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Sustainability in Beauty: A Kiehl's Study

By Kiehl’s Education Team

Australian Attitudes and Habits Towards Consumption and Recycling of Beauty Products

It’s clear that Australians use a lot of beauty products each calendar month. But what does the average person’s consumption habits look like, and are most of us too lazy to recycle our empties, or is a lack of knowledge to blame?

As part of our Kiehl’s Mission Renewal sustainability program, we conducted a survey of 1001 Australians to explore their habits related to the consumption and usage of beauty, skincare, haircare and grooming products. This included exploring attitudes toward product expiry dates, recycling practices, values concerning waste and their understanding of product refills. Here's what we found:

76% of Australians purchase new beauty, skincare, haircare or grooming products each month*

When looking at product consumption and usage, the results found that younger Australians are more likely to purchase new beauty, skincare, haircare or grooming products on a weekly basis, when compared to the older generations. Where 28% of Gen Z respondents said they purchase new beauty items each week, this fell to 22% for Millennials and dropped substantially to just 8% for Baby Boomers and older.*

When placing haircare vs skincare purchases under the microscope, we found that one fifth of Australians buy a haircare product every 2 weeks, while 14% buy a skincare product every fortnight. Almost a quarter (23%) of these were Gen Z, compared to only 5% for Baby Boomers and older.* 

Moreover, most Australians regularly use nearly all of their haircare, body hygiene and dental hygiene products each week. When it comes to hairstyling or makeup products, the majority only use up to 50% of their owned products in an average week. Additionally, only a third of Australians (34%*) use all their skincare products weekly. Though this could indicate that products in these categories are used less frequently in daily routines, it could also hint at potential overconsumption or experimentation, leaving some items unused and tucked away in the back of the beauty cupboards.

The 76% of Australians who are regularly purchasing beauty, skincare, haircare, or grooming products signals a significant market trend* and underscores the important responsibility companies have to address waste, disposal, and sustainability.

Vice President, Sustainability at Kiehl's Maggie Kervick says:

“Consumers want to purchase from brands who share their values, prioritise their health, and who genuinely care about the environment. Instead of placing the onus on consumers, brands should proactively facilitate easier reuse and recycling initiatives to promote more sustainable living. Being an environmentally proactive brand is not just a trend; it's a customer expectation. The brands that are only making minimal efforts risk falling behind.”

Only 50% of the population are recycling their beauty and grooming products*

Over half of Australians typically dispose of their beauty, skincare, haircare and grooming products by throwing them straight into the bin. To reveal if attitudes towards recycling are product-dependent, we questioned Australians on their habits in the below categories.

While an impressive 96% of Australians try to recycle beverage cans and bottles, less than two thirds (60%) attempt to recycle makeup and skincare products.* Of the categories, Australians are least likely to consistently recycle makeup and skincare products. It is worth noting that not all beauty products can be recycled via our kerbside recycling system, due to issues such as size, and material composition, which can add to the confusion for the consumer.

So why might this be? When questioned further, it was revealed that two thirds of Australians don’t recycle beauty products because they don’t know which products can be recycled, with one fifth saying they don’t recycle their beauty products at all, because they can’t be bothered to clean the products out. Additionally, when looking at gender, women are less likely to recycle these products, with 58% of women stating that they dispose of a product by throwing it into the bin vs 49% of men.* Looking specifically at makeup and skincare products, a third of Australian women admit to making no attempt to recycle whatsoever. 

Sustainability Manager at L'Oréal Australia & New Zealand Olivia Whitaker says:

“Two big barriers to consumers recycling their beauty products are a lack of information and knowledge surrounding what can be recycled ,and the need for a quick, convenient way to dispose of the products we use. We live busy lives – people don’t always have the time nor the energy to do simple things like rinsing a recyclable bottle or separate a non-recyclable pump from the part that can be easily recycled.”

So, what are some general recycling tips when it comes to our beauty products?

Olivia says: “Many kinds of plastic containers that store our beauty products can be recycled via our household recycling bin. The general rule is that only items that are larger than your fist should be put in the recycling bin, because small items can fall through the recycling machinery. Once you have checked it is large enough it’s as simple as quickly rinsing the product out, and, depending on whether the whole product can be recycled or just certain parts, taking the pumps and other parts that can’t be curbside recycled to a TerraCycle drop-off point , like one of our Kiehl’s stores. We accept empties from all brands, it’s not exclusive to our own. Remember to always check what is accepted in your local council’s recycling program before putting your beauty products in your household recycling bin.”

