The next time you need to refresh your makeup supplies, take a #LittleGreenStep by exploring sustainable alternatives to your favourite products. In her latest contribution, BOLT Beauty founder, Lisa Sexton, shares the sustainability credentials of luxe brand Kjaer Weiss.
“The creamiest lipsticks, dewy blushes, and subtly pigmented eye shadows. It’s a full range of makeup, but for people that don’t really want to look “done”. Everything about Kjaer Weiss epitomises sustainable luxury. And it really is luxurious – the formulations, the elegant design, the weight of the sculptural packaging. It’s something to look forward to using rather than just forming part of a basic routine – just the way a luxury product should be.
I love it because of its understated elegance. Just applying a little lipstick (Nude, Naturally Lipstick in shade Genuine, for me) makes me feel more put together, ready to face the world, and a little more elegant. If that’s not what makeup is supposed to do, then I’m not sure what its purpose is.
Kjaer Weiss was founded in 2010 by makeup artist Kirsten Kjaer Weis. Prior to starting her brand, Kirsten had become disillusioned with the products she was using on photoshoots with her model clients. They didn’t want certain products to be applied to them because it would make their skin break out or hurt their eyes. Inspired by growing up on a Danish farm, Kirsten brought nature to the world of makeup. She wanted formulations to be made with natural ingredients, and wherever possible, they should be organic. Her range of products pioneered the “nature meets performance” makeup movement and, in my opinion, remain amongst the best.
Kjaer Weiss’s range includes: lipsticks and balms – a unisex one and in multiple tints; the creamiest foundations; cheek tints and blushes; eye shadows – powder and a cream; and eye lines and mascara. My personal favourite products are the lipsticks – Nude, Naturally Lipstick in colour Genuine, is my colour of choice – lip balms – Romance is a dream – and cream blush – I mix between Happy and Blossoming.
Lipstick gives great coverage without feeling heavy or too “done”. It’s very moisturising – the type of lipstick you can apply without having to sugar buff and then “lip mask” your lips beforehand (I don’t have time for those things). The lip balms are an easier version of the lipstick – slightly more sheer and forgiving (the type of makeup that’s perfect for applying without a mirror and while on the move). They’re super creamy and just delightful to apply.
My one gripe with the lip balms is that they are to be applied with your finger (or a brush but I don’t carry one of those around with me). It means you need to get your fingers into the products and then apply. That’s fine the first few times when it’s all pristine and new. But, after a while, it doesn’t feel particularly hygienic to be rubbing my fingers in a product and then letting it sit there… Unfortunately, bacteria, mould, fungi and other stuff can grow in cosmetics (and Kjaer Weiss’s organic, natural formulas mean I’m not sure what’s in there to stop that growth). I replace mine frequently (more on this shortly) and would recommend you do the same. They are lovely products. I just wish there was a more hygienic way to use them.
When it comes to sustainability, I’ve broken this down into five core areas which I think are really important for the beauty space. For each of the brands we look at, we’ll see how they do in these areas.
1. Ingredient transparency
Kjaer Weiss clearly tells us what’s in every single product. There is also an ingredient directory which sets out what each ingredient is.
Kjaer Weiss is a “natural” beauty brand. They are very clear about this and are proud to be certified organic by relevant certification bodies (depending on the ingredient or product). This makes sense – no-one’s in doubt on what they stand for and what is in their products. They don’t just call themselves “clean” and provide minimal explanation on what this means.
However, I don’t agree that natural is always better than synthetic – there are some amazing natural ingredients out there and some incredible synthetic ones. In fact, sometimes synthetic ingredients are safer, more effective, and more sustainable than their natural counterparts (e.g. iron oxides that are used as pigments in lipsticks are safer in synthetic form rather than the natural one due to the risk of contaminants in “natural” versions) (I note that Kjaer Weiss doesn’t use iron oxides in their products).
If you’re someone who wants to buy from a brand that uses natural products and markets themselves as natural, Kjaer Weiss is definitely for you. But please remember that natural isn’t better than synthetic; just because these products are incredible, it doesn’t mean that a “non-natural” version from a different brand can’t be as effective, safe, and luxurious. It’s all down to the individual formulations and ingredients. The Kjaer Weiss ones are a dream to use – Kirsten has created beautiful, natural formulations that completely exceeded my expectations.
