3 Buzzy, Eco-Conscious Beauty Brands Just Made Their U.S. Debut

Meet Neighbourhood Botanicals, We Are Paradoxx, and Highr.

We Are Paradoxx / Highr / Neighbourhood Botanicals

The United Kingdom has long been a hub for some of the buzziest and most innovative beauty brands. Need proof? Take Trinny London and BYBI, for example. The two UK-based brands have experienced global success and have garnered praise from some of our editors. This year, more UK-based beauty companies have leapt across the pond and made their products available in the U.S. Neighbourhood Botanicals, We Are Paradoxx, and Highr are among that bunch. 

So, what makes these three brands unique? They are all focused on clean and sustainable beauty, but they've each approached eco-consciousness in their own way. Neighbourhood Botanicals is the first UK beauty brand to become carbon negative. We Are Paradoxx uses 90% plastic-free packaging for its hair care products. And Highr is known for its low-waste, carbon-neutral, and eco-clean lipsticks. Ahead, the founders of each brand opened up about the inspiration behind their brands, their commitment to sustainability, and their brand's hero products. Keep scrolling to learn more about Neighbourhood Botanicals, We Are Paradoxx, and Highr.

Micaela Nisbet, founder of Neighbourhood Botanicals 

Micaela Nisbet, founder of Neighbourhood Botanicals

Micaela Nisbet / Neighbourhood Botanicals

What inspired you to create Neighbourhood Botanicals? 

The brand grew from my previous life on tour as a sound engineer— long nights and traveling were killing my once youthful skin. I couldn’t find anything interesting, pure, and well-priced on the market, so I created my own. Eventually, I retrained professionally in skincare formulation and took it from a bedroom hobby into a proper business in 2016. The range has grown slowly but steadily (with all my own formulas), and here we are now in 2021 with a team of six and counting.

You are the first UK beauty brand to go carbon negative. What does it mean to be a carbon-negative beauty brand?

Essentially it’s offsetting more carbon than your business practices emit. We cut back wherever we could and then double offset the rest through a hydroelectric and social project in rural China. Due to the nature of agriculture, our ingredients come from all over, so it was important to include this transport in our emissions scope. It was quite a long and costly undertaking, but it’s a worthy investment for the environment (obviously), and the company as consumers can see we care beyond our bottom line. 

You take pride in being a formulator-led brand. Can you talk about the quality standards you adhere to with your formulas? What makes your product formulas stand out?

A lot of brands are made by marketing teams using commercial chemists to make their formulas depending on what’s going to sell. Instead, I learned to formulate myself, and I scour through research and cosmetic science forums to find the best ingredients to give your skin proper health. Our products are home cooking compared to some brands being fast food. I’m not interested in hype ingredients.

There’s a real "fast fashion" problem in beauty at the moment. It contributes to overwhelming your skin and makes so much waste. How many half-used products do we all have lining our shelves? I think it’s best to simplify your routine to one good product for each need, and so our range represents that.

I work on our formulas for months, and they’re only done when they are the very best I can see them being. I make sure they’re fairly priced, as the huge markups in beauty are another thing I loathe. Just because something is [$100+] does not make it any better than a fairly priced product. It’s all down to the ingredients and the formulation quality.

How are you incorporating sustainability into your packaging? How do you intend to become more sustainable in the future?

We’re about to launch our postal refill scheme! It’s been nearly two years in the making and will be totally revolutionary. We’ve also changed four of our products recently from their original virgin PET to 100% recycled PET or aluminum. We use a fair bit of aluminum and glass in our product packaging, but we also have to look at weight and usage to choose the best material.

What are your brand’s hero products? Why do consumers gravitate towards these particular products?

Dream Dream Dream Night Facial Oil ($34) is our standout bestseller. It’s perfect for people who are maybe incorporating a facial oil into their routine for the first time, as you leave it on overnight, so there’s no worry of daytime shine. It uses all cold-pressed plant oils, including rosehip and blackcurrant, lots of vitamin A and C. It's super luxe-smelling, too. It’s a proper ritual before bed. Customers always comment how their skin evened itself out and looks so much healthier. That’s what we’re all about at Neighbourhood Botanicals, helping your skin be the best it can be.

Yolanda Cooper, founder of We Are Paradoxx 

Yolanda Cooper, founder of We Are Paradoxx

Yolanda Cooper / We Are Paradoxx

What inspired you to create We Are Paradoxx?

A few years ago, I had a lightbulb moment that led to my invention of Supernova—the world’s first cordless three-in-one hair tool that combines a straightener, wand, and tong in one travel-friendly tool. I was checking in for a flight with overweight luggage, mainly due to the number of hair tools I was traveling with. I drew the idea for Supernova out on a cocktail napkin on the plane and then set about making it a reality as soon as I got home. While working on Supernova, I saw a real gap in the market for high-performance haircare that was also clean, natural, and good for the environment. So I decided to create a brand that would truly make a difference in the beauty industry. Over 90 billion units of packaging are created each year in the global beauty market. The majority of this is plastic, which often ends up in landfills or infiltrating our eco-systems and harming marine life. My goal was to create a plastic-free haircare line, using stainless steel and aluminum packaging that produce less CO2 emissions than plastic or glass to transport and can be recycled on an infinite loop without degrading quality.

How are you incorporating sustainability into your packaging? How do you intend to become more sustainable in the future?

Sustainability has been a critical element of our choices since the brand launched. Our focus has remained on reducing the amount of plastic pollution entering our ecosystem. Choosing aluminum and stainless steel packaging was a way to ensure we wouldn’t contribute to the plastic pollution problem. Additionally, the fact that these materials can be infinitely recycled was important to us, so one aspect of our continued efforts is to encourage, educate and facilitate our customers in recycling effectively. We are working on developing a plastic-free pump for our products that will be more easily recycled and have more longevity to encourage reuse rather than recycling. We are also developing formulas that won’t require a pump to dispense to ensure our packaging choices limit wastage and plastic where possible. We are moving towards printing directly onto our aluminum bottles to remove labels entirely and eco-refill options to reduce the volume of packaging we produce further.

Being plastic-free is incredibly important to the brand. Can you explain the impact plastic-packaged beauty products have on the environment?

Plastic pollution is a planetary crisis, and the beauty industry is a huge contributor to it. The global packaging industry for beauty is worth $25 billion in sales, and it is primarily plastic packaging. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic reaches our oceans every year. Biodegradable and bio-sourced plastics are often cited as eco-alternatives. While they may have a reduced carbon footprint compared with traditional plastics, if it makes its way into marine environments, bioplastic will behave just like traditional plastic. It will exist for hundreds of years and break down into harmful micro-sized pieces. The only way to truly prevent more harm to marine life and our ecosystem from plastic is to reduce our dependence on it for packaging and seek better alternatives. This will come at a cost for brands, as plastic is often the cheapest option, but it is critical to protect our environment. 

You take pride in sourcing ethically and responsibly. Can you explain the ways the brand does this?

Sourcing ethically is important from the perspective of not over-harvesting crops and ensuring that workers in our supply chain are being treated fairly and responsibly at all times. The manufacturer we work with is SEDEX and COSMOS certified, which means that they actively promote improved working conditions throughout their global supply chains; and also source ingredients and manufacture in an environmentally friendly way. All suppliers of our raw ingredients comply with the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code as a minimum, and we only develop vegan formulas with ingredients in plentiful supply.

What are your brand’s hero products? Why do consumers gravitate towards these particular products?

