Biodegradable beauty wipe alternatives

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Biodegradable beauty wipe alternatives

Related tags Cosmetics Hygiene Personal hygiene products

Wet wipe makers are being urged to consider the post-consumer life of the product as buyer expectations and pollution figures mount.  

The market for natural personal care products from environmentally ethical companies is looking good. Big brands are phasing out microbeads and many products are formulated without the plastic bits or with sustainable alternatives.  

Now the beauty wipe segment has a chance to learn from the microbead example: where products and packaging go after consumers enjoy them is as important to shoppers as how products are sourced.

Predominance and decomposition
Wet wipes abound in the personal care space, with uses ranging from, cleaning to clarifying, eye make and lip product removal to hair removal. There are antiperspirant wipes, nail product wipes, fragrance wipes, tanning towelettes, brush cleaning wipes and more.

Each is handy, often portable and carefully dosed for consumer use. It’s the life of the product beyond that use that has consumers reaching for substitutes that are more likely to degrade swiftly and less likely to pollute the environment.  

Biodegradable is a flexible terms in the personal care industry just now. FTC guidelines, for example, state that “a marketer making an unqualified degradable claim should have competent and reliable scientific evidence that the entire item will completely break down and…decompose into elements found in nature…within a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.”

Material world
Wipes are essentially product formulations applied to nonwoven fabric. Bamboo presents an alternative to synthetic polymers, like polyester, that conventionally form the fabric. Bamboo has been a go-to green material for years now, as it is a fast-growing, renewable resource.

The kaia naturals brand, out of Toronto, Canada, has brought this alternative to market, targeting prestige natural consumers at retail spots like Holt Renfrew. That company’s juicy bamboo natural facial cleansing cloths are “made of 100% cashmere-soft bamboo fibres,” ​according to a media release. 

The company emphasizes that consumers can “simply throw [a used cleansing cloth] in a compost bin or bury the cloth in soil and it will biodegrade in approximately 90 days.”

Growth potential
Increasing evidence that wet wipes pollute the environment could slow market growth in this sector. “It is the non-biodegradable nature of the wipes that has proved to be the big problem,” ​reported Cosmetics Design​.

“The ‘wet-wipe’ category is typically known for convenience but also its chemical-laden ingredients and accumulation of waste,”​ confirms the kaia naturals media release.

The wipes are showing up in waterways and on beaches in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. In the New York City area alone, the US Department of Environmental Protection spends nearly $3m each year to remove used wet wipes from rivers, beaches and the like, according to that same Cosmetics Design item. 

Wipes remain viable, and truly biodegradable alternative clothes could well bolster the beauty wipe market for the foreseeable future. The market was growing at a rate of 5.7% annually (from 2008 to 2013), according to a report from the Freedonia Group.  That firm now put growth at 5.2% and predicts that the global wipe market will be at $13.5bn in 2018.

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