2. Manufacturing transparency
Manufacturing probably isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to sustainability. But, I think it’s incredibly important. A company’s first responsibility should be towards the people that create the products or services they sell. Without these individuals, we can’t do anything bigger or more ambitious. So, ensuring safe working conditions, upholding human rights, and combating discrimination are all important elements of sustainability that we need to think about (and demand more from brands on).
Kjaer Weiss manufactures its products in Italy. In my opinion, there are some real pros in choosing to manufacture in Italy. First, being in the EU, the whole process will be subject to EU law. This means that the brand will be subject to EU regulation on cosmetics safety (which is among the more rigorous in the world) and transparency. Secondly, and from a wider perspective, it means that standards for health and safety, manufacturing practices and risk controls will have been implemented. This is important for ensuring the safety of the products produced (e.g. lower risk of contamination in the manufacturing process) and safeguarding workers’ rights.
Another pro about Kjaer Weiss using (mostly) organic certified ingredients is that most certifications include some sort of requirement relating to human rights. It makes it more likely that the raw materials are being sourced ethically and with respect to human rights. It would be great to know more about this from Kjaer Weis as it’s something they could educate a lot of us on.
3. Packaging approach
This is where Kjaer Weiss really sets itself apart from other beauty brands. Kjaer Weiss subscribes to the re-use and re-fill model: buy the sexy outer packaging once and use for life, and then top up the actual makeup through packaging-lite refills which slot right in to the main outer packaging.
Until recently, Kjaer Weiss’s packaging was wholly based on an extremely luxurious, heavy, metal container. It’s heavy and cold in your hand. It slides open and closed beautifully and feels much more like a small sculpture than a bit of makeup. The makeup then pops inside; when you run out, you just buy a refill and carry on using your main container. The only downside of them is the weight – you don’t want to be carrying a few of these guys in your handbag. So, Kjaer Weiss has just launched an additional refill option – the RED edition. In her signature red cardboard (it looks more like leather than paper, so still pretty luxe), the container is designed to be refilled two to three times before being recycled or composted (e.g. if it’s not recyclable due to product spilling on it). It’s lovely (and much easier to carry around than the metal version).
It would be great to know if the paper being sourced is from FSC certified forests. This is important as poorly managed forests can be an issue for ecosystems, and biodiversity and excessively chopping down trees for paper stock can cause us to lose forest land for good.
4. Carbon footprint
I am not aware of any information that indicates Kjaer Weiss is a carbon-neutral company or looks to manage its carbon footprint.
Kjaer Weiss states it is a cruelty-free brand.
They don’t have a Leaping Bunny certification though, which is a shame. Leaping Bunny is the Gold Standard for certification when it comes to being cruelty-free. It requires a full audit of a company’s supply chain – including each of the raw ingredient suppliers – to ensure animal testing is not carried out on the finished product or any constituents of the finished product.
Animal testing is much rarer now for brands made or sold in the EU. The Cosmetics Regulation banned (1) animal testing on finished products and cosmetics ingredients, and (2) the ability to market finished cosmetic products and ingredients that have been tested on animals in the EU. In other words, you can’t test on animals in the EU and you can’t sell products that have been tested on animals in the EU. There are, however, some exceptions to this. The EU ban only applies to ingredients which are only used in cosmetics. And, the ban only applies to testing that relates to human safety – this means tests relating to environmental risks can still go ahead.
Leaping Bunny, however, requires brands to go a step further, to ensure that no animal testing takes place in any part of the supply chain.
I love Kjaer Weiss’s products and cannot recommend them highly enough. I think the refills are clever, sustainable, and much better for packaging and waste reduction compared to most other makeup brands. When it comes to sustainability, this is where Kjaer Weis stands out. So, if you want to treat your makeup bag to some timeless luxury, this should be your choice.”
*Lead image courtesy of Kjaer Weiss via Facebook