Just like ingredients in cleaning products, regular shampoo, conditioner, soaps and cosmetics also contain various ingredients that are washed down the drain and end up in the ocean again. The chemicals in those ingredients are often toxic in nature and should not be used. Wherever they end up, they may hurt the biodiversity.
Opt for non-synthetic ingredients when shopping for cosmetics. As the shampoo bottles will ultimately be treated the same as other plastic objects, consumers can opt for soap bars that are suitable for hair. It’s a great alternative, as these soap bars are often made from natural, biodegradable ingredients.
The fast fashion mentality in the beauty industry is a huge problem, not only because it encourages overspending and waste, but it’s also responsible for a lot of environmental damage.
Below are some of the top eco and ethical issues in the beauty industry:
Packaging is a big problem in the beauty industry. A lot of it is single-use plastic and mixed materials aren’t easily recycled and they take nearly 1,000 years to break down.
It’s also worth noting that eight million tonnes of plastic (not all from beauty products) get dumped in the ocean every year. This results in pollution, sea life devastation and contamination in the food chains.
Using toxic chemicals
Toxic chemicals in your skincare (Soap, Shampoo, suntan lotion, moisturiser etc) or home products get washed down the drain and end up in the ocean, damaging fragile ecosystems and killing aquatic life.
One big example is the effect of oxybenzone and octinoxate in chemical-based sunscreen which contributes to coral bleaching.
Coral reefs need 9-12 years to recover from bleaching as long as there are no new disturbances such as cyclones or re-bleaching.
Cosmetics are affecting our environment in a negative way. Whether the product is washed down the sink or disposed of in the bin, all the chemicals, toxins and plastics are poisoning our waters and planet which then results in killing coral reefs, turtles, rainforests, wildlife habitat and more.
The packaging of cosmetic products can take hundreds of years to break down in landfill whilst leaching toxins into the soil and waterways.
Most mainstream cosmetics are filled with toxic chemicals, these chemicals eventually make their way into our soil and oceans destroying natural habitat and wildlife.
Pesticides sprayed on the raw ingredients whilst being farmed, poisons our planet as they seep into the soil and make their way to bodies of water.
Many products contain Palm Oil, one of the number one contributors to rapid deforestation, wildlife extinction and climate change.
Turtles and marine animals are ingesting micro beads, wet wipes and plastic packaging which eventually blocks their digestive tract and causes them to die.
The toxic ingredients found in mainstream sunscreens is killing corals and marine eco systems at an alarming rate.
Read the product labels! Avoid anything with the above or below, and try to buy beauty products that use a high amount of either organic ingredients or wild-crafted ingredients in their product.
** Remember: Some sneaky companies mask the real name on the label with the scientific or Latin names to fool you. Google it.
** Organic farming, and oils and crops farmed using Organic methods is good but sustainable farming practices is a whole lot better. Look on the label for the words ‘Fairtrade’ or ‘Sustainable’
BAD for your body:
1. Parabens: These were developed to kill mold and bacteria, but they’ve been linked to breast cancer due to their estrogen-mimicking properties.
2. Phthalates: Often, phthalates aren’t listed among ingredients because legally, they don’t have to be. They soften plastics and have been linked to disrupting endocrine and reproductive systems. Low levels? Yes. But chronic low levels. Yikes.
3. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES): These are surfactants, which means they’re responsible for sudsing and foaming. SLS and SLES are widely known to irritate skin and lungs as well as interact poorly with other chemicals.
4. Propylene glycol: A skin-softening agent, propylene glycol is an alcohol that can cause dermatitis and allergic reactions in skin.
5. Triclosan: Although the FDA regulates some products that contain triclosan, it’s still very much a free-for-all when it comes to this chemical. It’s used for its antimicrobial properties but has been linked to thyroid problems in animals.
6. DEA, MEA, & TEA: Diethanolamine, monoethanolamine, and triethanolamine — alone and when interacting with other chemicals — are linked to cancer, bioethical concerns, and organ toxicity and buildup.
7. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing ingredients are banned in toiletries in some countries, but not in the U.S. It’s considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Carcinogens, which is quite reason enough for us to avoid it.
