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Beauty and the Environment

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The environmental impact of using beauty products

There’s a connection between looking good and feeling good. When you are well-groomed and presentable, you instantly feel more confident and relaxed. However, did you know that your everyday beauty routine comes not just with a price tag but with an environmental cost? Keeping yourself well-groomed is not simple, as a person uses an average of 10 products daily - ranging from cosmetics, hair care, bath, skincare, and other specialised products. In 2018 alone, the beauty industry created over 142 billion units of packaging which most likely will end up in the oceans or landfills.


The Ugly in the Beauty Business

Beauty products can be harmful to the environment in different ways. The factors that pose danger to the environment ultimately bring about deforestation, climate change and cause concern to our health and the well-being of aquatic animals and wildlife.


  • Packaging

Most products come in plastic packaging and when they are not properly disposed of, these plastic containers would all end up in the oceans or in landfills. Often, a single product comes with layers of packaging - plastic wrappings, boxes, paper inserts, foam, cardboard sleeves, and more which in the end just become trash. It would take hundreds of years to break them down while they leach toxins into the land and air.

 

  • Ingredients

Different beauty products in the mainstream market often contain chemicals that are bad for your health. Once products are manufactured with these ingredients, they potentially contribute to air and water pollution posing concerns for humans, aquatic animals, and wildlife.

 

Some of the common and toxic ingredients found in beauty products include:

  1. BHA and BHT - commonly used as preservatives that affect the marine ecosystem
  2. Sulfates - may cause irritation to the skin, eyes, and scalp
  3. Triclosan - harmful to human as well as wildlife and aquatic animals
  4. Lead - harmful to the environment and links to a host of health concerns for human
  5. Oxybenzone - found in chemical-based sunscreen and is detrimental to coral reefs
  6. Microbeads - these tiny beads are made of plastic and once washed down the drain, fish and aquatic animals can consume them

 

  • Product Lifecycle

Beauty products affect the environment throughout its entire product lifecycle - the entire supply chain, from raw material, manufacturing process, procurement, packaging, distribution, and transportation.



With the above presented, how can we make a difference and become eco-conscious consumers? Every mindful action counts so we should ensure proper education and practice responsible purchasing.

 

  1. Check the label and be informed of the ingredients in the product. Know what you apply and use on your body. Educate yourself with common skincare and cosmetics terminologies. Be in the know of the different toxic ingredients that must be avoided when selecting a beauty product.
  2. Recycle and reuse packaging. Avoid using single-use products. Learn how to properly dispose of product packaging. When recycling the packaging, make sure to properly wash and clean it before placing it in a recycling bin. Look into reusing your product box or container; there are many ideas online on how to repurpose a jar of your favourite moisturiser once you used it up.
  3. Support brands that advocate sustainability. These brands use sustainable ingredients that are easily renewable, wild-crafted and locally sourced. They also opt for sustainable, biodegradable packaging and provide refillable options. 
  4. Make sure to use up your product. Don’t throw away a product if you haven’t used it up to the last drop. Other than wasting your money, the excess product will again end up in landfills or in the oceans which pollutes the environment.
  5. In-store recycling. There are many brands that offer in-store recycling. All you have to do is bring your empty containers and the staff can recycle them on your behalf. Often, these brands offer rewards and incentives when you do so.

 

Reference:

  1. https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/are-beauty-products-harmful-to-environment.php#:~:text=One%20primary%20concern%20for%20the,comes%20with%20many%20beauty%20products.&text=Consequently%2C%20when%20you%20use%20their,contributing%20more%20to%20environmental%20pollution.
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/15/style/skin-care-sustainability-this-is-the-cost-of-your-beauty-routine.html
  3. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/beauty/a19848167/beauty-environmental-impact-sustainability/ 
  4. https://medium.com/eco-living/making-sustainable-choices-in-cosmetics-4ccccca782f4
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/beauty-industry-plastic-pollution-environment-climate-change-cosmetics-a8697951.html 

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