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Regenerative Cosmetics to combat Deforestation

The Clear Impacts of Regenerative Cosmetics from Agroforestry

Every morning you wake up, hop in the shower, and use shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. After this morning ritual, you apply body lotion and day cream. These are all cosmetics, divided in make-up and personal care products. This may seem like a modern phenomenon, with a global cosmetics market of 507.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. 

Cosmetics were however already equally important in the ancient world. In the earliest era of the Egyptian empire, men and women of all social classes liberally applied cleansing, perfuming, and protecting cosmetics. For them, this was a symbolic ritual for changing the appearance of the body.

In the ancient world applying cosmetics, both personal care and make-up was an important ritual and impacted how we use cosmetics nowadays.  (Source: Werner Forman/Universal Images Group Editorial/UIG via CNN) 

Cosmetics are an important part of our lives. But what impact does the use of these products have on the environment? Some of us will already know that deforestation is closely linked to the cosmetics industry. Another aspect that is not often taken into account in the cosmetics industry, is the social impact of your products. This article gives you tools for improving your daily care rituals for the planet, communities and your own skin. How? By using products sourced from regenerative agroforestry systems.

A clear environmental impact

Cosmetics ingredients contain water, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickeners, moisturizers, colours, and fragrances – most of which occur naturally in nature. What is problematic is that many of these ingredients are sourced from areas that are particularly affected by climate change, desertification, deforestation, and biodiversity loss. This asks for a drastic change in sourcing: a transformation to regenerative value chains. This will not only yield benefits for the environment but also contribute to tackle global social issues such as poverty and inequality. 

Tropical rainforests contain a wealth on ingredients for Regenerative Cosmetics (Source: Unsplash)

Combat deforestation through sourcing regenerative cosmetics

Natural moisturizer

Tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Brazil are threatened by deforestation. The regenerative cosmetics industry can add economic value to raw produtcs and by doing this can help to preserve the rainforest. A beautiful example is the production of Illipe butter, made from nuts of the native Malaysian tree Shorea Stenoptera. The product from Illipe butter has been used traditionally to moisturize and to restore the vitality and elasticity of skin and hair. Because of its special feature of having a high melting point, it has many applications in soaps, lip balms, and lipsticks.

One of Forestwise’s end products: Illipe butter (Source: Kemal Juffri for Panos Pictures/Food and Land Use Coalition).

Natural fragrance 

In the world’s biggest rainforest in Brazil, there are plenty of products yet to be discovered for the cosmetics industry. One appealing ingredients being the priprioca (Cyperus articulatus). Its medicinal and aromatic roots are used in the cosmetics sector. This scent is used in perfumes by Natura, one the most popular cosmetic Brazilian cosmetics brand, specializing in natural formulations. The use of this root, which grows naturally in the Amazon rain-forest, is widespread in the North of Brazil, where it is part of the “banho de cheiro”, an aroma that is a key element of the Amazonian tradition.

Regenerate arid areas through agroforestry 

In areas that suffer from desertification and climate change, agroforestry can be a solution for restoration for the balance in the natural ecosystem. Overexploitation of natural resources in monocultures leads to soil loss and overgrazing to erosion. On the contrary, trees and plants protect soil from flushing or blowing away, while dead plant material retains water in the soil and nurtures living soil organisms. In agroforestry systems, with species adapted to arid conditions soil fertility improves, and the yield increases by 15%. Get in touch with some special features of desert plants for cosmetic purposes.  

Natural preservative

In the dry conditions of the desert grows a dramatic plant. The Selaginella lepidophylla is nicknamed ‘resurrection plant’ because it can survive long droughts and resurrects when water is available again. The extract serves as a preservative in cosmetics and has anti-aging properties because it revitalizes skin cells.

Natural moisturizer

Moringa tree is an excellent plant for agroforestry systems. It grows well in alley cropping, fosters food security and nutrition, and provides a valuable income source for farmers. While its fruit pods – also known as drumsticks – are edible, its roots and leaves can be turned into moringa powder and oil can be derived from its seeds. (Source: reNature)

Another important regenerative cosmetics species in the agroforestry system is the Moringa Oleifera. Nicknamed ‘the miracle plant’, the leaves and seeds are packed with 27 vitamins, 9 essential amino acids, 46 antioxidants, numerous minerals, and a high concentration of protein. In cosmetics applications, moringa oil is easily absorbed by the skin and strengthens the hair. Ancient Egyptians used moringa oil in a wrinkle removal formula

Regenerative cosmetics: A win-win for environment and social goals  

A reNature project: Maasai women producing their own Aloe cosmetics for the local market in the Laikipia Permaculture Center (Source: reNature)  

An excellent example of the interwovenness of traditions, economic empowerment and living in harmony with our natural environment is the regenerative cosmetics production from five Maasai woman groups. They are rediscovering their traditional knowledge around natural farming practices while producing Aloe secundiflora leaves for LUSH under ancient agricultural practises which overlap with permaculture principles.

“Aloe Secundiflora is an indigenous plant here, which was originally used for healing fresh wounds, deworming for both people and animals. Also used for washing/bathing for the whole body as a soap. It’s anti malaria as well.

