last thoughts when it comes to green beauty?
“I believe the stressors of modem life, particularly in the past year and a half, have driven people to seek healthier products. It’s so fascinating to see the rise of spirituality and healing through all these plant medicines. It makes me hopeful that we’re moving away from the notion of selling anything to make a profit and that people are becoming more conscious that there is so much more than that.”