Olay Tests a Refillable Moisturiser as Beauty Industry Grapples With Its Giant Trash Problem

By Yessenia Funes on at

Fresh, soft skin comes at a cost—to the planet. Specifically, I’m talking about all that packaging your favourite lotion or cream comes in, which is likely made of hard-to-degrade plastics. That’s why Olay is dipping its toes in the refillable packaging world, a first among major skincare brands according to the Guardian.

Come October, until the end of the year, customers in the UK and US can purchase Olay’s Regenerist Whip moisturiser with a little pod that can be replaced inside the signature red container, the company announced Wednesday at the 2019 Sustainable Brands Conference. The above image shows what the product may end up looking like. The goal is to reduce the amount of plastic the brand is responsible for. According to Olay, it could save more than 1 million pounds of plastic over the course of the trial.

Olay isn’t the first cosmetics brand to jump on the refillable wave. There’s makeup company Kjar Weis’ refillable mascara tubes, and Elate Cosmetics’ bamboo eyeshadow palettes, which allow you to refill your eyeshadow colours instead of throwing the palette out. People are starting to realise that if we’re going to save the planet, we have to create less trash. And the cosmetics industry is chock full of it.

Facial moisturisers like this Olay product resulted in some 4.7 billion units of packaging globally in 2017, according to data sent to us by Euromonitor International, a market research company. That’s a lot, and let’s face it: Who tries to recycle their plastic lotion bottles? And how much of it is actually recyclable? (Hint: not much.)

When our plastic isn’t properly disposed of, it often ends up in the ocean. There, it can harm animals or simply break down into smaller and smaller pieces. And even recycling isn’t a perfect solution, because it uses more energy, which in our world means more climate-warming carbon emissions. Citing research by the LCA Centre, E&E reported that 70 per cent of the cosmetic industry’s carbon emissions could be eliminated with refillable containers.

Olay’s refillable moisturisers aren’t a perfect solution. Each of those individual mini pods is, after all, a new piece of trash. But any efforts to reduce trash are welcome, and Olay’s owner, Procter & Gamble, is making other moves too. It recently joined Loop, a new zero-waste effort that seeks to eliminate single-waste plastics with favourite brands (like Haagen Dazs and Tide). Here, packages are collected, refilled, and reused.

This is the future. It must be—unless we want to drown the planet in our garbage.

Featured image: Courtesy of Olay