You’ve heard of fast fashion but, did you know that fast beauty is also a thing? Fast beauty is a growing trend and problem among the beauty industry as it’s negatively affecting our planet. But what exactly is “fast beauty” anyway?
What is Fast Beauty?
To put it simply, fast beauty is the term used to describe skin care and makeup products being made so quickly and cheaply they end up using things like unsustainable packaging, unethical labor and harmful ingredients.
What’s driving this harmful form of production? Two things. The first is the need to keep prices as low as possible. The more affordable a product, the more people will buy it, so many brands look for the cheapest ingredients and packaging possible so they can keep their prices competitively low. The second is speed. The quicker a brand can put out a product in response to a new makeup or skin care trend, the more likely they will remain relevant to customers. So, companies look for ingredients and packaging (usually plastic) that can be sourced at breakneck speed. (1)
Below are some of the detrimental effects of producing beauty products quickly and cheaply.
How Fast Beauty Harms People
In order for companies keep up with production demands, they have to find ways to get products made quickly, which can often lead to unconsciously supporting unethical labor. Unethical labor can be anything from child labor to overworking workers without paying them a liveable wage. (2)
How Fast Beauty Harms Wildlife
One inexpensive, commonly used ingredient in both makeup and skin care is palm oil. Palm oil is affordable and easy for companies to obtain so it’s everywhere, and it’s leading to major deforestation in places like Indonesia. The deforestation of these forests is catastrophic to species, ecosystems and our planet. (3)
Animal-derived ingredients are another one to look out for. The most common ingredient is lanolin. Lanolin is typically a mass-produced ingredient derived from sheep wool. Although sheep do not necessarily die from having their wool shaved off, they live torturous lives in the process.(4)
And then there’s squalene, an easily obtained and affordable oil derived from the livers of sharks. Used for its moisturizing properties in skincare and makeup, the oil requires killing the shark to obtain it. According to environmental site, Onegreenplanet.com, “The shark squalene industry is a threat to already declining shark populations, involves an unsustainable supply chain, and results in misleading product labeling.” (5)
How Fast Beauty Harms our Planet
As consumers, when we buy inexpensive products we feel they are easily disposable and easily replaceable. Couple this overconsumption of inexpensive products with the fact that it is very difficult to recycle beauty packaging in general and we’ve got ourselves one massive waste problem on our hands.
In fact, one study shows that 120 billion units of packaging are produced each year by the beauty industry, most of which ends up in a landfill. This is because the packaging is often made with mixed material, can’t be properly cleaned, or is too small, so the recycling facilities just deem it as trash and send it off to a landfill. Landfills of course, are known to release methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen into the environment. (6) (7)
What Can Beauty Companies Do?
Ingredients: Beauty companies can help by thoughtfully sourcing ingredients. By ensuring there’s no child labor involved, no animal-derived ingredients, no palm oil, and no unfair pay or working conditions.
Packaging: Beauty companies can also source more sustainable packaging such as post-consumer recycled plastics, or ditch plastic altogether (e.g. Axiology zero waste Balmies or compostable-paper-tube Multi-Sticks).
Recycling: The last thing beauty companies can do is participate in recycling programs such as PACT’s mail-in or drop-off program. This makes it possible for conscious, earth-respecting customers to recycle their existing beauty packaging. PS. if you’ve got any Axiology lipsticks or crayons lying around please check out PACT’s take-back program so we can keep those tubes out of landfills!
What Can You Do?
Use it up! It can be tempting to buy every new exciting product or shade you see on the shelves (or Instagram) but committing to using up your current products before replacing it with a new one will go a long way for the planet!
Use recycling programs: While cosmetics products are difficult to recycle there are programs to keep them from going to a landfill.
Consider multi-purpose: Whenever possible, consider multi-use products (such as our Lip-to-Lid Balmies); they cut down on the number of products you need and make room in your makeup bag!
Buy fewer, better things: Try to seek out and support a few conscious, ethical companies that take their time creating products that are good for you and don’t harm wildlife or our planet. These products will no doubt cost more money but there’s a bigger price to pay if we don’t start taking baby steps towards protecting this gorgeous and vulnerable planet.