All You Should Know & What You Can Do About It

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Scrolling down your feed to come across visually aesthetic and color-frenzied social media product campaigns appealing to mass audiences is becoming an ordinary part of our technological consumption. Lifestyle Influencers on the lookout for the ‘next-big-thing’ in the market is of great interest to the early adopters and consumer enthusiasts of the category; ultimately leading to product sell-outs; and the herd-mentality cycle keeps repeating itself within the next few days when a newer product comes to launch.

When buying these products, how many of us introspect on what is to happen once the contents become empty or when time of disposal has arrived? Many of our cosmetic purchases – from eyeshadow palettes, skincare, haircare, dental care, and so forth, despite communicating an impression of glamour and premium luxury, proves to be deceiving and does not do much fortune to the planet.

Failure of majority cosmetic brands to take responsibility for the product post-serving its life cycle is unnoticed. Moreover, as consumers, until told so, do not realize the plastic packaging, meant to capture the beholders’ eyes has a detrimental impact on the environment and marine wildlife.

The Plastics Problem in the Cosmetics Industry

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The ‘magic material’ known for its durability and long-life was first introduced in the 1950’s post the age of the Great Depression and World War II. Since then, it has taken up multiple forms and specifically in the area of beauty and wellness, replacing natural ingredient formulations.

The beauty industry, boasting a USD 532 billion global economy trajected to move upwards, has often been overlooked to contribute tons of plastic waste in the oceans today. This plastic oceanic debris is often misinterpreted as food by approximately 40% of our marine wildlife such as seabirds and turtles, ultimately causing deaths and a decrease in populations. One million seabirds die every year due to the ingestion of plastic nurdles and materials found on land and in the sea.

Why is Plastic used in cosmetics and skincare?

Plastic is less costly and most often an inexpensive material for production, in comparison to biodegradable alternatives.

Moreover, plastic polymers provide an ‘illusion’ of luxury and elegance, through their function of thickening the product, and often providing surface-level results, which are often temporary.

Why should you care?

Through bioaccumulation (i.e. the gradual accumulation of toxins over the food-chain), we consume these same microplastics ingested by fishes and marine life.

Whilst many of us have come across the most common R, Recycle, and tend to practice the same as a method of being environmentally conscious; only 1 in 10 plastics to have existed have ever been recycled (due to multiple factors that determine it’s recyclability such as Market Demand, type of plastic, contents, and plastic contamination). Moreover, most recycled plastic is down-cycled into products of a lower quality, reducing its effectiveness.

Given below are some ways of plastic’s occurrence in our beauty regimes:

Microbeads and PCCP’s

Known by different terminologies, these refer to synthetic solid ingredients found in multiple cosmetic sources such as glitter eyeshadows, lipsticks, foundation powders, moisturizers. shower gels, creams, toothpaste, and more. However, given its micro-particle size (less than 5 millimeters or equivalent to one sesame seed), these microbes are non-degradable and often unrecognizable to consumers. When accumulated, they contribute great debris of marine ocean plastic litter.

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Their concentrations in products vary from 1% to 90% in some cases. A regular exfoliating gel that you use daily may roughly contain enough synthetic micro-plastic formulation to that of its plastic packaging, ultimately entering your body and into water drains.

Visually Aesthetic Packaging

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A typical online cosmetic order when delivered to your home contains not just the product itself but also a cardboard packaging, branded packaging box, and plastic wrapping or wrapping paper; ultimately, leading for the beauty industry to contribute 120 billion units of packaging annually.

Packaging was the greatest contributor to global plastic production each year during 2015. Moreover, beauty and personal care packaging waste are created not only through plastic, but through paper, cardboard, and cellophane waste, each of them contributing to greater CO2 emissions, water wastage, and deforestation.

Convenience Culture

Life in plastic doesn’t seem fantastic anymore. Lifestyle changes to meet hedonistic material pleasures have created a convenience culture and ignorance towards the present-day challenges of society. Complex social-media algorithms enable us to view only what we would like to see based on sentiments, often leading to ignorance of issues that plague our existence.

YOU can turn it around!

2020 has brought to light the need to bring about awareness of important issues. You, who is reading this article, can be that catalyst for change. It begins with ownership and individual responsibility. One’s commitment to take responsibility does not go unnoticed.

Your one step ahead can inspire your first degree connections who in turn, can inspire many others creating a domino effect, which ultimately begun with you.

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It’s so simple!

Keep scrolling to find out how you can make the difference.

• Switch to Naked Packaging / Packaged-Free Brands or Products: Eliminating Plastics and other wasteful packaging forms from cosmetics production is the simplest way of reducing waste and disposable materials. Brands such as Lush have moved towards products that are package-free; encouraging lifestyles where ownership of products is only limited to your necessities.

• Switch to Products that generate less waste: Switching from single-use plastic and considering the life-cycle of your purchase goes a long way. Glass packaging, refillable alternatives, and plantable materials are some alternatives. For personal hygiene, Menstrual Cups, Reusable Sanitary Napkins, or safety razors are easy sustainable substitutes! As a result, you limit the trash you throw instead of counting the trash you make!

• Purchase Products from Responsible and Sustainable Brands: Supporting small or environmentally conscious brands are a way of communicating the need for brands to take ownership. Brands such as L’Occitane and Kjaer Weis opt for multiple sustainable packaging options in place of plastic throwaway, ensuring your products have a longer shelf-life!

• Be Woke! : Take the time to research or read labels and understand what you put on your skin to avoid the application of dangerous micro-particulates. Look out for labels such as PCR Plastic (Post-Consumer Recycled), FairTrade, ECOCERT, and Rainforest Alliance Certified, amongst others to ensure the ingredients are sustainably sourced.

• Lastly, follow the 3 R’s – Reuse, Reduce, and Refuse!: Buy always not what you want, but only what you need. It’ll save you money, time, and give you a peaceful state of mind!

When awareness and need for change are demanded, cosmetic and personal care manufacturers become aware of growing consumer sentiments and pave the way to make amendments in their ways of working. Our commitments drive changes forward and encourages industries to take up solutions to prevent further damage than already done.

Share your eco-friendly and sustainable beauty or personal care tips down below!

Himani Kothari

Himani Kothari is a multi-potentialite and environmental advocate aiming to spread awareness on issues pertaining to single-use plastic, climate change and youth involvement. She was an independent TED event organizer, and is a fitness and food enthusiast. You can find her on Instagram by @himaniikothari.

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