Joseph Lentunyoi, Co-Founder of the Laikipia Permaculture Center

It was recently discovered that Aloe Secundiflora could be processed further into a variety of new products like shampoo, skin cream, shower gel and lotion. The women are now producing their own cosmetics for the local market. This empowers the woman by providing them with extra income which changed their lives dramatically while preserving their Maasai traditions. reNature is supporting the Laikipia Permaculture Center to diversify and scale up their permaculture system with regenerative agroforestry. 

Market of natural cosmetics 

The list of potential raw regenerative cosmetics ingredients from agroforestry systems is endless due to the natural biodiversity of nature. This is good news, because the market for natural cosmetics is growing. From almost 34,5 billion dollars in 2018 to an expected 54,5 billion dollars for the year 2027. 

Since the worldwide covid-19 crisis, there has been a shift in consumer behavior. People use less decorative cosmetics, causing a decline in the demand for make-up. The demand for hygiene, hair, and cleansing products is however booming. Products with antibacterial or moisturizing properties can benefit from that current development.

Life cycle of cosmetics products 

The whole life cycle needs to be taken into account when making regenerative cosmetics products. From eco-friendly packaging, green formulas, transparency and traceability of sourcing, to distribution.

reNature supports Mas Newen who operates in Chile and with their regenerative cosmetics value chain, they aim to preserve one of the last relict coastal forests in Chile. The green cosmetics formula includes the fermentation of soapnuts, which is very effective and consumes less water. On the website, you can trace back the ingredients and they recycle their packaging.

Green formulas in regenerative cosmetics: fermenting soapnuts produces natural plant-based probiotic soap (Source: Mas Newen).

In this whole life cycle the role of plastic needs to be discussed, as plastics are accumulating in the marine and land environment, causing damage to life. Luckily, nature provides alternatives to (micro) plastics. 


Microbeads are little pieces of plastic that take a long time to degrade. These pieces of plastic are added as exfoliators to products including face wash, scrub and toothpaste. Through the drain, these microplastics are washed out to rivers, lakes and oceans or pollute groundwater. These plastic pieces could even become part of crops and end up in our bodies.

The good news is that natural exfoliators can be grown in regenerative agroforestry systems. Some environmentally-friendly exfoliators, with great benefits for your skin, are listed:

Oats (with anti-inflammatory properties to help dry skin), jojoba beads (give a similar smooth coating cleans), salt (natural purifier that removes toxins in the skin’s pores), coffee (stimulates blood flow), lemons (contains alpha-hydroxy acids which are natural exfoliators), sugar (boost cell production and breaks down proteins that keep dead cells attached to your skin).


The packaging of cosmetic products is one of the contributors to the plastic problem in the oceans. Regenerative agroforestry systems are producing plant-based fibers that could be used for packaging in order to close the cycle of the cosmetics products. Raw materials such as bamboo and wood fibers are used for creating bio-based materials as Polyl acid (PLA). PLA is biodegradable and largely used as an eco-friendly substitute for conventional plastics. Currently the heat sensibility and water permeability are a concern to scale up production of these materials so recycling plastic packaging is still very important.

How to choose regenerative cosmetics

“As consumers you have the power, nothing works without consumers. Because you buy, you can help to develop smallholder farmers.”

Gero Leson, Vice President of Special Operations by dr. Bronners

Your regenerative product can change the world. The well-known brand dr. Bronners is a family-owned business with strong ambitions towards social and environmental goals while producing ‘magic’ soaps with multiple purposes and other care products.

Dr. Bronners helps smallholder farmers to transition towards regenerative agriculture in their cosmetics value chain. They have co-developed, with other parties as Patagonia, a third-party certification standard Regenerative Organic Certification. expanding beyond the organic, animal welfare, and fair trade certification by focusing on regenerative. This makes it visible that your cosmetics products had a holistic positive impact. 

Farmers drying illipe nuts in the sun for several days before the seeds are processed in a simple oil press and vacuum filtered to obtain a pure, raw product. (Source: Kemal Juffri for Panos Pictures/Food and Land Use Coalition)

There are more certification standards for organic and natural cosmetics, such as BDIH, Natrue, Ecocert Greenlife and COSMOS. They have all different requirements but are a good start if you are looking for products that have a natural origin.  

Other regenerative cosmetics brands prefer to focus on telling the story by being transparent about the traceability of the ingredients as certification for their ingredients is not always possible. Decide for yourself what is important for you when you are looking for your skin care products.

Why Regenerative Cosmetics for a Clear Skin?

“Your body is intrinsically connected to the body of the planet.”

Eduardo Cáceres Salgado, Co-Founder Mas Newen & Kodkod Foundation

So, what is important to look for in your own beauty products? We have seen that nature is at the basis of the ingredients for your cosmetics. We should not forget the fact that our own skin belongs to this very nature as well. Therefore, in order for us to live a healthy natural life, it is crucial to consider which substances we use to nourish our skin. Pure natural ingredients, grown from regenerative soils, serve the full potential of the power of nature for your clear skin. 


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