The beauty industry is a major contributor to worldwide pollution. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between being a fan of beauty products and a friend of the planet. You don’t even have to radically overhaul your routine to make a difference! Making tiny, environmentally-friendly changes can really add up over time.
To celebrate Earth Day, we’re sharing these easy tips for a greener beauty ritual:
The issue: Many exfoliating scrubs and washes utilize polyethylene microbeads as a scrubbing agent. A facial exfoliant can contain 350,000 microbeads in just one package. While they work to clear away dead skin, these tiny plastic pieces are also polluting our lakes and oceans. Microbeads end up in the water supply, where fish eat them. Since other animals eat fish, the microbeads can work their way up the food chain, causing digestive harm along the way.
The tweak: Choose an exfoliant that uses a natural exfoliating agent like sugar or salt. Avoid products with ingredients like microbeads, microabrasives, polypropylene, or polyethylene.
The issue: Canned aerosol products like dry shampoo and hairspray need compressed gases and hydrocarbons to work. Unfortunately, aerosols contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to ground-level smog. Not only is smog gross, but research indicates that it may also increase the risk of asthma.
Additionally, some research suggests that aerosols may affect weather patterns, since they contribute to more polluted clouds.
The tweak: Do the environment (and your lungs) a favor by switching to a green alternative of your favorite aerosol beauty products. Try a powder dry shampoo, or products in a pump-fueled container.
The issue: Oxybenzone is an active ingredient in many sunscreens. But according to a 2015 study from the University of Central Florida, oxybenzone may actually be killing coral reefs around the world.
The results are particularly devastating in touristy areas like Hawaii and the Caribbean. Oxybenzone also damages the DNA of the plants and animals that live in the coral reefs, stunting their growth.
The tweak: Of course you should never skip wearing sunscreen, but you should switch to a sunscreen that uses minerals like zinc oxide and titanium oxide as active ingredients.
The issue: You probably already know that synthetic fragrances are sensitizing and can cause skin irritation, but did you know that they’re also harmful to the marine environment?
Since wastewater treatment plants don’t remove them, synthetic fragrances end up in our rivers, oceans, and lakes. According to National Geographic, synthetic fragrances can decrease an organism’s natural ability to protect itself from toxins. Thus, synthetic fragrances make the effects of water pollution even worse for marine life.
The tweak: Shop for products that say “no synthetic fragrances” on their labels, and avoid products with "fragrance/parfum" listed as an ingredient. Note: Axiology does not use synthetic fragrances. Instead we use sweet orange essential oil.
The issue: The beauty industry created 120.8 billion units of packaging in 2008, 40% of which was rigid hard plastic. Unfortunately, hard plastic never fully degrades. Once it’s in a landfill, it’s there forever.
The tweak: One fix is to buy larger containers of your favorite products. For example, if you always buy the same lotion, buy it in the biggest size the manufacturer makes rather than multiple smaller sizes. One large container contains less plastic than several smaller containers.
Many environmentally-friendly brands also offer refills of their products. Simply bring your original container back to the store to restock.
Better yet, shop products made from biodegradable or recycled materials. Axiology lipsticks are packaged in cardboard made from recycled paper. Our woman-owned packaging supplier gathers paper from all over Bali, then hand-recycles the paper to produce our lipstick boxes. This helps to reduce trash in Bali and keep the island beautiful.
The issue: Most nail polishes contain a whole host of chemicals that are bad for you and the environment. Harmful chemicals in nail polish include:
When you remove your nail polish, these chemicals can also get into the water supply where they can damage the marine life.
The tweak: Luckily, some nail polish brands have changed their formulas to avoid these toxic chemicals. Look for nail polish labeled as “10-free” to avoid the ten most harmful ingredients.
The issue: Between foils, product packaging, and styling chemicals, beauty salons can actually create a lot of waste.
The tweak: Look for a planet-friendly salon that recycles, purchases products with environmentally-friendly packaging, and uses renewable energy. Even if your salon doesn’t, starting the conversation may help your salon to get started with some more green practices.
What changes have you made to help the environment? How will you celebrate Earth Day this year?