8. Toluene: Though it sounds like a ski resort, toluene is no vacation. It’s generally not used for cleansing, but do beware of its presence — often listed as “benzene” or “methylbenzene”—because it’s derived from petroleum and has been linked to immune system toxicity and reproductive damage.
9. Synthetic dyes: Watch out for the letters “F” or “D&C” related to color — that means it’s a synthetic derivation and a known skin irritant, as well as a possible carcinogen.
10. Fragrance: The word “fragrance” is unregulated by the FDA, so practically any toxic chemical can go unlisted within fragrance — and do they ever, including some of the worst offenders of all. We think that stinks.
11. Sunscreen chemicals: While you won’t find sunscreens in face washes, we’re including their chemical components, which you may find in the lengthy ingredients list of conventional cleansers. Look out for benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate, and methoxycinnamate — all of which are linked to disrupting the endocrine system.
BAD for the envirement:
1. Oxybenzone and Octinoxate: You’ve probably heard of oxybenzone and octinoxate. Hawaii was the first state to ban the common sunscreen ingredients due to their negative effect on coral reefs. They both contribute to coral bleaching and are thought to be one of the biggest factors in coral reef destruction. Choose one of these reef-safe sunscreens instead.
2. Parabens: Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics and are among the many chemicals banned in the European Union, but not the U.S. Researchers have found parabens in the tissues of marine animals, like dolphins and sea otters. According to the Environmental Working Group, parabens have been linked to ecological harm. They can kill coral reefs and may cause reproductive issues in animals.
3. Triclosan: Another ingredient to be aware of is triclosan. The ingredient is commonly found in shampoos, face washes, toothpastes, and more. It’s been linked to toxicity toward aquatic bacteria and has been deemed harmful to algae and dolphins.
4. Fragrance: Beauty and hair products that contain artificial fragrances have long-lasting effects past the drain. They’re increasingly appearing in waterways, where they’ve been cited to cause long-term damage to marine animals.
5. Sulphates: It’s also wise to avoid sulphates. SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), for instance, is what makes products like toothpaste, shampoo, and shower gel foam. Unfortunately, past studies have shown it can be toxic to aquatic organisms.
6. Microplastics: 15 countries have taken the steps to ban microbeads (including the United States!), a kind of microplastic often used in exfoliating products. Unfortunately, there are still many countries to go. Fish and birds often mistake these tiny plastic beads for food, and eating them can kill them.
7. Palm oil: Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is derived from the fruit on the oil palm tree. The production of palm oil is linked to deforestation and climate changes as well as other issues such as habitat degradation, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses. Palm oil production is the largest cause of deforestation in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions, and is used in a wide range of food, personal care, and household products, as well as to produce biofuel. A recent study found that palm oil contributed to more than 14% of forest loss over 2005-2015. This is the main reason why Palm oil is on this list but other oil plantations such as: Coconut, Soy and Olive is also now considered to be a large source of GHG emissions and deforestation related to oil production affecting 20 threatened plant and animal species.
Next time you use soap or shampoo, or wash off cosmetics containing chemical ingredients down the drain, consider the effects the toxins can cause to the environment and eco systems:
Reduction in animal plankton population.
Change of behaviour and death of aquatic species.
BHA and BHT cause death of fish and shellfish.
BHA and BHT cause genetic mutations in amphibians.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate alters fish behaviour and increases mortality.
Dioxane causes death to insects.
Diethanolamine (DEA) builds up in the environment and reacts with nitrates to form nitrosamines, which are highly carcinogenic to human and animal life.
DEA is fatally toxic to amphibians, crustaceans, fish, nematodes, flatworms, and animal plankton.
Livestock exposed to chemicals in soil can suffer from reproductive issues and cancer.
Unethical ingredient sourcing
Natural ingredients are popular in clean beauty products, but they’re not always good news if they’re unethically sourced. Popular ingredients such as unsustainable palm oil are contributing to widespread deforestation and climate change.
Palm oil is in approximately half of all consumer goods, not just skincare. However, it’s not a matter of simply boycotting palm oil either.
Alternative oils like rapeseed, soybean and coconut require more land and resources for the same amount of yield. Switching our reliance on any of them could have worse consequences for the environment. Saying this, switching to Organic ingredients or Fairtrade or ‘Sustainable farmers, even if it’s soy or coconut, is a much better choose.
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