End of an era? Holland & Barrett bans single-use beauty sheet masks in UK and online

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

With an estimated one million single-use beauty sheet masks thrown away worldwide every day, Holland & Barrett says it is time to act [Getty Images]
With an estimated one million single-use beauty sheet masks thrown away worldwide every day, Holland & Barrett says it is time to act [Getty Images]

Related tags: Holland & Barrett, Uk, beauty retail, sustainable beauty, single-use plastic, Environment, Sustainability

Health and wellness retailer Holland & Barrett has stopped selling single-use beauty sheet masks across all UK stores and online and hinted at a future free of any single-use beauty item – a movement it says other retailers should follow.

In place of single-use sheet masks, Holland & Barrett said it would be promoting more sustainable, multi-use mask formats that offered “all the same beauty benefits with a smaller environmental footprint”.​ The retailer had partnered with UK charity Ocean Generation to donate 5% of profits made during the rest of 2021 from its range of multi-use face masks in a bid to “encourage people to make the switch”.

Under the hashtag #notanothersheetmask, Holland & Barrett also hoped to create noise online amongst consumers and industry alike about its latest ambitions.

Taking action to reduce ‘unnecessary waste’

“It’s estimated that one million single-use beauty sheet masks are being thrown away across the world every day, and as a business that cares about the wellness of people and our planet, we have to take action now to reduce unnecessary waste,” ​said Joanna Cooke, beauty trading director at Holland & Barrett.

According to Statistica, spending on sheet face masks was set to hit €427.5m ($507.2m) by 2025.

“Beauty sheet masks can only be used once, so following a review we feel they no longer fit our clean and conscious beauty ethos, which is why we’ve decided to act now and stop selling them,”​ Cooke said.

Back in 2010, the retailer also banned plastic bags in the UK ahead of the nationwide government initiative and in 2019 it delisted and removed wet wipes from all UK and Ireland stores​.

Cooke said Holland & Barrett would continue its push towards sustainable initiatives. “In the future, we’ll continue to find further ways we can reduce waste by stopping the sale of all single-use beauty products. We hope that other retailers will join us and follow suit.”

Holland & Barrett said it was “committed to making it easy for people to choose clean and conscious beauty products that replace single-use items, have recycled or easily recyclable packaging, can be refilled, produce less waste or use less water”.

Planet before profit – beauty must clean up its act

Jayn Sterland, chair of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition at the British Beauty Council, praised the move from Holland & Barrett, stating the retailer was “once again”​ putting “planet before profit”.

“I hope where Holland & Barrett lead, other beauty retailers will swiftly follow,”​ Sterland said.

“…It is ironic that our insatiable beauty consumption is adding to the pollution of our planet, through use and post-usage of our products. In many ways every beauty product can be considered as ‘single-use’ when you consider the plastic pot our moisturiser comes in may take over one thousand years to degrade. It’s time we, quite literally, cleaned up our act and started to ask ourselves the question: is my beauty retally worth the harm it is doing to our planet?”

Last month, Sterland outlined the goals of the Sustainable Beauty Coalition – launched in July 2021​ – and said the overall aim was to spearhead fast and effective industry change in response to the ongoing climate crisis. “Beauty must switch from being part of the problem to becoming part of the solution,”​ she told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

The British Beauty Council says industry must take on responsibility in the plastics challenge [Getty Images]
The British Beauty Council says industry must take on responsibility in the plastics challenge [Getty Images]

In July this year, British Beauty Council CEO Millie Kendall MBE said it was certainly time industry took responsibility in the “enormous”​ plastic challenge​. “…We need to reinvent our industry to be more responsible,” ​Kendall said. And a big part of that, she said, involved the unravelling of a beauty brand-retailer model where retailers asked brands to deliver new products and a range of small sizes continued to be stocked on shelf.

At the end of 2020, environmental campaign group A Plastic Planet penned an open letter to the European Union and UK government calling for sample sachets to be included in single-use plastic bans​, calling out the beauty and personal care industry as a leading cause for concern.

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