“When single-use plastic bags were banned in Australian supermarkets, it took a bit of adjusting to, but most of us simply made it a habit to keep our shopping bags in the boot of our cars. This isn’t so different. You can keep a bin or a container in your home with your empties, and next time you find yourself at a Kiehl’s Boutique , bring them along for recycling by TerraCycle . It can be as simple as that. However, it is the responsibility of beauty companies to design packaging that supports a more circular economy. At Kiehl's, we are actively designing our product packaging so it is compatible with existing recycling channels.”

51% of Australians believe that refillable beauty, skincare, haircare or grooming products should be offered by all brands

Despite a whopping 93% of Australians admitting that they don’t believe refillable beauty products are a waste of time or money, only one fifth actually own any.

This could be due to lack of knowledge, with over half of Australians stating that they not heard of refillable beauty products.

Vice President, Sustainability at Kiehl's Maggie Kervick explains how beauty refills work:

“Refillable beauty products, often housed in pouches, can reduce the amount of plastic and other materials in product packaging . When a product is empty, rather than throwing it out, the consumer can quickly wash it out and refill it. This helps to conserve resources and energy in production.”

According to Maggie, in addition to their environmental benefits, refills are also great for our savings accounts.

“Refills are more cost-effective and are typically offered at a lower price point which can help you drum up significant savings over time, particularly if you are using these products often, say daily or a few times a week.” 

Of the generations, Gen Z are more likely to know about refillable products, with 39% owning them, compared to Millennials (26%) Gen X (26%) and Baby Boomers (25%).

We now know that those who own refillable products do actively refill them, with only 4% citing they have never refilled their beauty products, suggesting a commitment to less waste.*

Kiehl’s Mission Renewal

Kiehl’s has already joined the refill revolution, now offering refillable pouches of customer favourites, such as the iconic Ultra Facial Cream moisturiser refillable pouch and Crème De Corp body moisturiser refillable pouch.

Kiehl’s first launched the Recycle & Be Rewarded program in 2009 and have since collected 14 million empty packages globally. Since 2020, our Australian partnership with TerraCycle has helped us recycle more than 106,000 empty packages, and our work in this space is only just getting started.

The world discards over 300 million metric tons of plastic each year – almost matching the weight of the global human population.i Only around 10% of the total plastic ever produced has been recycled.ii We know that when plastic ends up in landfills, it takes more than 450 years to decompose.iii That's why we're committed to acting with specific goals to minimise our impact by 2030.

Customers can help Kiehl’s to recycle another 15 million products globally by 2030 by bringing back their Kiehl’s empties to their local Kiehl’s store. In return for bonus Kiehl's Rewards loyalty points. Kiehl’s also take empties from any brand, such as plastic and glass bottles (including pump, spray and dropper closures and caps), foil packaging from sachets and masks, tubes of any colour, all black packaging and coloured glass.

In a world where sustainable living is becoming an increasingly important value for many, Kiehl’s is embracing it. Learn more about Kiehl’s Mission Renewal and shop our formulas developed with sustainability in mind.

Methodology: In November 2023, we surveyed 1001 Australians 18+ on their attitudes and habits around topics regarding beauty, grooming and skincare routines. Respondents are nationally representative by age, gender and location. The results were split by total population gender, age and location.

Age groups are as follows: Gen Z (18-26), Millennial (27-40), Gen X (41-55), Baby Boomers and Older (56+)


*Survey carried out in November 2023 on a population of 1001 Australians, aged 18+ on their attitudes and habits around beauty, grooming and skincare routines. Respondents were nationally representative and split by age, gender and location.

Lindwall, Courtney. “Single-Use Plastics 101.” National Resources Defense Council. 2020.,to%20plastic%20production%20and%20use

ii ‘Our Planet is Choking on Plastic.” UN Environment Programme.

iii “The Lifecycle of Plastics.” WWF Australia. 2021.

Goal targets are for 2030. Progress based on figures from Kiehl’s 2021 performance data and baseline established in 2019.

Kiehl's is part of the L'Oréal Groupe. 

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