Have you ever actually stepped back to think about where that pretty bottle of liquid in that glistening glass jar has come from? Where it might have travelled before it reached your bathroom cabinet? Who might have touched the ingredients in that bottle? The impact it might have had on human, animal and plant lives on its journey to reaching you?
No, not many people do, and it’s only in recent years that I have opened my eyes to some of the beauty industry's destructive practises in getting their latest product to market. Before that, I will admit, I was in denial. I was ignorant, naive and quite frankly oblivious to it all.
My journey to natural, organic and ethical beauty began in a selfish way. I only began to look more closely at ingredients, formulas and manufacturing processes because I started to develop adult acne and wanted to find out if it was something I was using on my skin that was triggering it. My interest was sparked purely through selfish reasons initially - to heal myself. After much more in depth research, I started to discover that the mainstream beauty industry wasn’t so beautiful after all...I quickly realised that the majority of the big boys at the top are only in it for profit, and the health of their consumers is not a priority for them. Let alone the planet and animals that are suffering in order for us to have beautiful red lips or smooth exfoliated skin. As well as realising how many synthetic and potentially harmful ingredients there actually are in the majority of the products I was using, I also discovered there are so many ingredients used that have a detrimental effect on the planet.
Below are just a few nuggets of information that you might like to take away with you to ponder on. I am not into scaremongering and I strongly believe that the choices we make in our life are just that...our own choice. But I do believe it is better to have all of the facts at hand in order to make an informed decision, and one that works for you. If some of this information below strikes a chord with you, and you decide you cannot be aware of this information and not do something about it, then I’m here and just an email away if you wish to discuss it further or need advice on switching your beauty products to more ethical and environmentally friendly choices. You can contact me here.
A common chemical ingredient used in lots of the major sunscreen brands is ‘Oxybenzone’ also known as ‘Benzophenone-3’. This is an active chemical that absorbs UVA and UVB rays, therefore protecting the skin from the sun. Whilst this ingredient does a very effective job at protecting your skin, it is also having a very negative impact on the world’s coral reefs. Reports have shown that sunscreens contain oxybenzone have been contributing to the bleaching of the coral reefs.
Coral reefs are currently exposed to 14,000 tons of sunscreen each year, it is washed off our bodies and into the ocean when we swim, and every time we shower. With synthetic chemicals like oxybenzone being used, it’s not surprising that this is causing damage to marine life that is not easily reversed (1). Oxybenzone damages the coral’s DNA and interferes with the reproduction and growth of young coral (2). Coral reefs supposedly contain the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. As well as providing a habitat and shelter for many marine organisms, they also generate billions of dollars to local economies of nearby countries for fishing and tourism. It is important we keep them alive.
So the next time you buy a new sunscreen, I urge you to consider using mineral based sunscreens with ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide instead. These physical (rather than chemical) sunscreens are not absorbed by the skin and instead act like a mirror, reflecting the sun’s rays. They are not only better for our health but also much less damaging for the environment.
Baby wipes, makeup remover wipes, moist toilet tissue, these throwaway or flushable wipes are incredible convenient, but they are also quite problematic for the planet. Most of these wipes are made from synthetic fibres that do not break down and biodegrade, meaning they end up clogging up landfill sites. Many of these wipes are also flushable, and therefore end up blocking up the sewage system. When blockages occur, it causes raw sewage to overflow into the rivers and ocean. When these wipes have made their way into the ocean, they can get ingested by sea creatures and killing them, or end up washed up on the beaches. The number of wet wipes being washed up on beaches in the UK has increased by 50% since 2014 (3).
Convenience is a major factor in our buying decisions. Nowadays, we want quick, we want simple but we still want effective, but is it really worth it when it has such a negative on the world around us? Instead, use either reusable wipes that can be composted at the end of their life, or choose environmentally friendly, disposable wipes made from 100% organic cotton, bamboo or wood pulp. These wipes are biodegradable and don’t contain alcohol, synthetic fragrance, chlorine or any of the other nasty ingredients that are included are so many of the mainstream brands available on the market.
If you have done any research on the health risks and environmental impact of beauty and household products, then at some point you will probably have read about SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). It is the ingredient used in shampoos, face washes, toothpaste and anything that foams to provide that luxurious lathering effect. It is cost effective to produce making it a popular choice for manufacturers and feels satisfying to use as it provides that squeaky clean feeling. But there is a dark side to this ingredient that is not often talked about. SLS is derived from palm oil and in order to extract the oil to make the SLS, mass deforestation is occurring to keep up with the demand.
90% of the world’s palm oil trees grow in Indonesia and Malaysia (4). These areas are also home to endangered animals such as Tigers and Orangutans. We (as in the human race) are effectively destroying their habitat in order to have foaming shampoos and creamy textured lipsticks, both of which can still be achieved without the use of SLS or palm oil.
However, the answer is not to completely stop the extraction of palm oil, in fact, this can have an even more detrimental effect as replacing palm oil with another vegetable oil requires using even more land since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops. It would also mean millions of jobs would need to be abolished in these poverty stricken areas where palm trees grow, resulting in significant problems for the people relying on this industry to support their families. The good news is there are products that use sustainable palm oil. The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) ensure that no primary forests, areas with endangered animals, or areas that are fundamental to the basic and cultural needs of local communities are cleared for palm oil production. They also ensure there is a reduced use of pesticides and there is a fair treatment for the labour workers (5).
The only way of knowing if you are buying a product that uses sustainable palm oil, is by reading the labels or doing research on companies who use it in their products. Look out for a label on their packaging from the RSPO stating they use 100% RSPO certified palm oil, or ask the company directly if you aren’t sure. It is also worth remembering that there are many ingredients that are derived from palm oil, so these need to be considered when making your decision too. This link provides a list of all the ingredients that you might see on labels that are derived from palm oil.
It can seem completely overwhelming at first when learning about the effects the beauty industry has on our planet. After reading this, if you make the decision to switch your beauty products to more environmentally friendly choices, the best way to approach it is to take little steps in your everyday life and make conscious choices wherever possible. Make sure you don’t beat yourself up about it if you do discover you purchased an item that might not have been the most environmentally friendly choice. Even a small decision such as purchasing a lipstick made from natural, organically grown, sustainable ingredients and packaged in a recycled box may seem like a small step, but if we all do our bit, we can make huge changes!
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