Written by Sarah Fyffe.

The ‘socially-driven’ brand and self-proclaimed “beauty ecosystem” has certainly missed the mark when it comes to the ethical priorities of many of its “woke” young consumers, who are increasingly conscious of the impact of their consumption habits on the wider world.

Glossier products on display at the brand’s flagship New York showroom. Image via Unsplash.

Until now, it seemed the brand had a finger on the pulse of its millennial target customer; amassing a cult following, drawn in by its Instagram-friendly aesthetics and a highly social approach. Social media success is mirrored in capital; as the brand’s booming growth and sales figures speak for themselves. Yet, it’s becoming difficult to maintain a brand in any sector if it hasn’t yet tapped into the zeitgeist of environmental awareness.

With this being said, it’s puzzling that Glossier’s newly released sub-brand was even able to progress beyond product development stages. ‘Glossier Play’ was launched in March 2019 as a “dialled-up” sister brand to the pared-back beauty staples of the core offering. Play had already faced a number of complaints in relation to the overall usability of its products when more alarming issues surfaced as followers noticed that one of the new product drops, ‘Glitter Gelée Multigrade Paillettes’, were manufactured with harmful micro-plastics — no matter which elaborate name you dress it up in, glitter is a pollutant.

As reported by FLARE, it’s baffling that a fresh young brand which almost exclusively targets the “woke” millennial market would even consider launching a product so unashamedly polluting. The product’s removal instructions place the responsibility of preventing the glitter getting into the waterways on the consumer (“by removing with cleanser and a cotton pad”), yet runoff from landfills will carry micro-plastics like glitter into waterways regardlessly, and it’s estimated that 51 trillion micro-plastic particles have already entered our oceans.

As the controversy came to a head, Glossier Play and the core Glossier Instagram accounts have been inundated with questions on all aspects of the brand’s plastic use. From the Glitter Gelée’s polluting qualities, to the now-iconic “pink pouches” — and why they aren’t optional — to excessive packaging of the ‘Solution’ chemical exfoliator, many queries have gone unanswered by a brand with famously attentive customer service.

Glossier’s luxe pink aesthetic is just one of the ways it draws in Instagram-focused millennial shoppers. Image via @Glossier – Instagram.

In response, founder and CEO Emily Weiss claimed simply to be “working on it”, and Glossier have explained to some commenters that they are currently reformulating with “bio glitter”. Nonetheless, choosing to release the product in the first place serves to show how little thought is given to the environmental impacts of their cosmetics. And months later, we can find no evidence that the products have indeed be reformulated with a non-polluting alternative.

We can only assume that Glossier is so wrapped up in the hype around its brand image and products that it has overlooked any environmental concerns, in favour of appeasing it’s devoted following with an Instagram-ready set of playful products. The responsibility to make reductions in needless overuse of plastics lies with all of us, not least with a brand with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal.