By Erika Long
We all want to look more beautiful, hence we invest in and devote time to lengthy routines in order to look our best. But did you know that our products and beauty practices may be hurting our precious planet? The use of unsustainable ingredients and disposable one-use beauty items affect our environment negatively. As we care for ourselves, it's vital that we implement sustainable practices to protect the planet. But how can we become an eco-friendly beauty consumer?
Choose Natural Products
One thing that harms the environment is the cultivation of ingredients that use pesticides, inorganic fertilizers, and other chemicals. As time goes by, excessive use of pesticides causes air pollution, adversely affects human’s health and biodiversity. For example, fertilizers and other chemicals like PFAS seep into our water supply, and have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, weakened immunity and other health problems, as well as killing marine life. When we choose these products, we are encouraging manufacturers to continue using these harmful practices.
Instead, be a conscious consumer by purchasing products with ingredients grown naturally and without pesticides, GMOs, and other toxic chemicals. An easy way to identify skincare formulas that are free from harmful toxins and chemicals, is by looking for EWG Verified or EcoCert labels on products. These marks are associated with products that are healthier for you and the environment.
Avoid Disposable Beauty Items
Disposable beauty items harm the environment by filling landfills. In our fast-paced world, there are many one-use items, like makeup wipes, some choose to use. After using several wipes to remove makeup off our faces, we throw them into the trash, and they end up in landfills. The plastic fibers in these items take a very long to decompose (over 100 years), which is extremely damaging to the environment.
Another example is a shaving razor. After using a non-reusable razor, it’s tossed into the trash. Why not choose reusable alternatives? For instance, you can use a wet washcloth to remove makeup and a reusable razor. In addition to showing your love for the environment, you'll also save money.
Choose Brands That Use Responsible Packaging
Sustainable packaging for skincare products has become an important issue for many green-conscious consumers. Sustainability is often determined by whether the container holding the skincare formula is biodegradable, made from recycled materials, or is recyclable itself. [Source]
Biodegradable materials come with their own challenges. These materials need to maintain stability for products that contain water or oils. For example, antioxidants and anti-aging superstars - like Vitamin C and Retinol - break down as soon as they’re exposed to air, becoming less and less effective with each use. These ingredients are further compromised if they’re also exposed to light - for example, when stored in a clear glass jar.
Recyclable materials like glass jars not only compromise the stability of delicate ingredients but also contribute to the formula’s contamination - as it’s not possible to keep your fingers completely clean.
Another factor to bear in mind is that each location has different recycling requirements, and as a a planet-conscious consumer you should check with your own town to find out what can be put in your curbside bin. This information could be found on your town or city's official website, or on Call2Recycle.org. [Source]
The only available solution for guaranteeing the efficacy and safety of clean skincare formulas using cold processed natural ingredients is airless pump containers, which reduce oxidation caused by exposure to air and light. However, a challenge with this type of packaging is often the pump - usually a combination of plastic with metal springs that cannot be recycled. Currently, there are no airless containers available that are biodegradable or fully recyclable.
Even though this is not an ideal solution from a planet-conscious beauty consumer point of view, if you fall in love with a clean, natural formula that not only works well for your skin but also addresses your long-term skin health concerns, an airless container shouldn’t be a deal breaker, as long as the brand shows positive signs towards protecting the environment.
Some of the questions you could ask yourself or the brand manufacturers are:
- Are they affiliated with any recycling programs like TerraCycle or do they recycle the empty containers themselves?
- Do they offer a reusable packaging alternative?
- Do they source their ingredients locally?
- Is their manufacturing process environmentally-friendly – eg. low energy consumption?
- Is their cardboard or paper packaging 100% recyclable – eg. free of glue, gloss or laminas?
- Do they minimize plastic use during shipping processes – eg. free of bubble wrap?
Recycle, Recycle, Recycle
What do you do with empty bottles after the beauty product is finished? Most people toss away these bottles into the trash, which eventually ends up in a landfill. Instead of throwing them away, think of creative ways to reuse them. For instance, if you're done using your shampoo, use the empty bottle to plant flowers. Instead of throwing away the body scrub bottle, use it to hold your makeup brushes. You have endless options for reusing, repurposing and recycling.
If you can't do the recycling yourself, look for products with recyclable/refillable packaging, buy from brands that have recycling programs or accept empty products back for their own reuse. You may be surprised to learn that some brands offer incentives for empty containers.
Choose Multitasking Beauty Products
Instead of buying an item for every task, choose one that can perform a wide range of functions. It'll help save on waste. Luckily, there are many multi-use beauty products available. For instance, a highlighter palette can be used as a shimmery eyeshadow, face cream can double as your body cream, and certain moisturizers can double as body lotions and self-tanners. Some lotions also combine hand cream and hand sanitizing properties. There are a wide range of hybrid products to choose from; it’s all about making different choices.
In a world where we're becoming more environment-conscious, it's vital we do everything we can to protect it. Even though these beauty shopping practices are small, they can make a huge difference in reducing environmental degradation and helping to achieve a pollution-free world. You can also choose to spread awareness about the importance of eco-friendliness in the beauty industry. Both manufacturers and consumers will learn, and they'll change their practices for the better.