At Kiehl’s, we’re all about working toward a Future Made Better. While our continued commitment to a greener, cleaner future is a multi-part endeavor, one of the most important ways we work to keep our environmental footprint small is via the ingredients we use in our formulas. We use fairly-traded and sustainable plant ingredients in many of our beloved skincare and haircare products (indeed, a full 98% of our offerings contain three or more renewable ingredients). And our continued support of sustainable practices helps support responsible farming in more than 600 communities across the globe. Of course, it’s not just the environment that benefits from this—you do, too.
Here, you’ll learn how. We’ll teach you a little bit about what makes an ingredient sustainable and introduce you to four responsibly-sourced skincare ingredients that we use. You’ll also, of course, discover the formulas that these sustainable staples feature in. Get ready to dive in, and read on for an introduction to Kiehl’s sustainable skincare ingredients.
What Is Sustainable Beauty?
Official definitions describe sustainability as the ability to be utilized without being used up or destroyed. The term can describe virtually any commodity: energy, water, even fashion. At Kiehl’s, we use the descriptor primarily for packaging materials and ingredients, especially those that come from plants (more on that in a bit). Ingredients that are sustainable are either renewable—meaning they can be replenished without placing an undue burden on the environment or depleting natural resources—or responsibly-sourced, which encompasses improving the social and environmental impact of our sourcing practices.
Glacial glycoprotein—otherwise known as pseudoalteromonas ferment extract—is a naturally-occurring compound that can be found deep inside Antarctic glaciers. In order to thrive in that environment, glacial glycoprotein has to be hardy, and it is. It boasts numerous benefits for skin but is most noted for its protective abilities. It helps defend the skin against the drying effects of cold air and can provide long-lasting hydration. Additionally, it helps protect the skin against water loss, leaving it looking smoother and feeling softer over time.
Here’s where the sustainability aspect comes in. Obviously, drilling into Antarctic glaciers isn’t an environmentally-friendly practice—which means for Kiehl’s, it’s not an option. Instead, we synthesize glacial glycoprotein in labs so as not to disturb the delicate balance of the Arctic ecosystem.
Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane
Find It In: Glacial glycoprotein stars in several Kiehl’s products, most notably in the Ultra Facial line. To reap its benefits in your daily routine, we recommend reaching for Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane. This classic moisturizer (our #1 best-selling face cream worldwide), absorbs quickly and provides instant hydration that lasts up to 24 hours. The gentle formula is fragrance-free, dye-free, and TEA-free, and it’s suitable for all skin types. Use it morning and night for softer, visibly healthier-looking skin over time.
Squalane is a naturally-occurring lipid that can be found in plants and some animals, like sharks, as well as human skin. Squalane is noted for its emollient properties and lightweight, non-greasy texture. It’s similar to squalene (with an ‘e’), which is also a naturally-occurring lipid found in a wide range of plants and animals. They differ primarily in their stability: Squalene oxidizes easily, while squalane is highly stable, and therefore preferable for use in cosmetics. Though squalane is technically an oil, it’s structurally similar to sebum, the skin’s natural oil. As such, it’s highly compatible with all skin types.
While squalane can be obtained from animals, at Kiehl’s, we use 100% plant-derived squalane in our formulas. In the past, we mainly used olive-derived squalane; however, to protect global olive supplies, we’re also using sugar-derived squalane in some of our products (it’s proved every bit as effective as the olive-derived version).
Find It In: You can find squalane in a wide range of Kiehl’s products, from cleansers and moisturizers to masks and face oils, like Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Made with 100% renewable resources, this ultra-luxe (and environmentally-conscious) face oil boosts essential moisture to help replenish tired-looking skin. It helps increase radiance and refine skin’s texture in a single night, while continued use over time helps smooth and firm the skin for a more youthful appearance. We recommend applying two to three drops to your face in the evening after moisturizing for instantly softer, more supple-feeling skin.
Amazonian White Clay
Clay has been used for centuries—millennia, even—as a natural cosmetic. It’s commonly found in face masks and cleansers and is celebrated for its ability to help detoxify and balance oily skin. Though there are countless forms of clay used in beauty products, at Kiehl’s, we primarily use fairly-traded Amazonian white clay, a mineral-rich form of kaolin clay sustainably sourced from the mouth of the Amazon River. Through our partnerships with the workers who responsibly gather this natural resource, Kiehl’s helps provide economic support to the local community in Northern Brazil.
Find It In: Amazonian white clay is the key ingredient in our Rare Earth collection, the star of which is Rare Earth Deep Pore Minimzing Cleansing Clay Mask. This award-winning formula helps draw out debris that can cause clogged pores, leaving the skin instantly more balanced-looking. It’s clinically-demonstrated to visibly reduce clogged pores by 37.3% in a single use, while continued use over time helps minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, giving way to a smoother, visibly more refined appearance.* It’s suitable for oily and normal skin types and can be used up to three times per week as part of your regular skincare routine.
*Results based on expert grading in a 2-week clinical test on 54 subjects.
Calendula, also known as pot marigold, is an ornamental flower native to temperate regions throughout the Mediterranean. It boasts a wide range of beauty benefits and, like Amazonian clay, has been used for hundreds of years as a traditional remedy for skin concerns like dryness, redness, and irritation. Today, it’s celebrated for its ability to help soothe skin and can therefore often be found in moisturizers, cleansers, and other products designed for sensitive skin.
Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner
Kiehls’ relationship with calendula dates back to the early 1960s, when we first launched the (now-iconic) Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner. We source our calendula petals sustainably in a process that takes around nine to ten months. When ready to harvest, the entire plant is picked by hand to keep the flower’s delicate petals intact. The petals are then removed (again, by hand) and left to sun-dry without any additional processing. Any unused parts of the flower—like the stems and leaves—are then composted by the grower to ensure nothing goes to waste.
Find It In: In addition to the aforementioned toner, this beloved ingredient can be found in Calendula Petal-Infused Calming Mask. The fragrance-free mask, which contains whole calendula petals and aloe vera, helps hydrate and soothe stressed skin. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used three times per week for skin that appears fresh, revitalized, and healthy.