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Mary Mazzoni headshot

Dermatologist Influencer Shares His Top Tips for Sustainability in Skincare

Multi-step skincare routines packed with products are problematic for skin health as well as the environment, says Dr. Angelo Landriscina, a U.S. dermatologist better known on social media as @DermAngelo. He shares his top tips for considering sustainability more in skincare shopping.
By Mary Mazzoni
skincare products — influencer @DermAngelo shares his tips for sustainability in skincare

Sustainability in skincare doesn't have to be a contradiction. (Image: Limages Studio/Adobe Stock)

The global skincare space is booming, with personal care companies expected to make more than $180 billion from skincare products this year. But the popularity of multi-step skincare routines packed with products is problematic for skin health as well as the environment, says Dr. Angelo Landriscina, a board-certified dermatologist and medical researcher better known on TikTok and Instagram as @DermAngelo.

Along with skincare tips and product reviews, Landriscina regularly shares information about sustainability in skincare with his hundreds of thousands of followers.

"I started to notice that some of the things I was seeing as ‘trends’ that I felt were not good for the public as far as their skin health were also not good for the environment," he says. "For a while, there really was a movement toward using more and more products, to consume more, and always to have the hot new thing. Quite often, people were causing more harm than good by creating irritation, skin barrier impairment, and sometimes making conditions worse when they were trying to improve them. At the same time, you're buying more and more products, and you're creating more and more waste."

We spoke with the self-proclaimed "skincare sustainability nerd" about how everyone can consider the environment more in their skincare shopping and daily routines. 

Avoid single-use skincare products

"Another thing that has been really spreading recently is the rise of single-use products," Landriscina says. "It used to be sheet masks. Now it's toner pads, and you'll even see on social media single-use face towels to dry one's face." 

Single-use masks, serum packs, sponges and towels may look aesthetic online, but from a skincare standpoint, they serve no purpose, he explains. "If this was doing something, it might be worth it, but if it's not, then why are we trying to promote this as a product?"

Choose serums, masks, toners and eye creams in multi-use packaging to cut down on waste, and don't be fooled into thinking single-use comes with benefits for health and hygiene. "A lot of it comes from people who either suffer with or are afraid of acne, and I think it comes out of a fundamental misunderstanding of what acne is as a disease process," Landriscina says. "Acne is not from being dirty. It's not something you can catch from a towel or from other people."

If you're still worried about your towel aggravating a specific skin concern, buy a set of reusable face cloths and launder them after each use. "That's most likely going to have a lower impact on the environment than single-use towels, because you'll be able to use them for years," he says. "If you are using a clean towel, there is no issue with it."

Skip the gimmicks

Beyond creams and serums, the sector has seen an explosion in skincare accessories that claim to boost up skin benefits in one way or another. Brands and influencers claim things like jade rollers can de-puff the face, exfoliating brushes smooth skin texture, and electronic facial devices delay the onset of skin aging, to name just some examples. 

The market for these devices is already in the billions of dollars, but evidence to support their benefits for the skin is often lacking. Too often, they simply end up in the trash after the user failed to see a meaningful difference or grew tired of the extra steps.

"If you're blowing through a few of these a year, whether it be an LED mask, a pore vacuum, a cleansing brush, these are things that are going to end up in landfill," Landriscina says. "Even there was a trend of skincare fridges, which I hated. If you have the disposable income to buy a skincare fridge, I would guess that you most likely already have a refrigerator running in your house. If you want your products to be cold, put them in there."

Learn how to recognize sustainable attributes in packaging

"People will often come into my comments when I talk about sustainability and give me the whole, 'It shouldn't be about personal responsibility. It's about industry.' And I have to explain to them that skincare is an industry and we are the people creating the demand, so it's something that we should think about," Landriscina says. 

In any industry, when people purchase more sustainable products, they signal to brands that sustainability is something consumers care about and value. Landriscina regularly tips his hat to brands as they release products in sustainable packaging and encourages his audience to look out for certain product attributes as they shop. 

"What I've been doing is trying to use my tiny little microphone to lift up the brands that are doing good things," he says. "Kiehl's now has these big refill pouches. Neutrogena is selling a cleanser that comes as a powder in a packet that you reconstitute yourself. Brands are using less plastic on their flip-tops. All those little things, I try to bring that to my audience and say, 'Look, less plastic. I would go for this one if it were on the shelf,' to use whatever influence I have to try to entice people to look at packaging and think about it."

As more skincare products become available in refillable packaging, Landriscina also uses his mic to educate both brands and consumers about what has the most impact. "One thing I've been talking about a lot lately and am trying to pressure brands to do is that if they're doing a refillable pump bottle or pump jar, the pump should be part of the keepsake component. That's one thing that I'm telling everybody to look out for," he says, because the pump component on packaging is generally not recyclable

Practice "intentional skincare" by thinking before you buy

"One thing I always try to preach is intentional skincare," Landriscina says. "It’s become such a hobby for people, even at this point for teenagers. Before buying something, I try to get people to think about the purpose the product is going to serve in their skincare routine: What is it supposed to do for me, or am I just excited by something that's shiny and new?"

It's a message that resonates with Landriscina's growing community of followers. "It's funny because my platform has actually grown a lot since talking about this," he says. "It's almost to the point where people are seeing this stuff and they're starting to become rightfully disgusted by it. They see how excessive this is, and I think they've realized that it's not real and they're starting to resent it — not just for the environmental impact, but also for the expectation that somebody's going to spend that much time on skincare every day or that it would even be good for the skin." 

Paring down your skincare routine to the essentials and being mindful as you shop is ultimately better for your skin, as well as the planet, he says. "The things I hammer home are just use what's necessary and not more than that, really be mindful of the packaging, and educate yourself a little bit about some choices you can make in your everyday life," he says. "If I can make a little bit of a difference there, then I'll be happy."

This story is part of Shopping Month in TriplePundit's Sustainable Living Challenge, where we explore simple ways to buy less, keep things longer and shop sustainably as needed. Learn more and take the challenge here.

Mary Mazzoni headshot

Mary has reported on sustainability and social impact for over a decade and now serves as executive editor of TriplePundit. She is also the general manager of TriplePundit's Brand Studio, which has worked with dozens of organizations on sustainability storytelling, and VP of content for TriplePundit's parent company 3BL. 

Read more stories by Mary Mazzoni