We’ve seen a real surge in demand for our treatment-based products over the last year, which makes a lot of sense given that salons have been closed a lot of the time due to the events of the last year. Our customers are generally giving more attention to their hair health, so our Game Changer Hair Mask ($26) and Detox Scalp + Body Scrub ($40) have been incredibly popular. Hangover Hair Elixir ($35) remains a real hero as it can be used as a hybrid finishing oil or treatment, depending on your hair type and needs. It also comes in an actual hip flask (and contains a dash of Irish Whiskey for added shine), so it’s very popular. We have listened to our customers and have really focused on hair treatments for our new launches this year. Super Fuel Face, Hair + Body Oil, and exciting new hair masks are due to launch in the next couple of months.

Molly Hart, founder of Highr

Molly Hart, founder of Highr

Molly Hart / Highr

What inspired you to create Highr?

While working in social media for all the big beauty brands, I heard and answered consumer questions every day and noticed that no matter how vocal women are on issues like ingredient transparency or animal testing, most big brands are hesitant to change.  

When I had two children while working in the industry, the issue became personal to me.  Like a lot of women, I was constantly screening products for safety during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  When I started feeling hesitant to wear the products of the brands I was working for, I knew it was time to create a better business that had a higher purpose.

Highr has been described as lipstick, redone. How does that statement embody the mission of Higher?

When we created HIGHR Lipstick, we started from scratch. We made the product completely differently to how traditional products are made.  We started by formulating with 100% solar energy and using only organic ingredients for our base formula (each lipstick is between 66 - 74% organic, depending on the shade). We then offset all remaining operational CO2 in our supply chain and were able to calculate the exact amount of CO2 saved by buying one lipstick vs. any other lipstick on the market (5.8 lbs). We created a modern aluminum lipstick tube that includes a mirror, and we ship and box our lipstick in 100% upcycled materials.

Your operations are carbon-neutral, and the energy is 100% solar. Can you speak about the impact you’ve been able to have by adopting these practices and why it is important to you?

We saved and negated a total of 13.1 metric tons of CO2, creating our first batch of HIGHR Lipstick. Each individual lipstick saves 5.8 lbs of CO2. This industry is very carbon-intensive.  Most brands make their products in Asia or Italy and then ship all over the world.  We make our products locally in Los Angeles, and ship within the United States, and import to the UK.  We made an import rule early on that we'd only service one additional market from where the products are locally made. When we open up into additional markets, we'll produce the products in that market.

After I had children, I started becoming more aware of the climate crisis and was looking for ways to get involved. When starting HIGHR, I looked around within the industry, and no one was involved in climate action or changing the way they operated. HIGHR started as a clean lipstick brand, but then when I was putting together our supply chain, I challenged myself to make it as clean as possible. The result of that was the first carbon-neutral lipstick.

How are you incorporating sustainability into your packaging? How do you intend to become more sustainable in the future?

I think it's important to note that our formulas are sustainable. We do not formulate polyethylene (a microplastic in every traditional lipstick on the market) or silicone, which does not break down and gets washed into the water supply. From there, we focus on single-use packaging first as the lifecycle of lipstick is very long for the beauty industry (most women hold onto their lipstick for months, even years, at a time). All our boxing and shipments are made from 100% upcycled material that we source from a shoe factory. We print only with vegetable ink and then offset the carbon from each shipment. We're hoping to invest further in the sustainability of our lipstick by creating a refillable system once we have enough revenue to do it.

It’s been difficult for lipsticks to be vegan and clean. How were you able to achieve this? Describe the formula. 

We supplement harder butters in place of beeswax.  Most vegan brands use synthetic beeswax, but the traceability of the ingredient is difficult, and often it includes petrochemicals.  By avoiding this and using candelilla wax and organic cocoa butter in its place, we've achieved a cleaner vegan lipstick and one that is more long-wearing than most.

What are your brand’s hero products? Why do consumers gravitate towards these particular products?

Highr Lipstick in Chateau ($28), the nude beige, is our best seller. Nudes always sell well, but I think that women have gotten comfortable with the way they look naturally over the past year, which is a wonderful change coming out of a year of working from home. Putting on a more defining lipstick may seem shocking, so nudes are definitely a gentle step back into the world of having fun with makeup again.

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