Updated: Mar 21
The beauty industry is responsible for some great trends and helps us to push new boundaries in our understanding of beauty and self-expression. But at what cost? Here we break down it's environmental impact and what we as individuals can do about it
The €400 billion (and growing) Beauty industry has given us a lot to talk and guac at over the years. From racoon eyes to the classic red lip to excessive contouring, it’s created iconic looks that have elevated, and questioned, our idea of beauty in the process. However, as demand soured and innovation progressed, we moved further away from natural ingredients and dived right into mass production, chemicals, and packaging galore.
So, it begs the question: Do we really know, or WANT to know, what damage our latest Euphoria inspired eye-look is causing to our natural environment?
We’ve rolled up our proverbial sleeves and conducted some good old Uni style research, to help unveil some basic facts and knowledge surrounding the beauty industry and its impact on Mother nature herself.
Plastic and Packaging:
According to Zero Waste Week data the cosmetic industry produces a whopping 120 billion units of packaging each year. Most of it is plastic or worse yet, a combination of different plastics and materials that makes recycling that much more impossible. Remember all those volume building mascaras and cherry lip gloss wands you powered through as a teen? Well, they’re currently sitting comfortably on a landfill somewhere and will probably remain there for the next 450 years.
The problem is three-fold:
· We as individuals are not recycling enough
· The recycling industry doesn’t have the resources to sort through mixed materials
· The beauty industry is still far behind in moving towards more sustainable packaging sources.
One thing is for certain though, with 8 million tons of plastic entering our oceans each year, something needs to be done … and fast! At this rate by 2050 its estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer a clean beach over perfect contouring any day!
Chemicals and material sourcing:
Let’s face it, when a product moves towards mass production, the list of chemicals at the back of the bottle begins increasing in size and complexity. With billions of individual products produced each year it’s no surprise that the beauty industry is at the forefront of chemical use and sourcing.
Parabens, plasticizers, formaldehyde, oh my! As much as we don’t want to heat it, toxic chemicals are at the heart of cosmetics manufacturing. A good example of a product that we use abundantly and has harsh effects on our natural environment is none other than our summer loving Sunscreen.
As Islanders and avid sunbathing enthusiasts, we’re no stranger to sunscreen. From our first slippery flight with our mothers as they lathered bucket loads on our face to our failed experimentation with SPF 10 self-tanning creams, sunscreen is part of life in the Maltese islands. But the sheer amount of chemicals and nanoparticles found in sunscreens triggers issues in coral reproduction and growth, finally leading to bleaching!
You may ask yourself the question: How is me putting a pea sized amount of sunscreen going to affect the Great barrier reef? Well firstly, Fun fact: we have plenty of coral here in the Mediterranean that needs conserving and secondly, it’s estimated that coral reefs are subjected to over 6,000 tons of accumulated sunscreen annually. So, the outlook is not great.
But fret not. There are natural plastic free sunscreens out there that offer chemical free coral safe alternatives without making you look like Casper on your next beach visit. Check out our SPF 30 Sunscreen from Lekker for example:
Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink – An old saying long forgotten and hardly used today, but at the rate at which the cosmetics industry goes through water, it may become the next big cliché T-shirt slogan adopted by the green washing team over at Fast Fashion ltd.
Water is in almost every beauty product. From “aqua” to “eau” it can be found in over 33,000 products assessed by EWG and this is just a conservative estimate. But with over 71% of the stuff making up our Blue Planet why should we worry? Well, it may be abundant now, but according to the United Nations, due to toxic pollution and a growing demand for the resource 52% of the world’s population will live in water-stressed conditions by 2050.
Another issue with the use of water is its weight. As water is used as a filler to bulk out a product it increases the individual products weight substantially causing heavier loads which leads to heavier transportation emissions. Some companies are tackling this issue by introducing products that are either more concentrated or are dehydrated and require reconstitution with water once purchased on the consumer side.
Just like our Helemaal face mask range :
Many of us have seen the horrific videos and pictures linked to animal testing, so it should be no surprise to hear that the cosmetics industry is no stranger to the practice. 80% of all countries still allow cosmetics to be tested on animals even though many national health agencies don’t require for product release.
Over 100 million animals per year are subjected to allergens and tests that often kill them, just so we can look or feel our best. Besides the ethical concerns surrounding the practice there are a multitude of environmental consequences. Many of the animals used for testing are plucked straight from their wild homes and habitats!
According to the IUCN Red List the long-tailed and rhesus macaque – some of the most used animals in cosmetic testing – are threatened and the status of the long-tailed macaques has jumped from ‘least concern’ to ‘extinction’ since 2008. All because humans believe that they’re the Beyonce species ruling over this blue floating rock and have labelled all other living creatures a commodity for their own personal use and gain.
Thankfully there are large and small companies out there that have seen sense and have gone 100% cruelty free and banned all forms of animal testing. Just like our favorite repurposed cosmetics brand, UpCircle:
In conclusion, it’s up to us as consumers to begin placing pressure on larger companies and governments through our purchasing choices. If we were to put as much effort and thought into conserving our planet as we do into preserving ourselves, the world may be in a better state, and not drowning under a mountain of plastic and toxic pollution.