Rihanna’s New Skincare Line Cuts Down on Waste, But Not Enough

I love you, all of you, so much. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)
I love you, all of you, so much. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

Over the last year or so, I’ve been on a journey to make my beauty routine plastic-free. I’ve been trying a number of alternatives — from my shampoo to my make-up — to eliminate as much plastic as possible from my life. However, a new skincare line is having me reconsider all my efforts: Fenty Skin.

The skincare line from musician Robyn Fenty, better known as, uh, Rihanna, dropped July 31. As tempted as I was to try it, I stayed away because each of the three products comes in individual plastic containers.

“You’re better than this,” I told myself.

Then, I received a Fenty Skin sample with a lip gloss purchase. I fell in love. Instantly. Not only did these products leave my skin feeling fresh and clean; they also left me smelling yummy as hell thanks to scents like Barbados cherry and Kalahari melon.

After telling my colleagues I had fallen in love with plastic-wrapped delights, I was ready to be shamed! But instead, Gizmodo consumer tech reporter Victoria Song, who already owned the products, enlightened me. Unlike many other beauty products, two out of three of the products come with zero external packaging. As for the plastic that is used, at least some of it is recycled, and it’s mostly recyclable, too. The face lotion includes the coolest feature, coming with a refillable cartridge. The cartridge itself isn’t recyclable, but refillable items are still only taking off within the beauty industry. There’s still room for improvement, clearly, but if this first round of products is any indication, Fenty Skin may popularise environmentally friendly skin products in a way many companies have yet to embrace.

I finally took the leap to get my own products. They’re all sold out online, though Fenty Skin sent me over a kit for this article.

Everything was simple to use and required no cotton pads or paper towels. That was a win for me. I’m a simple girl. I don’t need to add more work through a beauty routine or waste to the trash. What really drew me in, though, were those fruity fragrances. Those sensitive to smells may not appreciate this, but these products smell so damn good.

Hydra Vizor, the face lotion and sunscreen combo from Fenty Skin, features a refillable cartridge. (Gif: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

The three products Fenty released include Total Cleans’r Remove-It-All Cleanser, Fat Water Pore-Refining Toner Serum, and Hydra Vizor Invisible Moisturiser Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen. The cool thing about each of these products is that they’re all two-in-one. So what would typically come in two separate plastic bottles from other beauty companies is coming in one here. The cleaner is both a face wash and makeup remover. Fat Water is a toner and a serum. The moisturiser both hydrates your face and provides sun protection. At around $US30 ($42) each, they’re all relatively affordable, too, when you compare to similar products.

“I wanted the packaging to be beautiful, but also functional with an earth-conscious approach,” the queen herself on the Fenty website. “We eliminated boxes where we could, we have refill systems, and we use recycled materials where possible. Nobody is perfect, but I really believe we can try our best to do right, and we’ll keep evolving as we go.”

I gotta give credit to Fenty for featuring a refillable cartridge in its first line of products. (Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo)

Waste is a major issue with the beauty world at-large. In 2017, face moisturizers alone made up more than 4 billion units of packaging worldwide, according to numbers data market analysis group Euromonitor International shared with Gizmodo. They aren’t always recyclable, but the hard truth is that people often don’t recycle these items even where it’s an option. Only about 13 per cent of the plastic containers and packaging generated in the U.S. in 2017 were recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Much of the rest ended up in landfills.

A lot of this is a systemic issue, including the fact that municipal recycling programs are a mess and the plastic industry refuses to pay for the mess it has created while pushing for us to consume more single-use crap. In that light, it’s impossible for end-users or even Fenty Skin itself to fix this problem entirely though the latter certainly has more power to do so than individuals alone. The company has a long way to go before being sustainable. Offering completely package-free products, like its competitor Lush, would be a major step. Creating refillable packaging for all its products would be, too. Adding container drop-offs at stores to reuse them is a better alternative to expecting consumers to recycle them at home.

Plastic is bad, but I can appreciate a new company stepping up to reduce that damage a bit. Fenty Skin doesn’t come adorned with green leaves or promises of saving the planet. Still, for a $US3 ($4) billion company, Fenty can do better. And I fully expect it to. Rihanna has told our colleagues over at The Root how real the climate and ecological crises are. As an island girl, she understands what’s at stake if we keep making them worse.