What Can Brands Learn About Sustainability Trend From Green Beauty Consumers?

5 Min Read |

Identifying trends is one of the most important things for the business to stay relevant. You can do it with social media monitoring tools to work out what’s important for your audience. Topface Media’s social insights specialists used YouScan social media intelligence platform to explore the sustainability trend in the cosmetics industry in social media to find out about people who are into green cosmetics and what they talk about the most.

We explored what consumers think of “clean” beauty and ethical cosmetic brands, a hot topic among US consumers over the last few years that shows continuous growth. 

According to a new study by IBM, almost 70% of consumers in the US say that it is important that a brand is sustainable or eco-friendly; 69% of environmentally-conscious buyers will pay more for recycled products, while more than half of these buyers are willing to change their shopping habits if they know it will help reduce negative impact on the environment.

The definition of sustainable and eco-friendly is very complex and involves a lot of aspects in relation to cosmetics: choosing local organic ingredients and sustainable packaging, animal rights, harmful emissions during production, working conditions for employees. All of those concerns are shaping the beauty industry.

To explore the topic we collected mentions relating to ethical choices and sustainable lifestyle when it comes to cosmetics.

Who Is The Ethical Consumer Of Cosmetics?

The geography of mentions correlates with the state population with slight fluctuations. The biggest number of comments were found in California, Florida and the state of New York. The smallest number of mentions – Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Vermont.


The most popular platform for discussion of the topic is Instagram. 85% of mentions in this social network are commercial and promo posts, due to the high activity of beauty bloggers and online stores.

The most mentions were found on Instagram. 85% of mentions belong to the category of Commerce and Promotion. This is due to the high activity of beauty bloggers and online stores on Instagram.

We analyzed some of the communities (most of them are business accounts on Instagram) and came to the conclusion that most of them belong to female authors. However, a content analysis confirms the fact that men often share socially significant content on the topic of animal activism related to makeup, contrary to the traditional “female” associations with the cosmetics industry. Among the authors there are employees of cosmetic brands (top managers, sales managers, etc.), as well as LGBT and vegan activists, entrepreneurs and creative people who are often not associated with the beauty industry by type of activity. Here are a few of the authors ‘ accounts:

Influential Voices

Here are some popular personalities with the largest followings who address the topic of sustainability online:

The most popular posts are dedicated to self-care rituals, beauty life hacks, and reviews of cruelty free brands.

Portrait Of An Ethical Consumer

Using YouScan’s visual Insights we analyzed photos of users who talk about clean beauty in their posts. The portrait of an ethical consumer includes some common features: 

  • Colors: pink, purple, green. Bright, light colors are most common. You can often see shiny, iridescent highlighters and palettes. 
  • Formats: mostly selfies, tutorials and especially beautiful cosmetics (packaging, samples, pallets), rarely photos of animals. 
  • Location: often it’s a green background (grass, nature, or even home plants), flowers, or just a bright, colorful background. 

What Do Consumers Discuss?

To search for insights we broke down the mentions in the clean beauty conversation into several most popular categories.

These categories relate to the mentioned object or topic. The ones in quotes represent the use of the specific keyword or keyphrase in posts, which provides valuable information on the discourse of the target audience.


Topics of positive messages – news about sustainable environmentally conscious products and companies.

The most common message format is word-of-mouth (WOM), posts that contain user opinions – 53% and Articles – 35%. Most often, environmental initiatives (40%) and refusal to test cosmetics on animals (33%) are positively evaluated. On the graph below – positive posts by category.  A surge of positive mentions on January 13 is associated with the release of a new palette: “Physicians Formula introduces a limited-edition palette collaboration with Weylie Hoang”.

Peaks In Conversation: Identifying Micro-trends

Animal rights is one of the biggest drivers of conversation on social media. Over the last month, a striking peak in mentions relates to a surge in media references related to lobbying in the US for legislation banning animal testing of cosmetics on February 1. 

This shows the political nature of the conversation rather than related to specific brands. 

Opportunities For Brands

What conclusions can brands draw from the study of the content of messages and the distribution of sentiment in various categories?

  • Despite a much rarer appearance in the texts (mainly in articles), “Leaping Bunny” is accompanied by a more positive context than “Cruelty free”. However, user knowledge about this certificate is probably not well developed; brands that benefit from Leaping Bunny certification will need to educate their audience.
  • China is 100% mentioned in connection with animal cosmetics testing. The percentage of negative sentiment is significantly higher than average, there are no positive references. It can be assumed that any associative relationship of the cosmetic brand with China will not benefit its image.
  • The phrase “made in the USA” is rarely mentioned, but it is always discussed in a positive way.


  • Animal testing is the most discussed topic in the ethical conflict around cosmetics
  • Animal welfare issues and words like cruelty free were mentioned in 3049 messages, it`s more than half of the messages in the study period;
  • Vegan is much more often used in relation to decorative cosmetics, than skincare (47,7% against 7.5%;
  • The issue of environmental impact is of greater importance to users than the ingredients: 16.1% of messages against 8.2% on the topic about ethical cosmetics.
  • Among the most popular terms in the topic of ethical cosmetics, users often use the stable phrases “ethical beauty” and” sustainable makeup”, despite the fact that the word “cosmetics” is the most common. There is almost no mention of the concept of social responsibility of business.
  • Brands should monitor trends – use analytics for trend analysis